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Canadians are no better or no worse than any other people. They have been on the right and wrong sides of history. Like every other nation Canada has produced revolutionaries, working class heroes, buffoons and idiots.

Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin was forced to take the correct position on missile defense by refusing to back U.S. President George W. Bush. At the same time Canada has come up short on the question of Haiti. According to a March 15, 2002 article in the Canadian magazine “L ‘Actualite,“ by Michel Vastel, President Jean Bertrand Aristide’s coup was planned in Ontario.

Many have said that singer/actor/director Harry Belafonte is the closest we have to his idol, Paul Robeson. Belafonte is known as a risk taker. He was one of the first to openly question Colin Powell’s role in international politics. While others were saying things like, “Let’s give the brother a chance,” Belafonte referred the former Secretary of State as a “House Negro.”

Belafonte called Powell out on the Larry King Show on CNN. Said Belafonte, "There's an old saying. In the days of slavery, there were those slaves who lived on the plantation and there were those slaves that lived in the house. You got the privilege of living in the house if you served the master ... exactly the way the master intended to have you serve him." Belafonte continues to make waves by supporting an effort to have U. S. President George W. Bush, former CIA Director George Tenet; the former commander in Iraq, Lt. Gen Richard Sanchez, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and several other military leaders arrested for torture changes.

Gail Davidson, Co-Chair of Lawyers against the War (LAW) has laid seven torture charges against U. S. President George W. Bush. If Davidson, a Vancouver, Canada based-lawyer and her organization have their way President Bush will be tried in Canada on these charges. The charges were laid when President Bush visited Canada on November 30, 2004. These charges concern the well-known abuses at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, photos of which shocked the world last year, as well as similar abuses at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba that have emerged more recently.

The Canadian government used a claim of diplomatic immunity to have the information charging Bush declared a nullity. On behalf of LAW, Davidson was seeking to set a date for a hearing into the charges and came armed with evidence. Judge William Kitchen acceded to the Attorney General’s objections and declared the charges “a nullity.”

I recently interviewed Davidson on Saturday Morning Live on CKLN-FM 88.1(Saturday’s 10:00am to 1pm) about the case against President Bush.

Says Davidson:

“When Lawyers against the War learned about it we wrote to the Prime Minister (Paul Martin), the Minister of Justice (Irwin Cotler) and former Minister of Immigration (Judy Sgro) telling them that he ought not to be invited to Canada. Because he had been accused by many academics, lawyers, citizens and various kinds of groups and organizations around the world of committing war crimes in Afghanistan and Iraq. And as such wasn’t admissible to Canada because we have laws saying that either people accused of war crimes aren't admissible or if they come into Canada we have to prosecute them. So the government naturally turned a deaf ear to us. Under the Canadian criminal code there is a provision where the Canadian courts can take jurisdiction of allegations of torture if the person is on Canadian soil. So we filed seven torture charges against Mr. Bush on November 30th .”

It must be mentioned that the movement only had two weeks to organize the protest against President Bush. When LAW was unable to pin down President Bush in Canada they joined the prosecution of Donald Rumsfeld and 11 other high ranking individuals filed also on November 30th 2004, by the US group Center for Constitutional Rights. This case was dismissed and CCR, LAW and the other complainants are appealing. LAW has members in 14 countries: U.S., Kenya, the UK, Syria, Sweden, Holland, Denmark, France, Germany, Australia, New Zealand, India and Poland.

LAW had Bush charged in Germany. Says Davidson,”One thing we will do for sure is pursue similar charges in Germany as Part of the prosecution launched there by the American Center for Constitutional Rights. There is reason to think that the German authorities will show more backbone in the face of the Bush administration’s trashing of international human right human rights law.”

The movement of international lawyers is a good thing and should be supported. This is a people-to-people action which is positive. However, we should not be so naive as to believe that the governments of the U.S. or Germany have good intentions for the world’s people. Both are concerned about their bottom lines. German imperialists are no different than American or Canadian imperialists. We must always remember there is such an animal as inter-imperialist rivalry that will cause the imperialists to fight among themselves for a slice of the capitalist pie. While Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin refused to join the U.S. on the question of Missile Defense he did so to save his politic life.

Gerald Horne, author of a new book Black and Brown: African Americans and the Mexican revolution, 1910-1920 supports Law’s international efforts. Horne feels that internationalist has always aided African Americans. International support has always helped African Americans and American working people. There is a historic precedent for this. On Dec.17, 1951, Paul Robeson and William L.Patterson, two giants of the international African Liberation Struggle, delivered to the United Nations a petition titled, “We Charge Genocide: The Crime of Government Against the Negro People.” Many feel that this act helped spark the modern civil rights and black power movements. The great El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz (Malcolm X) was talking about an updated version of what Robeson, Patterson, George Crockett, Dr. W.E.B. Dubois, Claudia Jones and others had started in 1951.

There are more international bodies in 2005 then there were in the time of Robeson. Could this case be taken up by the African Union (Kenya has a chapter of LAW) or the European Union which has several members? Says Davidson, “Many countries over the last decade or so have expanded their criminal jurisdiction as they joined international conventions. All countries that joined the conventions against torture have to deal with the issue. The US joined in 1994 and Canada joined in 1987. So all countries that joined that convention had to change their criminal law so that they had to expand their capacity to prosecute crimes of torture.

“I think that persecution of these crimes is particularly important because the so-called torture memos have been put into the public realm. It’s become pretty clear what the Bush administration was trying to do in the follow-up to the invasion of Afghanistan and prior to the invasion of Iraq was to create a class of non-people whom international and national laws didn’t apply. So Mr. Bush tries to create this class by calling them ‘enemy combatants’ The US courts have just recently decided that it didn’t really matter what the President called them – they were prisoners of war and entitled to rights under various conventions starting with the Geneva Convention going on until the convention against torture and so on.”

As we go to press a Kamloops, B.C. Vietnam War veteran wants to add U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to the most wanted list. In a press release John McNamer says, “Neither U. S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice nor President George W. Bush should be allowed into Canada while the Iraq war continues.” McNamer, 57, began the campaign March 13, with large banners displayed on the lawn in front of Kamloops Courthouse that read “No to Rice/Bush”; “Iraq War Illegal” and “Canada is a Peacekeeper.”

“The U.S. needs to be pressured to immediately ask the international community through the United Nations to assume complete management of the Iraq situation in ways that are consistent with international law. Until then, let’s not pretend that we accept U.S. foreign policy conducted at the point of a bomb,” says McNamer. “The entire world should isolate and punish people who violate international law – be it Osama bin Laden or Condoleezza Rice, not give them shelter and support.”

Toronto-based journalist and radio producer Norman (Otis) Richmond can be heard on Diasporic Music, Thursdays, 8-10 p.m., Saturday Morning Live, Saturdays, 10 a.m.-1 p.m. and From a Different Perspective, Sundays, 6-6:30 p. m. on CKLN-FM 88.1 and on the Internet at He can be reached e-Mail at [email protected].

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April 7 2005
Issue 133

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