Category Archives: Media

Media refuses to publish op-ed by Venezuelan Foreign Minister

Despite claims to objectivity and fairness, when it comes to Canadian interference in other countries’ domestic affairs, there’s long been only one side to the story reported in the dominant media.

Even so, the pro-Ottawa slant on Venezuela is shocking.

Recently Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza published an op-ed titled “Regime Change with a Human (Rights) Face: Trudeau’s Venezuela Policy”. The commentary notes, “Relations between Venezuela and Canada are currently at their worst point. Although previous Canadian governments did not hide their dislike for our policies aimed at reclaiming sovereignty over our natural resources and prioritizing social policies, none had so actively imitated the U.S. regime change policy as much as the current Trudeau Administration.” Arreaza criticized Canadian sanctions on Venezuela and noted that “Canada was the only country in the world that specifically forbade Venezuelan diplomatic missions” from allowing Venezuelans to vote during the May 2018 election. Venezuela’s former vice president also invited Foreign Minister François-Philippe Champagne to meet to discuss restarting diplomatic relations.

Few saw Arreaza’s op-ed since it was published in The Canada Files, an upstart left-wing website. But, the article was submitted to a number of major daily papers. Apparently, the Globe and Mail, Toronto Star and others didn’t consider criticism by the foreign minister of a country of 30 million, that’s had diplomatic relations with Canada for seven decades, important enough to offer their readers. Blind to the irony, they would likely justify their decision on the grounds that Venezuela’s government is authoritarian and suppresses oppositional voices!

In September lawyer Andrew Dekany published a long article arguing that Canada’s first round of sanctions on Venezuela contravened Canadian law. Licensed to practice in Ontario, Dekany wrote that the August 2017 sanctions weren’t in accordance with Canadian legislation stating that international sanctions be adopted only as part of international alliances. As such, the Trump administration aided the Trudeau government by creating the US-Canada“Association Concerning the Situation in Venezuela” to conform to the existing sanctions legislation. In a Venezuela Analysis article titled “Do Canadian Sanctions Against Venezuela Violate Canadian Law?”, Dekany writes, “there is no reason for Canada to ‘create’ this association but for its desire to help the U.S. out [by sanctioning Venezuela], having failed to persuade the one obvious organization (Organization of American States) which it had democratically joined to, among other things, act in such a way.” I couldn’t find any mention of Dekany’s arguments in any major Canadian media. (The Toronto Sun published an op-ed on the subject by Dekany in 2017.)

An April 2019 Center for Economic and Policy Research report written by prominent economists Jeffrey Sachs and Mark Weisbrot concluded that 40,000 Venezuelans may have died in 2017 and 2018 as a result of US sanctions. The intensity of the US sanctions, as well as their impact on Venezuelans’ ability to eat and access medicine, has grown significantly since then. A search of Canadian Newsstand, Toronto Star and Globe and Mail elicited two mentions of Sachs and Weisbrot’s findings (A Halifax Chronicle-Herald story titled “Four million Venezuelans have fled crisis: UN” mentioned it at the bottom of the story and an op-ed in the Hill Times by Canadian Foreign Policy Institute director Bianca Mugyenyi.)

Since the fall of 2017 Canadian taxpayers have been paying a hardline pro-corporate, pro-Washington, former diplomat hundreds of thousands of dollars to coordinate the Liberal government’s bid to oust Venezuela’s government. There’s been total silence in the dominant media about Allan Culham’s role as Special Advisor on Venezuela.

As Arreaza pointed out in his op-ed, the Trudeau government’s Venezuela policy took a sharply belligerent turn after Donald Trump became president and Chrystia Freeland replaced Stéphane Dion as foreign affairs minister. In reaction to Freeland’s January 2017 appointment an official at the US embassy in Ottawa claimed Justin Trudeau appointed her to promote the interests of Washington. In July 2019 researcher Jay Watts disclosed a dispatch from the US embassy in Ottawa to the State Department in Washington entitled “Canada Adopts ‘America First’ Foreign Policy.” Uncovered through a freedom of information request, the largely redacted cable also notes that Trudeau’s government would be “Prioritizing U.S. Relations, ASAP.” Despite all kinds of fawning coverage of Freeland, the dominant media has completely ignored the US cable.

