I see my colleague Paul Wells has compared Jean Chrétien
to Spider-Man. As a friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man,
Canada's Prime Minister isn't especially friendly to our
immediate neighbour, but that's because, like Peter Parker, he
believes that "wid da great power come da great
responsibility." Traditionally, M. Chrétien then spurts
his webbing all over himself, but evidently in this instance
he also shot a few strands over Paul's typing fingers, judging
from the coherence of what followed.
Just to clarify: Most of us "war hawks" don't
have a problem with the Canadian government attempting to
identify the "root causes," only with the particular
root cause they settled on: Poverty. The late Osama bin Laden
was a wealthy man. Wealthier even than Jean Chrétien, who's
spent his entire adult life in government service except for
six months in the late Eighties but has happily wound up a
multi-millionaire. If M. Chrétien feels he's too rich (as we
must assume he does), how much more excessively rich is the
late Mr. Weirdbeard? Or Saddam Hussein, whose personal fortune
is estimated at US$7-billion, a career in public service in
Baghdad apparently being even more lucrative than one in
Ottawa. And let's not forget the representative two or three
hundred Saudi princes currently accompanying King Fahd on his
convalescence in Spain. A lucky London escort agency has
landed the contract for servicing the Saudi swingers: The gals
all have to be blonde and they're replaced every week, having
been thoroughly rogered out by then.
So we could increase foreign aid. It would enable Saddam to
expand his anthrax factory and the House of Saud to rotate its
hookers every 48 hours. But would it do anything else? Under
the terms of the Camp David accords, Egypt has been the
beneficiary of the largest amount of U.S. aid apart from
Israel. What's happened to it? In the 1950s, Egypt and South
Korea had more or less identical per capita incomes. Today,
Egypt's is less than a fifth of South Korea's.
The Liberal Party of Canada hasn't had an original idea
since Pierre Trudeau took his post-resignation vacation in
Siberia, and M. Chrétien, whatever his efficacy as a
small-time largesse-dispensing ward-heeler, has never troubled
himself to form anything approaching a political philosophy.
So, ask him what's to blame for September 11th, and he falls
back on that old standby -- "global poverty," the
growing "inequality" between rich and poor.
Let's spell it out: There's no such thing. The story of the
last 30 years is the emergence of "a new world middle
class," as Professor Xavier Sala-i-Martin calls them in
his study The World Distribution Of Income. This class is made
up of some 2.5 billion people in the developing world, whose
standards of living now approach those of the West. That's to
say, roughly half the people in the developing world are doing
pretty well economically. As Virginia Postrel wrote in The New
York Times recently, taking the world's population as a whole,
in 1998 "the largest number of people earned about $8,000
-- a standard of living equivalent to Portugal's."
Why hasn't the Middle East shared in this economic growth?
Because they're failed states run by kleptocrats who govern by
clan and corruption and whose starting point is to exclude
half the population -- the women -- from the economic life of
the country. If M. Chrétien wants to give Paul Wells's salary
to President Mubarak, that's up to him but it will have zero
effect on either poverty or terrorism.
This is obviously too much for our Prime Minister to take
in. The last time he was in the region, you'll recall, he
didn't even know where he was. But let's take his broader
point, the underlying assumption that there's some kind of
accommodation you can reach with these guys so that they'll
cease flying planes into Manhattan landmarks. What is it the
In the words of Hussein Mussawi, former leader of Hezbollah:
"We are not fighting so that you will offer us something.
We are fighting to eliminate you."
OK, that's just his opening position. When CanWest call up
at contract-renewal time, that's pretty much my pitch, too.
But, generally, we're able to reach some sort of compromise.
So what would a potential compromise with the Islamists look
like? Mr. Mussawi is obviously a hardliner, but we should
certainly be able to "work with" more
"mainstream" figures in the movement such as Sheikh
Muhammad al-Gamei'a, an Egyptian bigshot who was the imam at
the Islamic Cultural Center and Mosque in New York at the time
of last September's unfortunate example of the price of
American arrogance. Back in October, the big-time Westernized
imam thought it was all to do with America's Jewish influence:
"You see these people all the time, everywhere,
disseminating corruption, heresy, homosexuality, alcoholism,
and drugs. Because of the Jews there are strip clubs,
homosexuals, and lesbians everywhere. They do this to impose
their hegemony and colonialism on the world ..."
Hmm. Sheikh al-Gamei'a and M. Chrétien are in agreement:
America brought the attacks on itself. They differ only on the
details: M. Chrétien thinks it's because of
"arrogance," lack of niceness; the Sheikh puts it
down to decadence, Jews, lesbianism, Molson, etc. Already one
can see the parameters of a potential settlement emerging:
The Islamists want to kill all the Jews. What about if we
split the difference and just killed half of 'em? Barbara
Amiel and the other troublemakers, no shortage of candidates.
They want to behead all the sodomites. What about if we
offered, say, 40%? Start with Svend Robinson, a couple of
assistant choreographers and work down from there? And let's
set up a Royal Commission to see if it's absolutely necessary
to behead them. Maybe we could just bebottom them.
Oh, and they want to stone all the adulteresses. Let's give
'em all the broads Trudeau nailed post-'68 and that should
keep 'em busy for a couple of months.
The Islamists have no rational demands, and no conceivable
changes to U.S. policy will deflect them. M. Chrétien says he
formulated his theory --American arrogance plus Osama's
poverty equals global terrorism -- on the evening of September
11th. And what's heartening is that in the last 12 months
nothing in the torrent of evidence has stirred our grand
buffoon from his complacency. Indeed, we should give our Prime
Minister credit for sticking to his hand-me-down clichés. For
the more inventively you try to "explain" the
Islamist psychosis as a rational phenomenon to be accommodated
the more you risk sounding just as nutty as Mohammed Atta and
the other genital depilators. Bill Clinton, in the Georgetown
speech approvingly quoted by Paul Wells, thought September
11th was blowback for 1095 AD:
"Those of us who come from various European lineages
are not blameless," he told his audience. "In the
First Crusade, when the Christian soldiers took Jerusalem,
they first burned a synagogue with 300 Jews in it, and
proceeded to kill every woman and child who was Muslim on the
Temple mound ... I can tell you that that story is still being
told today in the Middle East and we are still paying for
You know something? Call me an "arrogant cowboy"
but I honestly think I am blameless for the First Crusade. It
was 1095. That's 907 years. Even Paula Jones would have
settled. By comparison, the Japanese fought a filthy war,
beheading the 22 British watchkeepers on Tarawa in the Gilbert
Islands and burning their bodies in a pit, but less than 60
years later, Britain and Japan sit side by side at G8
meetings. If ever there was an occasion for the great
Clintonian invocation that "we need to move on," a
grudge over 1095 is surely it.
Mr. Bush and Mr. Blair have chosen to confront the real
root causes. Mr. Chrétien's record got stuck in the groove
some decades back and he sees no reason to learn any new
tunes. Fortunately, it doesn't matter, as no one outside our
deranged Dominion has heard of him. Wish I could say the same.
But anyone who wants to understand why Canada, as J.L.
Granatstein put it last week, punches below its weight
internationally need only look at what passes for insight
among our political class. Sad to say M. Chrétien's
observations were only the second most idiotic on that CBC
yakfest: David Collenette regretted the Soviet Union was no
longer around to act as a check on American bullying. I can't
remember whether this was just before or just after the bit
where they talked about calling up the USAF F-16s to protect