Intensified War in Afghanistan by Canada:
Extension of Genocide to Afghanistan
-An indigenous point of view
By Aaron Mercredi
"We are rhetorical peacekeepers, not practical peacekeepers any more."
- - Douglas Bland, head of the Defence Management Studies Program at Queen's University.
On July 14th, Chief of Defence General Rick Hillier announced the deployment of 2000 more Canadian soldiers to Afghanistan by February 2006. Unlike in the past, when leaders in Canada’s military have masked Canada’s role in Afghanistan as a ‘peacekeeping’ project, Hillier stripped away the ‘heroic’ and benevolent Canadian disguise, and told it like it is. He said, “We’re not the public service of Canada, we’re not just another department. We are the Canadian military and our job is to be able to kill people.” It is obvious from Hillier’s remarks that Canada is not a peacekeeper, but this has always been an obvious reality for indigenous people within Canada who have suffered war, genocide and never-ending attacks from all arms of the colonial government of Canada.
Occupation Force At Home
What the Canadian military is doing, by sending in more trained killers to suppress the people of Afghanistan, needs to be looked at from the perspective of its colonial roots. Killing indigenous people in order to pave the way for Canadian expansion was the first order of business for the Canadian military once Canada had confederated. It was an‘errand of peace’ that sent the Canadian military in to the Red River Valley to suppress the sovereignty of the Metis. Fifteen years later, the military would be sent in once again to suppress the displaced Metis and the Cree of the area. It was this mission that killed many Cree, locked up Chiefs Poundmaker and Big Bear up in prison, and hanged Louis Riel, the leader of the Metis. The creation of the North-West Mounted Police (NWMP), which later became the RCMP, was the creation of a military occupation force to deal with indigenous people and to expand and enforce on them the colonial sovereignty of Canada. Besides clearing the way for Canadian expansion, the NWMP was used to enforce treaties on different indigenous nations. Each nation had their own experience with the colonizers, and many experienced from the British and French before Canada was established.
The brutal nature of the Canadian military has been shown to younger generations of indigenous people. In 1990, the Canadian military laid siege, alongside the Securite Quebec and the RCMP, to a group of Mohawks who were protecting their sacred land against the expansion of a golf course in Khanesatake. In 1995, the RCMP used brute force and government sanctioned para-military operations against no more than 18 sundancers who were occupying their unceded territory at Gustafsen Lake. In 2000, the waters of Burnt Church, Nova Scotia heated to the boiling point as Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) transformed the area into a war zoneramming fishing boats and assaulting Mi’kmaq fisherman to suppress their inherent right to fish on their ancestral territory.
Even closer to home here in BC, this same war over the waters has been waged against the Cheam nation by the DFO intensely over the last few years. The DFO continues to attack and suppress Cheam fishing rights, continues to intimidate, and continues confiscate nets and press charges against Cheam people who do fish. Despite this, members of the Cheam Nation continue to fight back against this by going back out on to their waters and dropping their nets.
These wars, waged by Canada from its very foundation, are wars over the land and resources of indigenous people. From ‘settling the West’ in the late 1800s, to ‘maintaining law and order in Oka,’ behind the modest language that the colonial government of Canada uses to paint a bright and happy history of Canada lies the cruel reality of its actions against indigenous people to expand and consolidate the Canadian state and to create capitalist profit.
Canada Is imperialist, Here and Everywhere
The drive for profit, for land and resources, that makes Canada attack indigenous people here at home is the same drive that has intensified the Canadian war drive on Afghan people. The invasion of Afghanistan by the US in 2001 marked the beginning of a new era for oppressed people globally, an era plagued by war and occupation. This era is characterized by imperialist countries, like Canada and the US, directly invading and occupying third-world countries to steal resources, exploit the people who live there, and increase their own hegemony in the area; all to compensate for the economic crisis they are facing at home. In Canada, we see this with the massive cuts to social programs, wage rollbacks for workers, and in the increase of attacks on immigrants and refugees. We are also witnessing Canada taking a stronger role in consolidating indigenous land within its colonial borders.