In A Propaganda System: How Canada’s Government, Corporations, Media and Academia Sell War and Exploitation I detail extreme media bias in favour of power on topics ranging from Haiti to Palestine, investment agreements to the mining industry. Considering the pattern, the Venezuelan coverage is not surprising.

But, the growth of left and international media, as well as social media bubbles, makes it is easy to forget how few Canadians are actually receiving this critical information. Canadian media rejecting a commentary by the foreign minister of a country of 30 million is a reminder of just how biased foreign policy coverage is.

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National Post’s John Ivison is the real ‘useful idiot’

Who is the useful idiot?

According to National Post columnist John Ivison, I am. (“Useful idiots of the world unite – and they have, with ‘Free Meng’ event”) So are others who challenge the narrative that authoritarian China is such a danger to the US/Britain/Canada/Australia/New Zealand “Five Eyes” settler colonial states’ way of life that we must spend ever more billions on the military, put corporate executives under house arrest for Trumped up crimes and have our governments interfere in their supposedly sacred “free market” to ensure “our companies” dominate emerging communications technology. Afterall, we can’t take the chance that China might spy on us — that’s the job of our “intelligence services”.

But perhaps Ivison and his ilk should look in the mirror when searching for the “confused and misguided” who are duped into aiding another country’s agenda. They seem unable to see the forest of the US Empire for the Chinese trees.

According to experts, a country’s foreign policy is supposed to be all about defending its “self-interest” but what exactly is that?

Was it in ordinary Canadians’ self-interest to arrest a Huawei executive at the bidding of a Trump administration that reneged on an anti-nuclear agreement with Iran and reimposed sanctions against the wishes of Ottawa, Britain, France, Germany and most of the rest of the world? Wasn’t it obvious that our second largest trading partner would be angered and upset? It was certainly obvious to the other countries that refused Washington’s request to arrest Meng Wanzhou.

It seems a reasonable proposition to suggest that the arrest was in fact not in the self-interest of ordinary Canadians, but rather was undertaken to avoid the wrath of a narcissistic president and his Make America Great Again gang of extreme US nationalists.

Certainly, the ratcheting up of confrontation with China was not, and is not, in the self-interest of Canadian pork producers or farmers who grow canola and other crops that are sold to the 1.4 billion people of the world’s most populous country. Or to the tens of thousands of Canadians whose livelihoods are dependent on trade with what will soon be the world’s largest market.

US sanctions against and the banning of Huawei equipment from telecommunications networks are certainly not in the immediate self-interest of the thousands of Canadians who work in research labs owned by that company.

Most important, going along with the White nationalist tainted Trumpian demonization of China is not in the self-interest of the nearly two million Chinese Canadians who will face the brunt of the racism that is the inevitable result of rising tensions.

What would be in the self-interest of most Canadians would be a federal government that asserted our independence from Washington, that developed a foreign policy aimed at actually doing good in the world, rather than simply talking about it.

Also in the self-interest of Canadians (and most of the world) would be a government that treated people everywhere with respect and worked towards ensuring their dignity by supporting efforts to share the world’s finite resources fairly. Such a government might still make enemies, but they would be the rulers of countries and corporations who insist on taking more than their fair share, exploiting others and destroying our planet while proclaiming “greed is good, war is peace and there are no limits to growth”.

Does believing this make one a “useful idiot” or should the epithet be redirected to those who believe the best we can strive for is junior partner to those who brought us Donald Trump?

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Media can’t even tell the truth about foreign policy history

MacleansThumbnailMedia coverage of Canadian foreign policy is uniquely one-sided and biased. It’s so bad that few readers, listeners or viewers will have ever seen or heard an honest analysis of this country’s past, let alone current role around the world.

A recent Maclean’s story titled “The long history of ‘go back to where you came from’ in Canada” illustrates how uniquely bad foreign policy coverage is. The story demonstrates that it is permissible to detail the history of racist immigration policy, but can one imagine Maclean’s publishing a story headlined “the long history of Canada advancing Empire”? No major media outlet — or the National Observer, Tyee or Press Progress, for that matter — would highlight how every prime minister since Confederation has advanced violent, antidemocratic and pro-corporate international policies.

