We’re not idiots. But as Canadians, we’re told things, contradictory things, things that don’t add up… about Afghanistan, our mission, security, democracy… February 19th, here in Montreal, Robert Fisk, respected Middle East correspondent of 33 years, argued fervently for NATO and Canada, to get the hell out of “the total, absolute catastrophe” of the Middle East. Montreal Serai co-sponsored the talk and this issue of Serai is dedicated to Canada’s militarization. Now the 6th biggest spender in NATO, we’re meaner, more fantastic, more unreal than ever before.
In the Defence Department’s Mission statement here, we’re told that Canadian Forces are called upon to fulfill 3 roles:
- 1) Protect Canadians at home.
- 2) Defend North America in cooperation with the US.
- 3) Defend Canadian interests abroad.
We’re told that this is a democracy and yet the how’s, when’s and where’s of numbers 1, 2 and 3 are decided without any pretense to democratic consultation. Which seems to have led to a situation in which, as Fisk so aptly put it, “We are not safe anywhere!” For to honor numbers 2 and 3 surely means to seriously compromise number 1, when, for instance, Canada is deeply partnering with Israel on matters to do with our mutual security in such areas as correctional services, prisons, law enforcement and borders and mutual protection from “common threats” including “border issues” See here.
How do we, the electorate, deal with this allegiance, following the horrors that Israel has just inflicted on the Gaza, an open air prison of sorts / a testing ground for weaponry the likes of which not previously seen, the stuff of nightmares. We do not deal with it very well, largely because we do not have to.
The terrible reality of Gaza here has not been televised. Our constitutions, deemed too delicate, were spared the horrors, by what Fisk observed as TV’s “coalition with government” and, quoting Reuters, “Out of respect for the dead.” “The same bodies,” he added, “they wouldn’t show respect for when they were alive.”
How prepared are we to question policy and practice when it’s also a matter of business as usual? Many Canadians have interests in Israel vested right through their retirement: See here how the Canadian Pension Plan is investing in weapons sold to Israel. Heavens! you may think, at what price those golden years?!
Then again, the CPP is no less patriotic than the DND who promise that “Defence will continue to make a vital contribution to the economy” while promoting “the deeply held Canadian values of democracy, freedom, human rights and the rule of law.” Speaking of the latter…on the matter of our mission, to Afghanistan, didn’t Harper recently declare on CNN, ” …quite frankly, we are not going to ever defeat the insurgency. Because I think, you know, a part of the calculation there is the fact that, ultimately, the source of authority in Afghanistan has to be perceived as being indigenous. If it’s perceived as being foreign — and I still think we’re welcome there — but if it’s perceived as being foreign, it will always have a significant degree of opposition.” The blood of Afghan men, women and children; how many lives? Only for our leader to blandly arrive at the same understanding as Lawrence of Arabia, in 1929, “Granted mobility, security, time and doctrine, victory will rest with the insurgents.” Such is Afghanistan. “Why,” Fisk asks, “didn’t we read this in 2003?”
In a Real News panel on why we are in Afghanistan here, Sunil Ram, military and security analyst, reports how the Taliban go back and blow up schools and other institutions built by the occupying force, the invaders, the Canadian crusaders. Tariq Amin-Khan, professor of politics at Ryerson points out that, “Reconstruction runs counter to the logic of militarization.”
This is Canada’s history in Afghanistan. Will we learn from it? Or are all lessons of history lost when foreign policy and defence are trade driven, outside democratic and ethical influence? Malalai Joya, outspoken female legislator, banned from the Afghan Parliament, argued that “No nation can donate liberation to another nation.” Amin-Khan understands, “You have to allow the political process to unfold.” And that process must be native to that land.
Fisk spoke of how Palestinians are living the history of the Balfour Declaration while every day we in the West are living in this fantasy land of business as usual. But, I for one want to escape to that reality that understands a we, over here, can no longer be safe from a them over there, the Arabs and Muslims, by now, “white hot incendiary with frustration that they do not get the one thing that all Arabs and all Muslims ask for…justice.”(Fisk) Because, thanks to the defence trade’s twisted notion of democratic praxis, we produce a plethora of weapons to go round so that there is no longer here and there; there is only here.
“Why”, Fisk asked of government leaders, “do we believe these people?” “Why do we put our trust in Obama,” notably silent during Gaza. Because he believes? We can believe what our government and military say they believe because we are prevented from seeing what they do.
Is it sane to suggest that until we bring the military into democracy, discussion and decision making, along with the economy, histories, the sciences, the environment, media and so on, that security will increasingly mean insecurity.
In this issue of Serai, there are no borders.
To see Robert Fisk in Ottawa, March 2009 click here.