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Liberal warmonger is not the lesser evil

Ian Beeching

February 13, 2012

Michael Ignatieff: The lesser Evil?

Written by Derrick O’Keefe

Reviewed by Ian Beeching

Derrick O’keefe’s new book Michael Ignatieff: The lesser evil? sheds light on the ill-fated political life of the Liberal leader responsible for bringing Canada’s longest ruling party of the elite to its knees. In this witty and controversial read O’Keefe holds no punches. With a plethora of contradictory and morally dubious material to draw from, one almost feels pity for the former Liberal leader. All feelings of sympathy are soon washed away when we are reminded of Ignatieff’s prominent role in intellectualizing the murderous drive to war that has defined the last decade.

This delightful read is short and to the point. It is neither a biography nor an analysis of Canadian liberalism; however it pointedly draws on both. With the attack advertisements about Ignatieff’s long absence from Canada fresh in the readers’ mind, O’Keefe explores the former leader’s political evolution while abroad. From his dabbles with social democracy through to self-proclaimed advocate of American empire, we are shown the blue blood of this descendant of Russian aristocrats.

Ignatieff was seen as a trail-blazer when he defined Israel as apartheid, but his dishonesty is brought to light in his about-face when he referred to supporters of the same analogy as anti-Semites. Ignatieff attempts to apologize for his position on the Iraq War in what O’Keefe describes as a “self serving misdirection,” full of name-dropping and “passing the buck” when compared to the former leader’s multiple flip flops on the Palestine-Israel conflict.

O’Keefe’s roots as an antiwar and environmental activist are obvious in his writing.

Most of the criticism of Ignatieff’s political positions as leader of the Liberal Party focus on his taste for warmongering and supporting the Tar Sands. The author appropriately highlights Ignatieff’s defining policies, especially in respect to his unwavering support of the Harper government’s war efforts. After reading this book, the average reader would hardly be able to differentiate Harper from Ignatieff, but for the latter’s historic failure.

At times O’Keefe takes cheap shots at Ignatieff by highlighting his poor knowledge of hockey and his analogy of NASCAR as an “American” sport. The author makes no attempt to try to explain the dramatic shift in Canadian politics that lead to Ignatieff’s embarrassing defeat, but instead he gives us a glimpse at the best and brightest of bourgeois leadership in an era of capitalist crisis and decay.

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