Tag Archives: Stephen Harper

Canada, Do Not Follow the U.S. Into Permanent War

By David Swanson and Robert Fantina
Global Research, April 02, 2015
World Beyond War

 

harper-military1Oh Canada, to thine own self be true, not to thine heavily militarized neighbor. Robin Williams called you a nice apartment over a meth lab for a reason, and now you’re bringing the drugs upstairs.

We write to you as two U.S. citizens, one of whom moved to Canada when George W. Bush became U.S. president. Every wise observer in Texas had warned this country about their Governor Bush, but the message hadn’t gotten through.

We need the message to reach you now before you follow the United States down a path it has been on since its creation, a path that used to include regular invasions of your land, a path impeded a little by your generous sanctuary for those refusing war participation, and a path that now invites you to ruin yourself along with us. Misery and addiction and illegality love company, Canada. Alone they wither, but with aiders and abettors they flourish.

At the end of 2013 Gallup polls asked Canadians what nation they’d most like to move to, and zero of the Canadians polled said the United States, while people in the United States picked Canada as their most desired destination. Should the more desirable nation be imitating the less desirable, or the other way around?

In the same poll almost every nation of the 65 surveyed said the United States was the greatest threat to peace in the world. In the United States, bizarrely, people said Iran was the greatest threat — despite Iran spending less than 1% of what the United States does on militarism. In Canada, Iran and the United States tied for first place. You seem to be of two minds, Canada, one of them thoughtful, the other breathing the fumes of your downstairs neighbor.

At the end of 2014 Gallup asked people if they would fight for their country in a war. In many nations 60% to 70% said no, while 10% to 20% said yes. In Canada 45% said no, but 30% said yes. In the United States 44% said yes and 30% no. Of course they’re all lying, thank goodness. The United States always has several wars running, and everyone is free to sign up; almost none of the professed willing fighters do. But as a measure of support for war and approval of war participation, the U.S. numbers tell you where Canada is headed if it follows its southern friends.

A recent poll in Canada indicates that a majority of Canadians support going to war in Iraq and Syria, with support being highest, as might be expected, among Conservatives, with members of the NDP and Liberal parties offering less, but still significant, support. All this may be part of the Islamophobia that is sweeping much of North America and Europe. But, take it from us, the support is soon replaced with regret — and the wars do not end when the public turns against them. A majority of the U.S. public has believed the 2001 and 2003 wars in Afghanistan and Iraq should never have been begun for the majority of those wars’ existence. Once begun, however, the wars roll on, in the absence of serious public pressure to halt them.

Recent polling in Canada also indicates that while over 50% of respondents feel uncomfortable with someone wearing a hijab or abaya, over 60% of respondents support their right to wear it. That’s stunning and praiseworthy. To accept discomfort out of respect for others is a top qualifying characteristic of a peacemaker, not a warmaker. Follow that inclination, Canada!

The Canadian government, like the U.S. government, uses fear-mongering to implement its war policies. But again, there is cause for some limited optimism. A recently-proposed anti-terror bill, that legal experts have decried as depriving Canada of some basic rights, has received significant opposition, and is being amended. Unlike the U.S.A. PATRIOT Act, which sailed through Congress with little if any opposition, Canadian bill C-51 which, among other things, would stifle dissent, has been widely opposed both in Parliament and in the streets.

Build on that resistance to every evil justified by war, Canada. Resist the degradation of morality, the erosion of civil liberties, the drain to the economy, the environmental destruction, the tendency toward oligarchic rule and rogue illegality. Resist, in fact, the root problem, namely war.

It has been several years since the U.S. media regularly showed pictures of flag-draped coffins arriving on U.S. soil from far-flung war zones. And most of the victims of U.S. wars — those living where the wars are fought — are shown hardly at all. But Canada’s media may do better. You may literally see the evil of your wars. But will you see your way clear to getting out of them? It is far easier to not launch them. It is far easier still to not plan and prepare for them.

We remember the lead you took, Canada, in banning land mines. The United States sells flying land mines called cluster bombs to Saudi Arabia, which attacks its neighbors. The United States uses those cluster bombs on its own war victims. Is this the path you want to follow? Do you imagine, like some Las Vegas tiger tamer, that you’ll civilize the wars you join? Not to put too fine a point on it, Canada, you will not. Murder will not be civilized. It can, however, be ended — if you help us.

 

Canada’s parliament approves major expansion of Mideast war

By Roger Jordan
April 1, 2015
World Socialist Web Site

 

By a 142-129 vote Monday evening, Canada’s House of Commons endorsed the Conservative government’s decision to extend and expand Ottawa’s participation in the new US-led Mideast war.

Canadian Special Forces are now slated to remain in Iraq for an additional 12 months, until April 2016, providing “advice and assist” support to Kurdish militias battling the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). And Canadian CF-8 fighter jets will expand the scope of their air strikes targeting ISIS positions in Syria as well as Iraq.

Reports yesterday suggested that Canadian CF-18 bombers could be in action over Syria in a matter of days.

The vote followed two days of debate on a motion presented by Prime Minister Stephen Harper last week. After the vote Harper reiterated his claim that the military intervention is needed to counter Islamist terrorism in both the Middle East and Canada. “We cannot stand on the sidelines,” declared Harper, “while ISIL [another acronym for ISIS] continues to promote terrorism in Canada as well as against our allies and partners. Nor can we allow ISIL to have a safe haven in Syria.”

The reality is that the expansion of Canadian military operations into Syria marks a major escalation of the drive by Washington and its allies to carry out regime change in Damascus. The move is being taken without the consent of the government of Bashar al-Assad, a violation of international law that is tantamount to a declaration of war.

The fact that the US-led, Canadian-supported military campaign is aimed at the Assad regime, a close ally of Iran and Russia, was underscored by comments made by British Foreign Minister Phillip Hammond during a trip to Toronto last Friday. After welcoming the Harper government’s decision to join the Syrian air campaign, Hammond expressed regret over the British parliament’s vote against air strikes in Syria in September 2013. At that time, Washington and its allies were drawing up plans for a direct military strike on the Assad regime, following fabricated claims it was responsible for a poison gas attack near the Syrian capital.

Yet for Hammond, the mission’s ultimate goal remains the same. “We’re delighted that others are able to do the lift in Syria that is equally required,” Hammond concluded.

In the parliamentary debate over Harper’s motion, the Conservatives sought to cloak the predatory aims of US and Canadian imperialism by cynically claiming to be coming to the rescue of innocents. “If the responsibility to protect means anything,” said Defence Minister Jason Kenny, “… does it not mean in an instance such as this, preventing genocide, preventing ethnic cleansing, preventing sexual slavery of women and preventing the execution of gay men by throwing them off towers?”

This is brazen hypocrisy coming from a government which boasts about its close ties with the authoritarian regimes in Saudi Arabia and Egypt and with the expansionist Israeli state, and which similarly justified its participation in the NATO regime change war in Libya on the basis of a “responsibility to protect” civilians. That war saw the US and its allies use Islamists as their proxies, throwing Libya into sectarian chaos. Indeed, as the Ottawa Citizen recently revealed, Canadian military personnel openly joked about acting as “al-Qaeda’s air force” in Libya. Subsequently, the CIA encouraged many of these Islamists to travel to Syria, where many of them joined other fighters armed by the Saudis, Qatar and other US Persian Gulf client states in forming ISIS.

The “responsibility to protect” doctrine has become the central pretext for a series of aggressive imperialist operations that have wrought death and destruction on the countries unfortunate enough to be chosen for such “rescue” missions. The Canadian ruling elite was heavily involved in the development of this doctrine, which emerged from a 2001 international commission that was funded by the then Liberal government of Jean Chretien and in which Michael Ignatieff, a subsequent federal Liberal Party leader, played a prominent role.

Canada is the only western country, apart from the United States, participating in the bombing operations in Syria. This development again illustrates Ottawa’s role as a pivotal frontline partner in the US drive to maintain its hegemonic position in the Middle East, the world’s most important oil-exporting region, and beyond. Canada has also taken a leading position in the provocations against Russia over Ukraine, facilitating the supply of weaponry to the Ukrainian army and voluntary militias, while sending troops and aircraft to Eastern Europe and the Baltic as part of NATO’s military buildup.

The Conservatives’ expanded Mideast war also has an important domestic political function. As elections approach, the Harper government is preparing the most right-wing election campaign in modern Canadian history, seeking to use the purported threat of “jihadi terror” to deflect attention from the rapidly deteriorating economic situation and to whip up reaction.

