Tag Archives: Canada

Celebrating war rather than peace reflects a sick society

Why do we build monuments to war rather than to its absence?

I wondered about this when reading about a recent tussle in the nation’s capital over the location for yet another celebration of people killing each other.

Last month the Canadian War Museum (CWM) complained to the National Capital Commission about the planned site of the National Memorial to Canada’s Mission in Afghanistan. The government wants to put the Afghan Memorial between Vimy Place Road and the museum to the west of Parliament Hill. But the CWM believes the Afghan monument will “detract from the architectural vision” of the museum. They are also concerned people might think the memorial is part of their institution, which could undermine CWM’s goal of being seen as a “centre of scholarly excellence” rather than simply a hub of militarist propaganda.

Whoa, Nelly! Those horses left the barn long ago. The scope of pro-war propaganda in this country is huge, and CWM has long been part of it.

Each year, tens of millions of dollars in public money is spent on war memorials. The Afghan Memorial is just the latest addition to Ottawa’s long list of war shrines, which includes the Korean War Monument, National War Memorial, National Victoria Cross Memorial, Veterans Memorial Highway, National Aboriginal Veterans Monument, Boer War Memorial, etc. The federal government spends tens of millions of dollars on these and the more than 7,500 memorials registered with Veterans Affairs’ National Inventory of Military Memorials across the country.

These odes to militarism are generally silent about the Libyans, Afghans, Serbians, Iraqis, Koreans, Germans, South Africans, Sudanese and others killed by Canadian Forces. They focus almost exclusively on “our” side, which reinforces a sense that Canada’s cause is righteous. But Canadian soldiers have only fought in one morally justifiable war: the Second World War.

Part war memorial and part veteran commemoration, the War Museum re-opened in 2005. The $136-million institution includes the Royal Canadian Legion Hall of Honour and is designed for light to shine on the headstone of the Unknown Soldier at 11 am on Remembrance Day. In Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism, Benedict Anderson writes: “tombs of Unknown Soldiers… saturated with ghostly national imaginings.”

With $65 million a year in mostly public funds, CWM says it “helps tell the story of Canada’s military history to Canadians through its collections, its research, its exhibitions, and its public and education programs.” Its re-launch was highly successful and 500,000 visitors a year have passed through the new museum, which dates to 1880 when the Canadian militia began displaying military artefacts and archival materials. A 55,000-square-foot building, CWM houses a large collection of war art and Canadian Forces Artists Program works. The museum also has an arrangement with the Department of National Defence to showcase obsolete military equipment and CWM supports the Legion’s Lest We Forget Project, which introduces students to archives from the First and Second World Wars. Top weapons makers have also co-sponsored exhibits and speakers series at the museum.

CWM regularly partners with the more than 60 Canadian Forces museums across the country. According to a Canadian Forces Administrative Order, “the role of CF Museums is to preserve and interpret Canadian military heritage in order to increase the sense of identity and esprit de corps within the CF and to support the goals of the Department of National Defence.”

While it presents itself as scholarly, CWM has caved to military extremists. After shaping its development, the some veteran groups objected to a small part of a multifaceted Second World War exhibit, which questioned “the efficacy and the morality of the … massive bombing of Germany’s industrial and civilian targets.” The campaign led to a new display that glossed over a bombing campaign explicitly designed to destroy German cities.

The war shrines’ battle over space in Ottawa offers a glimpse into the ever-growing world of militarist memorials. But these monuments and museums are only a small part of a vast military propaganda system.

With the largest PR machine in the country, the Canadian Forces promotes its worldview through a history department, university, journals, book publishers, think tanks, academic programs and hundreds of public relations officers. Every year hundreds of millions of dollars in public money is spent promoting the Canadian Forces and militarism.

Maybe it is time for a Ministry of Peace with a budget big enough to properly celebrate those glorious times in human history when we lived together in harmony.

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Filed under A Propaganda System

Statistics, damn lies and the truth about Rwanda genocide

The real Rwanda genocide story has no Canadian heroes.

Canadian commentators often claim more Tutsi were killed in the genocide than lived in Rwanda. Since it aligns with Washington, London and Kigali’s interests, as well as liberal nationalist Canadian ideology, the statistical inflation passes with little comment.

A Tyee story last month described the “slaughter of over 800,000 Tutsis in Rwanda” between April and July 1994. An earlier Globe and Mail profile of Roméo Dallaire cited a higher number. It noted, “over the next few months, Hutu activists and militias, supplemented by police officers and military commanders, killed an estimated 800,000 to 1 million Tutsis.”

Even self-declared experts on the subject cite these outlandish statistics. In the Globe and Mail and rabble last year Gerald Caplan wrote that, “despite his [Dallaire] best efforts, perhaps a million people of the Tutsi minority were slaughtered in 100 days.” With ties to the regime in Kigali, Caplan pulled this number out of thin air. It’s improbable there were a million Tutsi in Rwanda in 1994 and no one believes every single Tutsi was killed.

While the exact figure is unknown and somewhat contested, Rwanda’s 1991 Census calculated 596,387 Tutsi. Initially sponsored by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, the GenoDynamics project by the Dean of the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy at the University of Virginia Allan Stam and University of Michigan political science professor Christian Davenport put the number slightly lower at 500,000. Others claim the Hutu-government of the time sought to suppress Tutsi population statistics and estimate a few hundred thousand more Rwandan Tutsi.

