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Monday, 14 February 2022

A Canadian Army Officer Is Openly Guilty of Mutiny and Sedition: How Does the Media, the Military and the Government React?

 Listening to a Speech by Canadian Army Major Stephen Chledowski on Youtube, my first reaction was "This can't be real!"  Scanning various media reports, I confirmed that Stephen Chledowski is, in fact, an active military officer and he has not denied or recanted the content of the video recording of his speech. Chledowski is openly guilty of mutiny and sedition.  Under military law, a recommended punishment is life in prison, yet everyone I have read reacting to his speech--online commentators, military spokesperson, reporters, etc--implies that he is likely to receive a slap on the wrist.  Have we all become so removed from reality and the law?

Dear readers, I don't think I can pare this down to make it more easily digestible.  It's pretty straightforward. Here are the relevant sections of the military Code of Service Discipline, Part III of the National Defence Act.  Read the law; then listen to Chledowski's speech.  My interpretation is that a major in the Canadian forces is inciting his fellow soldiers and the police of Canada to overthrow the Government of Canada.   I'm not trying to express an opinion or make a recommendation here.  Here is the evidence (the video linked above) and here (below) is the law:  Please tell me what I'm missing.

Mutiny

Marginal note:Mutiny with violence

 Every person who joins in a mutiny that is accompanied by violence is guilty of an offence and on conviction is liable to imprisonment for life or to less punishment.

  • R.S., 1985, c. N-5, s. 79
  • 1998, c. 35, s. 28

Marginal note:Mutiny without violence

 Every person who joins in a mutiny that is not accompanied by violence is guilty of an offence and on conviction is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding fourteen years or to less punishment or, in the case of a ringleader of the mutiny, to imprisonment for life or to less punishment.

  • R.S., 1985, c. N-5, s. 80
  • 1998, c. 35, s. 28

Marginal note:Offences related to mutiny

 Every person who

  • (a) causes or conspires with any other person to cause a mutiny,

  • (b) endeavours to persuade any person to join in a mutiny,

  • (c) being present, does not use his utmost endeavours to suppress a mutiny, or

  • (d) being aware of an actual or intended mutiny, does not without delay inform his superior officer thereof,

is guilty of an offence and on conviction is liable to imprisonment for life or to less punishment.

  • R.S., c. N-4, s. 71

Seditious Offences

Marginal note:Advocating governmental change by force

 Every person who publishes or circulates any writing, printing or document in which is advocated, or who teaches or advocates, the use, without the authority of law, of force as a means of accomplishing any governmental change within Canada is guilty of an offence and on conviction is liable to imprisonment for life or to less punishment.

  • R.S., c. N-4, s. 72

Insubordination

Marginal note:Disobedience of lawful command

 Every person who disobeys a lawful command of a superior officer is guilty of an offence and on conviction is liable to imprisonment for life or to less punishment.

  • R.S., c. N-4, s. 73

Marginal note:


Tuesday, 8 February 2022

What if China Isn't Using Forced Labour?

Poor Saddam Hussein!

I can't bring myself to sympathize with Saddam Hussein, but still, I think about the lead-up to the second Iraq war (which, by the way, cost 151,000 to 1,033,000 lives--depending on whose statistics you believe). Over and over again, in anticipation of the 2003 invasion, we were told that all Saddam had to do was turn over his "weapons of mass destruction."  Imagine Saddam's frustration!  He couldn't halt the invasion by turning over his weapons of mass destruction because he didn't have any.  Just saying he had no WMDs wasn't going to do anything because the US had the witness statements of Iraqi defectors, CIA intelligence reports, recordings and leaked documents, and, of course, the satellite images which Colin Powell presented to the UN.

Here We go again!

I've read the Uyghur Forced Labor Act and its earlier drafts, the Forced Labor Enforcement Task Force "Report to Congress," and the Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement (aka USMC Implementation Act) in an effort to figure out what's really going on. According to the draft Act approved by Congress, the USA knows that China is using forced labour in Xinjiang because they have witness statements, "official media reports, publicly available documents, official statements, and official leaked documents from the Government of the People’s Republic of China" and, wait for it . . . "satellite imagery."  Of the reports, articles, documents and statements I've read, some assert that "China is the new evil empire" but none provide conclusive evidence of "forced labour." Of all the human rights abuses the Chinese regime is being accused of--mass incarceration without trial, repression of free speech and religion, coercive family planning, forced assimilation, invasive surveillance--the least evident and most difficult to prove would be "forced labour."

Satellite Imagery

The Australia Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) has taken the lead in providing satellite imagery of Xinjiang. The ASPI describes itself as "an independent, non-partisan think tank" but is equally forthcoming that most of its funding comes from Australia's Department of Defence and other government agencies.  Australia is of course a member of the Five Eyes intelligence alliance and has recently reinforced its allegiance with the USA in opposition to China.  



The ASPI's interactive map, indicating images of hundreds of detention centres, mosques and religious sites, still requires a leap of faith that what we are looking at--buildings with walls, turrets and fences--are in fact prisons, detention centres and re-education facilities whose inmates are used for forced labour.  The same suspension of disbelief that Collin Powell invoked when he showed satellite images of buildings in Iraq and told the UN that they were production and storage facilities for "weapons of mass destruction" is once again being called for.

What's really going on?

Just as "weapons of mass destruction" provided the pretext for the war in Iraq when the protection of western oil interests was widely believed to be the more credible and obvious cause, this time "forced labor" is being used as an excuse to escalate the USA's geopolitical contest with China.  Of all the crimes that the USA might accuse China of, why focus on "forced labor"?  China has a history of moving its workforce from one part of the country to another, separating families for long periods of time.  Arguably, "forced labour" has been part of Chinese culture for thousands of years.  Why has Chinese "forced labor" become a US obsession in 2021-22?  How do you prove "forced labor" from thousands of miles away?

Rebuttable Presumption

The Uyghur Forced Labor Act provides a simple solution in Section 3: "REBUTTABLE PRESUMPTION."  "Rebuttable presumption," a concept in law that, in the simplest of terms, means guilty until proven innocent.  Therefore, the US government is instructing Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to assume that anything being imported from China is the product of forced labour until proven otherwise.  

What if China isn't using forced labour?

What if China isn't using forced labour?  It really doesn't matter.  What is or isn't accepted into the USA will be determined through negotiations between CBP (and various other US intelligence services) and the American company doing the importing.  Contrary to my claim in the previous post, Walmart will no doubt lobby for an exemption.  As outlined in the New York Times article, "U.S. Effort to Combat Forced Labor Targets Corporate China Ties," Coke Cola, Nike and Apple have already begun lobbying.

