By Scott Taylor
In the dumbed-down world of political fear-mongering and posturing, it has become the Harper government’s stock-in-trade policy to commit our military resources to a cause by simply informing Canadians of what we are fighting against.
For 12 years Canada sacrificed the lives of our soldiers and spent billions of dollars to fight the evil Taliban in Afghanistan. Of course, no one thought it wise at the time to point out that by battling the Taliban we were, in fact, shoring up one of the most detested regimes on the planet.
After all that expenditure in blood and gold by the international community, Afghanistan is currently ranked 172nd out of 175 countries on Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index, the violence level is at its highest since the U.S. invasion in 2001, and the Taliban remains a significant political force.
In 2011, as the so-called Arab Spring rolled across the Middle East, Canada was quick to leap to the fore against Libya. Canadians were told that our combat pilots were enforcing a United Nations-sanctioned no-fly zone over Libyan territory to prevent a power-mad dictator from massacring his own rebellious people. By portraying Moammar Gadhafi as a completely crazy, genocidal monster, Canadians had no problem with our pilots going above and beyond their authorized mandate.
In fact, from the outset, the Canadian-led NATO air campaign openly attacked Gadhafi loyalist forces in support of the rebels. To fudge around this technicality, NATO interpreted the UN mandate to be that of protecting civilians. Therefore, NATO spin doctors labelled the rebels as “armed civilians” to justify attacks against Gadhafi loyalists as pre-emptive protection.
Again, we were happily in the midst of a military campaign and no one wanted to spoil the fun by asking, “Just who the hell are we fighting for?”
Only after Gadhafi was defeated and then murdered in the street, did people begin to examine just who these Libyan armed civilians were. Upon closer inspection, it turns out they were a collection of Islamic extremists, criminals and common thugs. Since 2011, Libya has rapidly descended into a failed state, rife with violent anarchy, and has become a new breeding ground for ISIS extremists.
Fresh from that major cock-up, the Harper government wasted little time in joining a U.S.-led force to battle ISIS in Iraq and Syria. Yes, once again we are being told our brave boys and girls are fighting against the forces of evil incarnate. According to Defence Minister Jason Kenney, ISIS forces are “genocidal terrorists” which gives us the “moral clarity” to bomb targets in foreign countries, even if adherents to international law might disagree.
Also in the fight against ISIS is a very mixed bag of dubious characters, including the militias loyal to embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and their Hezbollah allies. Hezbollah — Shiite Palestinians backed by Iran — are considered terrorists by the Harper government. Inside Iraq, the anti-ISIS campaign is headed by the Shiite militias that were called in by interim Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi when Iraqi government forces melted away last spring. Acting as advisors to the Shiite militia are Iranian military commanders.
In northern Iraq, however, it is the Kurds who are keeping ISIS at bay. Their goal is the creation of a Greater Kurdistan and their ranks include fighters from the PKK, which Canada still lists as a terrorist organization. Even more ominous is the presence of the al-Qaida Kurdish Battalion (AQKB), which has joined their fellow Kurds to combat ISIS.
However, the Harper government has assured us that our pilots are not bombing “for” any of these questionable allies; we are simply bombing against ISIS.
It has been the same pattern of oversimplification when it comes to the Harper government’s response to the crisis in Ukraine: Russia bad, Ukraine good.
From the outset, Canada has unreservedly backed the new government in Kiev after it seized power from President Viktor Yanukovych last February. We know that they oppose Russian President Vladimir Putin and because Harper hates Putin, that must make the Kiev regime good. Therefore, no one wants to take a close look at exactly who we are “for” in this simmering civil war.
Far from a democratic institution, the current Ukraine government is a collection of in-fighting oligarchs — some with their own private armies and neo-Nazi militias. With a ranking of 142 on the Corruption Perceptions Index, Ukraine is unsurprisingly the most corrupt country on the European continent.
If the Harper government is truly seeking to garner the Ukrainian-Canadian vote in advance of this year’s election, it would do better to leverage economic relief for Kiev’s crippling debt load in exchange for implementing truly democratic, progressive reforms. That would be a hell of a lot more helpful than poking the Russian bear and beating the war drums.