The attacks on September 11, 2001 were not the reason for the US invasion of Afghanistan; they were used as a pretext for invasion. Planes crashing in to the twin towers gave the US every excuse it needed for attacking third world countries it accused of harbouring terrorists. Although Canada helped out initially, it stayed relatively quiet, at least for the first little while. In February 2002, the first major wave of soldiers was sent to Kabul, and by February 2003, even more soldiers were sent to ‘free up’ American troops to fight in Iraq. By February 2005, Canadian General Rick Hillier became the head of the ISAF occupation forces, strengthening Canada’s role in the occupation of that country.
We can see the pattern that the Canadian government and ruling class have created of slowly and carefully moving in to make sure a piece of the pie is saved for them. It has been making great leaps forward in the same direction by taking part in the overthrow of the democratically elected leader of Haiti, and taking part in the brutal occupation of that country that is using the RCMP to teach new Haitian death squads their tricks of the trade.
All Are Related
“These are detestable murderers and scumbags, I’ll tell you that right up front. They detest our freedoms, they detest our society, they detest our liberties...we’re not going to let those radical murderers and killers rob from others and certainly we’re not going to let them rob from Canada.”
- -General Rick Hillier, July 2005 -comments about the Afghan people.
- “…and the armed occupation of Gustafsen Lake is the action of a handful of violent extremists…”
- -Ujal Dosanjh, September 1995 - then Attorney General of BC
According to the government of Canada and the ruling class in this country, people who resist the theft of their land and resources, who resist the murder of their people, who resist against attacks on their sovereignty are one and the same. They are ‘terrorists,’ ‘scumbags,’ ‘extremists,’ and whatever other names can be used to demonize them and delegitimize their struggle because they defend themselves against ruling class attacks and because they oppose the interests of the ruling class of this country.
There are more similarities between indigenous people here and people in Afghanistan than the government of Canada want us to believe. Is it any surprise that according to Statistics Canada, after hundreds of years of colonization and war, indigenous people have the highest levels of poverty among all Canadians? Is it any coincidence that according to the United Nations, after 3 ½ years of military occupation of Afghanistan is now the poorest country in Asia? When looking at life expectancy, the same similarities exist. The effect that colonization has had on indigenous peoples’ health in Canada has resulted in higher health problems and a considerably lower life expectancy compared to other Canadians. In Afghanistan between 2003 and 2004, the life expectancy dropped 4 ½ years under the military occupation. Canada is responsible for this low standard of living through military occupation and by denying self-determination.
This is a War on Oppressed People Around the World
On July 20th, only six days after General Hillier held the press conference announcing the increased war in Afghanistan, the Supreme Court of Canada passed a judgement on the long-standing war that the government of Canada has been waging against the Mi’kmaq nation, whose territory makes up all of Novia Scotia and part of New Brunswick. The judgement ruled that the Mi’kmaq could not harvest trees on their territory without a permit from the government of Canada, despite the fact that the Mi’kmaq maintained these rights in the treaties of 1760 and 1761 with the British. In spite of this, Canada still refuses to acknowledge Mi’kmaq sovereignty over their territory. As Canada steps up his arsenal abroad, just as throughout history, it is keeping pace at home.
We need to ask ourselves what a victory for Canadian imperialism in Afghanistan would mean for indigenous people in Canada? What good would it do? A Canadian victory in Afghanistan, if anything, would boost the confidence of the Canada to not only spread its military force out to plunder more countries abroad, but to also take more confident steps at home to directly take the land from indigenous people. A defeat in Afghanistan, having Canadian troops completely exhausted, demoralized and immobilized would weaken Canada’s ability to carry out its war against indigenous people at home and put indigenous people here in a better position to fight back. This is the connection that exists between indigenous people and Afghans. When a colonial government whose policy has always been warfare against indigenous people extends that warfare abroad to Afghanistan, indigenous people and Afghans are bonded by a struggle against a common enemy. The struggle of indigenous people here is expanded to wherever the colonial imperialist government attacks abroad. That is why when we see the city of Kandahar burning from rocket shells on the CNN, we have to think about Oka. That is why we need to see Herat as the next Burnt Church. That is why Mazar e Sharif will be the next Gustafsen Lake. That is why we need to see the Mohawk flag in the eyes of all the young people being dragged away to interrogations and detentions. Indigenous people here need to recognize these connections and oppose this war and destruction just as if it was happening at home.
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