February 22, 2016 • No. 5 | PDF Previous Issues
Expansion of Canada’s Military Presence in the Middle East
No concern for the cherished principle of the sovereignty and equality of nations was to be found in the debate in the House of Commons on the expansion of Canada’s military presence in the Middle East.
Instead, the debate revolved around how Canada should best wage war and what kind of role it should have in U.S. wars of aggression. The Liberal government suggests it has found the right balance for Canada and presents as evidence the appreciation of the U.S. government for its new role.
Prime Minister Trudeau described the change in mission during the February 17 debate as follows:
“This policy differed from that of the previous government, which advocated air strikes. It also differed from that of the previous Official Opposition, which advocated a complete lack of military involvement.”
No MPs raised any concern that U.S. bombing in Syria was taking place in violation of international law, let alone concern about attacks inside Syria by allies Saudi Arabia and Turkey. The position of some MPs who presented themselves as being against the war nonetheless made what they called the “bloodthirsty” Syrian government out to be the problem and said it would have to be removed. Who should remove it and how, or who would take responsibility for the consequences, was not raised.
All of it conciliates with the U.S. striving for domination in the Middle East and its “pivot to Asia” which Canadians are supposed to take for granted is for the purposes of defending freedom, democracy and human rights. How freedom, democracy and human rights are achieved through aggression, invasion and occupation of sovereign countries defies explanation.
The Liberal government’s support for a Conservative motion to condemn Palestinian human rights activists is the height of hypocrisy. These activists are calling for a boycott of Israeli goods, in particular those produced in illegal settlements, and divestment from companies involved in the illegal occupation. The Liberals do not condemn the illegal settlements nor the brutal terrorist actions of some of the settlers. Instead, they accuse the activists who resist the illegal Israeli occupation of their lands of causing the problems in Palestine.
This is not acceptable.
The NGO Defence for Children International has found that Israeli forces have killed 49 Palestinian children since October 2015 including 17 girls. More than 180 Palestinians have been killed in the same period. The organization stated, “Repeated killing and shooting of children by Israeli army, and preventing paramedics from offering medical aid to them is considered a form of extrajudicial killing.”
The Palestinian Prisoners’ Center for Studies says that 1,900 Palestinians were detained by Israeli forces in East Jerusalem in 2015 and out of this two thirds were minors. Israeli laws adopted in 2015 officially authorized the use of live ammunition and sniper fire against those said to be throwing stones, and established prison sentences of up to 20 years for stone throwing.
In a January 24 statement Global Affairs Canada (formerly Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development) called for “restraint” in the occupied West Bank. The statement equated “Palestinian initiatives toward statehood” with “continued Israeli settlements” and reaffirmed Canada as “a steadfast ally and friend to Israel.”
Furthermore, former Liberal Minster of Justice Irwin Cotler met with Minister of Foreign Affairs Stéphane Dion on February 5 to discuss what he called “terrorism in Israel.” During the meeting reports say Cotler “briefed Dion about his personal familiarity with terrorism.” Cotler made no mention of widespread Israeli state terrorism and terrorist attacks launched by settlers on Palestinian land but instead referred to a family friend who he said “had been assaulted and who drove off her attacker.”
Reports say that Cotler told Dion that such “terrorism” is widely reported in Israel but does not receive enough mention in Canada, although it appears to be a particular concern of parliamentarians.
The Liberal government is supporting a $14.8 billion arms sale to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia made by a federal Crown corporation in 2014. It says the details of the transaction and its own rationale are a state secret. Here is what we know:
The sale concerns an undisclosed number of Light Armoured Vehicles (LAV) produced by General Dynamics Land Systems (GDLS). GDLS produces such vehicles for a variety of military forces. Saudi Arabia has used such vehicles to suppress protests of its citizens for their rights. News reports say the vehicles are being outfitted with machine guns and anti-tank cannons.
The government is selling weaponry to Saudi Arabia in the midst of its brutal war against the people of Yemen, about which the government is also silent. Since the beginning of the Saudi bombing and invasion of Yemen in March 2015 more than 8,000 people have been killed and more than 16,000 injured. More than 2,000 of the dead are children. Yemen’s infrastructure has been a major target for Saudi attack, including hospitals, schools and factories. Saudi Arabia is carrying out its attacks with the explicit support of the U.S. and Britain who have military personnel in command and control positions to oversee Saudi airstrikes. Yemenis have been fiercely resisting the Saudi invasion and bombing and have shown themselves determined to fight occupying forces.
