The Canadian government finds itself caught in a dilemma of its own making, skewered on the spear of its own hypocrisy, and left to dangle in the wind by its supposed allies, as a result of its demand that Saudi Arabia release a woman who criticised the Saudi women’s rights policies. There has been all sorts of frenzied analysis in Canada trying to justify Canada’s hypocrisy in this affair and its subsequent isolation internationally. Most commentators are locked into liberal illusions. None have spoken about the reality.
Some have claimed it’s the result of a plot by the Americans, others that it is an overreaction by a “hard-line” Saudi government trying to justify its internal policies.
Others, like the self-proclaimed “philosopher,” Slavoj Zizek, in an article in RT on August 12, and with a title alluding another “new world order,” claims that it is a sign that the west has abandoned its human rights crusade; that the alleged “clash of civilisations,” a construct of certain American foreign policy apologists, has given way to the “peaceful coexistence of civilisations,” which he sadly aments. Yes, that is what he wrote, believe it or not. For him, butting out of other countries affairs by the west, peaceful coexistence, is an “obscenity” since the “West will no longer be allowed to impose its standards on others and all ways of life will be treated as equal.’
He goes on to complain that the Saudi reaction is supported by the “left,” this mysterious “left” supposedly claiming the reaction is anticolonial and therefore to be supported, though I have seen no leftist say any such thing. But Zizek is very good at erecting straw men and then knocking them down and he does so in order to get to his real position where he writes,
‘Leftists who for a long time criticized the US pretension to be the global policeman may begin to long for the old times when, with all hypocrisy included, the US imposed democratic standards around the world.”
What democratic standards he is referring to is a mystery since the USA has destroyed democracies around the world and knows none in its own territory. He seems to be ignorant of history, for the claim by the US that it is “bringing democracy” has been a justification for every war of aggression it has ever waged. But this is the crude level of reasoning on offer today in the bourgeois media, which presents a whole stable of such reactionary defenders of imperialism as “leftists” to confuse the people and demoralize the left.
But none of this false reasoning, this deliberate distortion of history and fact, gets to the real issue; the sheer hypocrisy displayed by the Canadian government. The Saudi internal policies are rightly criticized but the Saudis are really complaining about the smug attitude Canada adopted by giving orders to a sovereign nation to do what it says or else. It is more a matter of the approach than the content and the Canadians should have been aware beforehand that this reaction would follow since the Saudi’s got their noses out of joint over a similar criticism made by Sweden in 2015 and withdrew their ambassador and when Germany did the same caused problems for some German companies doing business there.
But Canada has no right to get on its high horse and criticize others when its own record regarding human rights is more shameful than to be sung about. The Canadian Prime Minister spent his entire speech at the United Nations apologizing to the world for its terrible genocidal policies towards its indigenous peoples and has done little to improve their conditions since.
Canada has a long history of human rights abuses. It threw Ukrainians into concentration camps in the First World War, Japanese in the Second, allowed Chinese cheap labour to die in their hundreds building the national rail network, used machine guns on strikers in the 1930’s.
This is the country that joined in the attack on the people of Korea in 1950-53, that aided the American war on the people of Vietnam, that helped to assassinate the presidents of Rwanda and Burundi in 1994 and the Kagame led slaughter of hundreds of thousands of Rwandans that ensued, that bombed and destroyed Yugoslavia in 1999, that took part in the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan, of Iraq, that bombed and destroyed Libya in 2011, that bombed Syria and supported the proxy terrorist forces sent in by the US and today is taking in the notorious White Helmets, propagandists for the imperialist war against Syria, and which gave its special forces to the US in 2004 to help them put a gun to the head of President Aristide of Haiti, to kidnap him and exile him to Africa.
This is the country that was involved in actions attempting overthrow the government of Venezuela and that supports Nazis in Ukraine and their absolute denial of the human rights of the peoples of the Donbass, that takes part in the illegal economic warfare against Russia and the DPRK, that has a foreign minister, the very one who criticized the Saudis, who covers up for her grandfather’s role as a Nazi propagandist against Jews in World War II and who along with the rest of the Canadian government has said not a word of criticism regarding the Saudi war on the people of Yemen. To make the hypocrisy worse Canada is still supplying armoured cars and weapons to the Saudi government that are used in that war and to suppress internal dissent. The deal is worth upwards of 15 billion dollars and the Saudis assure it will not be affected by the dispute.
Canada not only has no legs to stand on when it claims to be for “human rights” it also seems to be without any intelligent leadership. It is probable that the order issued by the Canadian government to the Saudi government to release a prisoner was not out of any real concern for human rights, because if that were the case they would have denounced the Saudi war against Yemen at the same time, or the aid the Saudis give to US proxy forces in Syria. It is more likely that the statement was issued to assuage domestic critics of its arms sales to Saudi Arabia and no thought at all was given to what the reaction would be. In fact Canada has been left to turn in the wind as the UK and the USA both decline to back their position and Russia used it to slam Canada for once again interfering in the internal affairs of sovereign nations.
So the dispute between Canada and Saudi Arabia has nothing at all to do with a supposed anti-colonial struggle, as Zizek claims, and has everything to do with a squabble between junior partners in the American led hegemonic system of world dominance as it seeks to reimpose colonialism under the guise of “spreading democracy” and “protecting human rights.” The Saudis are an essential part of that colonial system and aren’t about to take criticism from another participant in that system whose human rights record is also stained on every page.
I will end with another astounding claim of this fellow Zizek who states at the end of his article “…that today’s global capitalism can no longer afford a positive vision of emancipated humanity, even as an ideological dream.” The mind boggles at such stupidity. But then it is not stupidity but a deliberate distortion of reality. Capitalism, there is no need to call it “global,” was never about the “emancipation of humanity.” It has ever been about the emancipation of the bourgeoisie whose voice Zizek appears to be, about the free movement of capital, about the enslavement of the mass of humanity that is the working class. For apologists of imperialism, there is only one solution to this problem, Zizek’s “new universalism” a new buzz phrase for imperialism. But for the real left there is only one solution, socialism. There is no third way, never was, and never will be.
Christopher Black is an international criminal lawyer based in Toronto. He is known for a number of high-profile war crimes cases and recently published his novel “Beneath the Clouds. He writes essays on international law, politics and world events, especially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.”