November 11, 2014 - No. 94
The Canadian People Say "Never
Again!" Harper Says "Again and Again!"
• The Canadian People Say "Never Again!";
Harper Says "Again and Again!" - Dougal MacDonald
• Oppose Pro-Imperialist Pro-War Conception of
Remembrance - Windsor Peace Coalition
• Canadian Veterans Denounce Harper Government
for Using Remembrance Day for Shameful Self-Promotion -
• Has Canada Left Its Wounded Veterans in the
Lurch? - National Association of Federal Retirees Magazine
• The First World War: The Real Lessons of This
Savage Imperial Bloodbath - Seumas Milne
The Canadian People Say "Never Again!";
Harper Says "Again and Again!"
Each year from November 9-11, the Harper dictatorship
steps up its rhetoric promoting aggressive war. This will again be the
case when the government makes its annual statement on November 11. The
disinformation begins with euphoric reference to the fall of the Berlin
Wall in order to hide the fact it continued
the resurrection of a re-armed Germany with the Nazi-supporting
corporate monopolies restored to power, and then ramps up from there,
culminating in ceremonies on Remembrance Day, November 11. Conspicuous
by its absence is any reference to November 9 as the anniversary of
Crystal Night when the Nazis
announced to the world their intention to exterminate the Jews. The aim
of the pro-war rhetoric is diametrically opposed to the collective call
of "Never Again!" by the world's peoples after World War I and
reiterated after World War II. It is not to honour the war dead with a
commitment to assiduously oppose
aggression and war as a means to resolving conflicts so that no more
lives are lost, but to provide a rationale for the Harper government's
continuing commitment to aggressive war in the service of the
monopolies and U.S. imperialism.
The Harper government has an
established reputation as a war government. In 2003, while in
opposition, the Harper Conservatives openly supported the U.S.-led
invasion of Iraq. Since coming to power in 2006, the Harper
Conservatives have, among other things, expanded Canada's involvement
in one aggressive
war, the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan, and embroiled Canada in two
further U.S.-led wars, the wrecking of Libya and the bombing of the
sovereign nation of Syria under the hoax of fighting ISIS. The Harper
government also unabashedly supports the Zionist regime in Israel, and
does its best to whitewash the
genocidal war crimes of the Zionists' occupation of Palestine as
"self-defence." In that vein, the Harper government, which claims to
oppose the Canadians going abroad to become "foreign fighters," has no
objection to the approximately 145 Canadians who have illegally
enlisted in the Israeli Defense Forces, because
such activity serves its narrow agenda.
To promote his warmongering
cause, Harper has been cynically distorting events surrounding the
recent tragic deaths of Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent and Corporal
Nathan Cirillo. Taking advantage of the fact that
many people are
disturbed by these events, Harper is using them to try to incite
fuel tensions, when what is required is to go objectively into the
heart of the matter and appeal to all people to draw warranted
conclusions and unite on that basis. The hard facts show that it is the
actions of the Harper government both at home and abroad which pose the
greatest danger to society at this time, not
those of a few marginalized individuals. The racist targeting of
mentally ill and socially displaced people in the name of high ideals
is the utmost barbarism.
In contrast to the disinformation of the Harperites,
Nathan Cirillo's own partner made a public statement on November 3
which drew attention to the role played in the events by Harper's
anti-social offensive which continues to decimate Canada's social
programs. She stated: "What we SHOULD be talking about
is the dismal state of mental healthcare in our country. What that
deeply disturbed man killing my boyfriend SHOULD make Canadians focus
on is how we can PREVENT another event like this through more
accessible and effective mental health treatment programs that target
the REAL source of this tragedy."
The pro-Harper monopoly media immediately tried to discredit her
statement by calling it "emotional."
In light of the Harper government's fundamental
disrespect for veterans in the past year, it hard to view its
grandiloquence in memorializing these two soldiers with anything but
utmost cynicism. How does one reconcile such high-sounding words with
the government's anti-social offensive that includes cuts to
Veterans Affairs and the neglect and mistreatment of those who return
from deployment with deep physical and psychological wounds? The
message seems to be, the only good soldiers are the ones who either
return unscathed or in body bags.
Image posted to Facebook
group for Canadian Veterans Advocacy, October 25, 2014.
