March 29, 2015

Canada, Islamic State & Syria ~ Haven't we learned anything?

The Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, is keen to expand Canada's up-to-now token military mission in the Middle East to Iraq and Syria. Not that we have been invited, but that's another matter.

According to Foreign Affairs Minister Rob Nicholson, extending our mission is a matter of "moral clarity."

We should take a brief moment to look, and possibly learn, from the recent past.

Today's mess, and the mess we are about to commit our nation more fully, began decades ago when the Excited States, understanding nothing about Afghanistan, decided to arm local militias against the Soviet Union. They funded people like Osama Bin Laden and other warlords in a twisted attempt to unseat a regime that was simply on the wrong side of the Cold War. It seemed a good idea at the time. However. The warlords quickly turned on each other and against the Excited States, and produced al-Qaeda, the Taliban, the attacks of September 11th, and unspeakable atrocities against the people of Afghanistan. Canada, for reasons only Jean Chretien might understand, sent military forces to Afghanistan and stayed for twelve long years. Over 2000 Canadian soldiers were injured and 158 died during our war in Afghanistan, and today the country is pretty much the way we found it all those years ago: a narco-state mired in corruption, violence and misogyny.

In 2003, the Excited States under W, along with Tony Blair, cooked up a bunch of lies to launch a war against Iraq. Saddam Hussein was deposed and the country promptly self-destructed. Hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis died. The social structure of the nation crumbled. The ultimate winners appear to be Islamic State, and probably Iran, though one can never be certain in this part of the world. That the Saudis were happy with the original effort  by W and Blair was probably reason enough. To this day, the country remains chaotic.

Just as a variation of Arab Spring broke out in Libya, various western countries, including our own, decided to remove a former ally in Moammar Gadhafi. Again, as in Afghanistan, we created a lawless state of rogues, gangs and thugs. The military arsenal that once belonged to our former ally, indeed Petro Canada's former ally, was distributed, for a fee, across Africa and the Middle East, quite likely to Islamic State and Boko Haram. Libya, for all our best efforts at ridding the nation of Gadhafi, is in anarchy, and its citizens suffer in ways, we, in Canada, cannot imagine.

So now it's off to Syria. Canada will aid its allies in attempting to destroy, or at least degrade Islamic State, or whatever other name we, or they, use. We will be seen as supporting the rulers of Syria, who are themselves guilty of war crimes against their own people. Why would Canada want to rally to support an despicable dictatorship? The Saudis are happy with our intervention of course, they the shining light of how best to conduct public beheadings.

Our Foreign Minister speaks of a moral clarity and he is right. Canada's mission will involve participation with mass murderers, fanatics of the worst kind, and diabolical lunatics. How else can we possibly describe the leaders of Saudi Arabia, Syria and Iraq. That is morally clear.

Does our government have a plan? Exactly how will a Canadian mission do anything to make Syria, or Iraq, better in any possible way? Islamic State currently operates in Iraq, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Tunisia, Pakistan and Nigeria. Is our goal to hunt down and kill all of them? And what if we don't?

Sometimes things can't be fixed. Sometimes violence in response to violence only escalates and promotes even more of the same. Creating martyrs is great for recruitment.

In the end, is Canada's expanding war on terror simply political posturing in an election year? Is this something to appeal to a large swath of  Conservative and Liberal voters, rather than offering anything substantial in the fight against Islamic State? Moral clarity indeed.

Copyright 2015 by Jim Murray.

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