But, a significant number of Tutsi survived the hundred days of killing. Tutsi survivors’ umbrella group IBUKA (“Remember”) initially concluded that 300,000 survived the genocidal killings, which they later increased to “nearer to 400,000.”

For 800,000 to 1 million Tutsi to have perished there would have had to been at least 1.1 million and probably closer to 1.4 million Tutsi. That’s twice the official calculation.

Notwithstanding the three examples mentioned at the top, the most commonly cited formulation of the number of deaths in 1994 is the more vague “800,000 Tutsi and moderate Hutu.” A 1999 UN report concluded, “approximately 800,000persons were killed during the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.” As time passes, however, the regime in Kigali increases the death toll. In 2004 the Rwandan Ministry of Local Government, Community Development and Social Affairs claimed 1,074,017 died and in 2008 the government-backed Genocide Survivors Students Association of Rwanda put the number at 1,952,087.

But, the higher the death toll one cites for the genocidal violence the greater the number and percentage of Hutu victims. In the 2014 BBC documentary Rwanda’s Untold Story Stam explains, “if a million people died in Rwanda in 1994 — and that’s certainly possible — there is no way that the majority of them could be Tutsi…Because there weren’t enough Tutsi in the country.”

The idea there was as many, or even more, Hutu killed complicates the “long planned genocide” narrative pushed by the regime in Kigali and its Anglo-Saxon backers. So does the fact that overwhelming evidence and logic points to the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) as culprits for blowing up the plane of the Hutu presidents of Rwanda and Burundi, as well as much of the Hutu-led Rwandan military command, which sparked the mass killings.

Washington and London’s support for the RPF, as well as Paul Kagame’s more than two-decade long control of Kigali, explains the dominance of a highly simplistic account of Rwanda’s genocide. But, a tertiary reason for the strength of the fairy tale is it aligns with the nationalist mythology of another G7 state. A wealthy, educated, population speaking the world’s two main colonial languages, Canadians have pumped out innumerable articles, books, songs, plays, poems, movies, etc. about our noble General’s effort to save Rwandans. Yet the Romeo Dallaire saviour story largely promoted by Left/liberals is based on a one-sided account of Rwanda’s tragedy.

Two of the articles mentioned at the top celebrate Dallaire. One of the stories that inflates the Tutsi death toll was a Globe and Mail profile upon the former general’s retirement from the Senate and in the other Caplan writes, “the personalrelationship so many Canadians feel with Rwanda can be explained in two words: Roméo Dallaire…[who] did all in his limited power to stop the killings.”

A Monthly Review article I discovered recently provides a stark example of how Left Canadian nationalists have warped understanding of Rwanda’s tragedy to fit their ideology. The third paragraph of the venerable New York-based Marxist journal’s 2003 review of When Victims Become Killers: Colonialism, Nativism, and the Genocide in Rwanda and A People Betrayed: The Role of the West in Rwanda’s Genocide begins: “A Canadian, General Roméo Dallaire, is the hero of the Rwandan tragedy.”

Canadian reviewer Hugh Lukin Robinson’s main criticism of Ugandan scholar Mahmood Mamdani’s When Victims Become Killers is that he downplays the importance of the Canadian commander of the UN military force. Robinson writes, “[Mamdani’s] disinterest in the international betrayal of Rwanda is illustrated by his single reference to General Dallaire, whose name he misspells and whom he refers to as ‘the Belgian commander in charge of UN forces in Rwanda.’ In contrast, Linda Melvern marshals the evidence which amply justifies the title of her book.”

But, Melvern is a leading advocate of the Kigali sponsored fairy tale about the genocide. Drawing on Dallaire’s purported “genocide fax,” she promotes the “long planned genocide” narrative. Simultaneously, Melvern ignores (or downplays) the role Uganda’s 1990 invasion, structural adjustment policies and the October 1993 assassination of the first ever Hutu president in Burundi played in the mass killing of Spring 1994. Melvern also diminishes RPF killings and their responsibility for shooting down the plane carrying Hutu President Juvénal Habyarimana and the Rwandan military high command.

Robinson was impressed with Melvern’s praise for Canada’s military man. “Dallaire had trained and risen through the ranks of an army proud of its tradition of peacekeeping,” Robinson quotes from Melvern’s writing. “He was a committed internationalist and had first hand experience of UN missions. He was a hard worker. And he was obstinate.” But, the “committed internationalist” admits he didn’t know where Rwanda was before his appointment to that country. Nor did Dallaire have much experience with the UN. “Dallaire was what military people call a NATO man,” explained CBC journalist Carole Off in a biography of the General. “His defence knowledge was predicated almost exclusively on the needs of the NATO alliance.”

More significantly, a number of the UN officials involved in Rwanda — head of UNAMIR troops in Kigali Luc Marchal, intelligence officer Amadou Deme, UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali, etc. — have challenged Dallaire’s interpretation of events, contradicted his claims or criticized his actions. Dallaire’s civilian commander on UNAMIR published a book accusing the Canadian General of bias towards the Uganda/US/Britain backed RPF. In his 2005 book Le Patron de Dallaire Parle (The Boss of Dallaire Speaks), Jacques-Roger Booh Booh, a former Cameroon foreign minister and overall head of UNAMIR, criticizes Dallaire’s actions in Rwanda and challenges his interpretation of events.

