Canada... Peacekeeper? a Shattered Dream
Warmonger: a Bitter Reality
By Ivan Drury
It would seem that the great myth of Canada’s “proud peacekeeping tradition” has been laid to rest with the other fantastic Canadian legends like those of the Bigfoot and Ogo Pogo. With Canada spending three years walking the exposed ribs of Afghanistan and a year and a half knee deep in the bloody shores of Haiti, you’d think that General Hillier’s July 14th declaration of war on the people of Afghanistan would be the only the etchings on the tombstone of a dead idea: however, old stories die hard.
Where does “peacekeeping” come from?
The whole notion of “peacekeeping” was born, according to legend, from the mouth of Canada’s Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Lester B. Pearson in 1956 as a solution to the problem of Egypt’s nationalization of the Suez Canal. The “problem” for Canada, as well as for the US, France, Britain and Israel, was that Egypt dared to take control of its canal. The “solution”, as proposed by Pearson, was to buy time to avoid a premature war amongst competing imperialist powers and the USSR, and find a “political solution” that included helping Israel’s attempted land-grab. The result was that imperialist superpower was swiped away from the fallen England and France and concentrated in the hands of the US, who was left with only the USSR to contend with as a threat. Pearson was elevated as a hero and awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
Pearson’s “peacekeeping” proved to be a valuable tool for Canada and other imperialist countries during the Cold War, but it did not die off with the Soviet Union. As Canada’s International Policy Statement says, “The West may have won the Cold War, but that victory has not ushered in an era of global stability.” This is because the “West” did not win the Cold War. No one won the Cold War, it just ended, because the cause of the Cold War remained: the irreconcilable conflict between the interests of imperialism and the interests of working, poor and oppressed people in the world.
Since the Cold War has ended, the “red menace” has only been replaced with the “terrorist threat”. Again, Canada’s International Policy Statement states, “apart from the direct damage and human suffering that result from [terrorist] attacks, terrorism has other long term consequences.” […] “Security threats can diminish economic prosperity.” Cross reference that with Hillier’s blunt statement on the deployment of 2,000 Canadian troops to Afghanistan, “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,” and you can see that the choice of “peacekeeping” or “war” is just a matter of tactics. The goal of the Canadian ruling class is to protect their interests – the pillaging of the wealth of the world and jockeying for position against their imperialist rivals. This goal is at the root of all foreign and domestic policy and all wars and occupations, no matter what they are called.
In today’s world, the real job of Canadian “peacekeeping” troops is to suppress the rising struggles of oppressed people wherever they peak. Through the lens of “Canadian interests” every national struggle or individual terrorist attack is an opportunity to advance Canada’s imperialist economic, political or strategic goals. At the same time, these risings also pose a real threat to the prosperity of the Canadian ruling class because behind every so-called “terrorist threat” is a potential mass movement of oppressed people looking for a window to throw Canada through, out of Afghanistan, Haiti and every oppressed nation in the world.
“Canadian Peacekeeping”, 1956 to present: A shattered dream
1492-present: The formation of Canada through the occupation of Indigenous Land
Although this long-term occupation pre-dates and encompasses the concept of “peacekeeping,” the Canadian wars against and subsequent occupations of Indigenous nations in Canada form the foundation of Canada as a nation-state. The genocide of Indigenous people and the criminalization and suppression of their cultures by the Canadian government still continues in an ongoing colonial war today.
Without the theft of Indigenous territory and resources through the murder or displacement of all Indigenous people, there would be no Canada.
1956: The Suez Crisis
Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Lester B. Pearson, proposes a “peacekeeping” force that is sent to Egypt after Britain/France/Israel invade Egypt to try to stop the nationalization of the Suez Canal by Egypt. This first “peacekeeping team” served to help protect Zionist Israel.
1960-1964: The Congo
Canada participates in a UN force that is sent to the Congo. Through this UN force Canada is involved in the assassination of the popular Congolese anti-colonial liberation leader and President Patricia Lumumba.
1954-1975: Vietnam War
Canada sends foreign aid to South Vietnam. Between 1954 and 1975, Canada is part of a “truce commission” in Vietnam. In this capacity, it conducts espionage to support the war against Vietnam.
Canada was the largest per capita military exporter during the Vietnam War. Between 1964-1973 Canada sold $12.5 billion in ammunition and other war equipment to the US. As part of this arms dealing, the chemical weapon “Agent Orange” was tested for use in Vietnam in Camp Gagetown, New Brunswick and produced in Elmira, Ontario. Canada also provided areas in Alberta and Saskatchewan for the US to do test carpet-bombing raids prior to being carried out in Vietnam.
1991: Gulf War
Canada participates directly in the first Gulf War against Iraq. At least tens of thousands of Iraqis are directly killed, and 1.5 million more are killed by the destruction to infrastructure and the Canada-backed sanctions that follow.
1991-Present: The Balkans
Over 40,000 Canadian troops have been deployed on different occasions throughout the Balkans, including during the breakup of Yugoslavia and the period of mass ethnic cleansing and genocide that followed.
