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Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Grope and Flail

Here's a copy of my response to Jeffrey Simpson's column in yesterday's Globe and Mail followed by the the original piece. I'm only concerned with the first 1/3 of the column (BTW, the title of this post is Dr. J's coinage):

Re: Evacuation tips: Who's a friend, who's a Canadian, July 25

I find Mr. Simpson’s suggestion that Stephen Harper merely recognized the Armenian Genocide because of "ethnic politics" genuinely risible. Canada has a very small Armenian population, probably accounting for less than 0.3 percent of the population (and that's a generous estimate), and worldwide there are no more than 7 million. Turkey has a not insignificant population within Canada, and their population worldwide is far greater, to say nothing of their economic power. Let us also not forget Turkey's massive lobby, which, in terms of dollars, is larger than the budget of most nations. Whence does this magic Armenian power to manipulate the leader of a G7 country come from? Please enlighten me, because I cannot see it.
I also found his logic to be unsound, tasteless and, in fact, almost racist: if somehow the Holocaust were never recognized, and Germany and Canada were good trading partners, then Canada, according to his logic, should never recognize the Holocaust.
Perhaps Mr. Simpson and the vacillating Liberals have it wrong: after all, for twelve long years they promised to recognize the Genocide (among other things) and never did. Maybe Stephen Harper is the first person in Canadian politics in a long time who actually stands for something and is respectable for his moral convictions. Did he ever consider that possibility?



---------------------------------------
JEFFREY SIMPSON
From Tuesday's Globe and Mail

Lessons for Canada from the flight from Lebanon: First, don't kick your friends needlessly. Second, review dual citizenship.
By way of first things first, here's a question: Which country helped most when Canadians tried to rescue people from Lebanon? Answer: Turkey.

With Cyprus filled up, Canada urgently asked for Turkey's help. The Turks, whom the Harper government just gratuitously insulted while playing domestic politics, could have made up all kinds of excuses by way of payback.
Instead, the Turks turned the other cheek. They took our Lebanese-Canadian citizens, rented boats, and put their airfield at our disposal. Have they received an official thank you from Prime Minister Stephen Harper?

It's the least Mr. Harper could do after making recognition of the 90-year-old Armenian “genocide” official government policy, such a sore point in Turkey that the Turkish government withdrew its ambassador to Canada in protest.
The Harper announcement, delivered almost flippantly in April, made headlines in Turkey. Everybody close to the file knew the announcement had everything to do with ethnic pandering in Canada, part of the Conservatives' wider campaign to play ethnic politics.

Now that the Conservatives have been in office for a little while, perhaps they'll realize that a country's foreign policy interests should not be subordinated to domestic pandering. They might also realize that a foreign policy based on realism requires remembering which countries are allies and friends, because you never know when friends might come in handy.

As a NATO partner, Turkey is now being asked to contribute to a peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon, a force Canada is not being asked to join (except by some people in Canada) for the good reason that this force needs to be robust. Canada doesn't have robust forces to spare, what with the two-year commitment to Afghanistan, a point those urging Canadian participation might remember. The Turks (who were in Afghanistan before us) and others will have to do the heavy lifting if NATO agrees to inject a force into Lebanon.

Another lesson concerns dual citizenship. It's way too late to think of eliminating dual citizenship, even were the elimination desirable. Australia thought of trying to go that route, and gave up. The United States once forbade dual citizenship but relented about two decades ago.

Dual citizenship is a fact of life, but it's a misunderstood fact, one that a parliamentary committee could usefully explore and explain to Canadians.

We seem to believe that, because a person carries a Canadian passport, that person thinks of himself as a Canadian and has an absolute right to assistance from the Canadian government while outside Canada. Both beliefs are false, and potentially dangerous.

It is worth at least asking whether we have made the acquisition of Canadian citizenship so easy — divorcing it, once acquired, from residence in the country — that we have spawned legions of citizens of convenience. We know that thousands of people worked in Canada, earned their pension time here, and live elsewhere clipping Canada Pension Plan coupons.

There's nothing illegal or inherently wrong with that — retired Americans in Canada keep getting their Social Security cheques. But there are a lot of other people holding Canadian passports around the world whose attachment to this country — measured at least by time spent here — is, shall we say, somewhat more limited.

We should also understand that a dual citizen in another country is not always considered a Canadian. For example, a holder of Iranian and Canadian passports, or Syrian and Canadian passports, is not considered by the authorities in those countries to be a Canadian, but rather an Iranian or Syrian.

Canadian consular help to such dual nationals in those countries is limited or non-existent, just as Canada might get upset if a dual national caught doing something we consider illegal in Canada tried to appeal for help to the Iranian or Syrian governments.

The same applies to China. The migration to Canada from Hong Kong before the Chinese takeover from Britain produced thousands of dual citizens, by Canadian law. The Chinese, however, don't recognize dual nationalities. If things ever got tense between China and Canada, and dual nationals in China appealed to Ottawa for help, it's not clear what Canada could do if the Chinese made matters difficult.

All this is to suggest that a gap can arise between the legal realities of being a dual national and the obligations and expectations of Canada, especially in times of crisis. http://ca.f338.mail.yahoo.com/ym/Compose?To=jsimpson@globeandmail.com

8 Comments:

Blogger tedt said...

your argument is clear, concise and cogent.

it is unfortunate that a person like jeffrey simpson cannot delineate between moral truths (such acknowledging when one group of people has been ethnically cleansed) and political strategy.

It is people who commandeer his sick thought process that probably thought it morally justifiable to force the sterylization of thousands of Canadian aboriginals all in the name of "Canadian racial purity", or apologize and rationalize the enslavement of the Negro race all in the name of economic advancement.