Canada’s war in Syria and Iraq, which is now guaranteed to run well beyond the election, is to be used to whip up bellicose nationalism and to make scarcely veiled appeals to anti-Muslim prejudice. As part of this, the government will label all of the opposition parties as being soft on terror at home and abroad for their unwillingness to back the extension and expansion of military operations in Middle East and their refusal to unreservedly endorse the government’s legislation to dramatically expand the powers and reach of the national-security apparatus, Bill C-51.

The rejection of the government motion by the opposition parties in parliament in no way represents a fundamental repudiation of aggressive militarism as a means of securing Canada’s imperialist interests. If anything, the two days of parliamentary debate saw both the New Democrats and Liberals signal their support for military operations in the Middle East more openly than ever.

Although voting against the motion, the official opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) presented an amendment to the government’s motion that accepted the presence of Canadian military personnel in Iraq so as to assist in the supply of anti-ISIS forces. Party leader Thomas Mulcair went out of his way to emphasize the NDP’s willingness to back military aggression if backed by the UN or NATO, pointing to the 2011 war in Libya as an example. On Syria, his primary concern was not that the government is acting illegally under international law. Instead, he attacked the Conservatives from the right, claiming that the bombing of ISIS would strengthen the Assad regime—an implicit call for a more direct intervention against Damascus.

The Liberals also voted against the motion. But party leader Justin Trudeau made clear that his party supports expanding the Canadian Armed Forces training mission in Iraq by deploying more Canadian Special Forces personnel there. Special Forces personnel are already on the frontlines, where they have been siting ISIS targets for bombing.

With Trudeau’s approval, former Liberal Justice Minister and elder statesmen Irwin Cotler abstained in Monday evening’s vote. Declaring his adherence to the “responsibility to protect doctrine,” Cotler criticized the government, as he did last October, for failing to advocate a regime change war to overthrow Assad. “I remain unable to support the government in this matter,” said Cotler, “because … Canada’s mission continues to allow Assad to assault Syrian civilians with impunity.”

Quebec Premier Phillippe Couillard and his Quebec Liberal Party, which operates as a separate party from the federal Liberals, has, for its part, declared its support for the Conservative government’s war plans.

Both Green Party MPs, leader Elizabeth May and Bruce Hyer, voted against Harper’s motion. This marked a shift from the initial vote authorizing the mission last October, when Hyer gave his support to the Harper government’s deployment. May’s criticism of the expansion of the war into Syria was along the same lines as the NDP, attacking Harper for allegedly lending support to Assad. “We do not want to admit that if we are successful in Syria, we will have made Bashar al-Assad secure by removing a dreadful force that also happens to be against him,” commented May.

The Bloc Quebecois, the federal sister party to the pro-separatist Parti Quebecois, released a statement declaring that it would only back a mission that had international legitimacy. It called for support for a UN-authorized intervention to defeat ISIS.

Canada’s Political Mainstream Backs War in Ukraine

The Threats Against Russia

By Roger Annis
March 31, 2015
Counter Punch

 

Canadians will go to the polls next October in the first national election since the Conservative Party won a majority government in 2011. There is intense concern among progressive people in the country about the prospects of the Conservatives winning another term in office.

The government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper is moving further and further to the right. It has aligned itself tightly with U.S. foreign policy, including being ‘holier than thou’ in its unconditional support of Israel. It joined the U.S.-led air war in Iraq six months ago and now it is joining the U.S. in expanding that to Syria. It has cemented Canada’s role as a leading climate vandal in the world. It has attacked civil and social rights across the board and is now deepening that attack with the proposed, ‘police-state Canada’ Bill C-51.

This leaves many Canadians favorable to the idea of an electoral and governing alliance between the two, large opposition parties in Parliament—the Liberal and New Democratic parties—in order to defeat the Conservatives. NDP leader Tom Mulcair says he is open to a governing coalition with the Liberals if neither party wins an electoral majority.

But on the increasingly dangerous issue in world politics—the war in eastern Ukraine and accompanying military threats and expansion of NATO in eastern Europe—there is an astonishing unanimity in the Canadian political and media establishment. NATO is embarked on a drive to weaken Russia, with all the risk and folly that entails—including a nuclear danger. The people and territory of Ukraine are being used as war proxies to get at Russia. Yet, there is nary a peep of disagreement in the Parliament in Ottawa.

Liberals in lock-step with Conservatives over Ukraine/Russia

Is it possible for opposition parties in Ottawa to promise big change from Conservative rule when they share the Conservative–and NATO–ambition for a ‘long war’ with Russia? It is not. Canadians are seriously mistaken if we believe that a country embarked on confrontation with the peoples of Russia and elsewhere in eastern Europe can simultaneously tackle the important issues of our times such as climate change, political rights and social justice (particularly as concerns Indigenous peoples).

The website The New Cold War: Ukraine and beyond is writing and publishing extensively about the ‘blame Russia’ group think in government and mainstream media in Canada and other NATO countries over the war in Ukraine. With few exceptions, mainstream media in the NATO countries is acting as an echo chamber of government policy. The ‘blame Russia’ narrative says that the governing coalition in Ukraine of billionaire neo-conservatives and right-wing extremists are brave defenders of Ukraine worthy of support against ‘Russian aggression’, end of discussion.

It gets worse in Canada. Two of the country’s leading newspapers—the Toronto Star and the Globe and Mail—have been publishing articles promoting the fundraising efforts in Canada of Ukraine’s extreme-right paramilitaries for the purchase of weapons and other military equipment.

The Liberal Party, supposedly a party of the mainstream center, is proving every bit as hawkish and warlike as the Conservatives. A key voice of the party on Ukraine and Russia is Chrystia Freeland. She is an author, former editor of the Globe and Mail, and the star candidate of the Liberals who won the hotly contested by-election race in 2013 for the Parliamentary seat of Toronto Centre , narrowly defeating the candidate of the NDP, Linda McQuaig, a left-wing journalist.

One of Freeland’s parents was Ukrainian and she is fluent in the language.

Freeland spoke bluntly to a gathering of Ukrainian Canadian women on March 8 at an event in Toronto marking International Womens Day. A brief portion of her remarks (in English) was broadcast in a Ukrainian language news program here (at the 7′ mark).

She told the gathering, “This conflict with Russia is not going to end in one day. Our community, our country, the entire Western world needs to really be prepared for a new environment. This is not something that can end quickly, and we need to adjust the way we think. We need to understand this is a very profound ideological battle going on.

She went on, “It’s actually a conflict even bigger than Ukraine. This is about the rule of law and democracy in Europe and the Western world. That’s why it is being fought so fiercely.”

She gave an interview to a Ukrainian-Canadian publication at the same event in which she said, “Having said that [the West has been valiantly aiding Ukraine], I think we need to be prepared that right now this Minsk-2 [ceasefire] moment is a pause, not the end. And we need to be prepared for this conflict to be a very, very long conflict.”

Yvan Baker, the Liberal member for Etobicoke Center (Toronto) in the Ontario Legislature (an electoral district with a large number of Ukrainian-Canadians), is another of the Liberal hawks on Ukraine. He gave a statement to the Legislature on March 11 in which he said, “Today, Ukraine is at war and the situation is dire. Russian-backed forces have occupied part of Eastern Ukraine and continue to advance. The soldiers I met [while visiting Ukraine in November 2014] are fighting against state-of-the-art equipment with outdated weapons, some from World War II.”

“The invasion is a global threat. It is a violation of international law and order established at such great cost during WWII.”

“Efforts at peace have failed. For months, Ukraine’s president has been asking for defensive [sic] weapons so that his nation stands a chance against the larger and more advanced Russian military. Others such as [U.S. Senator] John McCain and John Boehner [Republican Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives] have echoed his call and the U.S. Congress has passed authorization for the U.S. to arm Ukraine.

“I urge our federal government to act on the Ukrainian Canadian Congress’s Feb. 21st statement which calls for Canada to, and I quote: ‘dramatically increase sectoral sanctions’, ‘increase the provision of communications and intelligence capabilities’ and ‘provide Ukraine with the defensive weapons, equipment and training it needs to defend its territorial integrity’.”

Liberal Party Premier of Ontario Kathleen Wynne joined the pro-war chorus last August when she appeared at a Ukraine Independence Day event in Toronto. It was organized by the extremist Ukrainian Canadian Congress and it featured a fundraising booth of the fascist Right Sector party of Ukraine. Funds were directed to the purchase of military equipment.

Wynne’s speech was a vigorous call to continue Kyiv’s war in eastern Ukraine. At the time, the war was at one of its bloodiest stages. Rockets and mortars were raining down relentlessly on civilian targets, including school and hospitals, while residents, including children, were living months on end in makeshift bomb shelters.