In addition to its warmongering approach to Remembrance
Day, the Harper dictatorship has been creating a cross-Canada
jingoistic campaign which was exemplified in the 2011 Remembrance Day
speech by Jason Kenney, then Minister for Citizenship, Immigration and
Multiculturalism. Kenney's speech was
mainly a presentation of a chronological list of wars, almost all of
which, with the exclusion of the Second World War, were wars of
aggression. In his list of unjust wars to "commemorate" on Remembrance
Day, Kenney included the colonialist government's crushing of the 1885
Northwest Rebellion, the Boer Wars
which attempted to consolidate British colonial power in southern
Africa, the First World War which was mainly a war to redivide the
world among the imperialist states, the Korean war which was U.S.-led
aggression against the people of Korea, and the ongoing U.S.-led
criminal aggression against the people of
Afghanistan. This disinformation and distortion of history by claiming
that unjust wars are really just wars is very deliberate.
There is no doubt that the rendering of Remembrance Day
most supported by the Canadian people, including the veterans, is the
honouring of the members of the armed forces who died defending the
people, in order to emphasize the need for peace and to highlight the
aim of humanity to put an end to aggressive
war. The Canadian people are against war. But the Harperites'
Remembrance Day is in the service of war, not peace. The main aspect of
its disinformation is to conflate the just anti-fascist cause of World
War II -- in which the world's people, led by the Soviet Union,
defeated the Nazis and their allies -- with all
the wars in which Canada has fought. The Harper dictatorship's sinister
aim in all this is to glorify the use of military force as a means of
settling disputes in the world. While the sentiment of the Canadian
working class and people, many of whose family members made the supreme
sacrifice to defeat the Hitlerites
and their allies, is "Never again," the Harper government's aim is
"Again and again" in support of U.S. imperialism's endless wars and
quest for world domination.
To boot, the Harper government wants to rehabilitate the
memory of Nazi war criminals by building an anti-communist monument in
their memory in Ottawa. It all underscores the
cynical abuse of Remembrance Day and the sacrifice of
those who died in the fight against fascism by the Harper
its nefarious ends.
Today, the Harperites continue to
beat the drums of aggressive war against Syria and Iraq. Six warplanes
were recently sent to the Middle East. This shows that in their service
to the monopolies and the U.S. imperialists, the Harperites will pursue
the further pointless sacrifice of Canadian forces personnel and
contribute to the slaughter of the people of any sovereign countries
which the U.S. imperialists decide should be invaded. But contrary to
what Harper is saying, the violation of international law abroad and
the violation of rights at home through more draconian "security" laws
will not make Canadians any safer.
The Canadian people, who oppose aggressive war, must continue to oppose
Harper's agenda and call for disputes among nations to be settled by
peaceful means. They must continue to work hard to prevent future
aggressive adventures by organizing themselves to form an anti-war
government. The upcoming federal
election will be an excellent opportunity to put forward and act on the
slogan, "Canada Needs an Anti-War Government!"
1. The 721 brave Canadians who died in the Spanish Civil
War "illegally" fighting fascism and Nazism prior to the outbreak of
the Second World War are not included in the Books of Remembrance in
the Peace Tower and their sacrifice is not commemorated on federal war
memorials or in Remembrance Day
2. The Armed Forces reported on November 10 that two of
their locations have been named after the two soldiers tragically
killed in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu on October 20 and in Ottawa at the
War Memorial on October 22. "One of the locations of Air Task Force --
Iraq (ATF-I) has been named Camp Vincent, in honour of Royal Canadian
Air Force (RCAF) Warrant Officer Vincent. Likewise, the operations base
of Canadian Special Operations Forces Command (CANSOFCOM) in Iraq is
now called Patrol Base Cirillo, in honour of Corporal Cirillo, a
Canadian Army Reserve soldier with The Argyll and Sutherland
Highlanders of Canada," an Armed Forces press release informed." "The
naming of Patrol Base Cirillo by members of the Special Operations Task
Force -- Iraq, and the naming of Camp Vincent by members of Air Task
Force -- Iraq, pays tribute to the loss of two Canadian Armed Forces
members in recent weeks," said Brigadier-General Michael Rouleau,
Commander of Canadian Special Operations Forces Command. "Camp Vincent
honours a member who exemplified helping others as a member of the
Joint Personnel Support Unit. PB CIRILLO honours a soldier who was
standing guard protecting those who could no longer protect themselves
and he sought no recognition for this service. The officers and
troopers of CANSOFCOM felt an inherent link to our own identity in that
sense. The naming of our PB and the air operations base honours the
sacrifice of these two members and Canada's commitment to confront
threats to our nation."