The Tariff Act of 1930

Oh my naivety!  You may not have detected it but, in my previous posts, I was struck by how quickly and easily American legislators seemed to accept claims of genocide and human rights abuses without challenging the sources or questioning the substance of the evidence.  I was confounded by the fact that US legislators focused on "forced labor," the most difficult accusation to prove, rather than any other of claimed abuses.  I was unaware of the Tariff Act of 1930 and its recent amendments.  It is perhaps worth noting that until 2016, US law . . .

permitted the importation of goods made by forced labor “if the goods were not produced in such quantities in the United States as to meet the consumptive demands of the United States.”

US legislators honed in on "forced labor" because the recently amended law was already on the books, in international and US law, against "forced labor."  This was the approach that would allow them to block, on a fairly ad hoc basis, any and all imports from China.  A law designed to protect against child labour, human trafficking, sexual exploitation and slave labour is being used to block the advancement of a global competitor. 

Is Canada going to be played again?

Article 3 of the Uyghur Forced Labor Act requires the US government  . . . 

(3) to coordinate with Mexico and Canada to effectively implement Article 23.6 of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement to prohibit the importation of goods produced in whole or in part by forced or compulsory labor, including those goods mined, produced, or manufactured wholly or in part in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region;

Did US negotiators anticipate in the summer of 2020 when the USMC trade agreement was being signed and Canada had accepted "the China clause" barring a Canada-China free-trade deal without notifying the US, and Canada had accepted the US request to arrest Meng Wanzhou, the Huawei CFO, further driving a wedge between Canada and China, that they also had Article 23.6, an ace up the US sleeve, to further prevent trade between Canada and China? Will the Canadian government respond to the Uyghur Forced Labor Act and Article 23.6 of USMC, the same way they did the US-Canada Extradition Treaty in the Meng case? Will we once again find ourselves in a trade war with China to the detriment of Canada for the benefit of the USA? And the answer is . . .

It's a Done deal

According to the Government of Canada website entitled "Public Safety," the ban on "forced labour" imports became law in Canada two years ago.

Canada has imposed an importation ban on goods that were produced by forced labour, as described in An Act to implement the Agreement between Canada, the United States of America and the United Mexican States, which received Royal Assent on March 13, 2020. As described in paragraph 202(8), Chapter 98 item No. 9897.00.00 of the Customs Tariff, the law has been amended to include a reference prohibiting goods mined, manufactured or produced wholly or in part by forced labour. These amendments made under the Act came into force in Canada on July 1, 2020, as outlined in CBSA Customs Notice 20-23, Import prohibition on goods produced wholly or in part by forced labour.


Friday, 4 February 2022

"Weaponizing Human Rights"?

Say Goodbye to Walmart!

The Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act is now law in the USA.  Beginning June 2022, the Act requires the US Customs and Border Protection Agency to block all imports from China, unless the Agency has "clear and convincing" evidence that the goods were not produced with forced labour.  Say goodbye to Walmart, the largest employer in the USA which imports 70 to 80% of its merchandise from China.

"Weaponizing Human Rights" 

 I first encountered the expression "weaponizing human rights" in an interview with former British diplomat and MI6 officer, Alastair Crooke (Going Underground:  RT  Russia Today).  The expression crystalized my vague notions that claims of human rights abuses were being promoted for various realpolitik agendas quite apart from concern for the victims. 

Alfred de Zayas, a Cuban-American professor of law and senior lawyer with the office of the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights, argues that:

The weaponization of human rights has transformed the individual and collective entitlement to assistance, protection, respect and solidarity — based on our common human dignity and equality — into a hostile arsenal to target competitors and political adversaries.

De Sayas aptly and succinctly outlines so much of what is wrong with the weaponization of human rights:

Experience shows [. . .] that naming and shaming fails to alleviate the suffering of victims and only satisfies the strategic aims of certain governments, politicized non-governmental organizations and of a burgeoning human rights industry that instrumentalize human rights for the purpose of destabilizing others and often enough to facilitate “regime change”, regardless how undemocratic [ . . . .]

 The Challenges to logic

 In Red China Blues, Jan Wong self-mockingly described herself as a "Montreal Maoist" and confessed that in "the naive logic of the young" she reasoned that if Western governments were lying to us, then China must be telling the truth. There is a propaganda war going on between the USA and China.  Reading today requires avoiding the pitfall of the false dilemma, the logical fallacy of "either this or that" must be true especially when it is obvious that both sides have good reason to lie--and every good lie contains some degree of truth.

We are also challenged to avoid "truth by assertion," the feeling that something must be true because we have heard it so many times--which is more colloquially referred to as "brainwashing."

A further problem with the "weaponizing of human rights," which I am particularly sensitive to, is that it makes the issues more difficult to discuss, especially when "weaponizing" invokes a "genocide."  Ostensibly, I have written two posts on genocide:  On Reading "The Uyghur Genocide: An Examination of China's Breaches of the 1948 Genocide Convention" and On Reading "The National Inquiry Report on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls." I would hasten to point out that I have analyzed and written about two published reports of genocide--not the genocide itself.  In both cases, I questioned whether the reports had reasonably proven their conclusions of genocide.  At the same time, I noted that the presumptive creators of the reports, despite widespread claims of "independence," had an obvious interest in reaching a conclusion of genocide--a fact that further aroused my skepticism.

The Uyghur Tribunal 

In December 2021, a panel of lawyers and advocates in the UK, self-identifying as The Uyghur Tribunal, delivered its judgment on "China’s alleged Genocide and crimes against Humanity against Uyghur, Kazakh and other Turkic Muslim populations."  In the Judgment, the Tribunal stresses its independence, judiciously outlines a number of similar organizations, one of which has and numerous others which have not reached a conclusion of "genocide," and provides access to its budget and witness statements.

As displayed on the Tribunal's website, multiple news agencies picked up on the report with the headline "China Guilty of Genocide." What most news agencies would struggle to explain is the serpentine route by which the Tribunal arrived at this judgment.  For example, according to the Tribunal, "genocide" isn't what most of us think of as genocide.  The Judgment is categorical that "there is no evidence of organized mass killings."  According to the Tribunal:

191. This Judgment, with no evidence of any mass killing, may be thought to diminish the perceived status of genocide as a crime. In one way it may do that, and if so, in one way, not necessarily a bad thing. The use of superlatives – ‘world’s gravest crime’ and hyperbole – ‘crime of crimes’ – when attached to tragedy brings public attention, sometimes at a cost to other tragedies able to attract less attention despite being as serious. [ . . . .]
192. Further, in truth, genocide is not necessarily the worst of all possible crimes: [. . . .]

Adopting a framework of "sociological genocide," the Tribunal concluded "beyond reasonable doubt that the PRC, by the imposition of measures to prevent births intended to destroy a significant part of the Uyghurs in Xinjiang as such, has committed genocide."

Despite a promise that "The Tribunal will consider both inculpatory and exculpatory material on an independent and impartial basis," I could find no hint of exculpatory evidence in the report.