Wynne told the gathering that Ukraine armed forces “are defending the very independence that we are here to commemorate”. She declined to speak to journalists afterward.

It is unusual, to say the least, for a provincial premier in Canada to pronounce vigorously on a foreign policy issue, particularly so when it concerns a brutal war against a civilian population. But such is the group-think support for Kyiv’s war that Wynne’s call to arms raised little attention or controversy.

A Liberal member of Parliament in Montreal, Irwin Cotler, succeeded on March 25 in gaining unanimous support for a motion in Parliament to extend sanctions against Russian officials deemed to be involved in the death in prison custody of a Russia lawyer more than five years ago.

The official opposition party, the NDP, has not been as vigorously outspoken as the Liberals (excepting an appearance by MP Peggy Nash at an event in Toronto last November where she shared a stage with a Right Sector guest speaker). But it supports the government/NATO drive.

The one Green Party member in Parliament has been in lock-step on Ukraine, notwithstanding her divergence from the government on the bombings in Iraq and on civil liberties issues. Elizabeth May put an innocuous question to the government in the House of Commons on March 25 in which she assured, “We all join the Prime Minister in condemning Putin’s aggression [sic]…”

Police-state laws

Ironically, the opposition parties in Ottawa are voicing discomfort and even some opposition to a new set of police-state laws in Canada which resemble an awful lot those which have come into force in Ukraine during the past year. Bill C-51 contains several new “national security” provisions which will make it easier for Canada’s political police and other police agencies to spy on, disrupt and pre-emptively arrest people deemed to be a threat to vaguely denied “national interests” and “national security” in Canada. The bill has been condemned by human rights lawyers and advocates, environmentalists and trade union leaders, among many others, who say its provisions are aimed squarely at critics of government and industry such as them. (See a full explanation of Bill C-51 here.)

Indeed, the political policing to which Bill C-51 gives further legitimacy has been on full display in the streets of Montreal and Quebec City in the past ten days as tens of thousands of post-secondary students have gone on strike in Quebec against hikes to tuition fees and other antisocial, austerity policies. Last week, police in Montreal and Quebec City assaulted several large student demonstrations and arrested hundreds. In Quebec City on March 24, 274 protesters were arrested and detained by police during an evening protest and street march. Two days later during another evening march, some students were shot point-blank in the face by Quebec City police with tear gas canisters.

The police actions in Quebec should concern every Canadian and they raise the obvious spectre of the cruel, war policies in Ukraine coming home to roost in Canada. And in an eerie replication of the pattern of mainstream news reporting of Ukraine, the news of police actions in Quebec has largely gone unreported elsewhere in the country.

Illegal war in the Middle East

Another taste of the new, Ukraine-inspired law and order in Canada is the federal government’s decision to extend to Syria the aerial bombing campaign it has been conducting in Iraq alongside its U.S. big brother. The bombings are purportedly targeting “terrorists”. On what legal basis is Canada going to war in Syrian territory? Roughly the same as in Iraq, namely, ‘the U.S. is doing it, so we should join them’.

Harper told Parliament that Canada is “pursuing this action on exactly the same legal basis as its allies”. But he did not answer what, exactly, is that basis.

Foreign affairs minister Rob Nicholson told the chamber, “The Americans have operated in there [Syria] for six months without resistance from the Syrian government.”

Minister of Defense Jason Kenny says Canada is acting at the behest of the discredited and U.S. puppet government in Iraq. He said, Iraq has asked Canada and allied countries to help them defend their innocent civilians from terror attacks being launched out of eastern Syria in a part of that country the Syrian government either is unwilling or unable to control.”

When pressed by opposition parties and journalists, the Conservatives agreed to send a letter to the United Nations to inform it of its plans.

The Liberals and the NDP agreed to the bombings in Iraq when they were launched six months ago but are uneasy over extending this to Syria. Both voted against the Syria adventure, though a section of the Liberals disagrees with party leader Justin Trudeau.

There is an atmosphere of intellectual intimidation prevailing in Canada whereby criticism of the war and of NATO is said to amount to uncritical support of the Russian government (or what they call “Putin’s regime”). As a consequence, some alternative media is silent. Academia and antiwar groups are largely quiescent. In 2003, the advocates of war against Iraq did not get very far with accusations against antiwar forces of “appeasing” Iraqi ruler Saddam Hussein. Today, a parallel argument against Russia has been effective in quieting voices that would otherwise be expected to be critical.

The NATO confrontation with Russia is a reckless and dangerous course that is corroding politics in Canada. It threatens the capacity to forge a progressive alternative to the governing warmakers if it is not challenged. That’s why it is important to speak and act against the war in Ukraine and its wider implications.

Roger Annis is an editor of the website The New Cold War: Ukraine and beyond.

 

Canada’s Strikes against Syria. Violating International Law: The Canadian Recipe Against ISIS

By Binoy Kampmark
March 28, 2015
Global Research

 

stephen-harper-and-isisHow is it possible to expand something that is, by definition, immeasurable?  Such length of string arguments are bound to dog Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s opinion that the air campaign against ISIS needs expansion, lengthening, and deepening.  “ISIL has made it clear that it targets, by name, Canada and Canadians.”  

Earlier in the week, Harper told the House whilst announcing a one-year extension of its military mission against the Islamic State about his intention to avoid that stumbling block called sovereignty, and the UN charter that acknowledges it with solemn clarity.  Canada would “not seek the express consent of the Syrian government” in launching strikes against ISIS targets on Syrian soil.[1]

The suggestion here is that Canada becomes the third country after the United States and Israel to launch airstrikes on Syrian soil on the pretext of targeting mischief making “non-state actors”.  This reverses the position the prime minister took last fall, when Syria was declared to be “off-limits” to fighters of the Royal Canadian Air Force.

In so doing, long-time legal observer Michael Byers of the University of British Columbia, suggested that Canada was “taking sides in a decade-long debate” which was shaped by “George W. Bush and cultivated by his administration – very controversially.”  Central to the debate was the breakdown of supposedly traditional views about one state taking action against another.  Supposedly threatening non-state actors have become targets of the US-Israel view that, irrespective of which country is hosting them, they constitute legitimate targets.

The justifying counter to traditionalists comes in the form of self-defence arguments that are permitted under Article 51 of the UN Charter, though Harper initially tiptoed around it.  In fact, Harper could only be dismissive of the questioning by Opposition leader Tom Mulcair as to whether the United Nations had been informed of this decision to move on Syria.  “Has the prime minister,” posed the NDP leader, “written to the United Nations, laying out Canada’s justification for its planned intervention in Syria?”  ISIS lawyers, sneered Harper, would hardly be taking Canada to court on the subject, a view that suggests much on the impoverishment of legal debate.

The task of picking a legal framework fell to Defence Minister Jason Kenney, who produced the apologetics of self-defence out of his bag of tricks, citing the views of Canada’s top legal eagle in the military.  Self-defence remains the last refuge of the international law scoundrel – or at least one who wishes to see it used in violation of territorial integrity.  According to James Bezan, parliamentary secretary to the minister of defence, “Collectively, the coalition – which includes the government of Iraq – needs to defend themselves and have the right to defend themselves from ISIL [ISIS].”

Foreign Affairs Minister Rob Nicholson decided to shift the onus on the Assad regime for not doing enough to curtail and destroy the forces of ISIL.  “If Syria is unable or unwilling to prevent ISIL from staging operations into Iraq, that is a legal justification to get involved.”  Ever a poor precedent, Nicholson cited the indiscrete and stomping US lead on the subject.  “The Americans have operated in there for six months without resistance from the Syrian government.”

Tim Harper of The Toronto Star has found the brazen manner of Harper’s decision stunningly slothful.  Canadians, “even those who slavishly back this mission – deserve more than a simplistic, ‘there are bad guys out there and we’re going to get them’ rationale, the product of either a tired, complacent government or one that values domestic politics over the inconveniences of international convention.”[2]

Liberal leader Justin Trudeau believes that such strikes will have another unintended consequence.  Even the targeting breaches Syrian sovereignty, the Assad regime will profit from such fabulously expansive rationales of Canadian self-defence.  “I believe the unintended but predictable consequence of helping (Assad) consolidate his grip on power in Syria is definitely something we could qualify as making things worse.”[3]

The open-ended conflict, interminable, and impossible to gauge in terms of success, is here to stay.  With that has come a relentless attenuation of state sovereignty.  US forces strike with impunity in global borderlands.  The term “self-defence,” which has been extended since 2001 via the US Congress Authorisation for Use of Military Force Against Terrorists resolution, is characterised by “precision munitions” and drone warfare.

