[Marxism] Canada's war drive in Afghanistan: A call for an Independent Public Inquiry

Ivan D. Drury ivanddrury at yahoo.ca
Mon Oct 3 02:21:15 MDT 2005

First appeared in:
Fire This Time Newspaper
Issue #26-27
September/October 2005
This article and more available online at:

Canada's Occupation of Afghanistan:

A Challenge to the Anti-War Movement in Canada

By Ivan Drury

It's already old news that never made the front page:
Canada has begun its war drive in Afghanistan.

When Canadian Chief of Defense Staff, General Rick
Hillier made his July 14th announcement that 2
Thousand more Canadian troops will be sent to
Afghanistan to "kill" "scumbags" and "murderers,"
Canada had already popped the cork on the third
anniversary of the occupation of Afghanistan with a
new "National Defense" plan, the first in 20 years, a
doubled military budget reaching $24Billion in two
years, and a new goal of an 8 Thousand soldier
addition to the military. Hillier's statement was
greeted with nods of approval by every single major
political party in Canada, and, for the most part, the
leadership of the anti-war movement said, "I gotta go
to the bathroom," and skipped out on voting for or
against either way.

Hillier's statements were not isolated ramblings of a
racist phantom of the House of Commons who had slipped
out of his attic prison long enough to hold a press
conference and give the government a black eye. He is
the head of the Canadian military and in his words we
can glimpse the plans of future wars that his
unanimous parliamentarian backers were not so bold as
to share with the majority of people in Canada. It is
here that the anti-war movement in Canada finds its
real work, and the groups that head up this movement
better prepare for a lot of overtime. In issue #25 of
Fire This Time, we proposed, for this task, taking up
a call for an Independent Public Inquiry into the
Canadian war drive in Afghanistan. Here, we will
investigate this question further.

The purpose of an Independent Public Inquiry into
Canada's Afghanistan affair is simple: It is to build
an effective anti-war movement in Canada against
Canadian imperialism. The announced deployment of
troops to Afghanistan has been shrouded in secrecy,
and there is a desperate need for an investigation to
be conducted into exactly how and why this war drive
has been started unanimously by the government of
Canada. Beyond this, the Canadian occupation of
Afghanistan and the Canadian war drive will have a
terrible impact on the lives and rights of every
single working and poor person in Canada.

At the same time, the Canadian war drive in
Afghanistan presents an opportunity to build the
effective anti-war movement so badly needed for
working and poor people to face this crisis. In order
for working and poor people in Canada to mobilize
against the Canadian war drive we all must first
understand that it is in our interest to take on this
struggle. People in Canada must stand united against
Canadian imperialism. Currently, there is a vast gap
between what must be and what is. We call for an
Independent Public Inquiry to bridge this gap.

Problems with the anti-war movement in Canada and the
difference between the anti-war movement in the US and
in Canada

It is true that the occupations of Afghanistan, Iraq
and Haiti were, for the most part, "Made in the USA."
Because of this, the effects of the occupations of
Afghanistan, Iraq and Haiti have been felt most
deeply, first by the people of Afghanistan, Iraq and
Haiti themselves for obvious reasons, and second, by
people in the US. The conditions of poverty and
desperation that have accompanied the US war drive
into the US itself are nudging up and getting familiar
with poor and working people in Canada as well.

Increasingly, people in the US (and the UK) are seeing
things from the same perspective as people in
Afghanistan and Iraq: that the imperialist ruling
class is their enemy. In Afghanistan and Iraq, the
imperialists run the show thanks to the power of their
occupying armies. In the US, they operate through
police forces, offices and congress directly. The
difference is that this direct rule is carried out
with the "consent" of people in the US. Hurricane
Katrina and the disaster in New Orleans unearthed a
lot of questions about the meaning of this "consent"
and the question of whose interests the US Government
really represent, but the lack of representation in
the US Government for working and poor people in the
US has always been clear. The numbers of those living
in deep poverty in the US has increased by more than
1.5million families since 2000. Forty-five million
people in the US live without Medicare. Full
unemployment in the US sits at around 5.5%, but that
number doesn't tell the whole story when you consider
that of the nearly 24million people over the age of 17
who live in poverty in the US, 88% of them work full
time, year round. The war and occupation of Iraq and
Afghanistan has not improved the lives of the vast
majority of people in the US in any way - actually
quite the opposite.

On top of this, since the invasion of Afghanistan and
then Iraq, the US ruling class has used the "war on
terror" to justify massive attacks on the democratic
rights of immigrants, refugees, non-status people,
women and all working people in the US. It is
increasingly difficult for people in the US to accept
that the occupation of Iraq is in their interest, let
alone worth sacrificing the lives of 2,000 young
people who have been recruited out of poverty into the
army… or the lives of upwards of 150,000 Iraqis.