Don’t believe me? Here’s a brief summary:

  • John A McDonald helped recruit nearly four hundred Canadians to beat back anti-colonial resistance in the Sudan in 1884-85 and during his decades in power Canadians were trained to be officers in Britain’s conquest across Africa.
  • Wilfrid Laurier’s government oversaw the deployment of seven thousand Canadians to defend British imperial interests in what’s now South Africa.
  • Robert Borden dispatched 600,000 men to fight a war with no clear and compelling purpose other than rivalry between up-and-coming Germany and the lead imperial powers of the day, Britain and France. After World War I Borden sought to be compensated with Britain’s Caribbean colonies and publicly encouraged Canadian businessmen to buy up southern Mexico.
  • R. B. Bennett deployed two destroyers to assist a month-old military coup government’s brutal suppression of a peasant and Indigenous rebellion in El Salvador, which London thought might be a “danger to British banks, railways and other British lives and property” as well as a Canadian-owned utility. Bolstered by the Royal Canadian Navy’s presence, the military regime would commit “one of the worst massacres of civilians in the history of the Americas.”
  • William Lyon Mackenzie King was sympathetic to European fascism. His government criminalized Canadians who fought against Franco’s fascists in Spain while arming Japanese fascists. In September 1936 King wrote that Adolf Hitler “might come to be thought of as one of the saviours of the world.” After atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki Mackenzie King declared, “it gives me pleasure to announce that Canadian scientists played an important role, having been intimately connected, in an efficient manner, to this great scientific development.”
  • Louis St. Laurent’s government endorsed the Washington sponsored overthrow of popularly elected Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh and Guatemalan President Jacobo Arbenz. St. Laurent dispatched eight Canadian warships and 27,000 troops to fight in Korea. The US-led force massively expanded what was essentially a civil war, which ultimately left as many as four million dead.
  • John Diefenbaker blamed Fidel Castro for the CIA-backed Bay of Pigs invasion. His government also sent troops to undermine Congolese independence leader Patrice Lumumba who he labelled a “major threat to Western interests”.
  • Lester Pearson’s government played a part in the downfall of leading pan-Africanist Kwame Nkrumah and sent a vessel to support the US invasion of the Dominican Republic to stop a left-wing government from taking office. He staunchly defended the US war in Vietnam, which greatly benefited Canadian arms sellers. Pearson had Canadian International Control Commission officials deliver US bombing threats to the North Vietnamese leadership.
  • Pierre Trudeau was hostile to Salvador Allende’s elected government and did business with Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship in Chile. He embraced Indonesia’s occupation of East Timor and sympathized with South Africa’s apartheid regime not the black liberation movement or nascent Canadian solidarity groups.
  • Brian Mulroney “justified” the US invasion of Panama, which left 4,000 dead. He also backed US airstrikes on Libya that left 37 people dead and 93 wounded in a failed bid to kill Mohammed Gaddafi. His government deployed three naval vessels, 26 aircraft and 4,000 personnel to the Middle East in a war that killed 20,000 Iraqi troops and between 20,000 and 200,000 civilians.
  • Jean Chrétien deployed 18 fighter jets to NATO’s illegal 78-day bombing of Serbia, which left hundreds dead and hundreds of thousands displaced. He began Canada’s pointless war in Afghanistan and his government held a meeting to plan the overthrow of Haitian democracy.
  • Paul Martin ramped up the war in Afghanistan. He dispatched troops to overthrow president Jean Bertrand Aristide in Haiti and provided various forms of support to the post-coup regime responsible for thousands of deaths.
  • Stephen Harper supported Israel’s war on Lebanon and repeated onslaughts on Gaza. He had Canada head NATO’s bombing of Libya, which has led to eight years of civil war and greater instability in Africa’s Sahel region.
  • Justin Trudeau has armed Saudi Arabia, backed brutal mining companies, expanded NATO deployments, opposed Palestinian rights, refused to support nuclear weapons controls, deepened ties to repressive Middle East monarchies, supported Africa’s most ruthless dictator, propped up a corrupt, repressive and illegitimate Haitian president, tried to topple the Venezuelan government, etc.

Of course, the dominant media is skewed towards the outlook of their wealthy owners, corporate advertisers and power more generally on all matters. How the bias plays out depends on the issue and time. In recent years, for instance, there has been a marked increase of space devoted to discussing Canada’s genocidal dispossession of First Nations. But, even as Canada’s most fundamental injustice begins to receive dominant media attention it is still largely forbidden to present an overarching critique of foreign policy history. It’s acceptable to write about “The long history of ‘go back to where you came from’ in Canada” but not that “foreign policy has long advanced corporate interests and empire.”

 

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Filed under A Propaganda System, Media