Lawyers have warned that the sheer nature of such resolutions would be abused, as it has been.  But others resort to that old idea that responsibility is also a relevant excuse in using violence to combat violence. To protect civilians, irrespective of their nationality, it may be necessary to wade into the murky waters of humanitarian intervention at the end of a missile.  ISIS, for the University of Toronto’s Aurel Braun, represented a “credible, immediate and global threat” that justified the use of Article 51 (CBC, Mar 26).  Besides, “Sovereignty is not only about right, but also about duties and responsibilities.”

The result of all of this?  Territorial limits prove to be less relevant. Governments in power are inconsequential if they do not doff their hats to the holy church that is the responsibility to protect.  If the designated enemy is an associate of terrorism, however one defines it, it constitutes a legitimate target irrespective of who governs the territory of residence.  This is the law of the jungle moderated by the disingenuousness of moral force.

Dr. Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge.  He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne.  Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

Notes

Canada plans dramatic expansion of its role in Mideast war

By Roger Jordan
March 26, 2015
World Socialist Web Site

 

Stephen-HarperCanadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper presented a motion to parliament Tuesday endorsing the extension of Canadian military operations in Iraq for a further twelve months, and their expansion into Syria.

According to the Conservative government’s plan, the Canadian Special Forces personnel currently deployed in northern Iraq, officially to assist and train Kurdish Peshmerga fighters, will remain in the country until 30 March 2016. Whilst the government continues to insist that no Canadian troops will be involved in ground combat in Iraq, the mission has already seen Canadian troops engaged in frontline firefights and helping direct air strikes.

The six CF-18 fighter jets that have been bombing Islamic State targets in Iraq since last October, together with two surveillance aircraft and an air re-fuelling plane, will now expand their operations into Syria.

Debate on Harper’s motion is due to commence today, with a further day’s debate scheduled for next Monday. A vote is expected on Monday evening.

The expansion of Canada’s role in the conflict to Syria constitutes a new act of aggression and is a major step towards Canada’s participation in an explicit war for regime change in Damascus.

Significantly, Harper has shifted his position from last October, when he said that Canadian participation in air strikes in Syria would be conditional on a formal request from Bashar al-Assad’s government. On Tuesday, Harper declared that the Syrian government’s approval is no longer needed. “In expanding our air strikes into Syria, the government has now decided that we will not seek the express consent of the Syrian government,” he told parliament.

Hitherto, none of the US’s western war-coalition partners have agreed to join it in bombing targets in Syria.

Under international law, such action is illegal and tantamount to an act of war. While the government continues to insist that the Canadian military intervention in the Middle East is directed solely at the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the US and its allies—including Canada—have not renounced their goal of ousting Assad. Indeed, the official US war strategy is that ISIS’s defeat should be the prelude to a renewed push for regime change in Damascus.

Responding to a question on the mission’s expansion, Harper endeavoured to cast the US-led war coalition as opponents of extremism and defenders of the innocent. “Our allies have indicated they are taking necessary and proportionate military action in Syria on the basis that the government of Syria is unwilling or unable to prevent (ISIS) from staging operations and conducting attacks there, including attacks that ultimately include this country as a target.”

What a fraud! The United States and its allies are in reality chiefly responsible for the growth of ISIS and other religious extremist groups in Syria and Iraq. As part of a divide and rule strategy, Washington stoked sectarian divisions in Iraq after its illegal 2003 invasion. In 2011, the outbreak of the Syrian civil war was seized upon by the imperialist powers to provide aid and military training to the so-called “rebels,” composed overwhelmingly of Islamist forces such as the Al-Nusra Front and the groups which would later form ISIS. The Harper government and its ally in Washington only began viewing ISIS as a threat when it seized territory in Iraq and destabilized the entire region.

The attempt in the government’s parliamentary motion to cast the intervention as a humanitarian exercise is aimed at concealing the mission’s true purpose, which is the consolidation of US hegemony in the region against its strategic rivals. This includes a push for regime change in Damascus so as to remove the only government allied with Iran in the Middle East, and thereby increase pressure on Teheran to reach an accommodation with the west. More broadly, it is aimed at further isolating Russia and China.

The government’s request for a twelve-month extension of the mission is significant. At the latest, Canada will hold a general election on 18 October. The Conservatives have already made plain their intention to frame the election around “jihadi terrorism,” painting themselves as the only party prepared to vigorously confront the “jihadis” at home and abroad. Through this bellicose and anti-Muslim appeal, the Conservatives hope to rally the most reactionary and backward sections of the population behind aggressive militarism in pursuit of Canadian imperialism’s interests abroad and sweeping attacks on democratic rights at home, as exemplified by Bill C-51.

The response of the two main opposition parties to the government’s expansion of the war reveals once again the lack of any principled opposition to militarist aggression within the Canadian ruling elite. Announcing their intention to vote against the motion, the Liberals criticized the government for its lack of a “clear” strategy. Liberal leader Justin Trudeau noted that if his party formed the government after the upcoming election, it would seek to shift the Canadian mission to focus exclusively on training Iraqi forces and providing humanitarian aid.

Thomas Mulcair, leader of the official opposition New Democrats (NDP), covered up the imperialist agenda being pursued by the government and sought to resurrect the NDP’s tattered anti-war credentials.

In his address to the House of Commons, Mulcair asserted, “Military planners will tell us that for a mission to succeed it must have two things. It must have a well-defined objective and a well-defined exit strategy. This mission has neither. The Conservatives simply have no plan.”

This is poppycock. While the military plans may still be a work-in-progress, the US has a very definite strategic agenda, one shared by the Canadian ruling class and that has underlain the repeated US military interventions in the Middle East and Central Asia over the past decade and more: removing all obstacles to American hegemony over what is the world’s most important oil-exporting region.

The NDP is not ignorant of this. If it chooses to cover it up, it is because its agrees with the goal of maintaining the strategic dominance of what for decades has been the Canadian bourgeoisie’s principal partner, differing merely on the best means to secure it.

Mulcair demonstrated this clearly in his subsequent remarks, in which he reiterated that “UN missions and NATO missions are the kinds of internationally sanctioned campaigns that New Democrats can and have been able to get behind.” He then went on to trumpet the NDP’s support for the 2011 NATO intervention in Libya, stating, “In 2011, when Muammar Gaddafi started dropping bombs on his own civilian population, New Democrats supported the international efforts to protect Libyans… Of course, when the mission of protection of the civilian population became one of a so-called regime change, it was New Democrats who asked the right question—to replace it with what?”

This is a thoroughly dishonest presentation and on multiple accounts. The NDP twice voted in favor of Canada’s participation in the Libyan war, including long after NATO had abandoned any pretense that it was anything but a war for regime change. Second, from the outset it was evident that the “rebels” that Canada, with the NDP’s full support, were promoting as agents of “democratic” change were in fact a reactionary cabal of Islamists, defectors from the Gaddafi regime, and longtime CIA assets.

This has again been sharply exposed thanks to an Ottawa Citizen article on secret Canadian military reports on the situation in Libya at the time of the NATO intervention in March 2011. The reports raised concerns that a NATO bombing mission to weaken or remove Gaddafi would only strengthen Islamist militias with ties to extremist groups. As an article by David Pugliese on the released material commented, “military members would privately joke about Canada’s CF-18s being part of ‘Al-Qaeda’s air force,’ since their bombing runs helped to pave the way for rebel groups aligned with the terrorist group.”

Mulcair’s response to Canada’s participation in striking ISIS targets in Syria was also highly revealing. The NDP leader repeated verbatim the imperialist propaganda used to argue for western military intervention to overthrow Assad. “It is especially disturbing,” said Mulcair, “to see the Prime Minister now openly considering an alliance of sorts with the brutal dictator and war criminal, Bashar al-Assad…It is a regime that not only uses chemical weapons on civilians, it uses snipers against women and children. It is a regime that actually collaborated with ISIS.”

Beyond Mulcair’s complete avoidance of the inconvenient truth that it was actually the US and its allies who collaborated with the extremist forces who now comprise ISIS against Assad, his open attack on the Damascus regime reflects the NDP’s unwavering support for the broader goal being pursued by the imperialist powers in the Mideast war—the imposition of pro-US regimes in Damascus and throughout the region.

Terrorizing Canada With Stephen Harper

Civic Literacy and the Assault on Canadian Democracy

By Murray Dobbin
March 23, 2015
Counter Punch

 

Stephen-HarperPowell River, British Columbia.

