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20 December 2005

world's friendliest neighbors & allies get nasty & ugly

The U.S.A. - Canada Border

Anybody can unleash a superpower arsenal to blast the hell out of Asia,
but the Bush Administration and the "Red State" and Fox "News" Channel wave of political sentiment in America have managed to achieve something extraordinary: Relations between the world's coziest, most cordial, friction-free, cooperative, friendly, supportive sovereign neighbors have turned sour, ugly and hostile.

Six years ago, and for about 185 years before that, the relations between Canada and the USA, across a vast east-west border, were practically a model of Utopian courtesy and diplomacy, free of all hint of military hostility stretching back to a failed American invasion of Canada during the War of 1812. Other than anti-smuggling police activities, not a shot has been officially fired over the border in either direction since, and nearly all squabbles of political and economic nature have been settled by diplomats quickly and quietly. Of relationships between Canadians and Americans, the worst they used to get involved jokes about Canadian politeness (and Yankee rudeness and commercial greed).

Canada is the best neighbor and ally America could have ever wished for. When the Allies invaded Western Europe in 1944, the Normandy beach that offered the fiercest and most lethal German resistance was Juno, the beach the Canadian Army assaulted.

And now Americans in our politics and our most popular news media are giving Canada the finger and showing their bare asses to Canada, and thinking this kind of crap will win patriotic American votes and sell newspapers and cable news subscriptions.

Bashing and baiting Canada, making Canadians hate the USA and Americans -- the stupidest, most unecessary, and most baseless American idea of the 21st Century. Transforming our friendly, peaceful border into a Hostile Suspicion Zone -- an idea which will sicken and haunt the American leaders and opinion-makers who cooked it up.

~ ~ ~

The Ottawa Citizen (Ontario Canada)
Tuesday 20 December 2005
Page A1

U.S. senator revives
9/11 myth about Canada

Embassy demands he retract claim
terrorists came from here;
U.S. TV hosts calls us 'retarded'

by Sheldon Alberts

WASHINGTON -- Canadian Ambassador [to the United States] Frank McKenna demanded an apology and retraction from a United States senator who claimed yesterday that the terrorists who struck the U.S. on Sept. 11, 2001, entered the country from Canada.

Montana Senator Conrad Burns, a Republican, made the charge during a news conference at which he said the "porous" stretch of border between Montana and Alberta is a prime route for drug runners and criminals travelling south from Calgary.

"We have people who farm both sides of the border. So it's very porous," Mr. Burns said, just days after the U.S. House of Representatives voted to consider building fences along the Canadian border. "We've got to remember that the people who first hit us in 9/11 entered this country through Canada."

The accusation brought a quick retort from officials at the Canadian Embassy, who have repeatedly tried to dispel the inaccurate claim that some of the 19 hijackers on Sept. 11 snuck into the U.S. from Canada. "We are in contact with the senator's office and will be seeking a retraction," said Bernard Etsinger, Mr. McKenna's spokesman.

J.P. Pendleton, a spokesman for Mr. Burns, last night said the senator wanted to speak directly with embassy officials before making any statement.

The accusation comes in the midst of a highly charged election campaign that has seen several clashes between Prime Minister Paul Martin and U.S. Ambassador David Wilkins.

The war of words seems to have soured Canada-U.S. relations, to the point where one conservative U.S. media commentator described Canada last week as "a stalker" and a "retarded cousin."

Mr. McKenna and his predecessor, Michael Kergin, have been bedevilled over the urban legend -- reported in several American newspapers following the 9/11 attacks -- that the hijackers crossed into the country from Canada.

In April, former House of Representatives speaker Newt Gingrich apologized after making the claim on Fox News Channel.

But Mr. Burns' comments come at a particularly sensitive time in Canada-U.S. relations on border security issues. The Bush administration this year announced a plan to require Canadians entering the U.S. to present a passport or other secure document -- an initiative that the [Canadian] federal government says threatens cross-border tourism and trade.

Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to consider erecting "physical barriers" along the border, as exist along the U.S. border with Mexico. That measure was included in a sweeping immigration bill clearing the way for the construction of an additional 1,100-kilometre-long fence along the Mexican border.

That move came after several recent quarrels between Mr. Martin and Mr. Wilkins over climate change, handguns and softwood lumber. Mr. Wilkins warned Mr. Martin last week to tone down his anti-U.S. rhetoric, or risk hurting bilateral relations. But Mr. Martin was unrepentant, saying he would "not be dictated to" by the United States and his hard line appears to be resonating with some voters.

However, Mr. Martin's comments have, in turn, prompted some Canada-bashing by right-wing media commentators south of the border. In particular, MSNBC host Tucker Carlson let loose a string of anti-Canada rants last week.

"Anybody with any ambition at all, or intelligence, has left Canada and is now living in New York," he said.

"Canada is a sweet country. It is like your retarded cousin you see at Thanksgiving and sort of pat him on the head. You know, he's nice, but you don't take him seriously. That's Canada."