In one of two footnotes Robinson ended his Monthly Review article on a Canadian nationalist note. The former labour researcher writes: “There is another account of the Rwanda tragedy for which two Canadians can take a great deal of credit. In 1997, the Organization for African Unity (OAU) appointed an International Panel of Eminent Persons to report on what had happened. Stephen Lewis was a member of the Panel and Gerald Caplan was its principal writer and author of the report, Rwanda –The Preventable Genocide. It confirms all the main facts and conclusions of Linda Melvern’s book.”

While paying lip service to the complex interplay of ethnic, class and regional politics, as well as international pressures, that spurred the “Rwandan Genocide,” the 300-page report is premised on the unsubstantiated claim their was a high level plan by the Hutu government to kill all Tutsi. It ignores the overwhelming evidence (and logic) pointing to Paul Kagame’s RPF as the culprit in shooting down the presidential plane, which sparked the genocidal killings. It also emphasizes Dallaire’s perspective. A word search of the report finds 100 mentions of “Dallaire,” five times more than “Booh-Booh,” the overall commander of the UN mission.

Rather than a compelling overview of the Rwandan tragedy, the OAU report highlights Canada’s power within international bodies. In a Walrus story Caplan described, “waiting for the flight back to Toronto, where I would do all my reading and writing” on a report “I called…’The Preventable Genocide.'” Partly funded by Canada, the entire initiative was instigated by US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

Caplan is a staunch advocate of the noble Canadian general story. In 2017 Caplan, who started an organization with Kagame’s long-standing foreign minister, Louise Mushikiwabo, called Dallaire “surely among Canada’s most admired citizens, if not the most admired.”

Praise for Dallaire’s role in Rwanda is based on a highly simplistic account of what transpired in 1994. In their haste to promote a Canadian saviour in Africa, left/liberals have confused international understanding of the Rwandan tragedy, which has propped up Kagame’s dictatorship and enabled his violence in the Congo.

When commentators are claiming more Tutsi were killed than lived in the country it’s time to revaluate popular discussion of Rwanda’s tragedy.

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Filed under A Propaganda System, Canada in Africa

Standing up for Palestine boosts Ashton’s popularity

Sometimes silence in politics speaks louder than words.

Israel lobby groups’ response (or lack thereof) to NDP leadership candidate Niki Ashton’s recent support of Palestinian rights suggests they believe previous criticisms backfired.

Two months ago B’nai B’rith attacked Ashton for attending a rally in support of Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike and a subsequent Facebook post commemorating the Nakba, which saw 750,000 Palestinians driven from their homes by Zionist forces in 1947/48. The self-declared ‘human rights’ organization published a press release titled “B’nai Brith Denounces MP Niki Ashton for Standing in ‘Solidarity’ with Terrorists.” Rather than harming Ashton, the attack solidified support amongst the Left and youth within the party. B’nai B’rith’s smear generated significant media attention, but Ashton refused to back down. In response the Manitoba MP told the Winnipeg Free Press she felt obligated to “speak out in the face of injustice” and “I have consistently spoken out for peace and justice in the Middle East, including for Palestinians.”

A few days after accusing her of “Standing in ‘Solidarity’ with Terrorists” B’nai B’rith CEO Michael Mostyn took another shot at Ashton. Clearly writing to the Toronto Sun’s editors and his own organization’s donors, Mostyn linked Ashton’s position on Palestine to sympathy for the Black Lives Matter movement, which most NDP members probably support. On top of this own-goal, Mostyn opened the door for a rejoinder by the president of Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East. In his response Thomas Woodley described Ashton’s promotion of the Palestinian cause as an outgrowth of her “support for Indigenous rights in Canada” — for every NDP member Mostyn swayed against Ashton I’d bet Woodley convinced fifty to favour her.

Since the dustup at the end of May, B’nai B’rith — and other Israeli nationalist groups — have remained silent regarding Ashton. Yet when asked a question about Martin Luther King during an official party leadership debate six weeks ago Ashton went out of her way to link those campaigning for Palestinian rights to the US civil rights leader. Then, in a widely circulated FightBack interview at the end of June Ashton decried the NDP’s purge of pro-Palestinian candidates in the 2015 federal election campaign as “totally unacceptable.” She also called “justice for Palestine…a key issue” and referenced “the Nakba.”

Last week Ashton was part of a fundraiser in London, Ontario, put on by five prominent Palestinian solidarity activists, while this week she put out an appeal for individuals to join the party titled “End the Gaza Blockade.” It stated: “Today marks three years since the beginning of Operation Protective Edge, the 50-day Israeli military offensive on Gaza…Ashton has demonstrated that she will show leadership and will never hesitate when standing up for Palestinians.”

In the past B’nai B’rith has labeled lesser transgressions “support for terrorism” or “anti-Semitism.” Their silence on Ashton’s recent moves is deafening. B’nai B’rith is effectively conceding that their previous attacks backfired and they now fear drawing further attention to Ashton’s position since it would likely strengthen her standing among those voting for the next NDP leader.

According to a February poll of 1,000 Canadians, most progressive Canadians back Palestinian rights. Eighty-four per cent of NDP supporters said they were open to sanctioning Israel, when they were asked in the context of the UN Security Council denouncing settlement building in the West Bank: “Do you believe that some sort of Canadian government sanctions on Israel would be reasonable?

