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March 28, 2003

Incompetence: further fallout
Posted by Teresa at 06:36 PM *

The possibility of censuring or expelling Paul Celucci, the US Ambassador, is being discussed in the Canadian government. This comes in the wake of Celucci’s publicly rebuking the Canadian government for not supporting the war with Iraq. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Jean Chre9tien has decided he won’t be going to Washington next month as planned.

The Onion has nailed it again.

Comments on Incompetence: further fallout:
#1 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2003, 07:32 PM:


What makes this all really tough: For every person who rolls their eyes on hearing the latest evidence of the administration's sheer clueless obstinancy on NPR, there's some guy pounding his steering wheel and shouting "Yeah, teach them maple-eating bastids!" on hearing about Celucci's exploits via Talk Radio.

It's like telling a bully he'd have more friends if he were less of an thug, when he's perfectly content to have people afraid of him.

#2 ::: Simon ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2003, 08:02 PM:

Stefan wrote,

It's like telling a bully he'd have more friends if he were less of an thug, when he's perfectly content to have people afraid of him.

Yes. That's exactly what it's like.

John Brady Kiesling, the US diplomat who resigned, wrote in his letter,

Why does our president condone the swaggering and contemptuous approach to our friends and allies this administration is fostering, including among its most senior officials? Has oderint dum metuant really become our motto?

I won't make you look up the Latin. It's a motto of Caligula, and means "Let them hate so long as they fear."

#3 ::: Vancouverite ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2003, 08:27 PM:

I'm just researching for a paper on blogs and libraries, and have tumbled down the rabbit hole into this subculture of discussion. Thank you host, thank you guests. I didn't realize, for example, that Celucci was a political appointee with a less than sterling reputation before running across it on a blog.

You know, I was going to write a passive agressive sarcastic apology on behalf of my country, but Colin Mochrie did it first, a few weeks ago. Look for "Apology to America". At this point, I figure, WTF? You'll either laugh or want to bomb us even more than you already do, but since we're already on your list of future targets (after Cuba, probably about the same place as Mexico, and well before France), it doesn't matter anyways. All I ask is that you not drop the 101st airborne on my head without any warning. Just give us some kind of ultimatum so I can get my affairs in order first, OK?

#4 ::: Vancouverite ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2003, 08:55 PM:

Bah. I feel like a churl. I must make the following clear: the vast majority of Canadians who have thought about this at all understand the difference between America and Americans (on the one hand) and the Administration of Bush The Younger (on the other). But (due no doubt to conscious effort on his administration's part) we are encouraged to think of them as the same item, which occasionally makes our dislike of policy or politician go astray. We has wrapped himself in your flag; when we aim our tomatoes at him, splattering your flag is not our aim or desire. Courage, friends. We know and love the true America, and we realize both that a struggle is taking place for its soul, and that there is little that we can to do to help in that struggle which will not be misinterpreted or seized upon. The entire world cannot save America from itself. But we *are* rooting for you, never fear.

#5 ::: Vancouverite ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2003, 08:58 PM:

Heh. That should read "HE has wrapped himself in your flag." Regrettable, the lack of an edit feature.

#6 ::: Derryl Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2003, 09:34 PM:

Celucci has backed off a tad, but only after he's managed to stir up all those people who say they're "embarassed and ashamed" that we're not backing up our American friends. His local ground troops are in place and starting their motions. In Canada, Trade is the only issue: will Clinton's-messing-around/the-perhaps-stolen-election/911/Iraq/Oscar-night affect transborder shipments? God forbid.

#7 ::: Paul Hoffman ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2003, 09:34 PM:

Note that the Celucci was also wrong (or outright lying): few Americans had expressed anything about Canada's lack of support before he said that. The easily-offended were pointed at the French (and to a lesser extent, the Germans). Look at the news for the days preceding Celucci's comments, and you'll see almost nothing about Canada.

Celucci should be expelled, mostly for lying.

#8 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2003, 09:43 PM:

Hello, Vancouverite, and welcome. Hearing about how "we" want to bomb you makes me shake my head. The embarrassing truth is that most people in the US don't have any opinions about Canada at all. In fact, way too many of them aren't clear on the basic facts about Canada. I used to work with a woman who'd lived in Seattle all her life and taken uncounted excursions north across the border without ever noticing that Canada is a foreign country. She was extremely indignant the time she got into some kind of brangle with the border guards on her way back. The rest of us in the office had to break it to her that Canada is a sovereign nation, and entitled to establish whatever border regulations it pleases.

I, on the other hand, lived in Toronto for a while. I know that John Diefenbaker was not a dog, and that Lester Pearson was more than an airport, and where William Lyon Mackenzie King got his political advice. I know what kind of fruit was being eaten by Robert Stanfield, the Underwear King, when the television cameras zoomed in on him that fateful day. I can spell Mississauga, I know "fuddleduddle" from a Salmon Arm Salute, and I get most of the jokes in "Maple Leaf Dog".

So there.

