Whose side are you on?




Spoiler alert: If you are a devoted believer that putting Canadian “boots on the ground” in Syria will actually solve anything, you might want to skip this contribution.

Let’s see if we can dissect the situation:

ISIS commits atrocities in Paris, 130 innocent civilians die. (Plus the many still in hospital.) Hollande proclaims it an act of “barbarism” and declares war on ISIS.
Curious, since France was already at war with ISIS, bombing them along with Canada, US and other allies. We, the allies, probably kill 130 members of ISIS every second day. Thank goodness there are only 42 allegations of incidents causing civilian collateral damage so far during this bombing campaign. The Canadian Air Force may have killed up to 27 innocent civilians in one incident alone, according to the CBC. Not to worry, the geographical territory controlled by ISIS in Iraq and Syria has been shrinking considerably, thanks largely to the Kurdish Peshmerga rebels on the ground.

So the Kurds must be our allies in this war. Turkey, a fellow member of NATO, is also our ally and is fighting ISIS too. But wait! The Kurdish objective in fighting ISIS is to carve out pieces of what are now Iraq and Syria and, yes, Turkey, to create a Kurdish Republic. Which pits them against our ally, Turkey. In fact, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party is outlawed in Turkey, where it has claimed credit for a series of “terrorist” bomb attacks. Turkey has in fact been bombing Kurdish militant positions in northern Iraq and Syria. So, now, once ISIS is defeated, the battle between our two allies will intensify.

Hmmm…which side should we support?

Another ally in the region is Saudi Arabia. Well, it must be our ally; we are selling them $15 billion worth of armed personnel carriers over the next 14 years. But wait — Saudi Arabia, this ally of ours, is helping fund ISIS, their fellow Sunni Muslims! (Ask Hillary Clinton: “Donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide.”) And of course 15 of the 19 plane hijackers on September 11, 2001 were citizens of Saudi Arabia. This is the same Saudi Arabia, btw, that is intervening in the civil war in Yemen where, according to Amnesty International, it is targeting civilians using cluster bombs, contrary to all “laws of war.” And lest we forget, in Saudi Arabia (our ally), women are not allowed to drive cars or even wear seat belts, as this might emphasize their female attributes.

Wait, didn’t 159 Canadian soldiers die fighting a war in Afghanistan to defeat the Taliban because the Taliban forbids girls from going to school and women from driving cars? (Btw, the first 4 Canadian soldiers to die in Afghanistan were killed by an errant US bomb attack.) The same Taliban that — in a previous incarnation, as Mujahedeen — we had supported (did that make them our ally?) in their battle against the godless Soviet occupying forces, which among other things were fighting to establish a republic where girls could go to school and women were treated as equals. (Remember when we boycotted the 1980 Olympics because the Russians were in Afghanistan? To be consistent, should Canada not have led a boycott of the Vancouver Olympics because of our own presence in Afghanistan?)

Luckily, Canada seems well on the road to forgetting the casualties, the hundreds of wounded, the suicides and the many soldiers who returned with severe PTSD as a result of our “mission” in Afghanistan. On December 20, in Toronto, Sergeant Robert Giblin, veteran of two tours of duty in Afghanistan, killed his wife and then himself in an apparent murder-suicide. Two more Canadian casualties of our participation in the Afghan occupation? Already Afghanistan has returned to the depressing chaos and corruption that existed before we sent our troops there. Warlords who have succeeded in pushing (pardon the pun) the drug production to record levels once again govern most of the country. Meanwhile, in Kunduz Afghanistan, the US accidentally bombed a Doctors without Borders hospital killing over 40 patients, staff and doctors, apparently even strafing a patient in a wheelchair who was trying to escape the bombing. Even the President of Afghanistan now admits: “The entire NATO exercise was one that caused Afghanistan a lot of suffering, a lot of loss of life, and no gains…”

So, yes, let’s forget about Afghanistan.

