News | Glenn Greenwald warns to expect backlash from Iraq bombings

Journalist chastises Canada on foreign policy in forceful speech at McGill

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Glenn Greenwald denounced Ottawa’s plans for military action in the Middle East last Thursday at McGill, warning Canadians that continued involvement in the region could provoke more attacks against the West.

Delivering this year’s Beaverbrook Annual Lecture in a packed Pollack Hall, Greenwald, who won a Pulitzer Prize this year for his coverage of Edward Snowden’s leak of government surveillance documents, said Canadians shouldn’t be surprised by Wednesday’s shooting in Ottawa.

“There is a huge gap between how a citizenry perceives of its own country and the reality of what its government is doing in the world,” he said. “The [citizenry] has been led to believe some pleasant version of the truth about itself that is actually completely at odds with the reality of what its government is engaged in.”

“When you don’t hear anything about who your government is killing […] then it is very easy to believe that most of the violence is directed at you, and that you are the victim of that violence and not the perpetrator.”

Greenwald said Wednesday’s reaction to the shooting echoed the U.S.’s response in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. Canadians, like Americans, he said, should question their government’s policy in the Middle East rather than speculate about the motives of the perpetrators.

“If you go to the Arab and Muslim world and ask people which country poses the greatest threat to peace […] they say overwhelmingly, two countries that are among the staunchest allies of Canada: the U.S. and Israel,” he said, referring to a worldwide opinion poll conducted last year by WIN/Gallup International.

Greenwald sparked controversy this week when he wrote about the October 20 hit-and-run attack on two Canadian soldiers for The Intercept – an online publication founded by Greenwald, filmmaker Laura Poitras, and journalist Jeremy Scahill, and funded by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar – arguing that Canadian military action was to blame for the attack. He acknowledged at Thursday’s talk that his comments might have been seen as offensive, but said that his role as a journalist wasn’t to “comfort people.”

“I wrote what I wrote as a corrective to this very distorted discourse,” he said. “When you don’t hear anything about who your government is killing […] then it is very easy to believe that most of the violence is directed at you, and that you are the victim of that violence and not the perpetrator.”

Greenwald also spoke at length about the importance of privacy and described the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA)’s mission as storing and “collecting all human communication.” A series of investigative articles has revealed the massive scope of the NSA’s surveillance program, with the information coming from documents leaked to Greenwald by Snowden over 15 months ago.

More documents would be published soon, Greenwald said.


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