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John Baird's imperialist tour

By: 
Paul Stevenson

April 24, 2013

In a recent trip to the Middle East, Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird showed once again that his government’s hard talk on supporting human rights is laughable.
 
Human rights versus money
The Conservative government leads with the language of human rights but they are very selective in what rights they want to see applied and where. For example, after selling $35 billion worth of military equipment to the Saudi Arabian government, some of which was used to brutally attack the revolutionary uprising in Bahrain, Baird has the gall to stand with King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa and praise his great work in creating peace and stability in the region.
 
He went on the thank Al Khalifa for his commitment to calling for an end to human rights abuses in Iran and Lebanon. Not once did he mention the killing and torture of hundreds of Bahraini activists over the past two years. But to say that Conservative foreign policy is incoherent is missing the point. They have a clear agenda. The real reason for Baird's visit was to make some money and promote war.
 
In Iraq 
In his visit to Iraq, a country destroyed by a war that Harper wanted desperately to join, Baird made an announcement that Canada is opening a new diplomatic mission in Baghdad. What he was really gunning for is to open up a Canadian trade office in Ebril, closer to the vast oilfields in the north of the country.
 
Canada already has $4.2 billion in trade with Iraq and is the eigth largest foreign investor in the oil rich region of “Iraqi Kurdistan”. According to Foreign Affairs Canada, “Iraq’s abundant natural resources and post-war reconstruction will continue to provide business opportunities for Canadian companies.”
 
In Jerusalem  
The most controversial part of Baird's tour came when he met with Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni in occupied East Jerusalem. By choosing that specific meeting place, which has been under Israeli occupation since 1967, Baird signaled his government’s support for the illegal Israeli settlements. No other foreign diplomat has met the Israelis in occupied East Jerusalem in the 46 years since the occupation started.
 
When pressed about the controversy at the G8 foreign ministers meeting in London, Baird said that he only went there because he wanted a coffee. As Hanan Ashrawi, spokesperson for the PLO said, “Either he’s ignorant of east Jerusalem being occupied territory, which is unforgivable in a foreign minister, or it’s a deliberate attempt to change the international consensus.”
 
In the Gulf States
At each stop in Baird's tour, which also included visits to the UAE, Qatar and Jordan he was careful to use the time to pump up more support for a war with Iran saying that Iran was, “at the top or near the top of the agenda in just about every diplomatic meeting we have.”
 
In Bahrain he re-iterated Canada's position that Iran must stop meddling in the affairs of countries in the Middle East. He carefully chose to meet with the leaders of Gulf States that are the sworn enemy of the Iranian government. When King Al Khalifa told him that Iran is behind the protests in Bahrain Baird seemed to agree saying that many of the revolutionaries are not “peace loving protestors.” He then went on to once again call for Iran to cease sponsorship of terror activities in the Gulf States.
 
Canadian policies 
There was much hand wringing in the press about the inconsistencies in Canadian government policies on display during this visit but we shouldn't be confused. It was the same old Tory playbook: selling war, attacking Palestinian rights and signing oil deals.
 
If you like this article, register now for Marxism 2013: Revolution In Our Time, a weekend-long conference of ideas to change the world. Sessions include "Permanent revolution: the Arab Spring two years later", "From Cairo to Jerusalem: Palestine and the Arab Spring", and "Libya, Mali and Canadian imperialism."

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