Meanwhile, in his Remembrance Day statement, Prime Minister Harper made
a spurious link between the two killings in Canada and the Iraq mission
and the so-called war on terror, to justify aggression abroad and the
violation of rights at home: "The recent deadly attacks on Warrant
Officer Patrice Vincent and Corporal Nathan Cirillo, who were targeted
simply because they proudly wore this uniform, only strengthens
Canada's resolve to keep fighting against those who would deny our
liberties and freedoms, and who have a complete disregard for human
"We can never repay the debt we owe to the intrepid men and women who
paid for our freedom with their lives, but we can remember their
enormous sacrifices and pay tribute to their bravery and patriotism.
'Lest we forget.'"
3. See "Anti-Communist
Crusade Promotes Cause of Nazi
SS," by Dougal MacDonald, TML Daily, May 29, 2014 - No. 57.
Oppose a Pro-Imperialist, Pro-War
Notion of Remembrance
Remembrance Day began in 1919 as Armistice Day in the
Commonwealth to commemorate those killed in World War One. According to
a history of the day featured in major Canadian media outlets, in
Canada "it has evolved into a tribute to all military dead and a
celebration of the Canadian Forces
in general." The Harper government is using the occasion to tell us the
tragic events in Ottawa and St-Jean-sur-Richelieu Quebec must be front
of mind as it pushes ahead with its agenda of aggression under U.S.
command abroad and the militarization of life and trampling of rights
at home in the name of a so-called
war against terrorism. Since November 11 is a day for remembering, let
Lessons of the First and Second World Wars
World War was an imperialist war of conquest that was a terrible
slaughter of the working people of the combatant countries. Included
among the 37 million military and civilian casualties were more than
66,000 Canadian lives sacrificed plus
an estimated 172,000 wounded for the sake of the British empire. It was
anything but "the war to end all wars," with the treaty that ended it
creating conditions for the rise of Nazism and Germany's aggression and
expansionism that led to World War Two, also known as the Great
The Nuremberg Trials.
Lessons learned and the millions of lives sacrificed in
led to a realization of the need for a mechanism to prevent wars of
aggression from recurring. The United Nations was founded in 1945 for
that purpose, established on principles that included the equality of
nations, respect for state sovereignty
and non-intervention in the internal affairs of sovereign states.
Another post-World War Two accomplishment was the
holding of the
Nuremberg International Military Tribunals which rendered judgment on
prominent members of the military, political and economic leadership of
Nazi Germany for engaging in war crimes, not letting off those who
claimed they were "only
following orders." The Nuremberg Principles that emerged from the
trials established that launching a war of aggression constituted the
supreme international war crime.
Korea and Vietnam
Not five years after the founding
of the UN and the judgments at Nuremberg, through a manipulated vote at
the Security Council the United States managed to violate those
principles in order to attack Korea in a war of aggression that Canada
also joined. It resulted in the death
of some 3 million civilians. The U.S. carpet-bombed the north, laying
waste to its cities and countryside -- all in the name of fighting
communism half a world away from its shores. To this day the U.S.
refuses to sign a peace treaty with the Democratic People's Republic of
Korea to finally put an end to the war
and continues with a brutal regime of sanctions against it. Not long
after its aggression in Korea the U.S. attacked Vietnam as well as
Cambodia and Laos, again "to save the world from communism."
Today's Challenge --
Remembering and Drawing Conclusions from the Facts
the likes of Harper, Obama and others are falsifying the history of
wars past and present to make it less obvious that they have dispensed
with the anti-war principles on which the UN was founded and the
for enforcing them that constitute international law. According to them
these principles and mechanisms established "to save succeeding
generations from the scourge of war," as the preamble to the UN Charter
states, are out of date, along with the lessons of history from which
Pressure is being put on Canadians that they can be
troops to participate in today's U.S.-led wars of aggression and regime
change if they like, but they better not actively oppose the missions,
even when conditions are being created for another world war like the
calamity unleashed a hundred
years ago, this time with Canada's military fully integrated with the
U.S. war machine and at the service of the U.S. project of world
domination, crushing those that stand in its way.
