'God bless America'

Kady has news of the latest outrage: Michael Ignatieff likes America.

Anyway. There once was a time when Stephen Harper was deeply concerned that his political opponents didn’t like America. So deeply concerned that his entry in the Hansard index for the second session of the 37th Parliament has its own subsection for “Anti-Americanism.” So deeply concerned that he stood in the House of Commons on April 3, 2003 and moved that “the House of Commons express its regret and apologize for offensive and inappropriate statements made against the United States of America by certain Members of this House; that it reaffirm the United States to be Canada’s closest friend and ally and hope that the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq is successful in removing Saddam Hussein’s regime from power; and that the House urge the Government of Canada to assist the coalition in the reconstruction of Iraq.”

Speaking on behalf of that motion he enthused about the United States, cited Sylvester Stallone and deemed our proximity to that great nation to be “our biggest asset in this very dangerous world.”

Full text after the jump.

Mr. Speaker, I will advise you that I will be splitting my time.

This is an important motion as our allies and our friends head to victory in the war against Saddam, a war that we believe will change the world and its alliances and relationships fundamentally. The motion will assist Canada in preserving its place in the world, its relationships and its values. I believe there is no reason why any hon. member of the House should find objection to the motion.

The motion is divided into two parts. The second part calls upon the House to support a successful military conclusion of the allied effort. It says that we “hope that the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq is successful in removing Saddam Hussein’s regime from power”, and it urges “the Government of Canada to assist the coalition in the reconstruction of Iraq”.

I would like to give a little bit of a personal backdrop to this. Last night at Stornoway I hosted a reception for ambassadors and representatives of nearly 50 countries that have now joined the coalition. I did that on behalf of our caucus and, I believe, on behalf of the silent majority of Canadians, to tell them, to tell these countries and to tell their people that in this fight we Canadians are not and cannot be neutral any more than we can be for Saddam; that we are with our friends, our allies and our own troops; and that we support them for freedom, for democracy, for the reconstruction of Iraq, and for the liberation of its people.

This is not a question on how this war happened or whether it should have occurred in the first place. It is something very different. It is now how this will play out and how we will stand in it.

We are always surprised by the wisdom of children. I was surprised a few days ago when my six year old son Benjamin asked me in the car, as we were listening to a radio broadcast on the war, “What happens, Dad, if Saddam wins?” He said that very fearfully, because to a six year old the outcome of a war is not obvious as it may be to some of us here.

We do have to cast our thoughts on what would be the consequences if Saddam were to be victorious, and all that he is and all that he aspires to be if that were to be fulfilled. We think we have the luxury of guessing and second-guessing our friends and allies, but if we have guessed wrong it could, as a conclusion of this war, devastate every aspect of our economy, our country and our future. That is why unconditionally supporting an allied victory is unequivocally in the national interest of this country.

The first part of the motion is perhaps the one that will give some people more difficulty. It reads:

That the House of Commons express its regret and apologize for offensive and inappropriate statements made against the United States of America by certain Members of the House; that it reaffirm the United States to be Canada’s closest friend and ally….

When we cut beneath the surface, in all but a few cases, anti-Americanism probably has clouded this debate and become, at this point, the only real motive that some have for hesitating to support our allies.

Anti-Americanism has a couple of roots in this country. One of those is history. The revolutionary war with the United States laid the groundwork for this country and the war of 1812 preserved the separation between the British Crown and the American republic.

However that division ended 100 years ago. In the last century, when the great nations of the world fought these tremendous battles, the Americans and the British were united against the evils that threatened our civilization. On this continent, Canada led those fights. We were there first.

I remember even Hollywood, which is sometimes awfully parochial, recognized this a few years ago. I think it was back in the 1980s when I saw a Sylvester Stallone movie where he played an American POW who was involved in liberating various allied POWs in France. This was in the early part of the war, so how was an American POW there? He was there because he had enlisted in the Canadian army when the Americans were still involved in a debate about whether they should or should not participate.

The Americans learned, I think partly from us as well as from other events, the error of isolationism. They learned that they could not sit smugly on the sidelines avoiding difficult moral choices that their friends had to make in a troubled world.

Let us pledge today that when America and Britain in the future make these choices we will never again allow ourselves to be isolated from them.

The other source of anti-Americanism, I believe, is more psychological. The fact is that we are different and our differences sometimes have irritated and, yes, sometimes even frightened others. When we go to the United States, even as English speaking Canadians, as much as many of us love the United States, have friends, acquaintances and even close relations there, we know Americans are different. We know Americans can sometimes be, if I can be honest, loud, boastful, aggressive, maybe overbearing and certainly overwhelming, but we also know they have hearts as big as this planet.

What other great power has ever rebuilt the enemies it has defeated? Even with the trade difficulties we have, what other great and huge country throws open its market in a way similar to what the United States does? What other dominant force has ever so clearly stood for the hopes, the dreams and the common good of ordinary people everywhere?

However if the Americans can occasionally be overbearing and overwhelming, we in this country, if we want to be frank, can sometimes be a little underwhelming.

Let me frank about this, in reference to something my office has prepared. This multiple page document is a litany of anti-American comments emanating from government benches in only the past few weeks and only over this particular conflict. I could add much more outside of that context. This litany of insults and outrageous abuse of our American friends contains quotes that range from the incredibly stupid to the truly vile. That is the only way I can put it. This is not a testament to our independence. It is a testament to a streak of immaturity and irresponsibility that this party does not share and will never embrace.

Let me be clear and let us all be clear on all sides of the House, because I know there are Liberals of goodwill in this, these kinds of quotes do not in any way diminish the United States of America. They diminish only us.

We are lucky to have the Americans as our neighbour, our ally and friend. To have had this relationship for so long makes us greater in the world, not weaker and lesser in the world. I suspect that there was not one nation represented at Stornoway last night, and, frankly, very few nations in the world, that do not envy our proximity to the United States in so many ways. It is not something fundamental for us to guard against. It is our biggest asset in this very dangerous world.

I urge the House to get behind this motion, to get behind our relationships, to get behind our friends, to get behind our allies and, needless to say, to get behind our own troops in this conflict and in the rebuilding that will occur.

God bless America. God save the Queen. The maple leaf forever.

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