The United Nations says that four out of five Yemenis are now dependent on humanitarian assistance and more than 2.6 million people received UN food rations in January 2016. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) made an appeal on February 19 for $1.8 billion in funding to provide critical and life-saving assistance in 2016 to 13.6 million Yemenis affected by the Saudi attacks.
Saudi Arabia also announced on February 11 that it has made a “final” and “irreversible decision” to invade Syria contrary to international law.
Foreign Minister Stéphane Dion claimed the Liberal government is “firmly opposed to the terrible human-rights record in Saudi Arabia” but the government must provide the weapons because “if we had to terminate a contract that was approved, there would probably be quite hefty penalties payable by Canadian taxpayers.” Dion said that if another country provided Saudi Arabia with its weapons it would not improve human rights. “[W]hat would surely happen is that the equipment in question would be sold to Saudi Arabia by a less scrupulous country, and the human rights situation in Saudi Arabia would not change one iota,” Dion told the Senate on February 18.
On February 22 the CBC reported that LRT-3 sniper rifles produced by Winnipeg-based PGW Defence Technologies have been captured by Yemenis defending themselves against the Saudi invasion. The LRT-3 has an effective range of 1.8 km. CBC News says that more than $28 million worth of guns and rifles have been exported from Canada to Saudi Arabia in the past decade. Commentators suggested that this is a case of arms being “diverted into the wrong hands.” This covers up that Canada is arming a country engaged in an aggressive invasion of another country.
The plight of the people of Yemen as a result of the Saudi aggression has never been mentioned in either the House of Commons nor in any government statements while the casualties continue to rise and the humanitarian situation worsens.
What does this tell us about the Liberals’ definitions of democracy and human rights?
Canada recently announced a troop buildup in Jordan, but provided little in the way of explanation of what it is doing there.
News reports say the U.S. and Britain are holding an exercise of tens of thousands of soldiers and hundreds of military vehicles in Jordan, called Shamal Storm. While the exercise is portrayed as “a dry run” for sending a force to confront Russia it is likely to also relate to supply routes from Jordan to Syria for anti-government forces and the aims of regime change in Syria. The Sunday Express reported on February 8 that the operation “will test the UK’s readiness to launch another invasion on the scale of the 2003 Iraq War” while an Asia Times correspondent points out that the drills are “similar to preparations for the invasion of Iraq” in 2003.
Is this an indication of what Canada is up to?
What the U.S. and Britain are up to in Jordan reveals the dangers which lie ahead for that country along with all the others in the region and that there is nothing democratic or peaceful about Canada’s military expansion in the Middle East. It also indicates that the Liberal war government is not speaking straight to Canadians.
It must not pass!
Government’s War Plans Debated
Prime Minister Trudeau tabled a motion in the House of Commons on February 17 calling on the House to support the government’s expansion of its military mission in Iraq and a new mission which will see Canadian soldiers stationed in Jordan and Lebanon. Like the previous Conservative government, the Liberals affirmed that while the executive has power over questions of war and peace it was bringing the motion to Parliament as a symbolic gesture to show its democratic credentials.
The Prime Minister introduced debate on the motion by outlining the Liberals’ claim that they were elected on a mandate to refocus the military mission in Iraq and Syria on training local forces, providing more humanitarian support and immediately bringing in 25,000 refugees from Syria to Canada. Far from ending the combat mission, Trudeau referred to the plan during debate as “a clear, transparent and robust strategy for Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and the broader region.”
Details of what precisely this will involve in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and other countries have been scarce but Minister of Foreign Affairs Stéphane Dion said during debate that in Lebanon, Canada “will assist in building new border monitoring posts and provide skills-based training for the Lebanese armed forces.” In Jordan, Canada will “build on its established relationship with Jordan’s military forces and its security and law enforcement agencies” including “assist[ing] the Jordanians with technical training and equipping and improving its training facilities.”
Conservative MPs reiterated their demand to maintain Canadian air strikes in Iraq while giving support to other so-called humanitarian and diplomatic measures the Liberals put forward. In her remarks Conservative interim leader Rona Ambrose called the withdrawal of CF-18 jets a betrayal of the people of Iraq and Syria, of Canada’s military history and the government’s role of ensuring the security and safety of Canadians.
