Thobani Tells It like It Is. (Pacific Edge)

By Goldberg, Kim | Canadian Dimension, November-December 2001 | Go to article overview

Thobani Tells It like It Is. (Pacific Edge)


Goldberg, Kim, Canadian Dimension


The great wailing and gnashing of teeth over Sunera Thobani's anti-war speech underscored two important points: 1) that truth is indeed the first casuality of war, and 2) the ideological bankruptcy of the NDP leadership.

In her televised speech to the Women's Resistance Conference in Ottawa on October 1, Thobani, a former president of the National Action Committee on the Status of Women and currently a women's studies professor at University of British Columbia, made several self-evident statements about U.S. foreign policy, urging Canada's women's movement to resist Canada's rush to war. Thobani described U.S. foreign policy as being "soaked in blood," citing Chile, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Iraq. She billed the U.S. as "the most dangerous and the most powerful global force unleashing prolific levels of violence all over the world." She asked if "we can feel any pain for the victims of U.S. aggression," such as Iraqi children and Palestinian refugees. She condemned the racist rhetoric of the U.S.'s so-called war on terrorism, which she said is really a "fight for control of the vast oil and gas resources in central Asia, for which Afghanistan is a key strategic point." The full text of Thobani's speech is available on the N DP Socialist Caucus website: www.ndpsocialists.ca.

In the cacophony of jingoistic fervor that followed, Thobani was instantly branded a hate monger by media and politicians. She was accused of blaming the victim and inciting hatred against Americans. She was equated with Holocaust denier Doug Collins. She was depicted in a Victoria newspaper cartoon holding a gas can beside a giant burning cross adorned with the stars and stripes. She was even investigated by RCMP for committing a hate crime.

"It has been fascinating to observe how my comments regarding American foreign policy -- a record well documented by numerous sources whose accuracy or credentials cannot be faulted -- have been dubbed 'hate-speech,'" Thobani wrote in a subsequent essay defending her speech. In her essay entitled "War Frenzy" (available on CD'S website) she itemized a portion of the death toll resulting from U.S. foreign policy over the last half century:

* 150,000 Guatemalans killed and 50,000 disappeared after the CIA-sponsored coup in 1954;

* more than two million people killed in Vietnam, and 200,000 before that in the Hiroshima and Nagasaki nuclear attacks;

* more than 30,000 killed from the CIA-backed coup against Chile's democratically elected Allende government in 1973;

* 75,000 killed by death squads of the U.

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