While somewhat of a long shot at the start of the race, Ashton now has a reasonable chance of becoming leader of the NDP. According to a July 5 Mainstreet poll of 1,445 party members, 22.6 per cent of those asked supported Charlie Angus as their first choice candidate while 20.4 per cent backed Ashton. 7.5 per cent chose both Jagmeet Singh and Peter Julian (who has since dropped out of the race) as their top choice and 6.1 per cent went for Guy Caron while 35.9 per cent had not made up their minds. Ashton is far and away the favourite among NDP millennials.

The first ever pregnant major party leadership candidate in Canadian political history has gained this support by speaking truth to power and taking a principled position on an issue most politician have shied away from. And, she has demonstrated that the purpose of Israeli nationalist attacks is to silence them, not to have a debate. In fact, real debate is what organizations like B’nai B’rith fear the most because the more people thst know about Israel and the Occupied Territories, the more they support the Palestinian cause.

The prospect of the NDP electing a leader taking explicitly pro-Palestinian positions obviously concerns B’nai B’rith. But, their bigger worry should be the growing number of progressives who consider Israel lobby attacks a mark in favour of a politician.

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The Left’s racism problem concerning Israel

Most progressives would agree that opposing all forms of racism is a key element of what makes them left wing. But it is not always straightforward how best to confront white privilege, avoid cultural appropriation, tackle colonial attitudes towards indigenous peoples or avoid being labelled anti-Jewish when working for Palestinian human rights. And in the later case, accusations of Left anti-Semitism actually mask a more significant racism problem on the Left.

In response to the recent controversy at Chicago’s Dyke March Toronto activist Alex Hundert tweeted “And to think ppl keep tryna ridicule me for calling out #antisemitism on the Left… #leftfail.” The self-declared radical linked to a Ha’aretz story headlined “Chicago ‘Dyke March‘ Bans Jewish Pride Flags: ‘They Made People Feel Unsafe’”.  But according to march organizersJewish Voices for Peace and Electronic Intifada the whole thing was a set-up and part of an orchestrated attack by a pro-Israel queer group. In one of many efforts to turn the Dyke March incident against critics of Israel and the left more generally, New York Times opinion section editor Bari Weiss opined that by echoing criticism of Israeli policy in recent years left Jews have opened the door to pogroms or genocide (“if history has taught the Jews anything it’s that this kind of contortion never ends well”), concluding that “anti-Semitism remains as much a problem on the far-left as it is on the alt-right.”

The Dyke March incident is not the first time Hundert has taken up this criticism of Left political movements. “Everytime I’m almost ready to start organizing again,” the former Upper Canada College student tweeted a couple months ago, “I see some stupid left antisemitism that reminds me I’m glad I switched to advocacy.” Hundert is echoing an increasingly common refrain. At the liberal end of the dominant media the CBC’s Neil MacDonald asked last year “Has the activist left decided anti-Semitism doesn’t exist?” while the far right Rebel denounced “Tom Mulcair, Olivia Chow and the NDP’s huge anti-Semitic problem”. For its part, B’nai Brith has specifically cited “far-left-winggroups”, alongside “anti-Israel agitators”, as a major source of anti-Semitic incidents in its annual audit. During the 2012 Québec student strike B’nai B’rith condemned protesters purported “hate …that has outraged the Jewish community.” A Canadian Jewish News editorial and front page cover about the NDP supporting the Leap Manifesto in 2016 suggests the Jewish community’s leading organ would likely cry “anti-Semitism” if the NDP elects a left-wing leader.

Internationally Zionist groups, media commentators and Blairites in the British Labour Party whipped up an “anti-Semitism” crisis last year to undermine Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership. Similar accusations were levelled earlier this year at leftist French presidential candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon and previously against Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez.

Let me be clear: Anti-Jewish prejudice exists on the left. Many who bemoan “Zionist controlled governments” and other such formulations are referencing stereotypical tropes about Jewish control. Some ‘Jews as Jesus killers’ prejudice also lingers in a country with Christian (colonial) roots. Anti-Semitism should be condemned since all forms of ethnic/religious discrimination are wrong. Additionally, simplistic ethnic/religious explanations of power do a disservice to movements seeking to make the world better a place.

But, while it exists, left anti-Jewish prejudice should be put in context. Is there more anti-Jewish prejudice on the left than anti-black, indigenous, south Asian, Chinese, etc. racism? Or how about patriarchal attitudes? Or even class bias against “unskilled” workers? But, unlike indigenous or black people or women, Jews are not underrepresented in positions of influence on the Canadian Left, just as they are not underrepresented in the structures of power in this country.

So, what is going on with this focus on the left’s anti-Semitism? The answer is obvious. It is a way for supporters of Israel to shut down criticism of that country.

While one hears a great deal about the relatively marginal problem of left anti-Semitism, explicit Jewish/Israeli supremacism passes with little comment. NDP officials, for instance, continue to promote the openly racist Jewish National Fund. Five months after speaking at the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference in Washington D.C., Hélène Laverdière participated in a November 2016 JNF tree planting ceremony in Jerusalem. During a visit to Israel with Canada’s Governor General the NDP’s foreign critic attended a ceremony with JNF World Chairman Danny Atar. In 2011 Nova Scotia NDP Premier Darrell Dexter donned a JNF hat as he planted a tree at a JNF garden. Manitoba NDP Premier Gary Doer was honoured at a 2006 JNF Negev Dinner in Winnipeg and cabinet minister Christine Melnick received the same honour in 2011. During a 2010 trip to Israel subsequent Manitoba NDP Premier Greg Selinger signed an accord with the JNF while water stewardship minister Melnick spoke at the opening ceremony for a park built in Jaffa by the JNF, Tel Aviv Foundation and Manitoba-Israel Shared Values Roundtable. (In MayMelnick won a B’nai Brith Zionist action figures prize for writing a piece about a friend who helped conquer East Jerusalem and then later joined the JNF).