Ambrose said, “The Prime Minister and his cabinet have yet to offer any acceptable reason why the air mission should not continue, no strategic position, no moral imperative, no rational argument whatsoever. Instead, all we have received from them is complete and total incoherence.” Ambrose also proposed an amendment to the motion calling on Canada to resume bombing inside Iraq and Syria.
To this Prime Minister Trudeau replied by trying to associate Ambrose with former Conservative leader Stephen Harper’s support for the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq. Trudeau asked, “Does the member disagree with the former leader of the Conservative Party, who felt that in 2003 George W. Bush’s invasion of Afghanistan was a just cause? Does she therefore feel that it was not a just cause?” Trudeau said, “Canada should always step up and needs to step up in the right way, and that is what we are arguing right here.”
The New Democratic Party (NDP) said it opposed the motion because there were too many unanswered questions about the military aspect of the mission, no exit strategy and a clear problem with the government’s claim of the mission being non-combat when it is clearly combat. “The Prime Minister is proposing a never-ending mission, which is exactly what he criticized last year,” NDP leader Thomas Mulcair said. He also criticized the fact that the mission is not authorized by the United Nations or NATO.
Mulcair called for greater emphasis on “de-radicalization” in Canada, citing the example of efforts by the city of Montreal in this sphere which single out the youth for surveillance and profiling. He also called for a greater emphasis on stopping the financing of terrorism in general and ISIS in particular, including via prosecution of individuals and groups in Canada.
Mulcair finished his intervention by repeating claims used to justify the push for regime change in Syria. He argued that the main problem which gives rise to ISIS is the inability of governments in Syria and Iraq to “maintain peace and security.” Mulcair did not say anything about the instability imposed on these countries by the U.S.-led wars of aggression, regime change and intervention in the form of sponsoring death squads and U.S. puppets in the region.
Mulcair went so far as to repeat claims put forward by those intent on regime change that UN-sponsored peace talks towards a cease fire in Syria are being threatened by “Russian bombing in support of the bloodthirsty dictator Bashar al-Assad.” In other words there is no problem with U.S. bombing in Syria in violation of international law, nor any problem with an imminent invasion of the country by Saudi Arabia. The problem is the government or elected president of Syria, according to Mulcair.
Neither the Bloc Québécois nor Green Party has yet spoken on the motion. Debate will resume on Rona Ambrose’s proposed amendment to the motion at 11 am on February 22.
Conservative critic for foreign affairs and MP for Parry Sound-Muskoka, Tony Clement put forward a motion in the House of Commons on February 18 to condemn activism calling for boycott, divestment and sanction of Israel’s occupation of Palestine. The Liberal majority in the House of Commons has indicated that it will unite with the Conservatives and vote in favour of the motion, while the NDP, Green Party and Bloc will vote against it. Debate on the motion will conclude and be followed by a vote on Monday, February 22.
The motion reads:
“That, given Canada and Israel share a long history of friendship as well as economic and diplomatic relations, the House reject the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which promotes the demonization and delegitimization of the State of Israel, and call upon the government to condemn any and all attempts by Canadian organizations, groups or individuals to promote the BDS movement, both here at home and abroad.”
The BDS movement is an international effort initiated in 2005 in response to a call by Palestinian groups. Amongst other things it targets companies operating or doing business in occupied areas. It is an attempt to hold Israel to account for its occupation of Palestinian lands and the impunity with which it commits crimes against the Palestinian people. Numerous and successive UN resolutions have called for an end to the occupation, for Israel to comply with international law and affirmed the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people under occupation, including their right to resist. However the big powers, led by the U.S. and joined by Canada, do not permit any enforcement of these resolutions. Instead they support the Israeli occupation through the provision of billions of dollars in military supplies, trade deals, political support and particularly the use of Israel to advance U.S. imperialist policy in the Middle East.
During the debate only Bloc Québécois MPs spoke in a manner consistent with international law and Canadians’ views on the matter. The Bloc was the only party that spoke to even recognize the fact that Israel is an occupying power and that opposition to it is legitimate.