People like Jeffrey Simpson should have their moral compas' recalibrated to delineate right from wrong, truth from self-interest, rather than mixing issues all in the name of a selfish, slef-serving reason.

2:22 p.m.  
Blogger Pious Labours said...

You seem to know more than anyone about the subject: how come I've never heard of you? Can you prove that the Turkish lobby doesn't exist? Are you going to sit there and tell me that Turkey's economic power and geographical importance have not aided Genocide denial? How many U.S. politicians were pressured into voting against recognition? You ask me for proof: where is yours?

"Turks are la-de-da folk. Armenians are driven." You make generalizations like that and tell me to be more academic??!

We could sit here pointing fingers, but the Gunter Levy example is weak: he is the newest addition to the Turkish Government's payroll. By the way, many of the supporters of the Genocide recogition are non-Armenian and in some cases even Turkish scholars. Yair Auron, Israel Charney, Hilmar Kaiser, Fatma Gocek, Taner Akcam, etc. None of these people are Armenian, and some risk their lives in researching the genocide. Next your gonna tell me that McCarthy is a credible genocide scholar? Get out of town! With Mr. Simpson there are two possibilities: either he's a callous political neo-nazi, or he's paid off by the Turks. What about our Turkish friend Orhan Pamuk? Why was he imprisoned if Turkey is such an innocent and enlightened country?

Don't dare bring up the "Armenian Genocide against the Turks" argument because it is risible: how can a disorganized group of women and children massacre millions of turks within the empire? Let us not forget that your argument conveniently and summarily disregards mountains of evidence in the form of telegraphs, photographs, etc. Are these ALL forgeries?

By the way, the Turkish government's stance concerning just what happened keeps changing every year. First they said nothing happened, then they changed their story, and now they say "yes, something happened, but it wasn't genocide." You seem to be as confused as them.
And please don't dare talk to me about talking scientifically. If anything, we're guilty of the same thing.

By the way, I'm not a turk hater: I have Turkish friends. My only qualm is with the government, not with you, whoever you are.

10:20 p.m.  
Blogger tedt said...

Anonymous…

You are right to say that I speak from the heart. But in order to enlighten you I will speak from facts and logic. What proof are you in search of in an opinion blog? Do you expect scientific evidence? Do you expect documentary evidence that shows that the leaders of the Young Turk Republic issued final orders to the individual villayets to begin the mass deportations to the Syrian desert? These can all be provided if you would kindly provide your email or contact information. I, on the other hand have left my contact information open. The fact is that there are insurmountable amounts of proof that a planned, well-organized system, employed by the Young Turk government took to place to wipe out the Armenian population of Anatolia.

With regards to a “sick thought process”; what would you call a person aiding and helping a system designed to systematically eliminate an entire population. Some would say that is perfectly normal to do so if you are following orders. I on the other hand do not find any rationalization, justifiable when it come to aiding atrocities.

For example, under the Nazi regime, Adolf Eichmann was employed by the Obergruppenführer Reinhard Heydrich to facilitate and manage the logistics of mass deportation to ghettos and extermination camps in Nazi-occupied Eastern Europe. As Eichmann prepared the machinery that would ultimately serve as the resting place for millions of Jews, he rationalized his misdeeds by consoling himself with the thoughts that he no longer 'was master of his own deeds,' that he was unable 'to change anything' (Eichmann in Jerusalem 136)

Arendt, the author of Eichmann in Jerusalem, characterized Eichmann as not being anti-semitic at all when he stood trial for his crimes against the Jewish nation. Many concluded from this and similar observations that even the most ordinary of people can commit horrendous crimes if placed in the right situation, and given the correct incentives, but Arendt disagreed with this interpretation.

Does this mean that Eichmann was correct to follow the Nazi plan to eliminate the Jews? If you answer affirmatively, then it is obvious, that my characterization of “sick thought process” is wrong, and you are right. If on the other hand, you feel that what Eichmann did was reprehensible, then I would ask that you rethink what you have stated, and recalibrate your own moral compass.

1:03 p.m.  
Anonymous Made in Ottawa said...

Up until today, there were only three countries (US, UK, Canada) supporting Israelis in killing of innocent women, children and civilians of Lebanon. After today's news of even UK backing off this apparent human tragedy and war crime, Canada is now the only country left. Yes ladies and gentleman, at this moment we live in the only country in the whole globe that its head of state hasn't yet condemns Israel or at least asked for Israeli restrain (somthing that even Bush has done). "A wise person does at once, what a fool does at last. Both do the same thing; only at different times." - Peace.

3:39 p.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello Ottawa,

Try reading up on the issue a little bit before you comment on such matters(i.e. hezbollah, history, futility of the UN, etc).

Before you post again, look at the other side of the story.

5:58 p.m.  
Blogger Dr J said...

You give me too much credit, RB. "Grope and Flail" has been around for ages, though I'll be damned if I can remember who came up with it first. Maybe Allan Fotheringham.

I want to defend Jeff Simpson, though. I don't think his thought process as nefarious or as insidious as you suggest. He's writing instead from the POV of a blunt realpolitik, on which I fear he's not altogether wrong. (He's not altogether right, either; for example, I don't think Harper entirely pandering with his recognition of the Armenian genocide.) We live, though, in a cynical age, and realpolitik trumps all.

BTW, congrats on getting your letter printed. But remember, you're not a doctoral candidate yet. Just a month to go....

6:04 p.m.  
Blogger Pious Labours said...

J, was it printed?
With Jeff Simpson, I can understand the realpolitik, but it's his tone and attitude that bother me. First, he never really denies the genocide happens (but is willing to dismiss it so readily), but it's his attitude that "even if it did happen, who cares" that really bothers me.

9:07 a.m.  
Blogger Pious Labours said...

BTW, regarding the Phd candidacy, mum's the word :)

9:09 a.m.  

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