Thank you for knowing that not all of us support That Man. The only person I know at all well who does support him is my brother the dittohead, and there's no accounting for that.

So tell me: In your opinion, is the current dustup better or worse than the time LBJ slammed Lester Pearson up against a wall and chewed him out?

#9 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2003, 09:46 PM:

But Paul, surely you know that the definition of an ambassador is "one who lies abroad for the benefit of his country"?

#10 ::: IM ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2003, 10:42 PM:

If your co-worker got into a brangle with the borderguards on her way back, wouldn't it follow that it was the US border regulations she had a problem with?

#11 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2003, 10:47 PM:

And you know, T., that most Canadians are heavily in favour of that general obliviousness, it being one of the few effective means of defense which we could hope to have.

#12 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2003, 11:52 PM:

Who was the Canadian who said that being Canadian was like sleeping next to an elephant? You may like and respect the elephant, but if it rolls over in its sleep, you die. Who said that?

#13 ::: Derryl Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: March 29, 2003, 12:42 AM:

Our former PM, Pierre Elliot Trudeau. To quote: "Living next to you," Trudeau told an American audience in a speech to the National Press Club in 1969, "is like sleeping with an elephant; no matter how friendly and even-tempered is the beast, one is affected by every twitch and grunt."

#14 ::: Ter ::: (view all by) ::: March 29, 2003, 12:46 AM:

Who said that?

Americans should never underestimate the constant pressure on Canada which the mere presence of the United States has produced. We're different people from you and we're different people because of you. Living next to you is in some ways like sleeping with an elephant. No matter how friendly and even-tempered is the beast, if I can call it that, one is effected by every twitch and grunt. It should not therefore be expected that this kind of nation, this Canada, should project itself as a mirror image of the United States.
- Pierre Trudeau

#15 ::: Vancouverite ::: (view all by) ::: March 29, 2003, 01:31 AM:

Trudeau, I believe. He was one for the bon mot. One of his best lines ever was, when given the news that Nixon, in the Watergate tapes, had called him an a$$hole, Trudeau shrugged and said "I've been called worse things by better people."

I think what makes this time worse than the LBJ/Pearson dustup or Nixon/Trudeau or Reagan/Trudeau is that for one thing--and I mean this in the kindest way possible--Nobody involved seems all that clever. The other dustups were largely clashes between people of opposite ideologies and opposite temperment: Pearson, the intellectual winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, vs. LBJ, the rancher and manly man, for instance.

Now Bush The Younger, everyone knows. But for anyone who doesn't know Chretien that well--

Chretien is an exhausted politician who, while enjoying immense success due to an accident of history that has seen him virtually without any credible opposition, has never been the most intellectual or "liberal" of his generation. When Trudeau took over from Pearson, all those years ago, Chretien was basically his hatchet man. Trudeau was the brains and soul of the outfit, whereas Chretien--while very much wanting to be a kind and gentle social liberal--has proven again and again that he is a merciless and vindictive politician when it comes to internal party politics. He is not, at the end of the day, someone who is good at burying his temper or swallowing something he doesn't want to swallow, particularly when driven up against the wall of his few remaining principles.

More importantly, he is only a marginally better diplomat than Bush--he is, like Bush, a very poor communicator, often relying on mangled grammar to disguise his true motives. He likes to play the part of the simple rube or the "little guy", playing humble while being just the opposite. The Bushies dubbed him "Dinosaur" soon after coming to office, and it is in that context that the Chretienites not-so-affectionally tagged Dubya as a "Moron". They really viscerally don't like each other.

Earlier Prime ministers have been able to keep things quiet and play to the domestic audience and basically ride out their counterparts' terms in office, but I am not sure Chretien can do that--partially because of his temperament, but also because the Bush White house doesn't seem to be easily satisfiable on this one. If, as he seems to be, Bush is demanding that Chretien start sacking/demoting members of his own government, then that's simply not going to fly, regardless of threatened consequences.

What worries me about this time, though, and why I jest about bombs, is that unlike those earlier times, the climate down south seems--am I mistaken? Hysterical and sensitive to the slightest percieved insult. Things said in this climate will not be forgotten for a very long time. The media in 2003 are also more capable of keeping things at a boiling point then they ever have been. And unlike previous eras, the Canadian right wing is now pro-American to the point of favoring continental integration--to one degree or another. (Hence all the fussing about trade--our biggest opposition party is, in effect, a neo-Republican party). So *they* also like to take these incidents and stir them up and make thir own points. (Sow the wind...) While opinion in the US is riven down the middle about support for the war and support for the Administration, that same split in Canada is given the gloss of being for and against not only the war but also the US itself. If being against the war in the US is painted as being anti-American, that goes double here. But it's deceptive because what most Canadians actually believe in very strongly is not anti-Americanism but simply in not being Americans. And people just cannot seem to get it through their heads that what is going on is much too big and too dangerous to let the reactions of knee-jerk nationalism rule the day...