The result of the connections between the war in
Afghanistan, Iraq and Haiti and the conditions for
working and poor people in the US has resulted in a
widespread anti-war sentiment, the emergence of
symbols of the 'regular American' against the war like
Cindy Sheehan and the sharp decline of approval
ratings for the biggest symbol of the US war drive -
President George W. Bush.

Obstacles to building an effective anti-war movement
in Canada

>From the beginning, the anti-war movement in the US
has confronted home-country imperialism directly,
whether different political tendencies in the movement
wanted to or not; there is no escaping it. However, in
Canada, the problems of building an effective anti-war
movement have been even more complicated than in the
US. Since the first major anti-war demonstrations of
the era, November 17th 2002, the focus has been on the
US war drive, and for the most part, Canadian
imperialism has been overlooked, sidelined, or denied.

The main obstacle facing the development of an
effective anti-war movement in Canada is that working
and poor people in Canada are disoriented over the
question of whose rights the government of Canada
represent. By and large working people in Canada are
confused about the power base of the government of
Canada and about the relationship between Canada and
the US. This confusion takes shape in the confused
brand of Canadian nationalism so common in the
anti-war movement and amongst millions of working
people in Canada. These (mostly well-meaning) people
state, without ever being completely convinced, that
Canada is basically good, and the US is basically bad;
and they search constantly for proof of this
conclusion after it has already been made. So where
does this idea come from?

The root of this confusion is itself the other major
obstacle to the building of an independent anti-war
movement in Canada, as well as any other movement for
social justice and real change. Canadian Nationalism
is promoted directly from the mouths of the major
leaders of working and poor people in Canada. They say
that they want to protect "Canadian sovereignty"
against the US and they never explain that this
sovereignty means the suppression of the rights of
Indigenous people and the Quebecois. They certainly
never outline how the "sovereignty" of this
imperialist country depends upon and demands the
routine theft of the products and wealth produced
through the labour of every single worker in Canada by
the rich classes or the invasion and occupation of
oppressed nations like Afghanistan and Haiti.

The Government of Canada is the enemy of working
people at home and abroad

The government of Canada is the executive management
body of the ruling class of Canada. The governmental
actions, policies and laws that have brought the
Canadian war drive and occupation of Afghanistan will
not contradict the attacks on unions and workers by
Telus, Sodexho, Teck-Cominco and so many other
capitalist businesses across Canada. In fact, it is
the symmetry of these simultaneous attacks that we
refer to when we say, "Stop the war at home and

Within Canada itself, from coast to coast, after the
federal government neatly offloaded social services
locally, all social programs have come under the knife
by reactionary provincial governments. The Liberal
government in BC is a perfect example, but the same
could be said for Alberta, Ontario, Newfoundland, and
even Quebec. Social Housing, welfare, Women's centres,
Legal Aid; one by one they have been cut back or
eliminated. Then on a federal and provincial level,
the attacks began on first the public and then private
sector unions. The Hospital Employees Union, the
Telecommunication Workers Union, Canadian Media Guild
have all gone on strike for what? Against contracting
out. For the protection of union jobs. Basically, for
the right of the unions to exist and represent the
workers at all. At the same time, the democratic
rights of the most vulnerable people in Canada have
been crushed like a rib cage beneath the treads of a
bulldozer. Security certificates, secret trials, the
new immigration and refugee protection act, the safe
third country agreement; all aimed at the rights of
immigrants, refugees and non-status people.

Some of these domestic attacks have come under
criticism from some of the major political parties,
like the NDP, but these criticisms have always been a
matter of degree: "Too deep" / "Too much" / "Too fast"
etc… The Canadian war drive in Afghanistan was not
even subjected to that sort of token criticism. The
doubling of the Canadian military budget, the new
"International Policy Statement" released in May of
this year that laid out a policy of "advancing
Canada's position" on the world stage beyond it's
historic "middle power status", the planned addition
of 5,000 new fulltime and 3,000 new reserve soldiers
to the Canadian army, and the deployment of 2,000 more
troops to Afghanistan; all carried through without a
dissenting vote or even a public show of

The more severe the economic cancer, the more deeply
the surgical knife of the ruling class must cut into
the flesh of working people to extract power and
profit. The National Bank of Canada and the chief
economist-doctors of all the powerful countries in the
world have diagnosed this current economic crisis as
malignant and potentially fatal. The ruling class and
their governments in Canada, the US and every
imperialist country in the world have prescribed the
painful blood-letting of working, poor and oppressed
people in Afghanistan and in Canada as remedy.

To make matters worse, these are the remedies of a
dark ages alchemist. None of the suffering these
'solutions' have caused, or will cause, will stop the
growth of the economic cancer. For all the schooling
and think-tank institutions of the government of
Canada, they have misdiagnosed the source of the
disease. They themselves are the cancer that is
bringing war, occupation, death, destruction and
suffering to the majority of the people in the world.

