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Marxist Perspectives for the Workers' Movement
#49 - August 13, 2005
CANADA'S GENERALS PROMOTE
GOVERNMENT'S WAR COURSE
Protests Called for September 24
Against Iraq, Afghanistan Occupations
By Roger Annis
The commander of Canada's armed forces, Gen. R.J. Hillier, is
speaking out boldly in support of the U.S.-led imperialist war effort
in the Middle East and Asia. He is spending the summer months on a
lecture circuit as the point man of the Canadian government's new,
more aggressive imperial foreign policy. Part of that role is to
prepare the country for more deaths of Canadian soldiers in
Two thousand Canadian soldiers are on their way to Kandahar in
Afghanistan. There they will join the front lines of an expanding war
led by the U.S. against those standing in the way of the foreign
occupation of that country. At a press conference on July 13 to
announce the Kandahar mission, Hillier told reporters of his views of
the July 7 bombings in London and the Canadian role in Afghanistan.
He described the perpetrators of the London bombings as "detestable
murderers and scumbags," and likened them to those opposing
imperialist occupation in Afghanistan. "They detest our freedoms,
they detest our society, they detest our liberties," he said. "We are
going to Afghanistan to actually take down [sic] the folks that are
trying to blow up men and women."
"We are the Canadian Forces, and our job is to be able to kill
Hillier describes the targets of the Canadian military as a "ball of
snakes," made up of terrorists, drug dealers and other "rogue"
elements. His message is that it's time to toss away the myth of
Canada as a "peacekeeper" in the world and pursue a far more
aggressive foreign policy centered on military conflict with the
country's perceived adversaries.
The commander believes that Canadian military policy must do more to
facilitate and promote investment opportunities for Canadian
capitalists. In a speech on July 22, Hillier likened Canada's
military interventions to recent trips by Canadian political and
business leaders to promote Canadian investments in "emerging
TWO DECADES OF SLAUGHTER
Another military spokesperson, Maj.-Gen. Andrew Leslie, bluntly posed
the price the Canadian people will pay for this military adventure in
a speech to the prestigious Couchiching Conference August 7, reported
in the Toronto Star.
Referring to Canada's occupation, he affirmed that "Afghanistan is a
20-year venture." The human cost will be heavy, he warned, but "there
are things worth dying for. There are things worth killing for." Nor
will Canada's civilian population be spared: "Every time you kill an
angry young man overseas, you're creating 15 more who will come after
you," he conceded. "You have to be prepared for the consequences."
Needless to say, neither of the generals referred to any evidence
that the Canadian people had asked for this crusade or approved it:
the federal government has conscripted us all for its war, and that
Former Canadian general and head of United Nations forces in
Yugoslavia, Lewis Mackenzie, wrote in the Globe and Mail on August
1, ".our military's role is to kill as efficiently as possible once
the political order has been given rather than participate
in `peacekeeping' missions that rarely meet the criteria for success."
GENERALS FOLLOW GOVERNMENT LEAD
The generals are speaking on behalf of a government that is carrying
out a dramatic shift in foreign policy. Their comments have received
enthusiastic support from the mouthpieces of corporate
Canada. "Canadians are going to war," enthused a July 16 editorial in
the Globe and Mail. "Like it or not, we are all in this together.
Bravo to [Hillier] for saying it."
Prime Minister Paul Martin and Anne McLellan, Minister of Public
Safety and Emergency Preparedness, have boosted the war course with
dire warnings that Canada will become a target of bombings similar to
those in London.
The groundwork for the new course was laid out by the government
earlier this year. In May, it released a policy statement
entitled "Canada's International Policy" that argued why Canada must
become a more aggressive imperial power in the world, and how it will
achieve that. Then in late June, the financial side of the policy was
approved when the government passed its much-delayed budget, with NDP
support. It contains a massive boost in military spending, adding
$12.8 billion over the next five years. (Planned military spending
for 2005 is $13.4 billion.)
POWERS TO SPY, DETAIN, TORTURE
Prior to the new international policy statement, the government had
already enacted "anti-terrorist" laws that give the police and courts
vast powers to spy on, arrest, and indefinitely detain those whom it
targets. New powers also take away rights and protections of people
living in Canada who are not citizens.
Police threats or intimidation against people of Muslim faith or
Middle Eastern origin have become commonplace in Canada since 2001.
Some have been deported, and there are currently five men who have
sat in jail for several years, or longer, with no charges laid.
Government and police pressure on Muslims has stepped up since the
July 7 bombings in London. Like the Blair government in Britain,
Canadian government spokespeople and newspaper editorials are arguing
that people of Islamic faith who do not aggressively condemn Muslims
labeled "terrorists" are themselves complicit in acts of violence.
(No such pressure is applied on people of other faiths who do not
condemn the violence and murders of Palestinians by the Israel
government, the torture and illegal detentions of people in U.S.
jails in Iraq and Guantanamo Bay, or the killings and lawlessness in
Haiti under the Canada-backed occupation.)
The public inquiry into the case of Maher Arar has shed light on how
the government applies these new powers. Arar, a Canadian citizen,
was kidnapped in New York City in 2002 by U.S. officials and then
flown to Syria, his country of birth, where he was detained and
tortured for nearly a year. As the inquiry revealed, his name was
given to U.S. authorities by Canada's national police, the RCMP, as a
possible "terrorism" suspect.
The Canadian government and its embassy officials in Syria did
nothing to protest or reverse Arar's kidnapping, and only moved to
request his return to Canada after a growing public campaign led by
his wife shamed them into action. At the inquiry, embassy and police
officials played dumb about the Syrian government's well-known track
record as one that practices torture.
