Monday, April 27, 2009

She They Should Know Better

Like it wasn't bad enough when Janet Napolitano, the U.S. homeland security secretary, came out with those same tired comments that some of the 9/11 perpetrators crossed the border from Canada to the US.

But then to complete the picture, John McCain defends her take because it was, like, true. After all, everybody knows that, right?

I well remember when that story first surfaced. Because the way the tale was told would have had the scum traveling from the Halifax airport to the Yarmouth ferry. Meaning they would have traveled my highway. Which, quite frankly, was a scary, sickening and despicable thought. It provoked both anger and fear in equal measures.

But guess what people. That myth was supposedly busted years ago. Back in 2001. In fact, back in September of 2001, if I recall correctly.

But then again, I suppose we shouldn't be that surprised that some of the most prominent American politicians can't seem to get it right. After all, we all remember this story, right?

So what else is new?
The fact that none of the hijackers crossed the border from Canada to the U.S. was repeated frequently by Prime Minister Jean Chretien and members of his cabinet. But the damage of those first incorrect news stories lingered. In the weeks following September 11, many stories in the U.S. media continued to depict Canada as a terrorist haven. An article in the Christian Science Monitor said that "Canadian and U.S. terrorism experts alike say the giant, genial nation---known for its crimson-clad Mounties and great comedians---has also become an entry point and staging ground for Osama bin Laden's terrorist ‘sleeper cells,' as well as for other terrorist groups."

A story in The Seattle Times declared: "While thousands of U.S. soldiers are being shipped halfway across the globe to fight terrorism, little manpower has been focused on a problem much closer to home: Canada. Experts on both sides of the 4,000-mile border say the nation to the north is a haven for terrorists, and that the U.S.-Canada line is little more barrier than ink on a map."

Hillary Clinton who was then a U.S. Senator from New York said that the U.S. should
lobby Canada to tighten border security: "We need to look to our friends in the north to crack down on some of these false documents and illegals getting in."

Perhaps the most damaging of all the U.S. sources in reinforcing the image of Canada as a safe haven for terrorists was the highly popular television show, The West Wing. After September 11, the writers and cast of the show quickly put together a new season opener in which a middle eastern terrorist crossed the border from Canada to the U.S. The writers showed themselves to be geographically challenged when they had their suspect crossing the border from Ontario to Vermont.
No need to let a little thing like the facts get in the way.

So here's the thing. Frankly, although I think some of this guy's comments where he goes on (and on) are a bit much. rather harsh, in fact, I believe he does have a point. No matter how deeply it might be buried in hyperbole.

How many of you have run smack into American Exceptionalism? If you haven't yet, God bless you, but chances are pretty good that at some point you will.

No, not all Americans are like that. I've met, both in person and online, those that are not. Or at least can control it in conversation. Seriously, there are many Americans I admire and respect. And in return, yes, Canadian diplomats [using the term loosely] and politicians have also made incredibly stupid public remarks about the US at times. So tit for tat there, I suppose.

But there is a real reason that we, as Canadians, should care. Beyond our wounded national pride, that is.
She [Ed. Janet Napolitano] later said she had misunderstood a question asked during the interview and was well aware there had been no Canadian 9-11 connection, but added that the Canada-U.S. border had, in the past, posed a security risk to Americans.

The next day, Napolitano appeared at a border conference and suggested Canada was more lax in its immigration policies than the U.S., alleging Canadian authorities allow people into the country that would not pass muster south of the border.

Napolitano has also ruffled diplomatic feathers with her insistence that the Canadian border must not be treated any differently than the U.S.-Mexican boundary, where a drug war rages and countless illegal immigrants flood into America every year.
Dig a little further and you will find this, once again speaking of Ms. Napolitano.
At various points during her exchange with Mr. Macdonald, she spoke about how "the pattern at the Canadian border has been informality," and how important it was to get the word out that "the borders are going to be enabled with greater technology, but it’s not going to be going back and forth as if there’s no border anymore."

