Mulroney – the real crimes are war and imperialism

My daughter was born in 1988, the year of the second Mulroney majority election victory. Growing up as she did under the man who was ultimately to become one of the most hated prime ministers in history, it made absolute sense to her when we gave her a stuffed doll, with the Tory’s face on it, and the label “Lyin’ Brian” on the back. She and her friends got hours of pleasure from the little Tory doll.

The doll would come in handy now, a generation later. Mulroney is today very publicly involved in an embarrassing dispute with international arms dealer Karlheinz Schreiber. A man as Tory Blue as Erik Nielsen, Mulroney’s deputy prime minister for two years in the 1980s, might even find the doll appropriate. “I think there was a phrase that attached to Brian years ago where he was known as Lyin’ Brian, and for my own part, I believe that they’re both in the same boat – Schreiber and Mulroney.”[1]

The Schreiber/Mulroney controversy is approaching historic dimensions. December 13, for the first time in recent history, a former prime minister was forced to appear before a House of Commons Committee.[2] Mulroney was there to answer questions about his dealings with Schreiber, under a cloud of suspicions that Mulroney had received a payoff from Schreiber for having Air Canada buy AirBus planes in the 1980s, money that he at first did not declare as income to the tax department.

Now much of this has been in the public domain for more than a decade. Stevie Cameron, in 1995, spelled out in 576 pages well-documented pages, that Schreiber was linked to Airbus, that Mulroney was Canadian prime minister during Air Canada’s last full year as a crown corporation (1988), and that in that year Air Canada bought Airbus planes worth some billions of dollars.[3] As the years went by, more and more details came to the surface. In 2001, Philip Mathias, then a reporter with the National Post, phoned William Kaplan and told him that he had information that in June 1993:

Mulroney sent a government limousine to pick up Karlheinz Schreiber from his Rockcliffe home and deliver him to Harrington Lake, the official summer residence of Canadian prime ministers. Within weeks, Schreiber … opened a secret Swiss bank account and deposited $500,000 in it. One hundred thousand dollars, withdrawn in cash, was handed over to Mulroney, still a Member of Parliament, in August 1993, at the Chateau Mirabel, while the former prime minister’s RCMP driver patiently waited outside. More payments followed in 1994. Three hundred thousand dollars in total. In cash. In hotels.[4]

We’ve all been connecting the dots ever since, and it hasn’t been all that difficult.

Now, a generation later, Mulroney has finally had to try and defend his actions. First he claims it wasn’t $300,000, just $225,000. OK – it can be hard to count bills in envelopes in public in hotels. So maybe $75,000 was missed. Second, he claims it didn’t happen while he was in office, but after he had left. Fair enough Brian. We’ll give you the benefit of the doubt. And, apparently it’s not true that he didn’t pay taxes on it – just not right away. But he fixed this in 1999 by filing a “voluntary tax disclosure correcting record.”[5] We’ve all sometimes made tax mistakes. Let’s even forgive Brian that.

This is all really beside the point. The real scandal is not about sleaze and corruption at the very top of the state. The real scandal involves the services Mulroney did in exchange for this money.

“According to his testimony, Mulroney was making international representations on behalf of Thyssen Canada (part of the ThyssenKrupp Group of Germany) … to explore interest abroad in purchasing armoured vehicles made in Canada.”[6] In Mulroney’s own words, “one of these involved a visit with [then Russian] President Yeltsin where I put forward on a social, personal occasion, the discussion with President Yeltsin as to knowing their requirements for peacekeeping vehicles and their own problems in Chechnya and elsewhere.”[7]

This is far more scandalous than any admission of tax evasions. There is no possible relationship between the words “peacekeeping” and “Chechnya”. Russia has conducted generations of bloody war against the people of that embattled country. In the 1850s, what is today Chechnya was conquered by the armies of the Russian Tsar. After World War II, Stalin followed in the Tsar’s footsteps, sending hundreds of thousands of Chechens into exile in Siberia and Central Asia, unable to begin the return home until 1957.

Had Mulroney been successful in selling his “peacekeeping” vehicles to Yeltsin, they likely would have been used December 11, 1994 when Russian troops invaded the newly-independent republic, starting a war that would last until May 1997, then resume in late 1999 when a second Russian invasion led to at least 100,000 deaths, and 400,000 refugees.[8] Mulroney’s defence is appalling – he was peddling weapons to a big-power imperialist for use in a genocidal war against a small, oppressed nation.

Mulroney is not the only former Canadian prime minister to private personally from big-power politics. In June 2003, Jean Chrétien was still prime minister of Canada. There was little publicity when the president of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev, paid him a visit. However, “human-rights groups were aghast – the dictator has led a crackdown on opposition parties, journalists and NGOs.” That political link would turn out to be very useful for Chrétien in a few months. February 3, the Calgary-based corporation, PetroKazakhstan, hired the now private citizen Chrétien as a special adviser on “international relations.” “PetroKazakhstan, which operates in the former Soviet Republic, has been feuding with the Kazakh government over alleged overpricing, and CEO Bernard Isaultier hopes Chrétien can smooth relations.”[9]

Chrétien has spent much of his time in the years since running the Canadian government, as an ambassador for Canadian corporations operating in Central Asia. In 2004, Turkmenistan President Niyazov “invited Oman and Canada to participate in oil and gas projects, including construction of a Trans-Afghan Pipeline … A Omani-Canadian delegation including Yusuf bin Alavi, foreign minister of Oman and Jean Chrétien … met Niyazov to discuss cooperation in the energy and hydrocarbon sectors. Heads of some major Canadian and Omani energy companies were also in the delegation. Chrétien is adviser to Bennett Jones, a Calgary-based law firm specializing in energy issues.”[10]

Mulroney peddles weapons to Yeltsin for use in the slaughter in Chechnya. Chrétien emerges as a hired hand for corporations doing business with Central Asian governments with questionable human rights records, and attempting to profit from a country (Afghanistan) opened to western investment by western (including Canadian) troops. Lets fill the press with the real scandals of our elected leaders – the scandals of war and imperialism.

© 2007 Paul Kellogg

References

[1] Brian Laghi and Alan Freeman, “Former deputy doubts Mulroney’s testimony,” The Globe and Mail, Dec. 15, 2007, p. A1.
[2] According to Sun Media National Bureau, “Former PM’s appearance of historical significance,” The London Free Press, December 13, 2007
[3] See Stevie Cameron, On the Take: Crime, Corruption and Greed in the Mulroney Era (Toronto: Seal Books, 1995)
[4] William Kaplan, “What Mulroney needs to tell us,” National Post, December 13, 2007
[5] Kathleen Harris, “Mulroney faces gauntlet,” The Toronto Sun, December 13, 2007
[6] Duncan Cameron, “Mulroney’s tank selling troubles,” rabble.ca, December 20, 2007
[7] “Unedited transcript: Brian Mulroney at the Commons Ethics Committee, Dec. 13, 2007”, NP Posted, http://network.nationalpost.com
[8] Information from “Chechnya,” Encyclopædia Britannica, 2007. Encyclopædia Britannica Online, Dec. 28, 2007
[9] Dawn Calleja, “Jean’s help: priceless,” Canadian Business online, February 2004, www.canadianbusiness.com
[10] “Canadians Eye Pipeline Work In Turkmenistan,” Pipeline and Gas Journal, Oct. 2004, Vol. 231, Issue 10, p. 10