Mr. Carlson also said it's pointless to tell Canada to stop criticizing the United States. "It only eggs them on. Canada is essentially a stalker, stalking the United States, right? Canada has little pictures of us in its bedroom, right?

"It's unrequited love between Canada and the United States. We, meanwhile, don't even know Canada's name. We pay no attention at all," he said.

Douglas MacKinnon, a press secretary to former Republican senator Bob Dole, also recently accused Canada of harbouring terrorists.

"Can Canada really be considered our friend anymore?" he asked in a recent commentary in the right-wing Washington Times newspaper.

"What other question can be asked when the Canadian government not only willingly allows Islamic terrorists into their country, but does nothing to stop them from entering our nation?"

Meanwhile yesterday, Mr. Burns joined several other senators in hailing $1.14 billion in new funding that has been included in an omnibus military-spending bill expected to come to a vote in the Senate this week. The funding, primarily directed at strengthening security along the United States' southern border, includes $120 million U.S. for new border patrol stations and checkpoints, $490 million for new surveillance helicopters and aircraft, and $60 million for new border-patrol vehicles.

"My interest in this is we have 570 miles of Canadian border," Mr. Burns said. "That border is very porous. In fact, a lot of the crossings that operate, say, from sun-up to sundown, when they close, they just stick a cone in the middle of the road that says 'Closed.' "

He said senators have deep concerns because of lax security along "this corridor that comes down from Calgary all the way to Denver."

He called it "the main route to Salt Lake City (for) drug runners and criminals."

Mr. Burns has been a frequent critic of Canada in recent years. He led congressional opposition to re-opening the U.S. border to imports of live cattle from Canada.

Copyright 2005 The Ottawa Citizen

~ ~ ~

The Toronto Star (Ontario Canada)
Tuesday 20 December 2005

Cheap talk in the land of the free

Insults, and just plain ignorance,
fly Canada's way

Surprisingly blunt comments
sparked by chilly relations

by Tim Harper

WASHINGTON -- One South Carolinian view of Canada-U.S. relations came from American Ambassador David Wilkins, wrapped in diplomatic language where warnings mixed with reminders of friendship.

Here's another view:

"Ambassador Wilkins is not trying to dictate to you," says Bob McAlister in his blog Politically Incorrect, published on The State website in the capital of Columbia.

"He is very gently trying to remind you that you and your ungrateful subjects have had your butts saved by the good old U.S. of A. more times than can be counted.

"What do we get in return? Left-wing sermons and nutty ideas.

"You have become socialists. You hate us. You hate everything American."

In case we missed the point, McAlister, a journalist, contributor to broadcasts of the evangelical Focus on the Family and political consultant to U.S. President George W. Bush, tells his readers we're [i.e., Canadians are] "sick."

"Here's to hoping he (Wilkins) keeps his spit polished shoes up their rear ends," he said.

He's not alone.

Oh, they're talking about us down here now.

When the Paul Martin government fell, a regular personality on a National Public Radio quiz show, "Wait, Wait ... Don't Tell Me" guessed he was the prime minister of The Netherlands.

At first, the jokes were mild, corny at best.

"If a government falls in Canada and there's nobody there to hear it, what's with that, eh?" asked Michael Feldman on his NPR [National Public Radio] show, "Whad'Ya Know?"

Jon Stewart tweaked us on The Daily Show, using Toronto-born Samantha Bee to answer the question, "What's a Canada?" and getting her to say 'eh.'

Even before the Canadian election, chilly bilateral relations were sparking some surprisingly blunt talk.

Taking questions following a widely reported October speech, Colin Powell's former chief of staff, Lawrence Wilkerson, referred to comments made by former prime minister Kim Campbell when the two were on a panel together.

"She said, 'we're not anti-American, we're scared; we're scared to death the giant has no head,'" Wilkerson recalled for his Washington audience.

"Well, I could have been very cynical and looked back at Kim and said -- because I have the experience to say it -- 'well, as long as you sit behind our military up there in Canada, don't do a damn thing, eviscerate your own military and continue to look like you're the world's pacifist nation, you're getting what you deserve.'

"That's not what I said to her."

But after Martin went out of his way to criticize the U.S. environmental record at the recent international global warming conference in Montreal, the stakes were upped.

"Canada is a sweet country," conservative commentator Tucker Carlson told his MSNBC audience last week, one of a series of instances cited by Media Matters for America, a non-profit organization which says it documents "conservative misinformation."

"It is like the retarded cousin you see at Thanksgiving and sort of pat him on the head.

Oft-heard myth here says the 9/11 hijackers entered the U.S. from Canada "You know, he's nice, but you don't really take him seriously. That's Canada."

He also referred to Canada as "a stalker" obsessed with the United States, a country which pays it no attention at all in return.

Douglas MacKinnon, a press aide from 1998 to 2003 to Republican senator and presidential candidate Bob Dole of Kansas, told readers of the right-wing Washington Times last week that he was "pained" to ask the question of whether Canada can really be considered Washington's 'friend' any longer.

