ON TARGET: It’s impossible to wage war against a tactic

By: Scott Taylor

A woman speaks on a mobile phone as smoke rises after a strike from the US-led coalition on the the Syrian town of Ain al-Arab, known as Kobane by the Kurds, as seen from the Turkish-Syrian border.

Last Tuesday’s terror attacks in Brussels set off another round of shockwaves throughout Europe and around the world.

Once it was confirmed that no Canadian citizen was among the victims, Canadian media outlets cast a wider net to find something — anything — to connect the horrific attacks to Canada. For instance, a taekwondo team from Edmonton was fortuitously late arriving at the Brussels airport, so only witnessed the aftermath, not the blast; an Air Canada flight to Montreal was cancelled; and several school trips planned for Belgium were diverted following the bombings.

Canadian authorities did not heighten security measures at domestic airports indicating that, despite the media’s best efforts to frighten the bejeezus out of us, there is no connection between the Belgium attack and Canada.

Of course, as soon as Daesh claimed responsibility for the attacks in Brussels, the usual fear-mongers took to their soapboxes to deride the Liberal government for being soft on terrorists.

Jason Kenney — Conservative MP, former Defence minister and self-appointed lead tub-thumper in the Colonel Blimp Brigade — rose in the House of Commons to ask, “Is Canada at war with [Daesh]? And if so, why did we end our combat operations against that terrorist organization?” The implication from Kenney’s query is that our contribution of six old CF-18 fighter jets bombing Daesh targets in Iraq and Syria was somehow keeping Europe safe.

Kenney’s ludicrous equation falls apart when you factor the connections between the perpetrators of the March 22 Belgium attacks and the Nov. 13, 2015, Paris attacks that left 130 dead. Last November our RCAF pilots were still regularly targeting and blasting Daesh positions in Iraq and Syria, yet the streets of the French capital were still vulnerable to fanatical Daesh extremists.

Kenney can perhaps be somewhat forgiven for falling victim to the Harper government’s pro-war propaganda. In fact, Kenney was one of the loudest voices in the Harper choir trying to convince Canadians that by bombing Daesh in the Middle East, we were keeping the terrorists off the streets in Canada.

The problem stems from the blurred definition of the words “terror” and “terrorism.”

Following the 9-11 attacks against America, U.S President George W. Bush first used the term “War on Terror.” This was of course as ridiculous as declaring “War on Fear” or “War on Violence,” but in those frightening days immediately after 9-11, no world leader was about to point that out to the U.S. president. Instead, countries pledged their allegiance to the U.S. on the “War on Terror.” It was not until 2013 that Bush’s successor in the White House, Barrack Obama, finally announced that America was no longer at war with a “tactic” but would instead focus on “specific enemies.”

Nevertheless, for more than a dozen years, the world’s only superpower led a coalition of allies, including Canada, on a war against a “tactic.” In simple terms, this meant that anyone opposed to the U.S. could be branded a “terrorist.”

This line got totally blurred in the spring of 2014, when Daesh fighters swept out of Syria and captured a vast swath of Iraq. While Daesh combatants certainly committed terrifying atrocities (such as mass beheadings) following their victories, the problem was that they were not acting as terrorists. Instead, they were functioning as uniformed conventional forces, capturing and holding territory.

For the past two years, Daesh has been administering its self-proclaimed caliphate, which includes the Iraqi city of Mosul with its more than two million inhabitants. Terrorists blow up airports and shoot unsuspecting mass transit passengers like in the Brussels and Paris attacks; they don’t manage garbage collection and food distribution as Daesh does in Iraq and Syria.

If there was a serious international intent on eradicating the Daesh rule over its caliphate, a single NATO standard armoured division could recapture that territory in less than three days. Unfortunately, the destruction of conventional Daesh units would simply drive them back underground, and the U.S. has already experienced the bloody reality of trying to occupy and suppress insurgents in Iraq’s Sunni Triangle.

Bombing, containing or even eliminating Daesh’s conventional forces in Syria and Iraq will in no way impact the actions of the Daesh fanatics that are launching attacks in Europe. They may fly the same black flag and shout the same slogans, but as we learned from the lone-wolf, “Daesh-inspired” terror attacks in Canada in October 2014, homegrown crazies can pop up anywhere, anytime.

Bombing Syrian villages does not make Canadian streets safe, and it is impossible to wage war against a tactic.