The inquiry has also revealed that while the Canadian government
pretends on the world stage to oppose the use of torture, in fact it
joined with the United States in a now frequent practice
of "offshoring" torture by delivering detainees into the hands of
authorities that can be counted on to use such methods and report the
results. Canadian police have interrogated at least one detainee in
the U.S.-run concentration camp in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
AFGHANISTAN UNDER OCCUPATION
Although several thousand Canadian soldiers and political staff will
soon be occupying Afghanistan, there is virtually no newspaper
reporting in Canada on conditions there. The few articles that appear
are puff pieces by "embedded" reporters in U.S. or Canadian army
patrols. This is no coincidence. Four years after the occupation
began, following a short but bloody war, the country remains mired in
a social and humanitarian disaster.
Millions remain dependent on aid. According to the World Food
Program, at least 6.5 million people out of a population of 21
million are dependent on food aid, and famine is a recurring risk in
the most remote parts of the country. Only 25 per cent of the
country's population has access to safe drinking water and
sanitation. (At least eight people died of cholera, a water-borne
disease, in Kabul in June. Yet, Kabul is the one claimed success
story of the occupying powers.)
Of the $13 billion promised to Afghanistan in aid by countries around
the world, only $3.1 has been set aside for reconstruction or social
programs. The rest is earmarked for police and military spending. Two
million refugees still live in camps in neighboring countries, while
hundreds of thousands are living homeless or in makeshift
accommodation within the country.
Only 40 per cent of children are vaccinated against disease. One
fifth of children die before the age of five. Life expectancy is 44
years of age. There is one doctor in Afghanistan per 6,000 people.
Violence and lawlessness by occupying forces and their onetime allies
in the former Taliban is rampant. As a result, many aid agencies have
withdrawn from the country. Doctors Without Borders, which has worked
in Afghanistan since 1980, withdrew in 2004. It strongly criticized
the U.S.-led occupation coalition for using humanitarian aid as a
tool in its political and military aims, thus making aid workers
targets for anti-occupation fighters.
As in Haiti, the occupation forces in Afghanistan are allied with
many of the most right-wing elements in the society. Socially
progressive movements were largely destroyed during the years of U.S.
support to the rightist forces that came to form the Taliban
There are some 18,000 U.S. occupation troops in Afghanistan, and
another 5,000 from other imperialist countries. The latter are
serving under the command of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization
(NATO). Canadian soldiers will soon be the largest military
contingent in the NATO command.
Until now, the Canadian soldiers have served in the relatively safe
confines of Kabul and the surrounding area. In plunking themselves
down in Kandahar, they are taking their fight to an area of the
country where opposition to occupation is deeper. Part of Hillier's
speaking circuit is aimed at preparing the country for this. He is
polishing up his answers to the difficult questions that will be
asked when Canadian soldiers start to die.
The goal of the imperialist troop presence is to "pacify" Afghanistan
by "killing people" who oppose the foreign military occupation. In so
doing, the occupiers gain valuable military experience for use
elsewhere, and they gain Afghan soil as a staging ground for
intervention elsewhere in the region.
The countries that participate in the military effort in Afghanistan
and elsewhere in Asia and the Middle East are those most likely to
benefit from the exploitation of oil and human resources
if "stabilization" is achieved. That is the message coming out of
Washington, and Ottawa is acting accordingly, to advance its own
Another sign of Canada's commitment to this course is the deal it is
negotiating with the regime in the United Arab Emirates to allow it
to establish a permanent military base, right on the shores of the
LAYTON BACKS GOVERNMENT, HILLIER
While Hillier's war course has drawn criticism from many Canadians,
the leader of the New Democratic Party, the party to which many trade
unions are affiliated, has cheered him on. "A bit of strong language
in the circumstances; I don't find that to be wrong," said Jack
Layton on July 14.
The NDP opposed the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan, arguing that if
should have been waged under the auspices of the United Nations. It
took the same stand at the time of the Iraq war. But it supports the
Canadian participation in the Afghanistan occupation. Its
spokespeople usually evade the question of the ongoing U.S./British
occupation of Iraq. When party leaders discuss Iraq, they advocate
that the occupation be run by the UN.
Thankfully, many are not following the NDP's lead. In Vancouver,
Mobilization Against War and Opposition held two protest rallies in
July against Hillier's bellicose statements. The rallies were held at
the doors of the Armed Forces Recruiting Center in Vancouver, and
more are planned in August.
The Canadian Peace Alliance, a broad coalition based in Toronto, has
issued an appeal to join international protests on September 24
against the occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan. The appeal
states, "The Canadian Peace Alliance is calling on its member groups,
individuals and supporters to mobilize for a pan-Canadian day of
action against the wars of occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan and in
support of U.S. military war resisters on Saturday, September 24th,
The statement goes on, "In Canada, the federal government is moving
in exactly the opposite direction. They have doubled the military
budget and increased support for the U.S.-led 'war on terror' by
increasing troop levels in Afghanistan. As General Hillier's recent
belligerent comments indicate, Canada provides increasingly open
support for a broader campaign, led by the United States government,
to assert control over the Middle East region. Also, Canadian
corporations continue to profit from the war while people of Muslim
and Arab backgrounds, such as the 'Secret Trial Five,' face ongoing
harassment, intimidation and racial profiling."
The statement ends with the call, "End the wars of occupation in Iraq
and Afghanistan, Let the war resisters stay. All out September 24th!"
Many antiwar groups across Canada are taking up this appeal.
SOCIALIST VOICE is edited by Roger Annis and John Riddell. Readers
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