Canada participates in the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999, with thousands killed. Since then, Canadian troops have continued to do “peacekeeping” cleanup in Kosovo while Serbs and Roma people are expelled from Kosovo.
The Canadian military is sent to Somalia in late 1992 under the direction of the UN. Thousands of Somalis are killed by the UN intervention. The Canadian military commits numerous atrocities. Somewhat like Abu Ghraib, a scandal erupts when one Canadian soldier’s pictures of Shidane Arone being tortured are released - depicting a 16 year old Somali boy who is tortured and killed by Canadian soldiers. There are also other cases of unarmed Somalis being shot dead by the Canadian troops.
The 1994 genocide in Rwanda flourishes despite Canadian “peacekeeper” presence. For many people, the episode calls into question the reality of the “peacekeeping” dream.
During the October 2001 US invasion of Afghanistan, Canada was the first country to provide support, including warships, aircraft and troops. “Peacekeeper” troop activity increased in February 2002 when, as part of US controlled “Operation Apollo”, 850 Canadian troops deployed to Kandahar and heavy combat. Canadian “peacekeeper” troops upped their presence to 2,000 under NATO command in “Operation Athena” focused on “stabilizing Kabul” beginning in August 2003 and continuing still today.
In July 2005 an additional 2,000 troops were pledged (by February 2006) to return to “kill people” in Kandahar.
Before the US / UK invade, Canada parks warships in the Persian Gulf, used as transfer and security point for US troop deployments. Canada has since taken on the leadership of the international “elections” team in Iraq. Canadian corporation SCN-Lavalin is the principal supplier of bullets to the US military to use against Iraqis.
Canada/France/US invasion of Haiti. After overthrowing and exiling the elected president, an imperialist puppet military dictator was installed. Conditions following the invasion are reported to be worse than under the Duvalier regime, one of the bloodiest regimes in the history of the Western Hemisphere. Today Canada has more than 100 RCMP officers in Haiti to train a local police force that acts as a death squad for the occupation government.
Warmonger: A bitter reality
The catch with Canadian “peacekeeping” is that it never has anything to do with peace. It can’t, because as Paul Martin explained in Canada’s 2005 International Policy Statement, Canada’s economic and political position in the world depends upon free market access to international markets, resources and the “free flow of people, goods and services across national borders” in order to compete on the global market. In the same statement, he also recognizes that these very imperialist interests, and the resulting inequality of the global division of wealth, are what cause “unrest” and unpeace… or “war.”
The reality is that, because its interests are against those of the majority of the people of the world and because it is locked in a fierce competition with other imperialist powers in the world, Canada is a warmongering country. General Hillier’s bitter pill comments that should wake us from our “peacekeeper” dream are tough to swallow. Throughout nearly four years of Canadian occupation of Afghanistan and the invasion and occupation of Haiti, many trends in the progressive movement in Canada have grasped at crumbling maple leaves, desperate to hold on to Pearson’s lie. “George Bush is controlling Ottawa,” they say. “We have to protect Canadian sovereignty and our heritage of peacekeeping!” Unfortunately, this Canadian nationalism is misplaced. Working, poor and oppressed people in Canada must not line up with the Canadian ruling class against the US – we must unite with each other and with working, poor and oppressed people around the world against US, Canadian, and all imperialist war drives. The government of Canada does collaborate with the US in carrying out its agenda, as it did in Afghanistan and Haiti, and as it does whenever a partnership with any imperialist country is in its own favor, but Canada does so in the pursuit of the economic and political interests of its own ruling class.
Regardless of the paint-stripping benefits of the plainly announced Canadian war drive, working, poor and oppressed people in Canada must take it as a dire warning and call to action. This tough-talk from the government and ruling class of Canada really means one thing: they have terrible plans to wreak tremendous destruction in the years to come. The Canadian war drive has begun with the deployment to Afghanistan but it will not stop there. With 5,000 more troops and 13 billion more dollars in its arsenal in only the last three months, the government of Canada is writing itself a blank cheque.
The era of war and occupation that we have all found ourselves thrust into will doubtless provide them with constant fields of opportunity to “do more if we want to maintain influence in a more competitive world.” (Canada’s International Policy Statement, 2005) In his statement, General Hillier promised, on top of troops to Afghanistan, 100 armored vehicles to the Sudan. And at the end of July, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan reportedly approached Canada to send troops, on top of their ongoing RCMP presence, to Haiti to “bolster a planned UN rapid-reaction force” Globe and Mail, Aug 1, 05) against the growing Haitian anti-occupation uprising.
No matter what specific countries or regions the Canadian ruling class has in its sights, the progressive movement in Canada must wake up from its dream of Canadian “peacekeeping”, rub its eyes and see that reality is a nightmare of war, occupation and destruction. We must, for the sake of the lives of millions of people around the world and the lives and rights of people in Canada, stand up together and oppose the Canadian war drive.
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