Russia, also one of our allies, sort of, in the battle against ISIS, is using its bombing raids as an opportunity to prop up its ally, President Bashar Al Assad, whom at one point we were intent on unseating for his undemocratic tendencies. No surprise, our ally, Russia, is showing more enthusiasm in bombing the anti-Assad rebel forces, also our allies in the fight against ISIS, than in bombing ISIS itself. Our ally, Turkey, meanwhile brought down a bomber deployed by our ally Russia, for allegedly violating Turkish airspace. Russia, it seems, was bombing Syrian Turkmen rebels, who are supported by Turkey. As spoils in the Syrian civil war, Turkey is hoping to annex that part of northern Syria populated by a majority of ethnic Turks, which is where the Russian plane was downed. Clearly, once ISIS has been defeated, the Syrian civil war will continue to rage. Our allies, the Russians, will be supporting Assad and fighting our allies the Rebels. The Russians will also be fighting our allies the Turks and our allies the Kurds. And the Kurds will be fighting the Iraqis, the Syrian government, the Syrian rebels and the Turks, all more or less our allies. While Turks will be fighting the Syrian rebels and the Kurds, and already have troops fighting in Iraq, the Shite Muslim militia are threatening to attack American troops if they are deployed again to the area.
Eee…I’m a little dizzy. Can anybody distil clarity out of this total chaos?

Once ISIS is defeated on the ground, we will support which side(s)?

Meanwhile, Iran and Israel lurk, ominously silent, in the background. What happens if either of them gets involved?  Montréal newspaper Le Devoir recently published reports suggesting Israel was smuggling ISIS oil to help fund the Sunni fundamentalists. Who actually is buying the annual $500 to $800 million worth of smuggled ISIS oil that is bankrolling our enemy? Our allies, Turkey and the Kurds in Iraq, it seems.

Putting Canadian “boots on the ground” or continuing our bombing mission is not going to affect the outcome of this political mess in any way or help the situation one damn bit.

Closer to home, President Obama welcomed President Hollande to the White House and declared undying solidarity with France in the fight against terrorism. “We’re going to defeat ISIS,” promises the US President in his year-end news conference. Meanwhile on December 18, a US aircraft mistakenly kills at least ten members of the allied Iraqi security forces in an airstrike near the city of Fallujah. Obama, remember, is the president of a country where the number of black men incarcerated in the prison system is greater than the number of black slaves at the beginning of the Civil War. The president of a country where an average of one mass killing takes place every week. Where an average of 2 minors (under 14) are killed every week by the accidental discharge of firearms. Where a total of 11,000 citizens die violently every year from guns. And don’t forget, the USA is, of course, our good friend and ally.

Now our ally, Saudi Arabia, successfully emulating the culture of our barbaric enemy, ISIS, has beheaded 47 Shite Muslims for such terrible crimes as demonstrating against the Saudi government.

What a mess. So what should Canada do? We can’t stop the fighting. We should not continue to be party to the killing of thousands of innocent civilians. We should not be part of a military engagement that the Arab world increasingly sees as an occupation, a modern-day crusade against the Muslim religion. We should not be part of a war, which, like the invasion of Iraq in 2003, is driven by lies, jingoism and hypocrisy and which ultimately benefits only the arms manufacturers. Like the invasion of Iraq, this war will end up stoking anti-US hatred, increasing the political chaos, playing into the hands of radicals on all sides, and probably significantly increasing the likelihood of home-grown hatemongers seeking revenge in Canada on Canadians.

So what should we do?

Build a better Canada, a model of integrity and tolerance that can serve as a moral example, an antidote to the hatred spreading through the Middle East. If we are going to spend our nation’s resources, let’s not participate in any military action that does not solve anything, and only results in the killing of innocent civilians. Let’s spend our money feeding, housing and providing schools for as many starving and homeless refugees as we can, both in Canada and in the war zones.

Want to know what we should be doing? Check this CBC link:


Guy Sprung is a director of film and theatre born in Ottawa in 1947. Having worked all over the world, he now lives in the Mile End area of Montréal and is the artistic director of Infinitheatre.