Last year, an Iranian security agent beat a Canadian photojournalist to death in a Tehran prison. Apart from recalling its ambassador—a meaningless gesture given Ottawa’s weakness—the Canadian government was impotent to respond.
Thanks to the alarm of international journalists, the murder received a few back-of-the-paper mentions around the world. Champion cynics, the Iranians agreed to hold a trial. After all, the killer’s identity was no secret, the circumstances were well known and there had never been serious charges against the victim, Zahra Kazemi, an Iranian-born Canadian citizen.
The trial was a mockery (Marxist in the Groucho sense). The acknowledged murderer was acquitted, of course. Months before the trial, Ms. Kazemi, whose skull had been crushed, was ruled to have died of natural causes. The regime hardliners had a grand, old laugh while thumbing their noses at our northern neighbors.
Giggling, the Iranians did offer to pay Islamic “blood money” to the victim’s family.
Canada’s response? By God, Ottawa showed those fundamentalist thugs. The Canadian ambassador was recalled a second time.
The fact is that Canada is powerless to do anything. The hardliners took that into account as they methodically chose their victim. Such Iranian actions are never accidental. They’re carefully calculated to make a point or to test some party’s resolve.
The ruling mullahs wanted to send a chill down the spine of foreign reporters and “meddling” émigrés. The entire Kazemi affair would have been approved, step by step, by the inner circle of Iran’s regime.
Nonetheless, a few Iranian newspapers—since closed by the government—identified Said Mortazavi, the prosecutor in the mock trial, as having been enmeshed in Ms. Kazemi’s death. The judge saw no conflict of interest.
Canada wasn’t even the target, just another victim. Ottawa was simply judged as unable and unwilling to respond to such a murder. Far more emigres active in Iranian affairs or journalism hold U.S. or British passports. But killing a journalist protected by the great Anglo-American alliance would have been risky. What could Ottawa do?
In this age of terror and genocide, the death of an individual may not seem to hold much significance. What, after all, is Ms. Kazemi’s fate against that of the tens of thousands dead and the millions displaced in Sudan’s Darfur province? Against the mass graves unearthed since Iraq’s liberation? Against the Balkan massacres that only stopped when American troops appeared?
Yet, Ms. Kazemi’s fate does matter. As a matter of justice. But, above all, for Canada.
This cynical murder should resound more powerfully than it has done. Canadians on the left may not like it, but the unmistakable lesson for Canada is that, when it defected from the great Anglolateral alliance that has defended freedom for almost a century, it lost its influence, its authority and the weight of collective power.
Despite the apocalyptic rhetoric of our election year, it’s Canada that has a crisis of the soul.
It’s all too easy for us to write off Canada as a parka-enshrouded land of strategic freeloaders, economic parasites who complain as they profit, kept safe by their proximity to the superpower they love to criticize.
But the truth is that we only hear the noisy, down-with-America Canadians who represent but a fraction of their country’s population (all that French influence at work). As two good friends recently reminded me, there is far more goodwill, common sense and courage on the other side of Niagara Falls than the Canadian media likes to admit.
And many within Canada’s military were ashamed that they were not allowed to do their share in the liberation of Iraq. Peacekeeping missions are well and good, but every soldier knows that what really counts is the willingness to give blood by your brother’s side.
Will Ms. Kazemi’s murder awaken Canada’s chattering classes to reality? After all, she was one of their own, a card-carrying member of the vaunted multi-ethnic intelligentsia. Her self-righteous peers need to cork the Chablis, crack open a Labatt’s Blue and take the lesson of her murder to heart: Appeasement of tyrants always has a price.
It’s remarkable how unwilling both individuals and nations are to accept unwanted lessons. The historical evidence for the high cost of appeasement runs from classical antiquity, through the Nazi era, to this very moment. The Philippine government is going to learn the cost of caving in to terrorists soon enough, as will the smug new government in Madrid. The Saudis have already begun to read the real price tag of trying to buy off madmen. Even Senator Kerry appears to realize that surrender isn’t an option.
We all should pray that our northern neighbors don’t hide their heads under the pillow yet again. In the last century, Canada fought heroically on the side of the brotherhood of English-speaking nations—the world’s only enduring alliance for freedom. They need to rejoin the fold and stand, once again, against tyranny, against murderous ideologies, against the world’s deadly bigots. Some may not care for President Bush, but he hasn’t smashed in the skull of any Canadian citizens lately.
Until Canada again stands shoulder to shoulder with her inevitable allies—those who share her core cultural heritage of the rule of law, democracy and the rights of the individual citizen—Ottawa will remain powerless, disdained by rogue states and manipulative Europeans alike.
The brutal old men in Tehran sized up today’s Canada perfectly when they chose to make an example of one of her citizens. Let’s hope they misjudged the Canada of tomorrow.
Ralph Peters is the author of “Beyond Baghdad: Postmodern War and Peace.”