"That said," he wrote, "what other question can be asked when the Canadian government not only willingly allows Islamic terrorists into their country, but does nothing to stop them from entering our nation?"

And the criticism and misinformation come not only from commentators.

Yesterday Conrad Burns, a third-term Republican senator from Montana, repeated -- without challenge -- the oft-heard myth here that the terrorists who attacked the U.S. in 2001 "entered this country through Canada."

In fact, all [the 9-11 terrorists] had entered the U.S. legally.

Neil Cavuto, a Fox News anchor who has long delighted in poking Canada, asked rhetorically last week whether Canada has "gotten a bit too big for its britches."

Cavuto asked Canadian political analyst Patrice Brunet "whether the Canadian people hate America as much as your politicians seem to?"

Brunet assured him they didn't.

Yesterday, The Washington Post suggested Canadians still feel warmly toward Americans, but are cool to Bush's foreign policy.

"That's about right," said Robert Pastor, director of the Center for North American Studies at Washington's American University.

"Americans feel warmly about Canadians and are cool to Bush's foreign policy, too."

Pastor suggested Canadians not take the talk-show gabbing too seriously.

"You wouldn't want to go to Thanksgiving dinner with Tucker Carlson, anyway," he said.

Not all the attention is derogatory.

Readers of The Hill, a widely read newspaper on Capitol Hill, were given a full-page analysis of the Canadian election by Oxford Analytica, an international consulting firm.

They were told that if Stephen Harper loses again, the Conservative leadership could go to the "more moderate" Peter MacKay and if Martin loses, his job would be chased by prospective Liberal MP Michael Ignatieff or Canadian ambassador to the U.S. Frank McKenna.

It said relations between Martin and Bush reached a "new low" as a result of comments made in Montreal by the Prime Minister, but speculated that a re-elected Martin would appoint either Ignatieff or Public Safety Minister Anne McLellan as the new foreign minister.

"If the Conservatives pull off a major upset," it told Capitol Hill readers, relations with Washington would dramatically improve.

"However, chronic trade disputes would still hinder bilateral relations."

Copyright 2005 The Toronto Star

~ ~ ~

The Star Tribune (Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota USA)
Saturday 17 December 2005

Septuagenarian Canadian
snowbirds can't evade
vigilant U.S. border cops

by Doug Grow, Star Tribune

Those leaky national borders so many people fret about?

Not, apparently, a Minnesota problem -- at least in International Falls, where agents of the United States Customs and Border Protection are cracking down on people who might seem like innocents to the untrained among us.

Take the case of Canadians Bob and Diana Hawley. On Nov. 2, they approached the border as they have for the past 20 years. The Kenora, Ontario, couple was headed to what they consider their winter home, an $850-a-month condo in Panama City, Fla.

The same group of people -- a blend of Americans and Canadians -- has been gathering at the same complex for years.

"We're like family," said Diana Hawley.

The family will be a little smaller this year. The Hawleys were -- gasp! -- attempting to transport a small yellow box of tools across the border. Agents spotted the toolbox and told the couple they were not welcome to enter the United States.

"They said we must be going to Florida to do work," Diana Hawley said. "We tried to tell them that we always carry the toolbox in the car. If there's a breakdown, we might need it. And once we get to Panama City we might want to hang a picture or change a light bulb."

For the first hour of the interrogation, the Hawleys kept thinking this was just a misunderstanding. They have a hard time seeing how they can be confused with construction workers. He's 71, she's 70. He wears a knee brace and doesn't get around so easily.

By the second hour, they knew it was serious.

"And we knew we were in real trouble when they photographed us and fingerprinted us," she said.

Then U.S. officials shipped the Hawleys back to Canada. When they stopped at the customs office on the Canadian side of the border, Diana Hawley got emotional. "The girl at Canadian customs said, 'Why were you refused?' I just started to cry."

The Canadian customs official was stunned. A little yellow toolbox?

Going home was not simple. The Hawleys had to cancel the U.S. health insurance they purchase each year. They had to cancel their reservation at the condo. And on and on.

But, surprisingly, the Hawleys still would like to come back to the U.S. They've written letters to a number of U.S. politicians trying to figure out how they can get their good names back.

"We lay awake at night asking ourselves, 'What did we do wrong?' " she said. "We want our names cleared."

Those efforts so far have been futile.

On Tuesday, the Hawleys received a letter from Mary Delaquis, a Border Protection supervisor.

"... You had been and intended to perform service in the U.S., therefore, you were not eligible to be admitted," she wrote. "The officers were correct."

Mike Miln, a public affairs officer with Border Protection's Seattle office, scoffed at the notion that border agents might have made a mistake. "Our officers make determinations of the facts in front of them," he said.

He did say the Hawleys can reapply for entry by showing up at International Falls again.

Not surprisingly, the hammerin' Hawleys are a little nervous about closing their home and heading to the border with a red flag on their names.

"We think we need our names cleared first," said Diana Hawley. "We don't know what they might find in our car this time."

Doug Grow:
Copyright 2005 Star Tribune. All rights reserved


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