The Harper government’s pursuit of its odious Secret Police Act (C51) is just another chapter in the most through-going, and massive social engineering project in the history of the country. Social engineering used to be one of the favourite phrases of the right in its attack on social programs – accusing both liberal-minded politicians and meddling bureaucrats with manufacturing the welfare state. They conveniently ignored the fact that there was huge popular demand and support for activist government.

That was the so-called golden age of capitalism and it wasn’t just because of expanding government services. It was so-called because of a much broader and well-informed citizen engagement – both through social movements and as individual citizens. The level of trust in government was much higher than it is today. And absent from the picture were the factors that today dominate the political conversation: fear and economic insecurity.

Exactly how historians will describe this period in Canadian history is anyone’s guess but one approach could be to look upon the Harper era as an experiment in revealing how vulnerable democracies are to political sociopaths bold enough and ruthless enough to bend or break every rule and tradition on which democracy’s foundation rests.

It’s not just the institutions that are vulnerable though they certainly are. It’s a familiar list including Harper’s bullying of Governor General Michaelle Jean to force the proroguing of the House, his guide book on how to make parliamentary committees ineffective, the use of robo-calls and other election dirty tricks, his attempt to break the rules in appointing a Supreme Court Judge and his neutering the House of Commons question period through a deliberate strategy of refusing to answer questions – a practice that institutionalizes a contempt for Parliament that spreads outward to the general public. At a certain point it doesn’t matter who is responsible – the institution itself becomes risible and irrelevant to ordinary citizens. Which is, of course, exactly what Harper intends.

And that brings us to the other element of democratic politics – the actual citizens who are supposed to be the raw material of democracy. The whole institutional edifice theoretically rests on the foundation of the voting public. The extent to which the institutions of democracy can be assaulted and eroded with impunity is directly proportional to the level of civic literacy. The lower it is, the easier it is for malevolent autocrats like Harper to abuse his power.

In terms of civic literacy we are somewhere between Europe where it is relatively high and the US where it is frighteningly low. While the question is obviously more complicated than this, it’s not far-fetched to suggest that there is a continuum – with consumerism at one end and highly engaged citizenship at the other. We live in a hyper-consumer society – not a citizen-society characterized by the oft-repeated disclaimer “I’m not interested in politics.”  The growing basis for our culture is not community or cooperation but conspicuous consumption and possessive individualism.

So long as the political elite accepted the basic premises of modern democracy and activist government, so long as the institutions they controlled functioned more or less within their defined mandates (that is, they were only occasionally abused) society could function with a minimal level of civic literacy. We could all go shopping more or less assured that the stuff of government (in substance and process) would continue undisturbed. If all political parties accepted the precepts of civil liberties, for example, it didn’t matter that much if there was a low degree of public awareness of the importance of civil liberties to our daily lives.

But when a politician suddenly their appears on the scene willing to systematically violate democratic principles as if they simply don’t apply to him then the demand for increased civic literacy is just as suddenly urgent and critical. Yet it is not something can be accomplished easily or quickly. Three sources come to mind: schools, the media and civil society organizations and activity.

Despite the best efforts of teachers and their unions over the decades civic literacy is extremely low on the curriculum totem pole in Canadian schools. Provincial governments have resisted such pressures which should hardly come as a surprise. There is a built in bias in a hierarchical, capitalist society against critical thinking – precisely because in liberal democracies the over-arching role of government is to manage capitalism with a view to maintaining it along with all its inherent inequalities. Too many critical thinkers is not helpful.

The media, of course, are largely responsible for helping put Stephen Harper in power. Ever since the Machiavellian Conrad Black bought up most of Canada’s dailies they have been used (by him and his successors) as an explicit propaganda tool for the dismantling of the post-war democratic consensus. While there are some tentative signs that they now recognize they’ve created a monster (Globe editorials criticizing the PM on a number of issues like C51) it’s a little late. Twenty-five years of telling people there is no alternative to unfettered capitalism has had a pernicious effect on both democracy and civic literacy.

That leaves voluntary (for the most part) civil society organizations. Yet, despite their objective of informing people about the myriad issues we face, here, too, the model falls short of significantly expanding the base of engaged, informed citizens. Ironically, much of the defensive politics of the left are the mirror image of Harper’s reliance on fear (of Muslims, criminals, niqabs, terrorists, environmentalists, unions, the CBC) to energize his base. We peddle more mundane but substantive fears – of losing Medicare, of climate change, of higher tuition fees, of unprotected rivers and streams and dirty oil.

If Canadians are scared silly, it’s no wonder given the mode of politics directed at them.

Regrettably there is no model from Canadian history that points us in the direction of serious commitment to civic literacy. We have to look to the Scandinavian countries. According to Canadian author Henry Milner  “Swedish prime minister Olof Palme once said that he preferred to think of Sweden not as a social democracy but as a ‘study-circle democracy.’ The idea …is associated most of all with the efforts of the ABF (the Workers’ Educational Association). …The ABF offers courses in organizing groups and co-operatives, understanding media, and a broad range of contemporary issues, as well as languages, computers, art, music, and nature appreciation.” There were ten other groups doing study circles – many of them subsidized by the government. Half of all Swedish adults were involved in them

Even in Sweden the model is no longer as robust as it was when Milner wrote this assessment (2002). But even after the defeat of Social Democratic governments, no party has dared undermine Swedish social programs or run roughshod over its democracy. That’s because informed citizens are not easily manipulated by fear and their level of trust in government remains high.

Given our shamefully biased media Canadians still manage to resist Harper’s continued assault on our political sensibility. The first polls on the Secret Police Act (don’t call it by any other name) were alarming with upwards of 80% agreeing with the need for tougher anti-terror laws. But things are changing very quickly as the result of a determined fight-back by civil society groups, a phalanx of heavy-hitting experts and the NDP. A Form Research poll   this week showed support for the Act was down to 38% with those disapproving at 51% – an amazing turn around. The highest levels of disapproval were amongst “…the youngest (64%),  New Democrats (77%), the best educated (65%) and the non-religious (70%).”

Yet the Forum results are decidedly mixed and demonstrate how much work there is yet to be done to neutralize the fear campaign. When respondents were presented with specific parts of the bill the percentage disapproving actually decreased and supporters increased.

The polling will no doubt continue to demonstrate confusion, a desire to deal with the real problem of terrorism and condemnation of the attempt to at the idea of labelling environmentalists and First Nations as terror suspects.

Yet a huge effort will be needed to completely immunize Canadians against the next wave of Harper fear-mongering. Imagine if all these efforts and similar warning campaigns had instead been put into creating something similar to the Swedish “study circle democracy.” That’s the only lasting solution to voter manipulation and a healthy democracy. Until we realize that, progressive politics will remain crisis management and we will continue to pin our desperate hopes on coalitions and proportional representation. But without a high degree of civic literacy these institutional fixes will be ultimately dissatisfying.

Murray Dobbin is a writer living in Powell River, British Columbia.

 

Reports link Islamic State Recruiter to Canadian Embassy in Jordan

By Global Research News
Global Research, March 15, 2015
Ottawa Citizen

 

harper terrorismeBY Jason Fekete, Lee Berthiaume, and Ian Macleod 

Canada’s embassy in Jordan, which is run by Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s handpicked ambassador and former top bodyguard, is being linked in news reports to an unfolding international terrorism and spy scandal.

The federal government refused to comment Friday on multiple Turkish media reports that a foreign spy allegedly working for Canadian intelligence – and arrested in Turkey for helping three young British girls travel to Syria to join Islamic State militants – was working for the Canadian embassy in Amman, Jordan.

Reports also say the suspect has confessed to working for Canadian intelligence and was doing so in order to obtain Canadian citizenship. The man previously travelled to Canada with the embassy’s approval, said one report.

Canada’s ambassador to Jordan is Bruno Saccomani, the former RCMP officer who was in charge of Harper’s security detail until the prime minister appointed him almost two years ago as the envoy to Amman, with dual responsibility for Iraq.

The suspect in custody is a Syrian intelligence operative named Mohammed Mehmet Rashid – dubbed Doctor Mehmet Rashid – who helped the three London schoolgirls travel to Syria upon their arrival in Turkey, according to Yeni Safak, a conservative and Islamist Turkish newspaper known for its strong support of the government.

Other Turkish news outlets identified the man with slightly different spellings: Mohammed al Rashid or Mohammad Al Rashed.

Police arrested Rashid more than a week ago in a province near Turkey’s border with Syria, multiple news agencies reported.

The initial police report says Rashid confessed he was working for the Canadian intelligence agency and that he has flown to Jordan to share intelligence with other agents working for the Canadian Embassy in Amman, various news outlets reported.