Let us not forget that despite whatever role it had in
Canada's status and identity at the time, the First World War,
celebrated by our pro-war Prime Minister as having been fought "so that
right would prevail and so that Canadians and other peoples would have
the opportunity to live in peace and freedom"
was in fact an unjustified slaughter of the working people on all sides
so the big powers of Europe could re-divide the world among themselves
for their own gain at the expense of their rivals.
Let us reflect, remember and arrive at our own
allowing false memories to replace facts so "Lest We Forget" takes on
its full significance. This means taking into account knowledge that
may become part of public consciousness only years after the fact, when
its suppression to keep a useful
myth alive is no longer possible, as happened in the case of the U.S.
aggression against Vietnam and even if less widely known, Korea, as
well as Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and elsewhere more recently.
The same goes for the whole so-called war on terror that
high gear after the events of 9/11 and continues to this day with no
end in sight. What has been its legacy so far -- in Iraq and other
countries of the Middle East, in Afghanistan and other parts of Asia,
in Africa, inside the U.S. and other countries,
including Canada? What problems has it solved? Has it made the world a
more secure and peaceful place? Is more of the same something Canadians
should rally behind as we are being pushed to do?
Today attempts are being made to implant fear of an
in the minds of Canadians, pitting them against one another on a racist
basis. The criminalization of dissent and trampling of rights is being
ramped up as new U.S.-led wars of aggression are launched, with Canada
participating. Under these
conditions, keeping alive and passing on to younger generations the
facts of the wars and conflicts Canada has been and is a part of, free
from any imposed conclusions or amnesia to justify a pro-war agenda,
will contribute to taking up the challenge posed to us by the
circumstances: how to extricate Canada from
the U.S. war machine and establish an anti-war government that
renounces the use of force to settle conflicts, upholds the
international rule of law and the sacred cause of peaceful coexistence
and equality amongst nations big and small.
To contact the Windsor Peace Coalition e-mail:
Canadian Veterans Denounce Harper Government for Using
Remembrance Day for Shameful Self-Promotion
Windsor, January 31, 2014
In the past few weeks the Harper government has spent
dollars on television ads depicting Canada's participation in the two
world wars as well as other wars in which the Canadian Armed Forces
were involved. Without providing any context or providing any
educational value for the important historical
events, the ads' only purpose seem to be win public support for the
troops who are shown making enormous sacrifices fighting foreign foes
to "defend our freedom" and "the Canadian way of life."
During this time the government has also gone out of its
way to use
the tragic events of the week of October 20 in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu
and at the War Memorial in Ottawa where two soldiers were killed, to
show their total dedication and care for members of the Canadian Armed
But Canadian veterans have made it clear that they are
not fooled by
these cynical attempts of the government to use the suffering of
veterans to get support for their policies. A newly formed coalition of
veterans' groups announced in a November 6 press conference that it
will boycott all government photo-ops
and participation in news releases until Ottawa improves its treatment
The newly formed Canada Coalition for Veterans cited
health and retirement benefits for injured soldiers and those dealing
with mental health issues, the closure of Veterans Affairs' offices
across Canada and lack of government support for veterans' families.
Sean Bruyea, a Gulf War veteran who sued the government
medical files were leaked, said members of the new coalition group will
boycott all government photo-ops and refuse to be quoted in press
releases until Ottawa improves its "inefficient" and "discriminatory"
Michael Blais, the president and founder of Canadian
Veterans Advocacy, said the boycott is just the beginning.
"We plan on stepping it up and using every democratic
tool in our arsenal during the election period," he told CTV's Power
Blais said the Canada Coalition for Veterans wants to
"Canadians understand that our veterans are being treated -- especially
our modern veterans -- with a standard that does not reflect the sacred
obligation that this nation owes to those who have sacrificed so much."
Don Leonardo, another advocate whose group, Veterans of
part of the coalition, said Remembrance Day is a "perfect opportunity"
for the government to reconsider its treatment of veterans and "tell us
how you'll take care of us."
During the past year veterans' organizations have
refusal by the Harper government to address their serious concerns.
They pointed out that the federal government closed a number of
Veterans Affairs offices across the country, despite protests from
veterans and citizens to keep them open. There
have been distressing reports of soldier suicides and increases in the
numbers of soldiers suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
Furthermore many injured soldiers are medically released by the
Department of National Defence before they qualify for a pension at 10
years of service and that the federal government
has refused to address demands for immediate improvements to benefits
and services for injured veterans and their families under the New
Veterans Charter. As well, the Conservative government just introduced
another omnibus budget bill with no mention about additional supports
or enhanced expenditures for veterans
and their families.