In 2013 Green Party leader Elizabeth May attended a JNF Ottawa fundraiser, even lauding “the great work that’s [the JNF] done in making the desert bloom.” May’s comment erased the existence of the indigenous Palestinians and promoted an explicitly racist institution that has Judaized historically Arab areas and continues to discriminate against Palestinian citizens of Israel in its land use policies, as the UN, US State Department and the organization’s own website make clear.

While less flagrantly supremacist than supporting the JNF, most left politicians, representatives and commentators express support for a “Jewish state”. From a Palestinian, or internationalist, perspective this is a decidedly racist characterization and goes against hundreds of years of left support for a secular state.

In an effort to appease critics, some left organizations have even stated formally that opposing a Jewish supremacist state is itself a form of discrimination. After being raked over the coals for refusing a politicized resolution calling on it to align with a pro-Israel group in promoting Holocaust Education Week, the Ryerson Student Union recently adopted the spurious “Ottawa Protocol on Combating Anti-Semitism” as part of its definition of anti-Jewish prejudice. The Protocol conflatesopposition to political Zionism with anti-Jewish prejudice or, in other words, it says it is anti-Semitic to oppose a “Jewish state”. Promoted by Students Supporting Israel and Stand With Us Canada, the student union’s move was immediately applauded by staunch Israeli nationalist National Postcolumnist Barbara Kay.

Even individuals and groups focused on challenging racism often provide an exemption for explicit Jewish/Israeli racism. In January one of Toronto’s leading anti-racist writers, Desmond Cole, spoke at a forum on “increased racist and xenophobic attacks” in the time of Trump with three individuals (Bernie Farber, Karen Mock and Warren Kinsella) who have ties to the only (to my knowledge) explicitly racist institution sanctioned by the Canadian state to give tax write-offs: the JNF.

After I recently wrote about Warren Kinsella speaking at a Jewish Defense League meeting in 2009, it came to light that a moderator made the former Canada-Israel Committee board member part of a private Toronto Facebook group set up to oppose overtly racist groups like the JDL. In a sign he still condones explicit racism, last year Kinsella condemned a Green Party of Canada resolution calling on the Canada Revenue Agency to rescind the JNF’s charitable status because of its “discrimination against non-Jews in Israel.” (Imagine someone who spoke at a KKK meeting or defended them being invited to a private antiracist Facebook group.) The sober reality is that large swaths of the left still accept, even promote, explicit Jewish/Israeli racism.

When Hundert, Macdonald, B’nai Brith etc. attack the left for being anti-Jewish they reinforce an ideological climate that still sees many labour leaders, NGO representatives, left politicians etc. remaining silent in the face of substantial Canadian support for the most aggressive ongoing European settler colonialism, precisely because they fear being labeled “anti-Semitic”. Whatever one’s motives in launching these attacks on anti-Semitism, their effect is to deter Canadians from condemning our foreign minister for calling Israel a “close friend”, opposing Palestinian rights at the UN, delivering aid to prop up Israel’s illegal occupation and subsidizing charities that channel tens of millions of dollars to projects supporting Israel’s powerful military, racist institutions and illegal settlements.

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Filed under A Propaganda System, Canada and Israel

Trudeau’s foreign policy a lot like Harper’s

When Justin Trudeau looks in the foreign policy mirror who does he see? Someone very much like Stephen Harper.

On the world stage Canada under Trudeau the Second has acted almost the same as when Harper was prime minister. The Liberals have followed the previous government’s posture on issues ranging from militarism to Russia, nuclear weapons to the Gulf monarchies.

Aping the ancien régime’s position, the Liberals recently voted against UN nuclear disarmament efforts supported by most countries of the world. As such, they’ve refused to attend the ongoing Conference to Negotiate a Legally Binding Instrument to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons, Leading Towards their Total Elimination.

Earlier this month the Liberals released a defence policy that calls for 605 more special forces, which have carried out numerous violent covert missions abroad. During the 2015 election campaign defence minister Jason Kenney said if re-elected the Conservatives would add 665 members to the Canadian Armed Forces Special Operations Command over seven years.

The government’s recent defence policy also includes a plan to acquire armed drones, for which the Conservatives had expressed support. Additionally, the Liberals re-stated the previous government’s commitment to spend upwards of one hundred billion dollars on new fighter jets and naval ships.

Initiated by the Conservatives, last year the Liberals signed off on a government-contracted $15 billion Light Armoured Vehicle sale to Saudi Arabia. Trudeau has also maintained the Harper created Canada-Gulf Cooperation Council Dialogue, which is a platform for foreign ministers to discuss economic ties and the conflicts in Syria, Iraq and Yemen. The GCC includes the monarchies of Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar and Kuwait, which have almost all intervened in the devastating Saudi-led war in Yemen.

