After getting caught on tape disparaging one of the United States’ main military allies, top Trump advisor Peter Navarro is trying to say his comments were taken out of context.
“Every time that a Canadian shows up in uniform, it’s doing us a favor? How’s that work?” Navarro said in an interview. He also suggested that “if they were just doing us a favor, maybe their government should have been thrown out of office.”
Navarro made the comments to CNN national security correspondent Jim Sciutto, for his new book The Madman Theory. Audio of the conversation was provided to CTV News.
The comments managed to offend just about everybody in Canada.
Canada’s Minister of National Defence, Harjit Singh Sajjan, said in a statement that “I know the American military and everyday Americans will not forget that Canada was there for them in their time of need." Singh is, himself, an Afghan war veteran.
General Rick Hillier, former Chief of Defence Staff to the Canadian Forces, and former commander of the NATO mission in Afghanistan, told CBC his reaction to the comments was: “What an idiot.”
Even the U.S. embassy in Ottawa sent out a statement highlighting Canada’s contribution to the U.S-led mission, highlighting a 2019 statement from Vice President Mike Pence.
More than 40,000 Canadians served in Afghanistan between 2001 and 2014, and were instrumental in taking Kandahar province from the Taliban. Over the 13-year mission, 158 members of the Canadian Forces were killed. The first four Canadian casualties were killed by American friendly fire in 2002.
Navarro tried to run damage control on his comments.
In a statement to CTV, Navarro insisted that “the remark is being taken out of context,” adding that his conversation with Sciutto “centered around the fact that while the United States and Canada have strong shared national security interests in, for example, the war on terror, there are sharp trade differences between us.”
From Sciutto’s book, that’s clearly not the case.
In a conversation about trade policy, Navarro says: “Let’s take Canada. I mean, what's good about Canada?” He goes on to rattle off Canada’s protectionist system for dairy, and its supposed status as a dumping ground for Chinese steel and aluminium. “It's like this blue-eyed brother kind of thing. It's just Canada. It has its own national interests and self-interests."
Navarro says Canada’s “ideology is really out of step with Trump world. They're much more kind of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren."
Sciutto then writes: "I reminded him how bravely Canadian forces have fought and continue to fight in Afghanistan.”
Navarro responds: "Were they doing us a favor, or were they bought into the idea that they need to do that as part of the global effort against terrorists? I mean, if they were just doing us a favor, maybe their government should have been thrown out of office. I mean, every time that a Canadian shows up in uniform, it's doing us a favor? How's that work?”
The context of the comments was clear enough, but are also in keeping with Navarro’s long-established school of international relations.
Navarro often contends that everything in global affairs is transactional. He has written a litany of books laying out his belief that other nations have taken advantage of America through predatory trade policies—Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner apparently discovered Navarro after being recommended one of his books on Amazon, and soon suggested his name to the president.
Navarro’s extensive writing on China has been slammed by those actually familiar with the country and trade economics, and it was discovered that he actually invented a key expert who he quotes in his work.
He previously said there is a “special place in hell” for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, after he bristled at Trump’s confrontational appearance at a G7 summit in Quebec in 2018.
Not everyone accepts that contributing to an international military effort is all about self-interest.
"Do you send your sons and daughters to make this great sacrifice so far away from home simply because you want to make points with an ally?” Hillier said. “No, you do not. You do it because it's the right thing to do.”
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