Adrian Zenz, a key witness for the Tribunal's judgment of genocide

The Tribunal's conclusion of genocide from the extrapolation of birthrates is significantly based on the research of Adrian Zenz, an evangelical Christian working for The Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation.  Zenz and his research were pilloried by The Grayzone in a 21 December 2019 report.  The Tribunal Judgment specifies that Zenz's research was peer-reviewed by "Professor James Millward and Dr David Tobin."  However, since both Millward and Tobin were outspoken critics of China's human-rights record and collaborators with Zenz, the objectivity of their peer review appears dubious.

Zenz's research was presented as axiomatic in the Newsline Institute's report entitled The Uyghur Genocide.  According to The Grayzone, "Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s last-minute accusation of 'genocide'" was also based on Zenz's data.

Uyghur Tribunal Judgment vs Newsline Institute's The Uyghur Genocide

In my review of Newsline Institute's The Uyghur Genocide, I asked the seemingly absurd question, "Who wrote this report?"  In the Uyghur Tribunal Judgment, I found the answer:

Professor Packer and Jonah Diamond, principal authors of the Newlines Report, came to London to give evidence in person and the Tribunal was and is very grateful to them in that regard.

The identification of Packer and Diamond, names I had never noticed, as the "principal authors" of the report I had analyzed sent me back to the original online document.  Sure enough, in the appendix containing the biographies of the thirty-two signatories of the report, Yonah Diamond is identified as "an international human rights lawyer [. . .] at the Raoul Wallenberg Centre [. . . .]  And,  "Yonah Diamond served this project as principal author."  John Packer is identified in the same appendix as a Law Professor at the University of Ottawa who "served this project as principal advisor" (but not the author).

In my post on The Uyghur Genocide, I questioned its provenance (as did The Grayzone) because Newsline Institute was a division of Fairfax University, an alleged visa mill, allegedly sponsored by the Turkish Islamic scholar,  Muhammed Fethullah Gülen.  I was somewhat taken aback when reading The Two Michaels, that what I had assessed as a Newsline Institute report was being identified as the product of the  Raoul Wallenberg Centre.   In the online version I downloaded, there is an acknowledgement of the Wallenberg Centre's contribution.   However, in more recent versions of the report, the Wallenberg Centre's logo now appears on the cover for the first time.  In the Uyghur Tribunal Judgment, The Uyghur Genocide is repeatedly and consistently described as a product of the Newsline Institute.  There is no mention of the Wallenberg Centre in the Judgment.  I am at a loss to clarify what this confusion (or is it conflict?) about the provenance of The Uyghur Genocide indicates about its credibility.

Although Packer, Diamond and Zenz were important witnesses for the Uyghur Tribunal, the Judgment attempts to distinguish itself from the earlier report and at times hints at scolding The Uyghur Genocide's soi-disant authors.

What I learned from the Uyghur Tribunal Judgment

In addition to the fact that a demographic prediction of a decline in population could be called "genocide," I encountered a number of surprises and clarifications in the Judgment.  I am always struck by the number of individuals and organizations that declare a genocide in China with absolute certainty, including the Canadian parliament, without any indication of the evidence upon which this certainty is based.  

The Tribunal's judgment draws attention to the fact--which is generally ignored in the public domain--that The Uyghur Genocide claimed a lower standard in proving genocide than is used in criminal prosecutions.  The "clear and convincing" standard of truth translates as a 60% probability.  In contrast, the Uyghur Tribunal claimed their verdict of a sociological, demographic genocide was "beyond a reasonable doubt," which translates as being a 98 or 99% probability.

The Judgment provides a substantial list of groups and organizations which have investigated human-rights abuses in Xinjiang.  Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International,  the United States Holocaust Museum, Australian Strategic Policy Institute, the Essex Court Chambers. the Bar Human rights Committee and the Yael Grauer Intercept Report have all studied the available evidence without reaching a conclusive judgment of genocide.  Although Mike Pompeo declared a genocide in China, twenty-four hours before leaving office, and both President Biden and Secretary of State Blinken have unofficially claimed a Uyghur genocide in the press, the USA has refused to officially declare a genocide or provide evidence for the unofficial claims.

The Tribunal used evidence from the Newsline Institute's report but attempted to separate itself from The Uyghur Genocide by pointing out:

51. Professor Packer and Mr Diamond may have given encouragement to those who thought the Tribunal would only succeed if it found genocide – a wholly inaccurate understanding of the Tribunal’s function.

Canada, the UK, the Netherlands, Lithuania and the Czech Republic have each passed "non-binding resolutions" (the epitome of lip service) declaring a Uyghur genocide.  No Muslim, Asian or African country has labelled China's treatment of its Muslim minority a genocide.

[What's going on in this picture--the cover of "Bearing Witness"?  Yes, there is a "POLICE" presence.  Why is the bus labelled in English?  Doesn't this picture show thousands of Muslims publically practising their religion, in contradiction to widespread claims that Islam has become a crime in China?]


The United States Holocaust Museum "Bearing Witness" report

According to the executive summary of its "Bearing Witness" report, "The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum is gravely concerned that the Chinese government may be committing genocide against the Uyghurs."  This report reiterates the concerns and evidence presented in other reports, publications and witness statements.  As such, the problem of a "feedback loop," which I pointed out in On Reading The Uyghur Genocide, persists.  At the risk of sounding like Judge Judy, I have to point out that much of what is presented as "evidence" is obviously hearsay.

Additionally, it is both understandable and problematic that the clear intention of the report is to arouse concern and persuade the reader of the need for action against the regime in China.  I credit the report with at least mentioning the wider context but, in each instance, the rhetorical spin invariably plays down any justification for China's actions in the region.  

For example, according to the report, "Following the September 2001 attacks on the United States, the Chinese government co-opted the language of the 'War on Terror,' [ . . . ]."  The report goes on to provide a cryptic listing of various Uyghur separatist attacks on the Chinese population, including riots, bombings, car attacks, stabbings and threats of "a chemical and biological weapons attack," yet the verb "co-opted" clearly informs the reader that these terrorist attacks should not be compared to 9/11 without explaining why.

Consider the wording of the report's description of Uyghur extremist attacks:

In 2013, a car was driven into a crowd at Tiananmen Square, Beijing, killing two tourists and three people in the car—a man, his wife, and his mother—in what appeared to be a suicide attack.32 At the time, TIP claimed it was behind the attack, though many Xinjiang experts “responded with skepticism.”33 In March 2014, the Chinese government blamed Uyghur separatists for killing more than 30 people and injuring more than 100 in a knife attack at a train station in Kunming, in Yunnan Province.34 A month later, a deadly attack occurred during Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Urumqi.35 In May 2014, in Urumqi, two cars ploughed into shoppers while setting off explosives.36 Chinese authorities held Uyghur separatists responsible for the attack, which reportedly killed 31 people and injured more than 90. 37

And now the analysis:

  • "a car was driven into a crowd":  passive voice avoids telling us who drove the car
  • "appeared to be a suicide attack":  driver killed himself, but still only "appeared to be a suicide"
  • "experts 'responded with skepticism'":  terrorists' claiming responsibility isn't sufficient evidence
  • "the Chinese government blamed":  they were knife attacks!  can we doubt who did it?
  • "a deadly attack occurred":  passive voice, it just happened, no-one did it
  • "two cars ploughed into shoppers":  again the cars did it; were they driverless?
  • "Chinese authorities held Uyghur separatists responsibly":  was there any room for doubt?