The Trudeau government has continued to isolate Canada from world opinion on Palestinian rights. They’ve voted against numerous UN resolutions supported by almost the entire world upholding Palestinian rights.

The Harper regime repeatedly attacked Venezuela’s elected government and in recent weeks the Liberals have picked up from where they left off. The Liberals have supported efforts to condemn the Nicolás Maduro government at the Organization of American States and promoted an international mediation designed to weaken Venezuela’s leftist government (all the while staying mum about Brazil’s imposed president and far worse human rights violations in Mexico).

In March the Liberals renewed Canada’s military “training” mission in the Ukraine, which has emboldened far-right militarists responsible for hundreds of deaths in the east of that country. In fact, Trudeau has significantly bolstered Canada’s military presence on Russia’s doorstep. Simultaneously, the Trudeau government has maintained Harper’s sanctions regime against Russia.

Nearly two years into their mandate the Liberals haven’t restarted diplomatic relations with Iran or removed that country from Canada’s state sponsor of terrorism list (Syria is the only other country on the list). Nor has the Trudeau regime adopted any measure to restrict public support for Canadian mining companies found responsible for significant abuses abroad. With regards to Canada’s massive and controversial international mining industry, it has been status quo ante.

A recent cover of Canadian Dimension magazine provided a cheeky challenge to Trudeau’s bait and switch. Below the word “SURPRISE!” it showed a Justin Trudeau mask being removed to reveal Stephen Harper.

The sober reality is that Trudeau represents a continuation of his predecessor’s foreign policy. I might even need to redo my 2012 book The Ugly Canadian, but this time with the tagline “Justin Trudeau’s foreign policy”.

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Filed under Black Book of Canadian Foreign Policy, The Ugly Canadian

Does NDP support Trudeau’s caving in to Trump, spending more on military?

It’s no wonder the Trudeau government has moved to ramp up military outlays. Even “left” commentators/politicians are calling for increased spending on Canada’s ecologically and socially destructive war machine.

Recently Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan announced a more than 70 per cent increase in military spending over the next decade. Canada’s new defence policy includes a significant increase in lethal fighter jets and secretive special forces, as well as enhancing offensive cyber-attack capabilities and purchasing armed drones.

A Globe and Mail story about the defence policy yesterday quoted David Perry, an analyst with the unabashedly militarist Canadian Global Affairs Institute, and UBC Professor Michael Byers, who has been described as the “angry academic voice of Canadian foreign policy” to denote his purportedly critical stance. In the story titled “Canada’s new defence spending must come quickly, experts say,” the paper reported:

Byers said the Forces are currently in a state of ‘extreme crisis,’ with the Royal Canadian Navy running out of functioning ships and the Royal Canadian Air Force still years away from getting its new fleet of fighter jets. ‘The government has inherited a badly broken Canadian Forces and it clearly has a monumental task ahead that is only beginning,’ he said.”

Despite his affiliation with a peace organization, Byers supports increased military spending. The Rideau Institute board member has repeatedly expressed support for Canada’s war machine.

In 2015 the UBC professor published “Smart Defence: A Plan for Rebuilding Canada’s Military” which begins:

“Canada is a significant country. With the world’s eleventh largest economy, second largest landmass and longest coastline, one could expect it to have a well-equipped and capable military. However, most of this country’s major military hardware is old, degraded, unreliable and often unavailable. When the Harper government came to power in 2006, it pledged to rebuild Canada’s military. But for nine long years, it has failed to deliver on most of its promises, from new armoured trucks and supply ships to fighter jets and search-and-rescue planes.”

The Rideau Institute/Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives report was partly an attack against the Stephan Harper government’s supposed lack of military commitment. In “Smart Defence,” Byers writes, “Prime Minister Stephen Harper has reduced defence spending to just 1.0 per cent of GDP — the lowest level in Canadian history.”

Byers has long called for increased military spending. In a chapter in Living with Uncle: Canada-U.S. relations in an age of Empire, edited by then CCPA leaders Bruce Campbell and Ed Finn, Byers notes that “the defence budget, roughly 1.2 per cent of GDP, is a bit low by comparable standards.” He describes writing a 2004 paper for NDP Defence Critic Bill Blakey that called for a $2- to 3-billion-per-year increase in military spending. “A defence budget increase,” it noted, “essentially repairs some of the damage that was done by a decade and a half of neglect.” But the military budget was about $15 billion and represented 10 per cent of federal government outlays at the time.

A former NDP candidate and adviser to Tom Mulcair, Byers’ position is similar to that of the social democratic party’s leadership. After the federal budget in March the NDP Leader criticized the Liberals for not spending enough on the military. “Canadians have every right to be concerned,” Mulcair said. “We are in desperate need of new ships for our Navy, we’re in desperate need of new fighter aircraft for our Air Force, and there’s no way that with the type of budget we’ve seen here that they’re going to be getting them.”

The NDP has staunchly defended Canadian militarism in recent years. During the 2011 and 2015 federal elections the party explicitly supported the Harper government’s large military budget. In 2011 party leader Jack Layton promised to “maintain the current planned levels of Defence spending commitments” and the 2015 NDP platform said the party would “meet our military commitments by maintaining Department of National Defence budget allocations.”

In addition to backing budget allocations, the NDP has criticized base closures and aggressively promoted the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy, a $60-billion effort to expand the combat fleet over three decades (over its lifespan the cost is expected to top $100 billion).

