In Ukraine

By Andrew Mitrovica, Al Jazeera, July 18, 2016

Beyond all the selfies, it turns out that the world’s newest media darling, Justin Trudeau, is a neoliberal mirage.

If much of the international press is to be believed, Canada’s new prime minister, Justin Trudeau, is a walking, talking mixture of John F Kennedy and Martin Luther King, with a dose of Brad Pitt for good measure.

Canadian PM Justin Trudeau and his son with Canadian soldiers in Ukraine in July 2016 (EPA)

Canadian PM Justin Trudeau and his son with Canadian soldiers in Ukraine in July 2016 (EPA)

Trudeau is the attractive, telegenic eldest son of Pierre Trudeau, the long deceased former Canadian prime minister, who also cut a swashbuckling image on the global stage.

Like his father, Justin Trudeau is adept at satisfying the thirst of the establishment media for pretty pictures and exploiting, these days, social media to cultivate an image of a vibrant, progressive, open-minded leader who is intent on breaking from the destructive, reactionary past.

With the aid of his equally media-savvy political confidantes, Trudeau – and his cabinet colleagues – enjoy taking and sharing online an endless stream of selfies with a legion of “ordinary” Canadians, including little, adorable children, as well as his youthful athleticism, and, perhaps most famously, while wearing his quirky, often patriotic-themed socks.

The result: Canada and the world are beguiled by this modern-day, seemingly enlightened, prince.

Beyond the pictures

But looks, as we know, can be deceptive. Peer beyond the oh-so-endearing pictures and you will quickly discern that when it comes to international affairs and politics, Trudeau is – like his nasty, obdurate predecessor, Stephen Harper – a card-carrying member of the old-boys’ club, fundamentally devoted to the old way of doing things.

Turns out, like many other media-manufactured portraits of Western politicians, the popular and agreeable caricature of Trudeau being promoted at home and abroad is a neoliberal mirage.

This past week, for example, Trudeau has been visiting Brussels and Eastern Europe, all the while eager to establish his tough, uncompromising Cold War warrior credentials with his NATO colleagues.

Without any debate, let alone the approval by Canada’s parliament, Trudeau unilaterally announced the dispatch of a contingent of Canadian troops, fighter jets and other military hardware to Latvia to blunt what his media allies have described as Russian “aggression”.

Not surprisingly, Trudeau’s “assertiveness” was almost universally applauded by the same crowd of unrepentant, war-happy, Neo-con pundits who previously celebrated the calamitous invasion of Iraq with such giddy enthusiasm.

It appears that diplomacy has, once again, been foolishly dismissed in favour of dangerously bellicose posturing on a continent all too familiar with the disastrous human consequences of war.

In any event, Trudeau followed up his troop announcement with a trip to Ukraine where he was photographed, with his son in tow, visiting the 200 Canadian military trainers deployed there by his Conservative predecessor and meeting with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko. Justin Trudeau and his son Xavier lay flowers at a monument to the victims of the Great Famine in Kiev, Ukraine [EPA]

Invoking former Prime Minister Harper’s signature, 1950s style rhetoric, Trudeau reassured his hosts that: “We are giving significant support to the Ukrainian military to be able to be more effective in defending and reclaiming Ukrainian territory.”

With that, Trudeau’s bona fides as a steadfast, Cold War soldier was confirmed. I’m sure Harper was pleased and, no doubt, a little chagrined that the “liberal” politician who soundly defeated him, was now parroting his combative attitude towards Russia to the hackneyed letter.

Still, the instructive similarities between Canada’s new boss and the recently departed old boss extend well beyond Latvia and Ukraine.

Early in his tenure as prime minister, Trudeau could have made a big break from Harper, but, predictably, he didn’t. Rather than nixing a Harper-negotiated deal to sell billions of dollars’ worth of weaponised military vehicles to that exemplar of human rights and civil liberties, Saudi Arabia, Trudeau approved it.

The prime minister has insisted that he reluctantly gave the green light to the controversial sale for a variety of reasons. First, he said, Canada had to keep its “word”. Then, Trudeau tacked and claimed that Canada’s “brand” would be damaged and the country labelled a “banana republic” if he did a volte face.

This exculpatory line of reasoning belies the fact, of course, that by selling armaments to a nation well-known for its documented human rights violations, including summary executions by beheading, Canada’s vaunted “brand” has indeed been sullied.

Trudeau is Canada’s arms-dealer-in-chief, just with a more inviting smile.

Finally, Trudeau’s overarching view of the grinding, lethal Israeli occupation of Gaza and the West Bank, mirrors Harper’s cynical, myopic approach to the inhumane plight of Palestinians. Simply put, in Trudeau’s geopolitical calculus, Palestinians don’t count.

They didn’t count when Trudeau, as Liberal party leader, said nothing, beyond the usual bromides, during the summer of 2014 while thousands of Palestinian children, women and men were killed, maimed, traumatised and left homeless during Israel’s invasion of Gaza.

And he hasn’t said a word since becoming prime minister last October. In fact, like Harper, Trudeau is vehemently opposed to the BDS movement and he unquestionably supports the Israeli government led by the imperious Benjamin Netanyahu.

I hardly think Trudeau has plans to visit Gaza anytime soon to express his solidarity with its besieged people since that would surely mean fatally jeopardising his coveted status as a worldwide mainstream media darling and his new-found membership in the old boys’ club.

Andrew Mitrovica is an award-winning investigative reporter and journalism instructor in Toronto.

Related news on Al Jazeera:
Israel need not worry about Justin Trudeau, by Antonia Zerbisias, Nov 15, 2015

‘The record shows that Trudeau has, so far anyway, said little or nothing in support of Palestinians or their rights to live in peace.’


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