Home Home Initiatives Comments Insight Publications Correspondence Search Resources Profiles Upcoming






Economic & Social Policy

Foreign & Military Affairs

Think Tanks

Canada's Shame

The Victory of Shrivelled Spirit and Hostile Heart
Institute Bulletin No.60 19.March.2003

  “Die Gedanken Sind Frei…My thoughts freely flowerDie Gedanken Sind Frei…My thoughts give me power;

 Never to cater… To Duke or Dictator…No man can deny…Die Gedanken Sind Frei;

Foundations will crumble…The structure will tumble…And free men will cry…Die Gedanken Sind Frei;

 And if tyrants take me…And throw me in prison…My thoughts will burst free…Like blossoms in season;

And free men will cry…Die Gedanken Sind Frei…And free men will cry…Die Gedanken Sind Frei!”

 ---Anthem of the anti-Nazi German Resistance (as translated by Pete Seeger)

 "Iraq's security services carry out extra-judicial executions in the most brutal of fashions, killing parents in front of their children, beheading suspects on the street and using methods to terrify the survivors as well as murder the innocent. Interrogations are based on brutal, degrading and barbaric tortures. Punishments are routinely inflicted on entire families or communities in response to the perceived transgression of a single person. Most infamously, Saddam Hussein has used chemical weapons to exterminate whole towns--to kill thousands of men, women and children.I have continued to seek and receive information, and I have continued to report my findings. The Government [of Iraq] has continued simply to deny everything or to offer limpid excuses even for its own laws which blatantly sanction arbitrary killing for anyone who insults the President or institutions of the regime, and laws which prescribe tortures for criminal acts like petty theft or evasion from military service...All the while the violations have continued without the slightest indication of any change in Government policy--of any effort or intention to improve the situation of human rights in Iraq. Perhaps the most succinct comment on the state of the rule of law in Iraq comes from Saddam himself, who has been quoted by a former senior nuclear weapons scientist as saying: "Don't tell me about the law. The law is anything I write on a scrap of paper"

--Max van der Stoael, UN special rapporteur on human rights in Iraq,  to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in 1999:


In one of his first budgets Paul Martin claimed that the Government of Canada may have lost the moral authority to govern due to the fiscal failures of the previous administration. What can we say today of the moral myopia of this administration's position on the Iraq crisis? Only two words spring to mind. For shame!

Our political leadership has shifted from nebulous neutrality to outright opposition. The political prism through which we will now be viewed is that we have thrown in our lot with the professional panderers of “progressive” polemics who draw  daily inspiration from tinpot dictators to launch new intellectual barrages against the United States in an attempt to display their sympathies for  emerging nations'  “right to be wrong” while they evolve in their crypto-Darwinian experiment in nation building. These critics pay no attention to fact or law and build their cases on outdated concepts such as “sovereignty”, and a total debasement of the purposes of the United Nations.

Sovereignty no longer matters. In the post Holocaust era the civilized world realized that Hitler’s Germany was sovereign too. As was Stalin’s Russia and Mao’s China. And for that matter so was Kaiser Wilhelm’s Empire. Over eighty million people died in a century characterized by an orgy of blood because the civilized world attempted to respect sovereignty. But borders and customs guards, flags and institutions offered no protection to the free peoples of Czechoslovakia ,Poland  and Hungary nor to the millions of bodies floating in the Yangzte River or frozen in the wastes of the Gulag Archipelago or butchered in the jungles of Rwanda. The lesson of the twentieth century was not that independent pre-emptive response would unleash anarchic bloodbaths--to the contrary-- failure to respond, and worse, attempts to appease, would allow time for barbarous dictators to arm themselves to the teeth and embroil the world in a whirlwind of devastation heretofore unimaginable. The road to Auschwitz began in Munich.

The United Nations was not created as a world government. The obligation of free nations to help fellow human beings unleash the chains of tyranny, is not relieved by its existence. United Nations doctrine itself recognizes the right of self-help when the U.N. cannot, or will not, act. As Robert Tucker  has written in "Reprisals and Self-Defense" 

 "...it is clear that certainly under customary standards, but even under U.N. definitions, armed response can be utilized as self-help in response to threats  quantitatively and qualitatively different than a traditional invasion by one state of another." 

 Let us never forget that the United Nations is no panacea. Not only because it is overly influenced by bloody despots and retrograde regimes, but because of the impotence and inaction of its leaders. The current Secretary-General was the head of the United Nations Refugee Relief Agency at the time of the Rwanda-Burundi crisis, and the U.N.'s decisions at that time directly led to the freeze on military action and the subsequent deaths of hundreds of thousands. The blood of their corpses is on the hands of the U.N. leadership.

What then do we replace the old dogma's with? Imbedded in every attempt by the free world to enact new codes and standards of international behaviour was the concept of legitimacy. And the litmus test of legitimacy was democracy. Not because it was the ideal system. As Churchill said,”…Democracy is far from perfect, but after millennia of struggle it is the best that man has to offer…” But because it was the price of entry to the table of civilized peoples. At least with a democratic system a nation would be held accountable not only to its own citizens, but with free access and communication, the spotlight of free nations would be ever vigilant in reigning in any threatening dark night of terror. A democratic state’s legitimacy would come from its inherent responsibilities to, acceptance of and engagement with the development of freedom in the international order. And respect for a nation’s physical integrity based on  a legitimacy grounded  in a commitment to liberty is doctrinally defensible and a far better assurance of  world stability than respect for a nation’s physical integrity based on a  sovereignty stemming from bloodlines of familial descent and the accidental arrangement of  geographic barriers which has never had conceptual confirmation in either natural nor moral law and has been nothing more than a specious defense from the witless defenders of  despots and dictators.  