I’ve yet to come across a formal party statement about yesterday’s announcement. What do those currently vying for NDP leadership think of the Trudeau’s new defence policy and how will they respond?

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Dallaire does not deserve accolades from progressive organizations

Repeat after me: Roméo Dallaire is not progressive. And paying Dallaire to speak at your meeting does not further the cause of international peace and a just system of international relations.

I was reminded yet again of how many supposed “progressive” organizations seem confused about Dallaire and what he represents after learning he and Irwin Cotler were the keynote speakers at a recent human rights forum. As it was about to begin I interjected to tell attendees that these two former politicians don’t deserve the label “human rights champions”. While I mentioned Cotler’s endless apologetics for Israeli belligerence, my focus was the famed general’s support for the “Butcher of Africa’s Great Lakes” region, Paul Kagame.

Conference cosponsor Amnesty International – and many progressive Canadians – consider Dallaire an internationalist, humanist, “hero” (The Ontario Public Service Employees’ Union, Canadian Auto Workers and Unifor have all given awards or a convention platform to Dallaire.) But, this ignores a background rooted in an authoritarian institution and his pro–military/imperial positions.

A retired general, Dallaire is the son of a military man (his son and father-in-law are also military men). Before his 1993 deployment to Rwanda, which he said at the time he couldn’t find on a map, “his defence knowledge was predicated almost exclusively on the needs of the NATO alliance”, according to biographer Carol Off. Aren’t progressives usually reticent of the international outlook of those close to NATO and the military command?

Beyond his background, Dallaire has taken numerous positions hard to align with championing international human rights:

  • Dallaire opposed calls to withdraw Canadian soldiers from Afghanistan, saying they should stay until the job is done.
  • Dallaire has called for increased military spending.
  • Dallaire is a proponent of Canada joining US Ballistic Missile Defence.
  • Dallaire spoke alongside Paul Kagame, who runs a North Korea style dictatorship, in February 2016  (among other occasions). In 2004 Dallaire described Kagame as an “extraordinary man.”
  • Dallaire regularly speaks to Israeli nationalist groups and repeated their claims about the “genocidal intent of the Iranian state”. At a 2011 Senate inquiry looking at the plight of the Baha’i in Iran, he claimed “the similarities with what I saw in Rwanda are absolutely unquestionable, equal and, in fact, applied with seemingly the same verve. We are witnessing a slow-motion rehearsal for genocide.”
  • Dallaire argued that Canada should have secured Baghdad before the 2003 US invasion, according to an October 2006 Edmonton Journal article titled “Canada should have led Iraq invasion, Dallaire says” (but he did not want Canada to participate in the actual US-led coalition).
  • Dallaire said Canadian air strikes in Iraq/Syria in 2014-16 weren’t sufficient. “There is no way that you will destroy that enemy without boots on the ground,” he said.
  • Dallaire supported the overthrow of Haiti’s elected government in 2004, according to the Montreal Gazette. In a story five days after the Canadian backed coup titled “Dallaire fears new Rwanda disaster in Haiti: Ex-UN commander urges Canada to act”, the former General said, “anywhere people are being abused, the world should be involved.
  • Comparing Darfur in the mid-2000s and Syria last year to Rwanda, Dallaire called for western intervention there.
  • Dallaire backed the 2011 NATO war on Libya. He said Gaddafi was “employing genocidal threats to ‘cleanse Libya house by house’”. After the war he complained we didn’t go in “forcefully enough … when Gaddafi said ‘I am going to crush these cockroaches and stay in power,’ those were exactly the words that the genociders in Rwanda used.”

The General is also an aggressive proponent of the liberal imperialist Responsibility to Protect (R2P) doctrine. Dallaire publicly promoted the Paul Martin government’s push to have the UN adopt R2P in 2005 and cited the doctrine to justify the 2011 NATO war on Libya. Dallaire is co-director of the Will to Intervene Project, which seeks to build “domestic political will in Canada and the United States to prevent future mass atrocities.” But the architects of W2I don’t mean the “political will” to stop Washington from spurring “mass atrocities” à la Iraq, Vietnam, Somalia, Haiti, Korea etc. Human rights rhetoric aside, W2I is an outgrowth of the R2P doctrine, which was used to justify the 2011 NATO war in Libya and 2004 overthrow of Haiti’s elected government. While the less sophisticated neoconservatives simply call for a more aggressive military posture, the more liberal supporters of imperialism prefer a high-minded ideological mask to accomplish the same end. W2I is one such tool.

For many Dallaire embodies R2P and his name has been invoked to justify imperialist interventions. On January 31, 2003, Liberal Secretary of State for Latin America and Minister for La Francophonie Denis Paradis organized the “Ottawa Initiative on Haiti” to discuss that country’s future. No Haitian officials were invited to this two-day assembly where high-level US, Canadian and French officials discussed removing Haiti’s elected president, re-creating the dreaded army and putting the country under UN trusteeship. To justify the government’s plans in Haiti, Paradis cited purported inaction in Rwanda and Dallaire’s personal breakdown thereafter. The minister told the March 15, 2003, issue of l’Actualité, which brought the “Ottawa Initiative on Haiti” meeting to public attention, “I do not want to end up like Roméo Dallaire”, which was his reason why Canada needed to intervene in Haiti.