Ms. Napolitano has never crossed the Canada-U.S. border and it shows. Her clich├ęs, if they were ever true, are 10 years out of date. Anyone who has crossed into the U.S. recently realizes you can’t breeze through with a friendly wave at the toll booth.

On June 1, the border will be further thickened by new measures requiring both Canadians and Americans to be armed with a passport or a souped-up ID card if they are entering or re-entering the U.S. by land or sea. It appears Canada is more ready for this brave new world than its neighbour, given that half of our citizens already have a passport, compared to one-quarter of Americans. There are concerns, not only that the more onerous requirements will snarl cross-border trade, but that they will further damage tourism here because a trip up north won’t be worth the hassle for Americans without proper documents.

As time goes by, these problems will probably iron themselves out. But there seems to be little hope that the mindset that sees Canada as the soft underbelly of the United States will improve any time soon.

It is this mentality in Congress that has produced an American policy, which Ms. Napolitano is now duty-bound to enforce, that the U.S.’s northern and southern borders should be treated the same.

To make matters worse, Ms. Napolitano is adding bad politics to bad policy by presenting a hardened Canadian border as a peace offering to Mexico, which is irate about the U.S. clampdown on its end. One border is calm and the other is in the throes of a drug war and massive illegal immigration, but let’s not allow facts to get in the way of appeasement and politically correct "parity." It’s like pretending Canada is as serious a threat as Russia and planning accordingly.
The equivalent of $1.5 billion a day in goods is involved in our bilateral trade relationship with the US. The largest bilateral trade relationship in the world. And about 300,000 people cross our shared border every day.

But remember this, although Canada is the US's largest single trade partner, the relationship is even more important for us, with the US being our dominant trading partner. You can read more about that here, if you so desire.

My point is this.

The myth about the Canadian border may never die. And our grandchildren may well still be refuting it decades from now. But if so, it is imperative that they do. Because (like it or not) the economic relationship (to say nothing of the rest of it) is to important to shattered by fallacies.

It looks like it's up to us to stay on toes on this one, people.


tam said...

but you know, it pisses me off that it's always our responsibility to be the "good neighbor." It's kinda like the little kid being bullied by the big kid. We let them hang us by the ankles and take our lunch money, copy our homework, etc., because we don't want the bully to beat us up.

MMC said...

Yes. And no.
I think there is a lot more to the relationship than that, Tam. In addition to the economic benefits (trade and tourism) we do get a lot of other benefits from living next door to the US. Like defence capability, for example. You know I am a big supporter of our troops and what they do, but I suggest that we would have to spend a lot more on military/defence, as just one example, if it weren't for our 'big brother'.

And I think we have that typical sibling relationship going in a sense, we just *love* to *hate* them, to poke fun and criticize. Their faults (and they certainly have them, just as well do) appear larger than life. But at the same time, we rely on them a lot. And it drives us batty that we always seem to be looking for their attention (witness how Bush's comments to Tony Blair pissed us off after 9/11) and then when we do get it, it's often negative. Yeah, sounds like a big brother/little brother thing to me.

And, sometimes, we hang ourselves up by our own socks, me thinks.

Pogue said...

I have had a slight bit more exposure to Ms Napolitano since she was my Governor prior to her current position, and while I'm surprised at her stupidity in some of the comments she's made, I'm not surprised by her actions. Right up front I'm not a big fan of hers, but will admit she did a better job as Arizona governor than I would have expected. She seems to be very invested in an open border with Mexico and was completely unwilling to do anything to support border security claiming that was a Federal responsibility. Now that she's the fed who is responsible she does not appear to be interested. Comparisons with the Canadian border have been made before, and if it makes you feel better, most people here know it's BS. Expect more of it though, it's politically expedient.

tam said...

I was just tryin' to keep it simple. of course there is much, much more to our relationship.

But, see, being an only child, the little brother/big brother analogy doesn't mean so much so I tend to go the bully route.

And of course we hang ourselves by our own socks - we're just beating the bully to the punch!

tam :)