The so-called New Veterans Charter has been opposed by
day one. On June 4, hundreds of veterans from all over the country
protested on Parliament Hill demanding the immediate repeal of the
Veterans Charter which eliminates the veterans' pension and replaces it
with a one-time lump sum payment.
The veterans said they feel betrayed by the government. They denounced
the government's spending of millions of dollars on television ads that
describe the government's services that veterans, say are totally
inadequate to meet the needs of injured and disabled veterans and their
Veterans rally on
Parliament Hill, June 4, 2014.
Pat Stogran, who was appointed as the first ombudsman
(2007-2010) spoke at the rally, saying that his experience in
representing veterans was very frustrating and he was totally
disillusioned by dealing with a "deceitful and disgraceful government."
He called for the immediate repeal of the Veterans
Charter and demanded that a Royal Commission of Inquiry be established
to investigate the injustices to veterans carried out through the
activities of the Department of Veterans Affairs. The organizers
concluded the rally saying, "This will not be just a one-day event, as
we plan on staying as long as it takes!" Another
series of events are being planned by veterans and their organizations
June 4-7, 2015 on Parliament Hill.
The reality of what the veterans call a "total breach of
the disinformation about their conditions which the Harper government
spreads at every opportunity is the real issue which needs to be
addressed on the occasion of Remembrance Day 2014 to truly honour those
veterans and their families who
have suffered as a result of past wars.
Has Canada Left Its Wounded Veterans in the Lurch?
Protest against closure of
Veterans Affairs offices, Sydney, NS, January 28, 2014.
Long before Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino
went missing in action in January at a scheduled meeting with veterans
who were hoping to save a crucial element of their benefits, a
controversy had been raging in the courts over what Canada owes the
wounded men and women who have served in its
Strangely enough, it pits
Canadian veterans against a
federal government that has made the military a centrepiece of its
political message. Former partners now look at each other across a
divide of anger and suspicion -- and a sense of betrayal.
Veterans argue that there is
a social covenant, or contract, that Ottawa is breaking with the New
Veterans Charter (NVC) that came into force in 2006. Under the NVC,
veterans are awarded a lump sum payment for non-economic losses, such
as the loss of limbs. The maximum payout is $301,000.
As of September 2013, only 148 people have received the
maximum since 2006. The average award is $45,000. Under the old system,
disabled soldiers were eligible for a tax-free pension for life of
On the other side of the debate is a government
insisting there is no social covenant or contract with veterans that
obliges Ottawa to follow the policies of earlier governments. Focused
on balancing the budget before the next federal election, the Harper
government has made deep cuts to every department. There
was no special dispensation for veterans.
Conservative MPs voted unanimously to not exempt
Veterans Affairs (VA) from those cuts, targeting the department for
$226 million in cuts between 2011 and 2014. Those cuts represented a 30
per cent reduction in VA administrative funding -- one of the deepest
cuts to the operations of any department. For
implementing the cuts, senior VA bureaucrats received bonuses totaling
roughly $700,000 in 2011.
The Royal Canadian Legion, and veterans advocates like
former lieutenant-general and newly-retired senator Romeo Dallaire,
Senator Wilfred Moore and Sean Bruyea, say that Ottawa bears a historic
obligation to make sure no veteran is left in financial difficulty or
mustered out of the military because of a diagnosis
of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
"In civilian workplace compensation," says Bruyea,
"government is obligated to care for and compensate the disability for
life. Why should the standard be any less for the military?"
Senator Moore agrees: "This is a national disgrace. A
lot of us have people buried over there, and I absolutely think that
there is a social contract to look after our veterans. After all, they
looked after us."
This is no mere academic debate. Roughly 40,000
Canadians served in Afghanistan, Canada's largest deployment since the
Second World War. Although the final count won't be in for some time,
2,179 of them came back with serious physical or mental injuries.
Before the budget cuts, they received treatment
at Veterans Affairs offices spread across the country. The VA offices
are staffed by trained professionals who deal with the most common
operational stress injuries: PTSD and depression. In the most difficult
cases, the services are delivered in home visits.