In the House of Commons debate after Haiti’s elected president and thousands of local officials were ousted in February 2004, Liberal MP and self-described human rights activist, David Kilgour, repeated the theme. “Canadians have much to learn from the experiences of General Roméo Dallaire in Rwanda. We must intervene when necessary and we must do so expeditiously and multilaterally. This is why I am delighted to hear that 450 Canadian troops are set to join U.S. forces in Haiti.”

To be fair, one should not blame an individual just because someone cites his name to justify a dastardly deed. Unless, of course, that individual has deliberately twisted the events in which he has participated in a way that aligns with those seeking an ideological cover to justify Western interventions (and a US backed dictatorship in Kigali). According to the standard narrative of the Rwandan Genocide, ethic enmity erupted in a pre-planned 100-day rampage by Hutus killing Tutsis, which was only stopped by the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF). A noble Canadian general tried to end the bloodletting but a dysfunctional UN refused resources. Washington was caught off guard by the slaughter, but it has apologized for failing to intervene and has committed to never again avoid its responsibility to protect.

Dallaire has propagated this wildly simplistic account of the tragedy that gripped Burundi and Rwanda in the mid-1990s. He has ignored the overwhelming evidence and logic that points to the RPF’s responsibility for blowing up the presidential plane that unleashed the mass killings in April 1994. Prior to the murder of the Hutu presidents of Rwanda and Burundi and much of the Hutu-led Rwandan military command, Dallaire was seen as favouring the US-backed RPF in contravention of UN guidelines. In response to the general’s self-serving portrayal of his time in Rwanda, the overall head of the UN mission in Rwanda, Jacques-Roger Booh Booh, published Le Patron de Dallaire Parle (The Boss of Dallaire Speaks). Almost entirely ignored by the Canadian media, the 2005 book by the former Cameroon foreign minister claims the Canadian general backed the RPF and had little interest in their violence despite reports of summary executions in areas controlled by them.

To align with Kagame’s claim of a “conspiracy to commit genocide” Dallaire has changed his depiction of the Rwandan tragedy over the years. Just after leaving his post as UNAMIR force commander Dallaire replied to September 14, 1994 Radio Canada Le Point question by saying, “the plan was more political. The aim was to eliminate the coalition of moderates…. I think that the excesses that we saw were beyond people’s ability to plan and organize. There was a process to destroy the political elements in the moderate camp. There was a breakdown and hysteria absolutely…. But nobody could have foreseen or planned the magnitude of the destruction we saw.”

To a large extent the claim of a “conspiracy to commit genocide” rests on the much celebrated January 11, 1994, “genocide fax”. But, this fax Dallaire sent to the UN headquarters in New York is not titled, to quote International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda lawyer Christopher Black, “‘genocide’ or ‘killing’ but an innocuous ‘Request For Protection of Informant.’” The two-page “genocide fax”, as New Yorker reporter Philip Gourevitch dubbed it in 1998, was probably doctored a year after the mass killings in Rwanda ended. In a chapter devoted to the fax in Enduring Lies: The Rwandan Genocide in the Propaganda System, 20 Year Later, Edward Herman and David Peterson argue two paragraphs were added to a cable Dallaire sent to UN headquarters about a weapons cache and protecting an informant (Dallaire never personally met the informant). The two (probably) added paragraphs said the informant was asked to compile a list of Tutsi for possible extermination in Kigali and mentioned a plan to assassinate selected political leaders and Belgian peacekeepers.

Mission head Booh-Booh denies seeing this information and there’s no evidence Dallaire warned the Belgians of a plan to attack them, which later transpired. Finally, a response to the cable from UN headquarters the next day ignores the (probably added) paragraphs. Herman and Peterson make a compelling case that a doctored version of the initial cable was placed in the UN file on November 27, 1995, by British Colonel Richard M. Connaughton as part of a Kigali–London–Washington effort to prove a plan by the Hutu government to exterminate Tutsi.

Even if the final two paragraphs were in the original version, the credibility of the information would be suspect. Informant “Jean-Pierre” was not a high placed official in the defeated Hutu government, reports Robin Philpott in Rwanda and the New Scramble for Africa: From Tragedy to Useful Imperial Fiction. Instead, “Jean-Pierre” was a driver for an opposition political party, MRND, who later died fighting with Kagame’s RPF.

Incredibly, the “genocide fax” is the primary source of documentary record demonstrating UN foreknowledge of a Hutu “conspiracy” to “exterminate” Tutsi, a charge even the victors justice at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda failed to convict anyone of. According to Herman and Peterson, “when finding all four defendants not guilty of the ‘conspiracy to commit genocide’ charge, the [ICTR] trial chamber [known as Military I] also dismissed the evidence provided by ‘informant Jean-Pierre’ due to ‘lingering questions concerning [his] reliability.’”

At the end of their chapter tracing the history of the “genocide fax” Herman and Peterson write, “if all of this is true, we would suggest that Dallaire should be regarded as a war criminal for positively facilitating the actual mass killings of April-July, rather than taken as a hero for giving allegedly disregarded warnings that might have stopped them.”

During a 2003 Parliamentary debate Liberal Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Aileen Carroll, and former NDP leader Alexa McDonough both complained that Conservative MP Chuck Strahl had disrespected Dallaire (he hadn’t). In response Strahl said, he “is a man admired by all Canadians and I am among them.”

 

Not all of us. Count this Canadian as someone who does not admire Dallaire.

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