#16 ::: Lydia Nickerson ::: (view all by) ::: March 29, 2003, 01:31 AM:

Another Onion headline which got it right:

Perky Canada Has Own Country, Laws

#17 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: March 29, 2003, 08:41 AM:

It's possible Trudeau was riffing on an earlier U.S. insolence; The Nation some years ago said that LBJ (talking about Greece) had said something a flea getting swatted if they actually managed to annoy an elephant.

#18 ::: John Farrell ::: (view all by) ::: March 29, 2003, 12:24 PM:

Cellucci...and here I was thinking at last we (in Massachusetts) had heard the last of the bozo. Abject apologies to all from this Bay Stater.

#19 ::: Quaigon-scotch ::: (view all by) ::: March 29, 2003, 10:57 PM:

First I'd like to say that Vancouverite is pretty well on the mark with his comments. Our own Prime Minister is a small town hood of sorts who exceeded the Peter Principle by a country mile. But we don't rally behind him like sheople if he's doing something stupid. We have much less reverence for the office of PM here than americans do for the office of president. We are equal opportunity critics of politicians. If it's political and it talks, we question everything out of its lips.

But the comments from the US ambassador were both out of line and untrue. Celluci's comments were particularly galling for the following reasons. He said that "if something were threatening Canada we'd be there to help no questions asked". Well, I'm an electrical engineer, not a historian, but if I recall correctly, the US didn't get involved in WWII until the Japanese forced the issue, about two years after it started. And we did have German submarines off both coasts during that war. And while we were fighting the Nazis there were arms manufacturers that were selling ammunition to the Germans via Brazil. Nice neighbours. In WWI the US was two years late getting involved. If memory serves me correctly we didn't go to Viet Nam, but the US administration at the time didn't get their knickers in a twist about that. I can't recall ever reading anything of the sort in the press of the day.

Further, the need for defence hasn't really been there for the last 50 years. We didn't have an apoplectic fit of fear that there was a commie under every bed during the cold war. In fact the McCarthy era was nearly as scary as now. Socialist leaning Canada could have been a danger - NOT. During the last 50 years who was going to attack us? Polar bears? The Greenland fishing fleet?

The last nation to invade Canada was, wait for it, the US, in 1812. And if my father is correct, the next nation to invade us will be the US, and it will be over control of fresh water - you've nearly drained all of the major aquifers in the country with irrigation, though this is not quite common knowledge yet.

While I'm no historian, I think Celucci's comments were pure and utter bullshit. But because we're bad neighbours, we got threatened that there would be reprecussions. We're supposed to support you no matter what. Well, when a friend of mine is about to do something monumentally stupid (or even my brother for that matter), I'm not going to follow him off the proverbial cliff out of some misguided sense of blind loyalty. I'm going to tell him he's being a stupid shit and to come back to talk to me when he's pulled his head out of his ass. And that's just the way most of us feel about Bush and the power-drunk loonies he takes advice from.

My advice to you americans. Take back your country. As it stands now Osamma won. Civil liberties are slipping away. Freedom is disappearing. Paranoia and a fixation on security is the norm. What a great way to live in the "home of the free". The best security you'll ever get is to change your foreign policy, rein in the exploitation of other countries by transnational corporations, and learn that maybe every one doesn't want to be like you. Diversity is a good thing. If Alexis de Toqueville could see you now he'd spin in his grave.

Sorry for the rant but the lying, deceiving, prevaricating, heartless, greedy fundamentalist morons that are in charge in Washington are making your country hated around the world, even more than before 911. You must take it back from them.

#20 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: March 30, 2003, 07:23 PM:


You left out the part about how many Canadians died on 9/11, Bush's stunning ungraciousness about that awful friendly-fire incident in Afghanistan, and American tourists who pay for their purchases in US currency and then get shirty when they get handed their change in Canadian money. I've long wondered why Canadians take this crap so quietly. Graydon finally provided the an answer: It's just as well that the US is generally oblivious where Canada's concerned.

The Mexicans have an old toast: Poor Mexico -- so far from Heaven, so close to the United States.

Personally, I figured Canada was sitting out this dance because not enough time had passed for them to forget why they don't throw their troops into someone else's debacle.

I won't deny that those scheming unscrupulous Californian water-pirates look upon Canada's western rivers with lust in their hearts, but long before anything happens there, they'll get into a shooting war with Washington and Oregon over the Columbia outflow. Should slow 'em down, for a while at any rate.

#21 ::: Vancouverite ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2003, 06:09 AM:

What's truly wierd--and it will surprise none that celucci is still stirring the pot--is that Canada does have forces in the region supporting the "war on terrorism". It seems the true irritant to Dubya is that Canada has not provided a diplomatic fig (read maple) leaf by joining his "Coalition". (Iceland and Micronesia, huh). See "Who Says We're Not at War?" for the run down.

#22 ::: Vancouverite ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2003, 06:12 AM:

Oh, and I do wonder if the latest friendly fire incident gave anyone else shivers of recognition?

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