Unquiet Diplomacy

By Paul Cellucci. Toronto: Key Porter, 2005

By Shirley Farlinger (reviewer) | 2006-01-01 12:00:00

From April 2001 for the ensuing contentious four years the ambassador to Canada from the United States was Paul Cellucci. His book is a sketch of his personal life from his baby picture and wedding photo to his political activities during 31 years in Massachusetts politics before being appointed ambassador. A good part of the book is autobiographical.

He had to attend the State Department's school for new ambassadors where it seems they all learned how to speak for their president.

"I had a message to deliver on behalf of my president and the American people and I delivered it." We learn that one of his first messages at an energy forum was "You have the energy. We need it."

He comes across in the book as a charming guy filled with good intentions in spite of his description of his job as "unquiet diplomacy."

The job included a number of parties. His first annual Fourth of July celebration, numbering about 5,000, was a chance to serve California wine, Boston cream pie and give a speech on our two great countries and our mutual commitment to freedom and democracy. "Vive le Canada. Vive the United States." He didn't realize then that it would be Quebec that would ensure that Canada did not agree to declare war on Iraq. Or that France would agree with us.

Of course Cellucci supported free trade. Also of great concern to him was Canada's level of military spending. "When I was named ambassador the only specific instructions that I received from Secretary of State Colin Powell was that I should talk to the Canadians about putting more money into defence." And Canada did, but probably still not enough. Bush had warned "the threat posed by terrorists and terrorist states is real and every free nation is a potential target." It is important to back up words with the force of arms, Cellucci lectures.

Canada's refusal to go to war on Iraq was a big "bump in the road" for Canada-US relations. Iraq was "not something we wanted to do or should have to do on our own." In one speech he said, "There is no security threat to Canada that the United States would not be ready, willing and able to help with. We would be there for Canada. Part of our family." Cellucci fails to see the war in Iraq or Afghanistan as struggles to control oil, or as moves that might create more terrorists. Also not on his radar is the treatment of prisoners captured by Canadian soldiers and turned over to Guantanamo Bay in violation of the Geneva Convention.

"We had evidence that strongly suggested that his [Saddam's] regime was doing everything in its power to acquire more weapons of mass destruction and possible nuclear weapons, we believed that given his track record he would be quite prepared to give them to terrorist groups who might use them against the United States, Israel or some other country." The evidence was shaky at best.

"The United States was not prepared to be hit before we hit back; so we thought Saddam's regime had to be destroyed." I guess that's a description of pre-emptive war. The idea that Saddam might have been apprehended and tried by the new International Criminal Court he sees as "incomprehensible."

Just as incomprehensible to him is Canada's refusal to agree to the National Missile Defence scheme. Since Canada is part of NATO and NORAD he reasons we should join NMD. "I was perplexed. I just didn't get it." He refers to the "so-called weaponization of space" as though the information did not come directly from the Pentagon in its Vision for 2020 and Space Command policies. Maybe he was out of the loop.

"The bump involving Maher Arar was one of the most difficult that we faced...And to this day I believe the US government complied with all international law and all treaty obligations in deporting Arar from the United States to Syria." Torture is not mentioned.

As for climate change "Economic growth is the best way to provide the resources for the investment needed to deal with global warming." He stresses the US role in creating the International Partnership for a Hydrogen Economy, the Carbon Sequestration Leadership Forum and the Global Earth Observation System to deal with greenhouse gas emissions at a cost of six billion a year. Environmentalists might want to track what these bodies are doing.

In the case of softwood lumber negotiations he posits that the problem lies in the difference in US and Canadian systems of government. He claims our Prime Minister can usually get his way, the President has to deal with Congress. He does not see this issue as a matter of breaking NAFTA rules, as letting down one of the "family."

The Celluccis travelled extensively in Canada. "I had occasion to see first hand the enormous natural wealth of the country" - Fort McMurray's tar sands, the McArthur River's uranium mines, the largest in the world, Sudbury's nickel mines, the turbines at James Bay. (The power link from James Bay is direct to Boston.) It reads like a shopping trip.

The pictures in the book are revealing: Cellucci and Tom Ridge, Cellucci and George Bush, Cellucci and Colin Powell, Cellucci and John Manley as well as Jean Chretien and Paul Martin.

Cellucci has followed his orders well. But how can the United States understand the thinking of other countries if the main purpose is to reiterate American foreign policy around the world?

For another approach to diplomacy I look at the former USSR's ambassador to Canada, the recently deceased Alexander Yakovlev. He was sent to Canada to get him out of the way from 1973-1983, during the Cold War. It was in Canada that Yakovlev began to profoundly question Soviet ideas. "I carefully studied Canadian life. It was a simple pragmatic life, based on common sense. I wondered why we in the Soviet Union refused to give up our dogma. My instructions from Moscow - to criticize Canada and to promote our propaganda - seemed silly to me." He invited Gorbachev to Canada and in an empty Ontario wheat field the two decided to work together on "perestroika (restructuring) and glasnost (openness). Yakovlev was a friend of Prime Minister Trudeau's. More recently in response to a question from Alexandre Trudeau, his namesake, Yakovlev said "From beginning to end our Communism was a violent one, founded on fear and bathed in blood. Russia will never so much as glance down that road again." When the ambassador returned to the USSR he worked with Gorbachev to change the country and rehabilitate victims of Soviet oppression.

My hope is that American ambassadors around the world will take time to examine the policies of President Bush and the Pentagon and try to understand and correct the ruinous results of these for most of the countries of the world.

Reviewed by Shirley Farlinger.

Peace Magazine Jan-Mar 2006

Peace Magazine Jan-Mar 2006, page 28. Some rights reserved.

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