The purpose of the rhetorical spin is to dissuade us from any inkling of justification for the Chinese response.   The report tells us that twenty-two Uyghur members of the East Turkestan Islamist Party (aka TIP/ ETIP), which the USA officially listed as a terrorist organization from 2002 to November 2020, were imprisoned in Guantanamo.  However, the report would have us believe that the USA's designating  TIP/ETIP a terrorist organization for almost 18 years, arresting (without trial) and torturing (aka "enhanced interrogation") its members was a matter of political expediency and the USA's submitting to pressure at the UN from China.

Despite its arguably good intentions, the report clearly goes too far when it starts getting the numbers wrong from its own sources.  The report's description of an event I had never heard of caught my attention:

In 1990, Uyghurs in the town of Baren in Xinjiang’s Kashgar prefecture rebelled against restrictions on the practice of Islam imposed by the Chinese government.14   The state responded with force, killing an estimated 1,600 Uyghurs.15

I followed footnote 15 to the East Turkestan Information Bulletin, the source of the report's claim.

On April 5, 1990 an armed uprising broke out in Baren provoked by Chinese Communists. Almost three thousand armed Eastern Turkestanis under the leadership of Zeydin Yusuf disarmed the police forces, occupied the Baren township Party and government building and declared war against the Chinese Communists in order to establish a independent Eastern Turkestan Republic. By late afternoon the uprising had spread to nine other townships in the area.
The Chinese Communist authorities dispatched armed police forces, militiamen and Peoples Liberation Army (PLA) units to Baren early on the morning of April 6. At the same time 200,000 special anti-riot forces from Lanzhou Military District were dispatched to Eastern Turkestan. Troops were flown in day and night by military transport planes and helicopters. The airports of Urumchi, Aksu, Kashgar, Yarkent and Hoten were closed.
The Eastern Turkestani people took up hunting rifles and any weapons they could find while some Chinese soldiers threw away their weapons and fled. According to the witnesses the Chinese used tanks and fighters to bomb townships in the area. Nine townships were bombed and almost one thousand Eastern Turkestanis and 600 soldiers and policemen died

According to Human Rights Watch, "A reliable tally of the casualties at Baren may never be known: according to the government, the death toll came to around twenty; but Uighur sources claimed that several hundred rebels were killed."  The point here is that the numbers are being determined by whose side you want to be on and, unfortunately, the Holocaust Museum has too obviously chosen its side.  The 1600 Uyghur casualties claimed by the Holocaust Museum report turn out to be, according to its own source, 1000 Uyghurs on one side and 600 soldiers and policemen on the other.  Other reports note that at the beginning of the uprising, Uyghur insurgents beheaded members of the local police force.

Following the Money

In stellar efforts at transparency, the Uyghur Tribunal has published its operating budget online and pointed out that most of its participants have worked pro bono.  However, in an equally transparent gesture, the Tribunal website explains that "In June 2020 Dolkun Isa, President of the World Uyghur Congress formally requested that Sir Geoffrey Nice QC establish and chair an independent people’s tribunal to investigate ‘ongoing atrocities and possible Genocide’ against the Uyghur people."   The World Uyghur Congress is funded by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED).  Damon Wilson, president and CEO of the NED, is a former employee of the National Security Council who is lauded for "helping to enlarge NATO" and for "playing a lead role on the Alliance’s response to 9/11 and its operations in Afghanistan [. . . ]."  The NED was established with funding under "the State Department and USIA."  The USIA (United States Information Agency) was, according to its "former Director of TV and film service," Alvin Synder, ""[t]he biggest branch of [the US] propaganda machine."  Not surprisingly, the first priority listed on the World Uyghur Congress website is "to promote democracy [. . .]."


 


The Holocaust Museum's "Bearing Witness" report   highlights the testimony of four key witnesses:  Bahram Sintash, Ferkat Jawdat, Eset Sulaiman, and Rushan Abbas.  All four are well-known Uyghur activists employed and/or funded by the US government.  Sintash, Jawdat and Sulaiman work for Radio Free Asia which is funded by the US Congress. Rushan Abbas is "the founder and executive director of the nonprofit, Campaign for Uyghurs."  She was also an employee of Radio Free Asia and worked as a translator for the CIA when 22 Uyghurs were being held at Guantanamo.  She is a US citizen and a business consultant with ISI Consultants where she is described as having "extensive experience working with U.S. government agencies, including Homeland Security, Department of Defense, Department of State, Department of Justice, and various U.S. intelligence agencies."  

How 40% becomes 60% becomes 98% becomes 100% 

The Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act has now been passed by the US Congress and signed by the President.  The legislation prohibits "the import of all goods, wares, articles, or merchandise mined, produced, or manufactured, wholly or in part, by forced labor from the People’s Republic of China [. . . .]."  The USA typically imports over $400 billion in goods from China every year.  In a Covid year of supply chain interruptions and absentee truckers (or any year for that matter), it is difficult to imagine how US Customs and Border Protection will be able to act upon this legislation which requires that they block anything coming from China unless there is "clear and convincing evidence" [60% certainty] that the goods were not produced with forced labour.

I have already pointed to the problem of a "feedback loop," when ideologues with shared interests are talking to themselves without acknowledging their shared loop.  In their reflections, the American legislators who prepared  The Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act repeatedly quoted the United States Holocaust Museum "Bearing Witness" report without ever acknowledging that in many ways they were talking to themselves.  The report they quoted as an external source was far from external to the cognitive bias and interests they all shared.

Having read numerous victim statements about the alleged Uyghur genocide, I find myself believing about 40% of what I have read.  In the statements I found most credible, there was a consistent pattern of individuals crossing the border from outside China into Xinjiang for odd reasons.  These odd reasons aroused the suspicions of Chinese authorities and the individuals were unreasonably and harshly detained.  I have no doubt that crimes and abuses of human rights have been committed.

Reading Senator Marco Rubio's comment to the CONGRESSIONAL-EXECUTIVE COMMISSION ON CHINA that the Holocaust Museum report is "a document that should leave zero doubt about the evil policies and practices of the Communist Party of China toward Uyghurs [. . .],"  I was struck by how my 40% conviction became a 60% probability of genocide in the Newsline Institute report then a 98% probability of a birthrate genocide in the Uyghur Tribunal Judgment until finally becoming 100% proof of evil in the Congressional Commission.

