McQuaig recognizes the incongruity of the U.S. “defending” itself against many created foes, focusing her arguments on the Persian Gulf and reiterating the American tale of woe about “vulnerability," of America being under attack. While the majority of Canadians do not want to be a part of this militaristic exceptionalism, the “media, academic and corporate worlds...pander to Washington.” The elite see Canada as a renewed power, as an energy superpower, but what sort of superpower would give all its energy resources to another country before its own needs are guaranteed? This concern leads to the author’s conclusion that Canada would not be viewed “with anything but contempt, as the bully’s unctuous little sidekick.” "Unctuous" is a great choice of word—“simulation of affected enthusiasm” based on the root meaning of "anointed with oil."
In the second chapter, “No More Girlie-Man for Peacekeeping,” the Canadian popular view of peacekeeping is explored, again exposing the elites, in this case Canada’s own copycat military-industrial-political he-man alliance, as manipulating events towards the American pre-emptive war attitude that searches out strategic control of oil and gas resources, hidden behind the hunt for terrorism, as “America’s vigilance against terrorism...just happens to coincide with its need for oil.” Once again the media come into the picture, a poorly defined picture of “distortion” that has “rendered the suffering of the Arab world invisible to us.” What is viewed in the west is far different than the view seen by others: “the ultimate horror of occupation: the powerlessness of an occupied people against an all-powerful foreign army.”
The argument then turns fully to Afghanistan, where Canada is an invading army (and for those Canadian politicians ignorant of the role of oil in Afghanistan, it is a focal point for oil trans-shipment as well as having significant reserves of gas in its northwestern provinces in the Caspian Basin), that has committed war crimes by “rendition” and the “collateral damage” of killed citizens. She concludes the section by posing the question of security. “Because we realize our security is not actually at stake, and we sense that there is no compelling purpose to this mission....We’re not aggressors [arguable, but perhaps only semantic]. We’re just helping out the aggressor in order to protect our trade balance.”
In summary, McQuaig concludes that “Powerful forces inside the Canadian elite want to move Canada not only away from peacekeeping – as they’ve already succeeding in doing- but also away from an allegiance to the United Nations and the rule of law.” This is a strong statement that Canadians and the world need to be fully aware of.
In the next chapter the focus turns to three areas. The first is Canada’s successful promotion and signing of the land mines treaty, helped out by many NGOs, Princess Diana, and a persistent and vocal Canadian contingent led by Lloyd Axworthy and Jody Williams, the latter receiving the Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts. In contrast, Canada caved on the issue of nuclear disarmament, effectively blocking “all meaningful progress on nuclear disarmament” even though Canada’s perceived status within the G8 and NATO “could have added a particular heft to the...countries trying to shine the flashlight on U.S. intransigence.”
Finally there is recognition that Canada has been involved with the Palestine/Israel problem since World War II, with the outcome of its initial investigations that “Canadian support for partition” was based on the fear of “greater violence by Jewish extremists, who had shown their willingness to resort to terrorism to get their way.” This has evolved of course into recent full on support of Israel, as Canada accepted Israel’s attack on Lebanon as “proportionate," were one of the first to deny the validity of the democratic election of Hamas, and continue to back U.S. views on Iran.
“The Most Dangerous Man in the English-Speaking World” turns out to be Lester B. Pearson, the Nobel Peace Prize winner for his efforts in the Suez War of 1956. In spite of this success, says McQuaig, Pearson “subscribed to many Cold War attitudes” and “bears considerable blame for Canada’s complicity in U.S. actions in Vietnam.” As with the U.S., evidence is given that strongly supports the idea of Canada having its own military-industrial complex accompanied by the over-hyped fear of being attacked. The latter could only be by the U.S., unless it was the scenario of nuclear war, in which case no amount of military preparation would do any good anyway.
Following these developments came “The Threat of Peace," the collapse of the Soviet Union. Here the discussion turns more strongly to the UN and its role in comparison to the ideas formulated by Cheney, Wolfowitz, and Rumsfield, and the role of NATO in Yugoslavia. Canada’s role of ‘protection’ has been stretched to the arena of economic well-being, leaving the door “wide open to interventions” in order to open up other countries' economies “to foreign investment and free trade”—the Washington consensus adopted in full.
Unlike many critical works, McQuaig also supplies some strong arguments against the idea that war is an inevitable part of human nature. She examines such arcane actions as duelling and gladiatorial combat, and the more obvious examples of slavery and absolute hereditary monarchy—all supposedly ‘natural’ human institutions that have disappeared. The “mirage of prosperity” driven by war, she suggests, needs to give way to popular opinion that will “undermine war’s acceptability.”
Finally, McQuaig returns to her beginning ideas, arguing again about Canada’s energy security (or lack thereof), the sabotage of Kyoto, the implicit acceptance of torture, and contradictions in human rights arguments (Chinese prisoners versus U.S. prisoners). She also takes on the views held by Professor Michael Ignatieff, who supports the “lesser evils” because of we-are-good and they-are-bad simplicities. The narrative ends with the recent Maher Arar case, with The Hon. Dennis R. O'Connor, Associate Chief Justice of Ontario, stating unequivocally that torture “can never be legally justified....torture is an instrument of terror,” while referring to many treaties that Canada has signed against torture.
This is a great history and current affairs book, not the kind with boring linear dates, but one that exposes thematic ideas that are not expressed in current media. By necessity it covers similar American history and current affairs, showing how Canada, against the wishes of the majority of its population, is directed by an elite “comprador class," a plutocracy that is in full alignment with supporting American exceptionalism, we are “holding the bully’s coat." All Canadians should be challenged by this work, a challenge to their perceived image of themselves and the reality that lies behind the media and governmental spin.