Veterans suffering from PTSD are constantly on edge,
sleepless, anxious and depressed. There is no pill to dispel the
ravages of the condition. Soldiers afflicted with PTSD often use drugs
or alcohol to fight off the demons. While cognitive behavioural therapy
helps, the road back is long and difficult. There
are no shortcuts and you can't put the process on a clock.
The suicide rate in the Canadian forces is more than
twice as high as in the British armed forces, which is three times
larger. Thirteen Canadian soldiers killed themselves in 2013 and, as of
April, there have been eight suspected suicides in the Canadian Forces
since the beginning of 2014. These grim statistics
only apply to military personnel on active duty, not veterans, so the
real number is likely higher.
That was why the veterans set up their meeting with
Fantino. They wanted him to reverse the decision to close what they
consider to be part of an essential service to disabled veterans --
their VA offices. When the minister finally appeared -- 70 minutes late
-- he walked into a hornet's nest.
The veterans weren't buying his claim that he had been
delayed by an important cabinet meeting, and they were furious when he
told them that their services would improve -- even though Ottawa was
closing nine VA offices across Canada and the decision was final.
How, the veterans wondered, could service get better
when $3.8 million had been cut from VA funding? How does forcing a
veteran in Thunder Bay to drive to Winnipeg to find his nearest VA
office constitute 'better service'?
A delegation of veterans
from across Canada arrives on Parliament Hill to meet with Minister of
Veterans Affairs Julian Fantino, January 28, 2014, only to be treated
The meeting ended badly; one media report said the
minister left the meeting "in a huff" after one of the veterans
described his explanation of the office closures as "hogwash." The next
day Fantino apologized -- and then promptly got into hot water a second
time by accusing the veterans of being dupes of the
Public Service Alliance of Canada. PSAC members staff the VA offices
and 70 of them were going to lose their jobs. Speaking from a shuttered
VA office in Cape Breton, Alfie Burt, formerly of the Royal Canadian
Armoured Corps, captured the mood of many veterans: "What the frig is
wrong with that guy?"
In the opinion of Dallaire, there's a lot wrong. He
believes that Ottawa is contemplating getting the gum of veterans'
expenditures off its shoe. Canada spends $3.5 billion annually on
services for veterans, including administration costs -- roughly 1.7
per cent of the federal budget.
Shortly before testifying in front of the House of
Commons Veterans Committee on April 3, 2013, Dallaire told the Canadian
Press's Murray Brewster about a number of recent encounters with
"politicians who are second-guessing the cost of veterans. This has
been sniffing its way around the Conservative hallways
and it's pissing me off."
Dallaire's comments sparked a sharp rebuke from Fantino
spokesman Nicholas Bergamini: "It is not appropriate to spread rumours
without any kind of attribution." Dallaire was undeterred and called
for a legislated social covenant with soldiers that would guarantee
long-term care for the wounded. The Harper
government wasn't interested in such a formal compact -- as its
arguments against veterans who had taken it to court over the NVC
In October 2012, six veterans of the Afghanistan War
filed suit in B.C. Supreme Court to challenge the lump sum provisions
of the New Veterans Charter. They call themselves the Equitas Society.
Starting in the reign of Elizabeth I, British
legislation required each parish to care for sick and wounded soldiers
and mariners. Canada has always been in the vanguard of caring for its
war veterans. It gave soldiers returning from the First World War
rehabilitation and preferential hiring consideration. The Military
Hospitals Commission was set up in 1915 as part of the plan to deal
with the return of disabled soldiers.
The Pension Act of 1919 compensated 69,000
returned disabled vets, and the survivors of the 60,661 killed in the
The War Veterans Allowance Act of 1930 allowed
disabled veterans to collect their pensions at sixty, ten years earlier
than the rest of Canada.
As the Canadian War Museum puts it, "... Ottawa, by
war's end, administered a large medical system, long-term care
facilities, soldier insurance, a land settlement program and many other
benefits and types of aid ... in 1920, veterans' pensions would consume
more than 20 per cent of federal revenues; in 1914,
it had been 0.5 per cent."