The Chinese Response

In December 2021, the New York Times did an expose on "How Beijing Influences the Influencers."  The gist of the article is that China is manipulating social media to create positive images of the country.  Paradoxically, despite the article's intent, Raz Gal-Or's videos (included in the online NYT article)  still manage to undermine claims that China is using forced labour in the cotton fields of Xinjian. China has also produced this youtube video:  claiming that 80% of the cotton in Xinjiang is harvested mechanically.  I have to admit that given China's past history as a boundless supply of so-called "coolie" labour and its modern history of high-powered technological development, it seems counterintuitive that China needs to depend on forced labour for its export market.



What purpose does "weaponizing of human rights" serve?

Why weaponize human rights?  Why to not weaponize seems obvious as it is the opposite of promoting human rights.   The presumed victims end up being used as pawns in a geopolitical conflict.  How will sanctions serve the interests of the Uyghur of Xinjiang?  How have American sanctions served the people of Cuba, the people of Iran, or of Venezuala? 

“When goods don’t pass international borders, soldiers will.”   In 2015, the FBI whistleblower, Sible Edmonds, predicted that Xinjiang would be the next Taiwan and that the USA would adopt a method of weaponizing human rights through the media.  Is the weaponizing of human rights a prelude to war, a new proxy or preemptive war like Afghanistan, Iraq and Vietnam?  Nikki Haley, Trump's ambassador to the UN, is described in Haaretz Magazine as a potential Republican candidate for the presidency in 2024.  Her comments on China tell us that "the domino theory," the rationale for the Vietnam War, is once again back in fashion in the USA.




Thursday, 13 January 2022

Dialogue Is Dead. So Now What?

Dialogue is dead

In the history of the planet, there has never been a time which even compares with the circumstances, technologies and possibilities for communication and dialogue which are currently available to us.  Overwhelmed by this abundance, we face the opposite of what we might have expected:  dialogue is dead.  




Algorithms and polarization

One point of agreement these days is that we are living in an era of widespread disagreement and polarization.  Computer algorithms exacerbate polarization by feeding our prejudices and cognitive biases with a steady diet of whatever we already like and believe.  The problem isn't that people disagree but that populations at opposing poles, fed with a constant diet of affirmation, have become impenetrable to contrary ideas.  Dialogue has become impossible.  We are bombarded with tweets and images and conspiracies reaffirming what we think we know, making us ever more convinced that we've got it right and of the wrongheadedness of anyone who would dare to think otherwise. 



The History of dialogue

For the last 3000 years or so, the intellectual and social development of Homo Sapiens has been presumed to be based on dialogue.  In Plato's Republic, we read Socrates' dialogue exchanges with lesser lights--question and answer, question and answer--leading us eventually to some consensus, insight, or enlightenment if not final, unanimous agreement. 

Can there be democracy without dialogue?

From the Assembly of the Greek polis to the Roman Senate to the British House of Commons and their numerous variations, dialogue and, more formally, debate were the presumed underpinnings of the system.  Dictatorship is government without dialogue.  Mob rule is dictatorship with a lower IQ. The 2020 US presidential debates were much decried as they quickly devolved into ramshackle exchanges of jibes and slurs.  They were the reductio ad absurdum of the incapacity of politicians to engage in an earnest exchange of ideas.  

I'm an ENTP

My guru once told me I was an ENTP.  Which sounded great, except that I didn't know what ENTP meant.  What I took away from my guru's elaborate description of personality types was "When I think I'm right; I think I'm right."  Isn't everyone an ENTP?  Apparently, my reaction proves I am definitely an ENTP.  I want to be challenged but that would require someone, like me, who is eager to debate vigorously and logically.  

There's a rule somewhere that if you don't get a joke, it's probably about you.  I don't remember that I ever said this, but I have definitely thought it:  


Debate inside academia

Over and over again, at academic conferences, I have heard the claim that the most dire of problems, from racism to genocide to misogyny, could be solved with an open discussion of the contingencies, a fulsome discussion, a serious debate, a conversation.   I've even used this gambit myself.  Yet, inside academia, if ever a debate becomes energetic, someone will sense the imminence of an ad hominem retort and propose that most abhorrent of all compromises:  "Let's agree to disagree." While the dogma of prevailing "isms" reigns supreme in academia, even diffident discussions of fine-tuning and specifics risk being condemned as confrontational, conflictual, or heretical.

"Free Speech" and the world turned upside down

Reading the headline that "Trump threatens to cut funding for colleges 'hostile to free speech,'" it seemed to me that the world had been turned upside down.  How is it possible that universities, the crucibles of free speech, were being accused of resisting exactly what "universities" are supposed to stand for:  universality?   The origin of the word "university" is from the Latin for "whole, entire." We need to distinguish between free speech and hate speech, but the possibility of vigorous debate needs to be preserved somewhere.

Woke and cancel culture

I have wondered aloud how "woke," an Ebonic term for being conscious of social injustice, has become derogatory--a right-wing locution to mock precious claims of discrimination and racism and anything that might be called politically correct. The devolution of the word is a good example of how even vocabulary is co-opted by polarized extremes, and language, the necessary ground for consensus-building, compromise and dialogue, has become the problem rather than the solution.

I have defended "cancel culture"--though the expression has, with overuse and misuse, become meaningless--on the basis of a need to distinguish between free speech and privileged speech. "Cancel culture" hits the news and becomes clickbait when someone wants something or someone to be canceled and that cancellation is likely to irritate, outrage or befuddle a significant audience.  The true malaise is that "cancel culture" is evidence of disbelief in dialogue.  It is evidence of an absence of the trust necessary for dialogue to happen. 

So now what? 

"Actions speak louder than words."  "Might is right."  Is this what we are left with?   

 

 

Thursday, 6 January 2022

What Have We Learned from the Meng Extradition "Catastrofarce"?

The "Catastrofarce"

In his review of Mike Blanchfield and Fen Osler Hampson's book, The Two Michaels, David Moscrop characterizes the #Meng extradition case as a mix of catastrophe and buffoonery.  To describe the three-year-long "farce," Moscrop suggests the neologism "catastrofarce."  "When all was said and done," Moscrop points out, "nothing was achieved and everyone involved came out poorer than when they had started." True enough, but now we can reflect on all that we have learned from the affair, right?  No?


Sometimes you can judge a book by its cover

Moscrop assesses The Two Michaels as "a missed opportunity" as it failed to probe the context of a "Cold War between the United States and China."  The Two Michaels left much unsaid.  Obviously, a close focus on "The Two Michaels" as "Innocent Canadian Captives" was bound to exclude details of the broader issues.  Blanchfield and Osler Hampson's review of the Michaels' harsh conditions in contrast to the luxury of Meng's Vancouver mansions seemed the same insistence on the marginally relevant reiterated by Canada's legacy media for three years, the same pandering to imagined Canadian sensibilities--"pandas really aren't nice like beavers"--which I attempted to mock in The Panda and the Beaver.