Canadians, as a people, must stand with those who believe that all people must be helped to exact their full share from the bounty of life's possibilities. We cannot be "salon liberals". If we believe in social justice at home, we have a responsibility to engage abroad and aid others.We cannot maintain an attitude of "I'm all right Jack, and the hell with you." We must be partners with all who seek to establish a flow of well being to the most put upon, in order to allow for their fullest expression as human beings. If we do not recognize the responsibilities to our common humanity then what are we as a nation?

Churchill, Kennedy and our own Prime Minister Trudeau, recognized that the spread of freedom was the one "legacy" we must leave to the world, the most vital measure of our progress and the singular hope of man. As Trudeau once said,

 "...though we as liberals see society as capable of moral progress, being by nature neither essentially good nor perverse, we understand the requirement to cultivate and support  the more positive inclinations of man. While understanding the limits of legislation and law, we do not hesitate advocacy of the uses of the levers of power for the expansion of equity and equality."

As Canadians we must always guard against the smugness and complacency that are symptoms of a preoccupation with parochial interests alone. We must remember that the lessons of our legacy are unselfish ones, imbued with an understanding that, with grace and dignity, we must involve ourselves in the struggle of free men the world over, for their fight is ours as well. We cannot hide behind a curtain of self-satisfaction and rest smugly at harbour, for we will assuredly be buffeted by the continuing tides of the challenges of our complex time, and our responses will be muted and impotent rather than prideful and purposeful. In our land today there are too many of shrivelled spirit and hostile heart that fear the future, mistrust the present and invoke the security of a comfortable past, which, in fact, never existed, as excuses for inaction.These we must always oppose.

Jawaharlal Nehru once called the advancement of freedom and justice “…the silken bond of history…” The process of engagement in this advancement has always seemed to us to be the most exhilarating expression of what we are about as educated and enlightened men who, by our refusal, in Dante’s words, to “…place ourselves with those cold and timid souls who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis…”, propel our society to lionize the nobility of courage and conscience and repel the decay of  hatred, jealousy and greed. We must struggle not for the sake of philosophical notions of an idealized humanity but for the very pragmatic and immediate relief of the human being.

And finally, we must stand with those who are committed to the expansion of the freedoms we enjoy as Canadians to all parts of the world and who would readily and courageously support our sister democracies, as we have always done in our history, and not with those who hide as cowards behind diplomatic curtains of moral objectivity. We need to bring pride back to our country. There can be no better vehicle than the strengthening of our international prestige. And no better policy than the pledge of faithful friendship to those allies whose cultural and spiritual origins we share and who would join us in active advocacy for, and dedicated defence of, democracy and liberty for all. 

Canada has often been called a peace loving nation. This is only a half truth. Canada is above all a freedom loving nation. We have sacrificed more sons and daughters for the survival and success of liberty in the past century than even the United States as a proportion of population. We never shirked from this responsibility. We never calculated how many more soldiers there were in the Kaiser’s army. We never worried about the number of tanks in Hitler’s Panzer Divisions. We were never awed by Stalin’s might in Korea.. We supported the values of western civilization because we wanted to live as free men and women even when we had little more to give than “blood,sweat and tears”. We understood, viscerally, that man’s millennia long struggle to break out of the forests of barbarism was a precious quest. We lionized and celebrated those who stood with us in vigilant opposition to any assault on our values of democracy and freedom. We would “rage against the dying of the light” whenever the black night of terror threatened.


If we fail to stand against a dictator who has slaughtered 300,000 of his own people, who will we stand against?


If we fail to help defend the peace of the world,  what will we defend?


If we fail to aid the building of peace in the Middle-East, where are we prepared to help?


If we fail to assault a despot who has invaded others, when will we be prepared to make a stand?


If we fail to stand with sister democracies against threats to their integrity, why do we have a right to their understanding of our fight to keep this land whole?


And if we are only for ourselves, then what are we as a people?


Canada's Secretary of State for the Middle East, the Hon. Gar Knutson, in a courageous speech in the House of Commons on Iraq, stated:


"...for almost a quarter of a century, the regime in Iraq has pursued essentially two policies: the ruthless repression of its own people, and military aggression against its neighbours with the aims of asserting regional dominance and acquiring territory. The results of these policies have been an unmitigated tragedy for Iraqis and for Iraq's neighbours."

It is time for Canada to act in the spirit of the righteous anger of those words as worthy heirs of those who made the supreme sacrifice in determined defiance to tyrants and tyranny and join America in response to the critical and compelling imperative to assault. Our nation’s pride and purpose was never compromised or cudgelled by mountains of munitions and it should never be paralyzed or prejudiced by weakeness of will. The decaying rot of oppression can never be allowed to still our pledge to make gentle the life of this world nor to shake our faith that  relief of the oppressed  is the paramount prerequisite for the protection and progress of civilization. The survival and success of liberty has always demanded such sacrifice .These have been the age-old lessons of history’s uncontestable march from repression to renewal, the noble vows  of  courage of freedom’s champions and the singular hope of man for an era when truth will not be compromised by timidity, honor will not be cheapened by objectivity and hope will not be mortgaged by expediency.


Beryl P. Wajsmann


Institute for Public Affairs of Montreal



Email Article Format for Printing
Home Initiatives Comments Insight Publications Profiles Resources Search Correspondence




Write to us