To Read the complete Ottawa Citizen article

© Copyright (c) The Ottawa Citizen

Impending Threat to Canadian Democracy: Harper Government’s “Anti-Terrorism Act” isn’t about Terrorism, it’s a Torture Act

By Michael Keefer
March 11, 2015
Global Research

 

harper-spyThe Harper government’s Bill C-51, or Anti-Terrorism Act, has been in the public domain for over a month. Long enough for us to know that it subverts basic principles of constitutional law, assaults rights of free speech and free assembly, and is viciously anti-democratic.

An unprecedented torrent of criticism has been directed against this bill as the government rushes it through Parliament. This has included stern or at least sceptical editorials in all the major newspapers; an open letter, signed by four former Prime Ministers and five former Supreme Court judges, denouncing the bill for exposing Canadians to major violations of their rights; and another letter, signed by a hundred Canadian law professors, explaining the dangers it poses to justice and legality.

As its critics have shown, the bill isn’t really about terrorism: it’s about smearing other activities by association—and then suppressing them in ways that would formerly have been flagrantly illegal. The bill targets, among others, people who defend the treaty rights of First Nations, people who oppose tar sands, fracking, and bitumen-carrying pipelines as threats to health and the environment, and people who urge that international law be peacefully applied to ending Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian territories. (Members of this latter group include significant numbers of Canadian Jews.)

But the Anti-Terrorism Act is more mortally dangerous to Canadian democracy than even these indications would suggest. A central section of the act empowers CSIS agents to obtain judicial warrants—on mere suspicion, with no requirement for supporting evidence—that will allow them to supplement other disruptive actions against purported enemies of Harperland with acts that directly violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and other Canadian laws.

The only constraints placed on this legalized law-breaking are that CSIS agents shall not “(a) cause, intentionally or by criminal negligence, death or bodily harm to an individual; (b) wilfully attempt in any manner to obstruct, pervert or defeat the course of justice; or (c) violate the sexual integrity of an individual.”

The second of these prohibitions—occurring in the midst of a bill that seeks systematically to obstruct citizens in the exercise of their rights, pervert justice, and defeat democracy—might tempt one to believe that there is a satirist at work within the Department of Justice. (Note, however, that CSIS agents can obstruct, pervert and defeat to their hearts’ content, so long as they do so haphazardly, rather than “wilfully.”)

But the first and third clauses amount to an authorization of torture.

On February 16, Matthew Behrens observed that these clauses recall “the bone-chilling justification of torture” in the infamous memos of George W. Bush’s Justice Department. He pertinently asked what the Canadian government knows, if it “actually feels the need to spell out such a prohibition, […] about illicit CSIS practices behind closed doors….”1 On February 17, two prominent legal experts, Clayton Ruby and Nader R. Hasan, remarked that the “limited exclusions” in these clauses “leave CSIS with incredibly expansive powers, including water boarding, inflicting pain (torture) or causing psychological harm to an individual.”2

Like the Bush torture memos, Harper’s Anti-Terrorism Act is attempting to legitimize forbidden practices. Bush’s lawyers argued that interrogation methods producing pain below the level of “organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death” were legal—as were methods producing purely mental suffering, unless they resulted in “significant psychological harm […] lasting for months or even years.”3 Harper’s legislation prohibits acts of the kind that created an international scandal when the torture practices of Abu Graib, Bagram and Guantánamo became public. But as Ruby and Hasan recognize, in so doing it is tacitly declaring acts of torture that fall below that horrifying threshold to be permissible.

Most of the torture methods applied in the black sites of the American gulag during the so-called War on Terror would be permitted to CSIS under Harper’s Anti-Terrorism Act. Among these methods are sleep deprivation and sensory deprivation (both of which induce psychosis, without of course leaving physical marks), stress-position torture and waterboarding (which again leave no marks of “bodily harm”), and techniques of beating and pressure-point torture that produce excruciating pain without leaving visible traces.4

As to what CSIS does behind closed doors, we know enough to be able to say that this agency is already seriously off its leash. CSIS agents were involved in interrogating Afghan prisoners from early 2002 until 2007 or later, a period during which the American and Afghan agencies with which they collaborated were systematically torturing detainees. We know from journalists Jim Bronskill and Murray Brewster that one of the Kandahar interrogation sites used by CSIS, “work[ing] alongside the American CIA and in close co-operation with Canada’s secretive, elite JTF-2 commandos,” was a “secluded base”—this seems a polite way of saying ‘secret torture facility’—“known as Graceland.”5

American torturers seem to have enjoyed giving names of this sort to their black sites: the secret facility outside the Guantánamo prison where three prisoners were tortured to death on the night of June 9, 2006 is called “Penny Lane.”6 (Think about the lyrics to Paul Simon’s “Graceland” and the Beatles’ “Penny Lane”: you’ll understand that these interrogators are sick puppies indeed.)7

But these are the people that Jack Hooper, Assistant and then Deputy Director of CSIS Operations from 2002 until 2007, wanted his agents to emulate. He told his men, “If you’re going to run with the big dogs, you’d better learn to piss in the high grass.”8

We know already that Stephen Harper doesn’t flinch from covering up high-level Canadian responsibility for torture in Afghanistan. In November 2009, the Toronto Star quoted a former senior NATO public affairs official as saying that flagrantly false denials about Canadian complicity in the torture of Afghan detainees had been scripted by Harper and his PMO, “which was running the public affairs aspect of Canadian engagement in Afghanistan with a 6,000-mile screwdriver.”9 And we’ve not forgotten that a month later Mr. Harper prorogued Parliament in order to shut down a parliamentary committee that was hearing evidence on the subject.

But on October 22 of last year, when a deranged gunman murdered Corporal Nathan Cirillo at the National War Memorial and then tried to run amok on Parliament Hill, Mr. Harper was less brave. While some members of his caucus prepared to defend themselves and their parliamentary colleagues with anything that came to hand, he hid in a closet.

It seems that Mr. Harper would now like us all to share the emotion he felt in that closet—if not by quivering at the mention of ISIS jihadis, then, soon enough, by shaking in our boots at the thought of CSIS toughs kicking down doors at midnight.

Canadians need to tell this government, and this prime minister, that we are not intimidated on either count.

We are ashamed by his lies over high-level Canadian complicity in torture in Afghanistan.

We will not tolerate his attempt to institutionalize torture in Canada.

Michael Keefer, who is Professor Emeritus at the University of Guelph, is a graduate of the Royal Military College of Canada, a former President of the Association of Canadian College and University Teachers of English, a member of the Seriously Free Speech Committee, and an associate member of Independent Jewish Voices Canada.

Notes:

1 Behrens, “Troubled times ahead with new anti-terror legislation,” Rabble.ca (16 February 2015),http://rabble.ca/columnists/2015/02/troubled-times-ahead-new-anti-terror-legislation.

2 Ruby and Hasan, “Bill C-51: A Legal Primer. Overly broad and unnecessary anti-terrorism reforms could criminalize free speech,” Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (17 February 2015), https://www.policyalternatives.ca/publications/monitor/bill-c-51-legal-primer.

3 Jay S. Bybee, “Memorandum for Alberto R. Gonzales, Counsel to the President, Re: Standards of Conduct for Interrogation under 18 U.S.C. §§ 2340-2340A (August 1, 2002),” in David Cole, ed., The Torture Memos (New York: New Press, 2009), p. 41.

4 See Alfred W. McCoy, A Question of Torture: CIA Interrogation, from the Cold War to the War on Terror (New York: Owl Books, 2006).

5 Jim Bronskill and Murray Brewster, “CSIS reviewing role in Afghan detainee interrogations,” Canadian Press, available in The Toronto Star (2 August 2010), http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/article/843055–csis-reviewing-role-in-afghan-detainee-interrogations. See also Murray Brewster and Jim Bronskill, “CSIS played critical role in Afghan prisoner interrogations: documents, sources,” Canadian Press (8 March 2010), available at http://www.webcitation.org/query?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.google.com%2Fhostednews%2Fcanadianpress%2Farticle%2FALeqM5jJLuGfEH6QP3vrNSLPiAGPZNqBcw&date=2010-03-09; and “Le SCRS était au courant de cas de torture,” La Presse Canadienne, available at Radio-Canada.ca (21 January 2011), http://www.radio-canada.ca/nouvelles/International/2011/01/21/007-scrs-detenus-afghans-torture.shtml.

6 David Swanson, “We’ve murdered some folks,” Review of Murder at Camp Delta, by Joseph Hickman, Cold Type 94 (March 2015), p. 26, http://coldtype.net/Assets.15/pdfs/ColdType.0315.pdf.