What The Two Michaels leaves unsaid

Despite the subtitle, The Two Michaels has relatively little to say about "the US-China Cyber War."  In the dozen or so times "cyber war" is mentioned, the book's most interesting observation is left largely undeveloped:

Whatever the differences in their circumstances, Michael Kovrig, Michael Spavor, and Meng Wanzhou were now bound by one shared reality. All three were pawns in a full-blown technology war for control over global communications [. . . .]

 I noted the authors' excluding relevant  detail in the early going of The Two Michaels when I read this sentence:  "The US and Iran have been enemies since 1979, when a group of radical students in Tehran stormed the American embassy and took hostages in a siege that lasted 444 days."  Dating the beginning of US-Iranian enmity to 1979 and attributing the Iranian revolution to "a group of radical students" leaves unsaid that the USA arranged the overthrow of Mohammad Mosaddegh, the democratically-elected leader of Iran, then installed and maintained an "oppressive, brutal, corrupt," 26-year-long dictatorship under the playboy Shah Reza Pahlavi in order to protect Anglo-American oil interests.

What about Richard Donoghue?

Donoghue's name, of course, gets mentioned in the Blanchfield & Osler Hampson monograph, as he issued the warrant, conducted the grand jury trial, and argued that Meng Wanzhou should be kept behind bars while awaiting extradition.  The rapid rise and fall of Donoghue's career was directly aligned with the pursuit, arrest and attempted extradition of Meng Wanzhou.  Donoghue's position as a litigator for CA Technologies to becoming US Attorney for the Eastern District of New York in 2018 to being named Assistant Attorney General to his disappearance from the spotlight paralleled Meng's indictment, arrest and eventual release.  Blanchfield and Osler Hampson have virtually nothing to say about him, never question his background or motives, barely even mention his central role in the "catastrofarce."

And Jody Wilson-Raybould?

Jody Wilson-Raybould was the Minister of Justice responsible for Meng Wanzhou's arrest and the early stages of issuing an Order to Proceed with her extradition.  Wilson-Raybould had the ministerial authority, by law, to dismiss the American request and release Meng "at any time" and put an end to the "catastrofarce" which led to Michael Korvig and Michael Spavor's imprisonment.  Nonetheless, her name appears exactly once in The Two Michaels, in the context of her having been pressured by PM Trudeau and his minions to stop the criminal prosecution of SNC-Lavalin.  As I have written in previous posts, it mattered that the SNC-Lavalin scandal, the Meng extradition case and JWR's demotion out of justice were all happening at the same time.  (See "Comparing 'Remediation Agreements' and the Canadian Extradition Act, or Did the Liberal Obsession with SNC-Lavalin Prevent Jody Wilson-Raybould from Dealing with the Meng Extradition?")

In The Two Michaels, former Minister of Justice Allan Rock reaffirmed my speculations that fall-out from the SNC-Lavalin scandal made the government reluctant to act on the Meng extradition.  Supreme Court Justice Louise Arbour also confirmed that the government was getting the laws governing Remediation Agreements and those governing extradition upside down.  As I pointed out in "A Comparison of Scandals: SNC-Lavalin Versus the Extradition of the Huawei CFO," the government tried to interfere when the law clearly proscribes interference and refused to act when "the law clearly spells out that political (Minister of Justice) action is not just accepted but expected and required."

Oddly (or does this have something to do with ministerial privilege and secrecy?), in JWR's recent memoir, Indian in the Cabinet, there is not a single mention of the Meng extradition case.  Does Jody Wilson-Raybould recognize that her most consequential act over the course of her tenure as Minister of Justice/Attorney General was to authorize the arrest of Meng Wanzhou, or does her preoccupation with the SNC-Lavalin scandal and her demotion out of justice continue to cloud her judgment of the case and her role in it?

Canada Was being played

Was Canda being played?  For an answer look no further than Adrienne Arsenault's interview with John Bolton on CBC.  Arsenault pointed out (Blanchfield & Osler Hampson also note) that after the warrant for her arrest had been issued (22 August 2019),  Meng traveled to the UK and France.  Both countries have extradition treaties with the USA.  Why wait until she was traveling through Canada?  Was it because the Americans judged that only Canada would be "compliant" (and dumb?) enough to follow through on the extradition request?  In response to Arsenault's question, Bolton smiled and giggled slightly, then recovered himself enough to say "it was a matter of logistics" and Canada's being played was "a conspiracy theory."  As I have suggested elsewhere, just because it's a conspiracy theory doesn't mean it isn't true. (See "The Chaos Theory of International Trade, or How Canada Arrested a Chinese Executive on a US Warrant in Order to Protect Israel from Iran.")

The USMCA trade agreement and the "China clause"

Of course, Canada was being played, and the con job is still unfolding.  The same year we were asked to arrest Meng, Canada was negotiating the USMCA trade agreement (the replacement for NAFTA).  The Americans asked for and the Canadian negotiators agreed to the “China clause” requiring three months notice before Canada could sign a trade agreement with  “non-market countries.”  (The list of “non-market countries” includes China, Vietnam, North Korea and 11 others.)  What sovereign nation would give up its right to unfettered trade negotiations?

Just in case forewarning would not be enough to block Canada's trade with China, the USA requested and Canada acquiesced in arresting Meng thereby guaranteeing, entirely for US benefit, a breakdown in the collaboration between Canada and China which had been developing for 50 years under both Conservative and Liberal governments. We, Canadians, might imagine that the self-sacrificing gesture of arresting Meng at the US request would win some future gratitude and consideration from our American neighbours.  Exactly the opposite has been playing out.  With trade between Canada and China stymied, Canada had even less leverage than usual with the USA.  This period of animosity between China and Canada was/is exactly the right moment for the USA to put the squeeze on Canada--and that is what has been happening:

  • PEI potatoes: banned from export to the USA. In 2020, the USA signed a deal to export Idaho and Washington potatoes to China.
  • Softwood lumber: Canada's trade dispute with the USA has been going on since 1982. The WTO (World Trade Organization) has ruled several times that the US tariffs are unreasonable. In 2021, the USA doubled the duty on Canadian softwood lumber to 17.9%. China is the world's second-largest importer of softwood lumber
  • Trump's "Trade truce": As reported in The Two Michaels, "Trump’s subsequent 'trade truce' with China, signed on January 16, 2020, left Canada dangling in the wind. [. . . .] [It] committed China to buy an additional US$200 billion in American goods over the next two years, including US$40 billion to US$50 billion in agricultural products such as soybeans, canola, fresh and frozen pork, beef, wheat, corn, barley, and a range of machinery, all on preferential terms unavailable to Canadian producers."
  • Electric vehicles made in the USA: Canada's second-largest export to the USA (after oil and petroleum products) is vehicles. President Biden's new legislation requiring that electric vehicles be produced in the USA would effectively shut Canada out of the American market. 