The Equitas court case, in effect, has called history as
its witness against the NVC. In particular, the Afghanistan veterans
cited a speech given by Prime Minister Robert Borden to Canadian troops
on the eve of the Battle of Vimy Ridge. Ten thousand Canadian soldiers
would be dead or wounded in a matter
of days. Borden wanted the troops to know that the country was grateful
for their service, and that they would be taken care of when the war
"You can go into this action feeling assured of this,
and as the head of the government I give you this assurance, that you
need have no fear that the government and the country will fail to show
just appreciation of your service to the country in what you are about
to do and what you have done already," Borden
To the veterans engaged in the Equitas court case,
Borden's words amounted to a sacred promise -- a promise that was
largely kept back in the day. Does the Liberal party's Veterans Affairs
critic, Frank Valeriote, agree that Stephen Harper should follow
"In a word, yes. The social covenant that exists now
between members of the Canadian Forces, veterans and their government
is the same that Sir Robert Borden sought to create ... in the wake of
the First World War. It's not just political language as the federal
government's lawyers are arguing ..."
One of the people who passionately agrees with the
veterans' historical claim is famed Canadian war artist Allan Harding
MacKay. On May 10, 2012, MacKay destroyed four original pieces of his
war art on the expansive lawns of Parliament. "I absolutely feel vets
have been abused. They are given a one-time
paycheque to deal with a lifetime of injury."
Faced with the Equitas lawsuit, the Harper government
tried to have the case thrown out without a hearing. But in the fall of
2013, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Gordon Weatherill rejected their
motion and allowed the case to proceed.
Next, the federal Department of Justice expressly denied
in a written submission to the court that there was any social contract
or covenant with war veterans vested "in any statute, regulation, or as
a constitutional principle, written or unwritten."
Further, federal lawyers argued that, "Parliament,
within the bounds of constitutional limits, has the unfettered
discretion to change or reverse any policy set by a previous
Sydney, NS, November
The argument in the federal government's 37-page filing
came down to this: Borden's speech was nothing more than words, a mere
political speech reflecting the policy positions of the government of
the day. Federal lawyers have now appealed Justice Weatherill's ruling
allowing the case to proceed. According
to Ottawa's argument, there was one big problem with veterans claiming
any kind of social contract: They didn't get it in writing.
And that is something that the dominion president of the
Royal Canadian Legion intends to fix: "The RCL will continue to
advocate to the government of the day until the covenant is in black
and white in the New Veterans Charter," says Gordon Moore.
As the Harper government argues legal niceties -- over
which it may ultimately prevail -- even the ombudsman for Veterans
Affairs, a position the PM created, says the NVC is seriously flawed.
In June 2013, after a two-year parliamentary review of the NVC,
Ombudsman Guy Parent reported that changes were
"It is simply unacceptable to let veterans who have
sacrificed the most for their country -- those who are totally and
permanently incapacitated -- live their lives with unmet financial
needs," said his report.
What's next? In June, the Commons veterans affairs
committee made 14 recommendations to update the Veterans Charter and
improve benefits; Fantino has promised to respond in the fall. Some
veterans advocates say the proposed changes still fall short. The court
will decide whether the Harper government
has the legal obligation to honour the Borden Doctrine. But the court
of public opinion will decide another question: Despite the $850,000
fly-overs, the $50 million monuments and a $28 million ad campaign for
the War of 1812, has Ottawa cut and run on today's veterans in need?
The First World War: The Real Lessons of
This Savage Imperial Bloodbath
The brutal trench warfare
World War One.
In the midst of deepening austerity, David Cameron is
play the national card. Any one will do. He's worked the Queen's
jubilee and the Olympics for all they're worth. Now the prime minister
wants a "truly national commemoration" of the first world war in the
runup to 2014 that will "capture our
national spirit ... like the diamond jubilee."
So £50m has been found to fund a four-year
programme of events,
visits to the trenches from every school and an ambitious redevelopment
of the Imperial War Museum. Ministers have promised there will be no
"jingoism," but Cameron says he wants to remember those who "gave their
lives for our freedom"
and ensure that "the lessons learned live with us for ever."
In case there were any doubt about what those lessons
might be, the Times
has declared that despite the war's unhappy reputation, Britain's cause
was "essentially just," a necessary response to aggression by a
"xenophobic and anti-democratic" expansionist power (Germany) and that
those who fought
and died did so to uphold the "principle of the defence of small
It surely must be right to commemorate what was by any
human catastrophe: 16 million died, including almost a million Britons.
It touched every family in the country (and many other countries
besides), my own included. Both my grandmothers lost brothers in the
four-year bloodletting: one in
Passchendaele, the other in Gaza.