7 Some relevant lines from “Graceland”: “Everybody sees you’re blown apart / Everybody sees the wind blow / In Graceland, in Graceland / I’m going to Graceland / For reasons I cannot explain / There’s some part of me wants to see / Graceland….” And from “Penny Lane”: “In Penny Lane there is a barber selling photographs / Of every head he’s had the pleasure to know / … / Penny Lane is in my ears and in my eyes….”

8 Quoted by Michelle Shephard, Guantanamo’s Child: The Untold Story of Omar Khadr (Mississauga: John Wiley, 2008), p. 57.

9 Mitch Potter, “PMO issued instructions on denying abuse in ’07,” The Toronto Star (22 November 2009), http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/afghanmission/article/729157–pmo-issued-instructions-on-denying-abuse-in-07.

The New Criminalization of Dissent

Canada Targets Tar Sands Critics

By Pete Dolack
March 2, 2015
Counter Punch

 

The Alberta tar sands (photo by Howl Arts Collective, Montréal)

The Alberta tar sands (photo by Howl Arts Collective, Montréal)

Canada’s Harper régime has invented the new crime of being a member of an “anti-Canadian petroleum movement,” and equating such a stance with terrorism. Evidently believing it is in danger of losing the fight against pipeline projects intended to speed up Alberta tar sands production, its response is to place environmentalists under surveillance.

A secret report prepared by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the country’s national police agency, claims that public activism against the problems caused by oil and gas extraction is a growing and violent threat to Canada’s national security. The report goes so far as to challenge the very idea that human activity is causing global warming or that global warming is even a problem. At least 97 percent of environmental scientists agree that human activity is causing global warming. The basis on which a police force can declare otherwise is surely not clear.

Whether police officials truly believe they understand the global climate better than scientists who are expert in the field or are merely providing “intelligence” [sic] that the government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper wants to hear, I will leave to others more familiar than I with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Regardless, the RCMP report, leaked to Greenpeace, makes for amusing reading. For example:

“[T]here is an apparent growing international anti-Canadian petroleum movement. In their literature, representatives of the movement claim climate change is now the most serious global environmental threat, and that climate change is a direct consequence of elevated anthropogenic greenhouse gases which, reportedly, are directly linked to the continued use of fossil fuels.” [page 5]

And whom might the police rely on for that statement? No, not those pesky scientists who refuse to say what is demanded of them by oil and gas companies and the right-wing governments who love them. Instead, the RCMP quotes the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, cites a poll commissioned by a foundation connected to the oil industry, and a columnist at theToronto Sun, a hard-right tabloid in the Murdoch mold. The Sun columnist, as quoted in the police report, said “environmental radicals” seek “to undermine the development of Canada’s oilsands — an insignificant contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions.”

Actual experts in the field would disagree. A Scientific America analysis that quotes several climate scientists reports that if all the bitumen in the Alberta tar sands were burned, 240 billion metric tons of carbon would be added to the atmosphere. The total amount of carbon that has been thrown into atmosphere by humanity in all of history is estimated at 588 billion tons.

Are going to believe the police or your lying eyes?

The Globe and Mail of Toronto quoted a Royal Canadian Mounted Police spokesman denying any intention of spying on peaceful protestors:

“There is no focus on environmental groups, but rather on the broader criminal threats to Canada’s critical infrastructure. The RCMP does not monitor any environmental protest group. Its mandate is to investigate individuals involved in criminality.”

But the newspaper’s report noted that the spokesman “would not comment on the tone” of the report, which even The Globe and Mail, a leading establishment publication, found difficult to accept as it earlier in the article noted the RCMP report’s “highly charged language.” Moreover, Canadian human rights organizations filed complaints earlier in February over spying on opponents of the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline, a project intended to move tar sands oil from Alberta to a port in northern British Columbia, passing through hundreds of miles of environmentally sensitive lands.

Environmentalists and Indigenous peoples have been subjected to spying by the RCMP and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, according to a complaint filed by the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association. The association is also opposing a new measure, the Anti-terrorism Act 2015, or Bill C-51, intended to “dramatically expand the powers of Canada’s national security agencies.” The association reports:

“Bill C-51 makes massive changes to many aspects of Canada’s spying and security system. Any one of the changes – making it easier to lock people up without charge; criminalizing expression; vastly expanding the powers of Canada’s spies; gutting privacy protections – is significant, raises constitutional questions, and must be the subject of serious debate. Lumping them all together into one bill, and proposing to speed that bill through Parliament, virtually guarantees that democratic debate on these proposed measures will be insufficient.”

Such speed is consistent with the Harper government’s attitude toward activists. A previous environment minister, Peter Kent, called parliamentary opponents of tar sands “treacherous” and had a long history of dismantling every regulation he could. The current environment minister, Leona Aglukkaq, while less inclined to frontal attacks, nonetheless also doubts climate change.

From smoking is good for you to the weather is just fine

Global-warming denialism is well-funded, with oil and gas companies often the heaviest contributors to “think tanks” that specialize in doubting scientific evidence on behalf of their corporate benefactors. An excellent roundup of these deniers, written by physics professor John W. Farley for the May 2012 edition of Monthly Review, noted that Exxon Mobil Corporation, the Koch brothers and other special interests have spent tens of millions of dollars.

One of these corporate-funded “think tanks” is the Heartland Institute, which began life as a Big Tobacco outfit issuing reports denying links between smoking and cancer. Another global-warming denial outfit, The George C. Marshall Institute, originated as lobby group for Ronald Reagan’s crackpot Strategic Defense Initiative, more commonly known as the “Star Wars” program. Another was the now-defunct Global Climate Coalition, which included major oil companies, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and automobile manufacturers; it actually operated from the offices of the National Association of Manufacturing.

A scientist who is often trotted out by global-warming deniers is Wei-Hock (“Willie”) Soon, who was recently revealed to have taken more than $1.2 million from the fossil-fuel industry. The New York Times reports that at least 11 papers Dr. Soon has published since 2008 omitted disclosures of this funding and at least eight violate the ethical guidelines of the journals that published him. The Times reports:

“[D]ocuments show that Dr. Soon, in correspondence with his corporate funders, described many of his scientific papers as “deliverables” that he completed in exchange for their money. He used the same term to describe testimony he prepared for Congress.”

The world is facing an environmental catastrophe as it is; increasing production from the Alberta tar sands will only hasten it. The capacity of railroads to ship oil is reaching its limit (and in itself is dangerous as a recent flurry of crashes demonstrate). Thus pipelines are critical for tar sands expansion. Not only the Keystone XL pipeline across the United States, but the Northern Gateway and other proposed pipelines that would cross Canada to eastern ports. U.S. President Barack Obama’s February 24 veto of a congressional bill designed to force Keystone construction by no means puts that issue to rest; the State Department’s inaccurate claim that the pipeline would not add to global warming and falsehoods that tens of thousands of jobs would result remain an official document.

Opposition to the Keystone XL pipelines has not slackened and strong resistance continues against the Northern Gateway, which would not only send oil through sensitive mountains and forests, but would require ocean tankers to travel more than 100 kilometers just to reach the Pacific Ocean from the pipeline terminus in northern British Columbia. From there, the oil would be shipped to Asia. First Nations peoples, who have the right to block projects from crossing their lands, are leading that fight, and vow physical resistance.

TransCanada Corporation, the same company that wants to build Keystone XL to the Gulf of Mexico, is also proposing an Energy East pipeline that would carry tar sands oil to terminals in Québec City and St. John, New Brunswick. This project, if it comes to fruition, would alone produce the same amount of carbon each year as seven million new cars on Canada’s roads, according to 350.org. Some of this project would use existing natural gas lines; these are not designed for oil, a heavier substance, elevating the risk of ruptures.

The RCMP reports asserts that “extremists pose a realistic criminal threat to Canada’s petroleum industry.” Advocating for clean air and water is a crime? The fight against one of these pipelines must be a fight against them all; increased oil profits surely won’t be compensation for drowned cities and farmlands turned to dust bowls.

Pete Dolack writes the Systemic Disorder blog. He has been an activist with several groups.

 

 

Canada invokes “jihadi threat” to pursue agenda of war and reaction

By Keith Jones
March 1, 2015
World Socialist Web Site

 

policebootCanada’s Conservative government is steamrolling its new “anti-terrorism” bill through parliament—legislation that tramples on core democratic rights and dramatically augments the power of the state and its national-security apparatus.

The Conservatives, who last fall sent Canada to war yet again, this time in Iraq, are also plotting to involve Canada still more deeply in US imperialism’s global offensive.

In both instances, the government is justifying its actions with the claim that Canada is under attack from Islamist terrorism.