Ironically, Canada is currently trying to negotiate a free-trade deal with ASEAN (the Association of Southeast Asian Nations) which includes Vietnam (a non-market country).  Presumably, according to the "China clause," Canada will have to officially inform the USA in advance of signing a deal.  For what purpose?  Why would the US negotiators demand advanced notice, if not to consider how the deal accommodates American interests and to scuttle it if it doesn't.  Since China is the ASEAN's largest trading partner and is planning to upgrade its relationship, Canada will have to kowtow to both China and the USA--neither of whom have reason to support Canada's free-trade aspirations--in order to sign an agreement.

What I Gleaned from The Two Michaels

In November 2019, a Canadian delegation led by Alan Rock met with Chinese officials in China to discuss the Meng arrest and the incarceration of the two Michaels.  The leader of the Chinese delegation, Wang Chow, insisted that there was no connection between the two cases--a claim we can now easily categorize as a lie.  But, at the same time, Wang quoted Section 23 of the Canadian Extradition Act,  demonstrating that Canadian claims that politicians could not get involved in an extradition case were patently false.  Canadians may not know the Canadian Extradition Act, but the Chinese delegation certainly did. 

Blanchfield & Osler Hampson describe the Chinese delegate's quoting of Section 23 of the Canadian Extradition as exploiting "an inherent loophole in the government’s argument." "Loophole" here appears a euphemism for a "lie."  Rock attempted to argue that Section 23 was "was not necessarily intended for this kind of case" and that it was "extremely rare" for the Minister to halt extradition proceedings.  Rock was quick to admit that it was a feeble argument and "a non-satisfactory response."  Ironically, returning to Canada, Rock, backed by extradition expert Brian Greenspan's investigation and report, presented the same Section 23 argument to Justin Trudeau that, by law, according to the Canadian Extradition Act, the Minister of Justice could release Meng at any time.

Who Is Greta Bossenmaier?

"Greta Bossenmaier" is a name I had never heard before.  Blanchfield and Osler Hampson identify her as Justin Trudeau's "national security advisor" and quote her briefing notes to the PM stating: “The minister has broad discretion to decide, but [. . . ] there are no examples of the Minister discharging a case for political or diplomatic reasons.”

While giving the impression that Bossenmaier was a key player in the decision to hold Meng, Blanchfield and Osler Hampson give no further information about her.  According to my internet search, Bossenmair began her career as a DND scientist, worked for several departments in the public service and was named head of CSIS (Canadian Security and Intelligence Service) on May 23, 2018--six months before Meng was arrested.  Bossenmaier was appointed to the position when her predecessor, Daniel Jean, retired, and retired herself in December 2019.

Bossenmaier's claim that "there are no examples of the Minister discharging a case [. . . .]" was clearly beside the point.  There are no equivalent cases, no precedents for Canada's arresting a Chinese executive on a questionable extradition request from the USA.  The Canadian Extradition Act wasn't the problem; it was the solution.  It laid out step by step exactly what should be done, what must be done, how and why.  It was "paint by numbers," if Canadian politicians could be convinced to follow the instructions.   The Minister of Justice could and should refuse the extradition request because [46 (1) (c)]  it was for "an offence of a political character."  The Minister could and should refuse:

 [ . . .] if the request for extradition is made for the purpose of prosecuting or punishing the person by reason of their race, religion, nationality, ethnic origin, language, colour, political opinion, sex, sexual orientation, age, mental or physical disability or status or that the person’s position may be prejudiced for any of those reasons

The US DoJ (Department of Justice) had cornered HSBC (Hong Kong Shanghai Banking Corporation) into providing evidence that they had been fooled by Meng Wanzhou into moving money in Iran.  HSBC had to go along with the claim that  Meng committed "bank fraud" or, for the second time, pay heavy fines in the USA for financial transactions in Iran.  Could there be any doubt that Meng was being pursued because she is Chinese, because China is a communist country in a Cold War with the USA?  Could there be any doubt that her position in the USA would be prejudiced for reasons of nationality and politics? Could there be any doubt that had she been German, British, French or Swiss and using Deutsche Bank, Standard Charter Bank, Societe Generale, or Credit Swiss (all of whom have been caught and paid fines for transactions in Iran) the USA would never have even considered a criminal proceeding against her for "bank fraud"?  The Canadian Ministers of Justice had only to judge the obvious and yet it appears that neither Jody Wilson-Raybould nor David Lametti ever did.

The Mystery of RCMP Staff-Sergeant Ben Chang

Not surprisingly, given how soon after the Meng and "two Michaels" saga the book was published, there are gaps in the narrative of Meng's arrest.  Blanchfield & Osler Hampson begin the story in medias res when RCMP "Const. Winston Yep’s cellphone rang."  Yep's supervisor was calling with instructions to arrange a warrant for Meng's arrest.  "Yep was successful in persuading British Columbia Supreme Court Justice Margot Fleming to issue a warrant."   But who was Yep's supervisor on the other end of the phone call? Who was giving orders to Yep's supervisor? When Yep finally informed Meng that she was under arrest, he said: "[. . . ] this is a warrant for provisional arrest under Section 13 of the Extradition Act.”  

Section 13 specifies: 

13 (1) A judge may, on ex parte application of the Attorney General, issue a warrant for the provisional arrest of a person, if satisfied that there are reasonable grounds to believe that

(a) it is necessary in the public interest to arrest the person [ . . .]

The authorization was supposed to come from the Attorney General of Canada (Jody Wilson-Raybould), but the narrative suggests orders and instructions were coming from the FBI.

Reading through the details of Meng's arrest brought back memories of my visit to the Canadian Museum of Human Rights in Winnipeg where a copy of the Magna Carta was on display.  
On instructions from the FBI passed on to the RCMP and from the RCMP to the CBSA (Canadian Border Security Agency), Meng was "arbitrarily detained" for three hours. The "Canadian Charter" is explicit: 
Only after three hours of detention, interrogation, and being required to give up the passwords for her cellphone and computer (which were passed on to the FBI) was Meng informed that she was being arrested for "bank fraud."  Canadian officials blithely overstepped the Canadian Charter (and the 800-year-old Magna Carta for god's sake), and the media response was to massage the Canadian national ego with reports that we were all "law-abiding" citizens in a "rule-of-law" country.

As reported in The Two Michaels, Canadian Border Security Agent Scott Kirkland immediately intuited that Meng's detention would be a contravention of the Canadian Charter, but still "had a job to do." The great mystery of the imbroglio remains Staff Sergeant Ben Chang, described in The Two Michaels as "a senior RCMP officer [ . . .] who had dealings with an FBI counterpart, John Sgroi, in the days following Meng’s arrest."