Monique Pauzé, the Bloc Québécois Party Whip said:
“[T]he BDS or Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement is a citizens’ response that is non-violent and not anti-Semitic. It does not target Jews for being Jewish. It targets questionable policies of the State of Israel. For example, this could include all the successive governments’ policies on the Palestinian people: occupation, colonization, blockade. The Bloc Québécois recognizes boycotting as a democratic right of people who want to criticize a state’s policies in a non-violent way. Disagreeing with the colonization of Palestine, for example, is not anti-Semitic or anti-Zionist. It is a legitimate political opinion that one can agree with or not. There has been a lot of talk about demonization. Are we not in the process of demonizing anyone who does not think the way we do?”
For their part the Liberals, NDP and Green Party each made it very clear that their parties not only disagreed specifically with boycotting, divesting and sanctioning Israel but refused to acknowledge that Palestinians were an occupied people with the right to resist in whatever manner they deem acceptable. The script they read from instead focused on demonstrating their opposition to the BDS campaign. Where they differed was on whether or not they would support the motion based on their evaluation of whether it went too far in associating the BDS campaign with hate speech.
To read excerpts from the interventions of the parties in the Parliament on the anti-BDS motion, click here.
1. The Palestinian BDS National Committee which coordinates the international BDS campaign, explains the meaning of the campaign as follows:
“Boycotts target products and companies (Israeli and international) that profit from the violation of Palestinian rights, as well as Israeli sporting, cultural and academic institutions. Anyone can boycott Israeli goods, simply by making sure that they don’t buy produce made in Israel or by Israeli companies. Campaigners and groups call on consumers not to buy Israeli goods and on businesses not to buy or sell them.
“Israeli cultural and academic institutions directly contribute to maintaining, defending or whitewashing the oppression of Palestinians, as Israel deliberately tries to boost its image internationally through academic and cultural collaborations. As part of the boycott, academics, artists and consumers are campaigning against such collaboration and ‘rebranding’. A growing number of artists have refused to exhibit or play in Israel.
“Divestment means targeting corporations complicit in the violation of Palestinian rights and ensuring that the likes of university investment portfolios and pension funds are not used to finance such companies. These efforts raise awareness about the reality of Israel’s policies and encourage companies to use their economic influence to pressure Israel to end its systematic denial of Palestinian rights.
“Sanctions are an essential part of demonstrating disapproval for a country’s actions. Israel’s membership of various diplomatic and economic forums provides both an unmerited veneer of respectability and material support for its crimes. By calling for sanctions against Israel, campaigners educate society about violations of international law and seek to end the complicity of other nations in these violations.”
50th Weekly Action to Repeal Bill C-51, Vancouver, February 22
Monday, February 22 — 4:00 pm
601 West Cordova St.
Organized by the Working Group to Stop Bill C-51
No to Terrorism!
No to Racism!
No to Islamophobia!
Our Security Lies in Defending the Rights of All!
For its 49th Weekly Action Against Bill C-51, the Working Group to Stop Bill C-51 held its first banner drop on the Stanley Park Causeway. Thousands of cars passed the banner and signs demanding “Repeal Bill C-51!” with a lot of honks from supportive drivers.
The 50th weekly action on Monday, February 22 will be a Picket & Petition Drive at the Waterfront Skytrain Station, while other events are scheduled throughout February and March.
Predictions on the Economy, the Anti-Communist Memorial, Indigenous Peoples’ Fight for Their Rights, International Developments and Malcolm X
Renewal Update encourages all its readers to check out the latest issue of TML Weekly, the newspaper of the Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist). The February 20 issue reports on a number of important national and international issues.
For instance, diversionary discussions and predictions on the economy are found throughout the monopoly media in the context of the 2016 federal budget. What are the issues? Do these discussions even say what comprises the economy? Do they discuss the rights of workers in Canada and the problems that need to be solved?
TML Weekly also reports on the new government’s push to continue the previous Conservative government’s anti-communist memorial project. They tried to embroil Canadians in this project by pushing a dubious survey and have taken up all the false claims used to push Cold-War ideology and its self-serving definitions of democracy, freedom and human rights, TML points out.
The February 20 issue also reports on significant developments in the fight to affirm the hereditary, treaty and constitutional rights of Indigenous peoples, including the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls and the February 14 Women’s Memorial Marches.
The latest TML Weekly informs Canadians about important developments in Venezuela to defend the Bolivarian Revolution in the face of recent attacks by reactionary forces, and how Cuba is defending its revolution today. February 21 marked the anniversary of the assassination of Malcolm X, an important leader of the American working class and people, and TML Weekly offers a reflection on his legacy.