This has been a constant refrain of Prime Minster Stephen Harper and his minsters since the killing of two members of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) last October in separate incidents in St.-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec and Ottawa.

Harper and his Conservatives seized on these killings—the work of deeply troubled individuals who had no connection with each other, let alone any terrorist group in Canada or the Middle East—to advance a pre-planned right-wing agenda.

The claim that Bill C-51 is an anti-terrorist measure is a brazen lie. Running to well over 600 pages, it amends numerous laws to give vast new powers to Canada’s spy agencies and the police.

Canada’s premier spy agency, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, or CSIS, is to be empowered to break virtually any law when disrupting what it deems threats to Canada’s national security, including ostensible threats to Canada’s economic stability and infrastructure, territorial integrity, and diplomatic relations.

The only provisos are that when employing illegal measures against opponents of the government, CSIS must not kill people, cause bodily harm, or impugn their “sexual integrity.” They also will require a judge acting in secret and on the basis of secret jurisprudence to grant them a “disruption warrant.”

No one should be taken in by the government’s pretense that “lawful dissent” will be protected from CSIS dirty tricks and provocations. Canada’s national security apparatus is notorious for spying on socialist, labor, anti-war, environmental, and aboriginal groups and justifying it on the grounds that one of their members “may” engage in unlawful activity sometime in the future.

Moreover, governments across Canada have increasingly criminalized the struggles of the working class and political dissent, passing one anti-strike law after another and employing police violence against the anti-G20 protesters and striking Quebec students.

Those who organize or participate in worker job actions in defiance of strikebreaking laws, student sit-ins, or other acts of civil disobedience, or whom CSIS claims “may” do so in the future, would all be potential CSIS “disruption” targets

Bill C-51 builds upon the Chretien Liberal government’s 2001 “Anti-Terrorism Act.” It created a new category of “terrorist” crimes subject to “exceptional” rules and penalties and based on a catch-all definition of terrorism in which any “unlawful” action aimed at compelling a government to do something—such as for example a political general strike or even a blockade of a highway–could be designated a terrorist act.

Bill C-51 expands the power of preventive arrest introduced under the 2001 law and reduces the evidentiary threshold at which it can be employed. Police will now be able to detain a person whom they suspect “may” commit a terrorist act for up to a week without charge. In the name of protecting Canadians, the state will also be able to much more readily place restrictions on the movements and actions of people who have never been charged let alone convicted of any crime.

Under Bill C-51 the government is also creating a new crime of advocating or promoting terrorism “in general” for which the punishment will be up to five years in prison. Even the big-business mouthpiece the Globe and Mail noted that this measure could potentially result in the prosecution of someone who expressed sympathy with the Palestinian group Hamas (which the government has designated as “terrorist); and, precisely because it is so sweeping and deliberately vague, will, by way of intimidation, greatly restrict free speech and public debate even in the absence of widespread prosecutions.

Bill C-51’s undemocratic character is underscored by the methods the government is using to speed it into law. The Conservatives have responded to opposition queries and criticism with half-truths, lies and smears. Harper has himself led the charge, calling the NDP’s concerns over the bill “ridiculous,” “extremist” and grounded in “conspiracy theories.”

Although the House of Commons only began its deliberations on Bill C-51 on February 19, the Conservatives—joined by the Liberals, who have pledged to support its passage—effectively adopted it in principle this past Monday when they voted to send it to the Public Security committee for review.

Initially the government proposed this committee hear just four days of “expert” testimony on the bill, the first of which would be given over to presentations by Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney and Justice Minister Peter MacKay. In the face of an NDP filibuster, the Conservatives later conceded that nine sessions can be devoted to hearing “expert” reaction to Bill C-51. But the government is insistent that the entire committee process be terminated by the end of March so that Bill C-51 can be passed into law in early April. The NDP has bowed to this demand, saying it shares the government’s view that adoption of the bill is a matter of urgency.

The government is also preparing to extend and expand Canada’s combat mission in the Middle East, which is currently slated to come to an end at the end of March. In his first public address since becoming defence minister, Jason Kenney declared the government “committed to playing a meaningful role in the fight against ISIS” because “it’s a matter of national interest” and “Canadian security.” A few days later Kenney told CBC the Canadian military mission could be expanded to Syria and Libya, adding that nothing has been ruled out.

As with the government’s claims that Bill C-51 is directed against jihadi terrorism, its attempts to present Canada’s growing involvement in war in the Middle East as a response to the threat of jihadi terrorism is completely disingenuous. The latest US-led war in the Middle East, like those that have preceded it, is aimed at strengthening US imperialism’s strategic dominance of the world’s most important oil exporting region. The Canadian elite, for its part, has responded to the deepening crisis of world capitalism and the emergence of new rivals to US global dominance by strengthening its decades-long military-strategic partnership with Washington and signing up for one US-led war after another.

While Harper rails against the “international jihadist movement,” the reality is that until recently the US and its allies were using Islamist forces, including those comprising ISIS, as their proxies in “regime change” wars in the Middle East, first in Libya, then Syria. Last fall, when the Harper government announced that CAF aircraft would be bombing ISIS in Iraq, even sections of Canada’s corporate media noted that they might well end up bombing Islamist fighters with whom the CAF coordinated bombing raids in Libya in 2011 during NATO’s campaign to oust Muammar Gaddafi.

With the government set to present its budget and steamroller Bill C-51 through parliament in April and announce an expansion of Canada’s role in the Mideast war sometime in March, the Conservatives are putting everything in place for a possible spring “jihadi” election. The Conservatives would seek to frame such an election around their false narrative of a Canada under attack, presenting themselves as the only ones prepared to confront jihadi terrorism at home and abroad and to resolutely defend “Canadian values.”

Through this bellicose, nationalist appeal, laced with anti-Muslim chauvinism, the Harper government hopes to divert attention from the deepening economic crisis—the collapse in oil and other commodity prices, a plunging dollar, and growing unemployment and underemployment—and divert the social frustration produced by mounting economic insecurity and social inequality behind war and reaction.

They also hope to rally the support of the ruling class by demonstrating their ruthless determination to implement big business’ agenda at home and abroad and their readiness to run roughshod over democratic norms and rights to suppress opposition, especially from the working class.

This is a high-risk gamble. There is mass disaffection from the entire political establishment, broad hostility to war and bigotry, and mounting working class resistance to years of concession contracts and the systematic dismantling of public services.

In mounting their right-wing campaign of lies and reaction, the Conservatives are dependent on the spinelessness and complicity of the opposition parties and the trade unions. Their differences with the government over its program of war, austerity and attacks on democratic rights are entirely tactical: over how best to ensure the competitiveness of Canadian capitalism and its global strategic interests.

The Liberals, the Canadian elite’s traditional alternate party of government, blazed the trail for the Harper government. The 12-year Chretien-Martin Liberal government (1993-2006) implemented a fiscal counterrevolution that included the greatest social spending cuts in Canadian history and massive tax cuts for big business and the rich. They led Canada to war against Yugoslavia and Afghanistan, launched the rearmament of the Canadian Armed Forces, and presided over a massive expansion of the national-security apparatus, including authorizing the Communications Security Establishment to systematically spy on Canadians’ electronic communications.

Although it withheld approval for the CAF combat mission in Iraq, the NDP has otherwise repeatedly supported Canada’s participation in US-led wars and Harper’s aggressive foreign policy. Just this week, the social democrats signaled they would be ready to support the CAF training troops of Ukraine’s right-wing government, which came to power through a fascist spearheaded, US-German fomented coup, if NATO approves such a step.

Similarly, while it claims to oppose Bill C-51, the NDP has agreed to help secure its speedy passage. Moreover, NDP leader Thomas Mulcair has said that in the event the NDP forms the government it will amend, not repeal, this omnibus assault on democratic rights. (See: Canada’s NDP belatedly opposes Conservatives’ draconian “anti-terror” bill)

As for the NDP’s union allies, they have systematically suppressed working class resistance to the austerity agenda of big business and ordered compliance with the anti-union laws. While they claim to oppose austerity, they encouraged the NDP to prop up an Ontario Liberal government as it imposed massive social spending cuts and illegalized teacher strikes.

Now, in the name of defeating Harper, the unions are seeking to channel the opposition to the Conservatives behind a campaign to elect a Liberal or Liberal-NDP government. Were such a government to come to power it would simply give a new, “progressive” face to the Canadian elite’s program of aggression abroad and sweeping attacks on workers’ democratic and social rights.

Workers and youth can only assert their interests through the building of new organizations of struggle, independent of the pro-capitalist unions and NDP—above all a workers’ party, animated by a socialist-internationalist program to put an end to capitalism.