Seventy years after the event, one of them would still
cry at the
memory of the postman bringing the death notice in a brown War Office
envelope to her home in Edinburgh. My grandfather was a field surgeon
on the western front, who would break down as he showed us pictures he
had taken of lost friends
amid the devastation of Ypres and Loos, and remembered covering up for
soldiers who had shot themselves in the legs, to save them from the
But it does no service to the memory of the victims to
horrific reality. The war was a vast depraved undertaking of
unprecedented savagery, in which the ruling classes of Europe
dispatched their people to a senseless slaughter in the struggle for
imperial supremacy. As Lenin summed it up to the Romanian
poet Valeriu Marcu in early 1917: "One slaveowner, Germany, is fighting
another slaveowner, England, for a fairer distribution of the slaves."
This wasn't a war of self-defence, let alone liberation
from tyranny. As the late Eric Hobsbawm sets out in his Age of
it was the cataclysmic product of an escalating struggle for colonial
possessions, markets, resources and industrial power between the
dominant European empires, Britain
and France, and the rising imperial power of Germany seeking its "place
in the sun." In that clash of empires, Europe devoured its children --
and many of its captive peoples with them.
Set against that all-destroying machine of 20th century
warfare, the preposterous pretext of the rights of small nations and
the violated neutrality of "plucky little Belgium" cannot seriously be
regarded as the real driver of the war (as it was not by British and
other politicians of the time).
All the main warring states were responsible for the
suppression of nations, large and small, throughout the racist
despotisms that were their colonial empires. In the years leading up to
the first world war an estimated 10 million Congolese died as a result
of forced labour and mass murder under plucky
Belgian rule; German colonialists carried out systematic genocide
against the Herero and Nama peoples in today's Namibia; and tens of
millions died in enforced or avoidable famines in British-ruled India,
while Britain's colonial forces ran concentration camps in South Africa
and meted out continual violent repression
across the empire.
The idea that the war was some kind of crusade for
most of Britain's population -- including many men -- were still denied
the vote, and democracy and dissent were savagely crushed among most of
those Britain ruled, is laughable. And when the US president, Woodrow
the right to self-determination to win the peace, that would of course
apply only to Europeans -- not the colonial peoples their governments
lorded it over.
Caricature of Arthur
Meighen a future Prime Minister of Canada, callously handing over a
Canadian soldier into the hands of "Imperialism." As Solicitor General
in 1917, Meighen was instrumental in drafting the conscription bill
(click to enlarge).
As the bloodbath exhausted itself, it unleashed
revolts and revolutions, and the breakup of defeated empires, giving a
powerful impetus to anti-colonial movements in the process. But the
outcome also laid the ground for the rise of nazism and the even
bloodier second world war, and led to
a new imperial carve-up of the Middle East, whose consequences we are
still living with today, including the Palestinian tragedy.
Unlike in 1940, Britain wasn't threatened with invasion
occupation in 1914, and Europe's people were menaced by the
machinations of their masters, rather than an atavistic tyranny. Those
who died didn't give their lives "for freedom"; they were the victims
of an empire that was a stain on humanity, the cynicism
of politicians and the despicable folly of the generals. As Harry
Patch, last British survivor of the trenches who died [in 2009], put
it, the first world war was "nothing better than legalised mass murder."
Since the 1990s, direct conflict between great powers
its cataclysmic nadir in the world wars has been replaced by a modern
version of the colonial wars that preceded and punctuated them: in
Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. Unable to win public support for such
campaigns, the government has
tried to appropriate the sympathy for the troops who fight them as a
substitute: demanding, for example, that poppies be worn as a "display
of national pride" (or as Lieutenant General Sir John Kiszely, the now
ex-British Legion president, described Remembrance Day, a "tremendous
networking opportunity" for
If Cameron and his ministers try the same trick with the
commemoration of the 1914-18 carnage, it will be a repulsive travesty.
Among the war's real lessons are that empire, in all its forms, always
leads to bloodshed; that state violence is by far its most destructive
form; that corporate carve-ups fuel conflict;
and that militarism and national chauvinism are the road to perdition.
Celebrate instead the internationalists, socialists and poets who
called it right, and remember the suffering of the soldiers -- rather
than the cowards who sent them to die. Attempts to hijack the
commemorations must be contested every step of the
Seumas Milne's book, The Revenge of History: The
Battle for the 21st Century, was published in October 2012.
ISSUES | HOME
Read The Marxist-Leninist