To destroy this cancer is the job of working and poor
people in Canada and throughout the world. But before
that is possible, we must overcome the barriers to
building an effective movement for the rights and
lives of working and poor people internationally,
independent of the government and ruling class in
Canada. The nationalist ideology of "Canadian
sovereignty" blocks the necessary understanding of the
government of Canada as being just as opposed to the
interests of working and poor people in Canada as the
government of the US is. Canadian nationalism tells
working people in Canada that the ruling class is "on
your side" and the Afghan people are "scumbags,"
"murderers" and "terrorists," who "detest our
freedoms, they detest our society, they detest our
liberties." (Gen. Hillier, July 14) Nothing could be
further from the truth. Canadian nationalism also
blocks the necessary understanding of the Canadian
troop deployment to Afghanistan for what it is: the
beginning of the Canadian war drive.

Why an Independent Public Inquiry into the Canadian
war drive in Afghanistan?

First: We maintain that the most important struggle of
the anti-war movement in Canada is against
Canadian-home-country-imperialism. It is through the
demands of "Canada out of Afghanistan," "Canada out of
Haiti," and "Self Determination for Indigenous Nations
in Canada" that the anti-war movement in Canada can
make its most effective contribution to the
international struggle against war and occupation and
for the self determination of all oppressed nations.
This is just as true as that the anti-war movement in
the US can be most effective in fighting against US
imperialism. A victory against the Canadian occupation
of Afghanistan would put all oppressed people fighting
for self determination in a better position against
imperialism. At the same time, a struggle for the
right of oppressed nations to self determination
furthers the struggles of working, poor and oppressed
people within Canada for self determination for
Indigenous Nations in Canada and for Quebec and for
social justice.

Second: Because their war drive is their central
campaign to "further" Canadian-imperialist interests
on the "world stage," the Canadian war drive has been
launched as a unanimous campaign of the Canadian
ruling class that was passed through the so-called
"democratic" parliament in secret. Is it probable that
if they had debated it in public and even engaged in
"consultations" across the country that they would
have rammed their war drive through anyway? Yes. But
if they had made their occupation of Afghanistan and
their war drive an issue in Canada, then they would
have made the work of the anti-war movement much
easier. That is, they would have risked their bombs
igniting, along with the remaining homes of people in
Kandahar, Afghanistan, the opposition of working, poor
and oppressed people in Canada against them.

This requires an equally unanimous campaign by working
and poor people in Canada against this war drive. To
do this, the anti-war movement has to correct the deep
misunderstanding that exists about Canada as a
"peacekeeping" country; that "Canada's sovereignty" is
at risk from the US, and so on. A rigorous education
campaign must be undertaken by the anti-war movement
to overcome the lies that the US is the only problem
in the world or that the wars and occupations that
plague humanity can be attributed all to the bad
character of one or two men, like Bush and Cheney.

An Independent Public Inquiry into the Canadian war
drive in Afghanistan would not be a solution to the
problem of the occupation or the war at home and
abroad, but it would provide a necessary starting
point. It is necessary to educate working people
across Canada about the occupation, and to do this it
is necessary to make the occupation of Afghanistan
into a major issue for Canada - like Iraq for the US.
To make it an issue, it is necessary to bring together
all people and organizations against war and
occupation into a united campaign to ask the questions
demanded by the new Canadian war drive:

Why was the decision to send 2,000 more Canadian
troops passed through parliament without public

Why are 25Billion tax dollars annually, and currently
$47Million a day, being turned over to the Canadian
military while the government cuts social programs?

Who decides how tax dollars are spent in Canada?

Is the occupation of Afghanistan legal? According to

Although slow to respond, some elements of the
leadership of the anti-war movement in Canada is
beginning to ask these questions. The "Canadian Peace
Alliance," the country-wide network of the largely
NDP-supporting anti-war movement, has released the
program for their annual conference this November and
its main theme is, "Canada's role in empire… and how
the movement can stop it." This may be the positive
sign of the beginning of a polarization within the
NDP, between the rank and file and the leadership that
has pulled too far to the right for the working
membership to follow any farther.

Through the call for an Independent Public Inquiry
into the Canadian war drive in Afghanistan, all these
millions of people who dream of real, revolutionary
change could come together against this central
campaign of the Canadian ruling class. An Independent
Public Inquiry take advantage of the Canadian war
drive in Afghanistan to expose the government of
Canada as anti-democratic war mongers and could build
the movement needed to fill the howling vacuum heard
by millions of working, poor and oppressed people in
Canada over the question of ""But what can I do?"

The Canadian war drive that begins in Afghanistan
comes as a tragedy for the Afghan people who continue
to struggle against the occupation of their country,
for their self determination and as a crisis for the
millions of people in Canada who demand money for
housing, health care, social services, and education,
not war and occupation. But we cannot afford to miss
the opportunity embedded in this tragedy. The Canadian
war drive also comes as a challenge to the anti-war
movement in Canada; it is a challenge is to act.





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