Chang retired from the RCMP and moved to China (!?), "where he now works in security at a casino" in Macau. Chang left behind an affidavit swearing that he did not share information with the FBI but refused to testify at the extradition hearing. 


"The Gang of 19"

In 2020, Allan Rock, former Liberal Minister of Justice, and Louise Arbour, former Supreme Court Justice and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights sent a letter to Justin Trudeau pointing out the justice of releasing Meng.  There was no response, not even an acknowledgment of receipt.  Blanchfield and Osler Hampson opine:  "The Trudeau government chose not to offer a basic courtesy to two Canadians who had served their country with great distinction."

As Blanchfield and Osler Hampson report, on June 23, 2020, 

a group of former government officials, senior diplomats (including two former Canadian ambassadors to Washington), and academics sent a confidential letter to the prime minister suggesting that it was time to release Meng in exchange for the Two Michaels.

Was there a conspiracy afoot?  Within twenty-four hours the letter

was leaked by an unknown source to a variety of Canadian news outlets. Both the letter and photos of the Gang of 19, as they were now called, were plastered on television screens across the nation in what looked like a police lineup. Rock and his co-signatories knew immediately that their enterprise was doomed.

Was there a campaign across Canadian media to discredit Rock and Arbour and seventeen other distinguished Canadians?  What editor or producer would willingly agree to describe this group of renowned Canadians as "a gang"?  Still worse, "Gang of 19" was an allusion to the "Gang of Four," a brutal, repressive, and regressive cadre prominent in the final years of Mao's "Cultural Revolution."

Justin Trudeau's Stubborn resistance

Twenty-four hours after receiving Rock and Arbour et al's appeal to release Meng and save the two Michaels, Justin Trudeau gave a press conference and, with uncharacteristic firmness, announced that the government would not engage in hostage diplomacy.  I had speculated that after having panicked when presented with the original extradition request, Trudeau had no choice but to continue promoting the falsehood that extradition was an independent judicial process. 

As I learned from The Two Michaels, Trudeau's decision was likely predetermined by his refusal, in 2015, to negotiate with Abu Sayyaf, a militant Islamist group in the Philipines, who were holding two Canadians, Robert Hall and John Ridsdel, and a Norweigan, for ransom.  The Norweigan, Kjartan Sekkingstan, was released after a ransom of $638,000 was paid (according to a spokesman for Abu Sayyaf).  The two Canadians were beheaded.

Robert Fowler, a former UN ambassador, who had himself been held hostage by Al-Qaeda, was adamant that the Trudeau government's refusal to negotiate the two Michaels' release was predetermined by Trudeau's refusal to negotiate for Hall and Ridsdel's release, and was "naive, simplistic, and in this case potentially murderous”  (qt in The Two Michaels).

Hostage Diplomacy

As I pointed out in December 2018, the Chinese arrest of the two Michaels made the optics of releasing Meng more difficult.  The Two Michaels offers extensive discussion of "hostage swap" situations.  The general pattern seems to be that, although official government policy is, typically, to refuse to negotiate for the return of hostages, Western democracies and the USA, in particular, frequently find a way around their own public policies. However, discussions of Meng's release in terms of "hostage diplomacy" or "prisoner swap" or "hostage exchange" consistently obscured the fact that in releasing Meng, Canada would be following the law, not breaking it.

Blanchfield & Osler Hampson claim that Canadians, according to an Angus Reid poll, massively supported Trudeau's decision not to release Meng.  The problem with the Angus Reid poll was that their question offered only two possible answers, and both answers were wrong:

Respondents to the survey had to choose between:  🟥 break the law (intervene) or 🟦follow the law (continue).  Of course, Canadians responded that we should follow the law.  If Canadians had been told and the question framed accordingly that to "intervene" would be following the law as specified in the Extradition Act and to "continue" was to ignore the law, I imagine Canadians would have responded in exactly the reverse of the numbers provided in the graph above.


What Did Meng confess to?


The two Michaels are home.  Meng returned to China to a hero's welcome.  Dare we consider a cost-benefit analysis?  Canada paid a heavy price for arresting Meng:   over 1000 days in prison for the two Michaels, blocked Canadian imports of beef, pork, and canola, the collapse of a plan for Covid vaccines to be produced in Canada.  The future costs of the breakdown of our trade and diplomatic relations with China are yet to be calculated.  

What did we gain?  Canada showed that we would not be bullied, that we were an independent nation of law-abiding citizens and politicians who followed the rule of law.  Except we weren't following the law and, therefore, we were not being law abiding and, by all appearance, we were being bullied by a cadre of anti-China super-hawks who had deliberately kept the American President out of the loop, and Canada succumbed to the bullying of a warrant without even questioning its provenance.

According to John Bolton, Meng was "a spy and a fraudster" (qt in The Two Michaels).  Meng accepted a deferred prosecution agreement.  There was no question of prison time.  She didn't even pay a fine.  What greater evidence could there be that we never should have arrested her in the first place? Now that the "Deferred Prosecution Agreement" and "The Statement of Facts" are available online we can finally know what crimes she committed and confessed to and for which Canada and Canadians were required to pay such a heavy price.

According to the "Statement of Facts," each of these quotations above was a half-truth, evasion, trick, or outright lie.  Did these eight quoted sentence fragments fool HSBC, which had already been informed via Reuters that Huawei through Skycom was doing business in Iran?  How did these eight sentence fragments constitute a crime which justice-seeking Canada would sacrifice its interests and citizens to see prosecuted?  To understand Meng's "crime," it is necessary to understand the USA's "weaponizing of the dollar."

"Weaponizing the dollar"

Meng's lawyer attempted to argue that a conversation in 2013 involving a relatively small series of transactions ("US$2 million over thirteen months") between a Chinese business person (Meng) and a banker (from HSBC) which took place in China should not be considered a crime in US jurisdiction.  Blanchfield & Osler Hampson make vague reference to "a practice known as 'dollar clearing'” to explain the debate.

A number of banks, all over the world, are licensed as "clearing houses," which means they can process extremely large transactions between corporations and countries. The issue is perhaps better understood in terms of the recently much-discussed notion of the USA's "weaponizing of the dollar." As Satyajit Das explains in Business Standard:


The USA has been using its incredible privilege of printing/digitalizing the global reserve currency and consequent control over the finances of the global economy to punish Iran.  As we have seen in the Meng case, anyone who asks a bank to transgress a regulation put in place by the USA risks criminal prosecution for bank fraud.  No-one can stop China or Europe from doing business in Iran, but the USA can prosecute the use of a US-licenced financial institution for transgressing US regulations. 

"Weaponizing of the dollar" is a hotly debated topic, and now we Canadians know what it feels like to be enforcers in a system most of us didn't even know existed.

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