Granatstein slams Ceasefire.ca

February 6, 2013

Action Alerts, Blog, Media coverage

Today one of the doyens of the pro-war lobby slammed Ceasefire.ca, once again, in the national media.

This proves that Ceasefire.ca supporters are having an impact, shaking up the pro-war lobby!

What’s your reaction?

The DND-backed academic Jack Granatstein, the old Cold War warrior whose monthly pro-war rants are dutifully reprinted in mainstream newspapers across the country, used his access to promote the Harper government and a stronger military role for Canada in the civil war in Mali.

The Ottawa Citizen, which carried the attack, has agreed to accept an article from me in reply to Jack Granatstein’s column today, but I want your help!

Send me your response to Jack Granatstein’s column, right away, through the Ceasefire.ca comment section. Leave a comment as soon as you can – hopefully today. I will read everyone’s remarks as I prepare to write my own newspaper article.

Why the pacifist left is marginalized on Mali

By J.L. Granatstein,
The Ottawa Citizen
February 6, 2013

The situation in Mali remains complicated and unclear. In the midst of an attempt by Ansar Dine and al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb to take over the country for militant Islam, there is also a historic north-south division and rival Tuareg factions in the north struggling for dominance in their long battle for independence. The small French-led intervention quickly pushed the Islamists away from the major towns, but it is likely to be a long, slow struggle to root them out of the desert.

The Canadian Forces’ role has been a minor one — a CC177 transport aircraft continues to carry French soldiers and material to Mali and a small special forces team has deployed, apparently to protect the Canadian Embassy and its staff in Bamako. Prime Minister Stephen Harper made clear that there will be no members of the CF in combat in Mali.

The political response to the Canadian effort in Mali surprisingly was generally positive, with both Thomas Mulcair of the New Democratic Party and Bob Rae of the Liberals supporting the government’s actions. However, the response of the pacifist left, usually one that slavishly follows the NDP line, this time spun off on its own.

First, there were complaints that the French, even if led by the Socialist president François Hollande, were up to their old neo-colonialist games in a former colony. That France had few commercial assets in Mali and most French citizens there were dual citizens of Malian origin did not matter. But surely there were Canadian interests there? A few relatively small gold mining operations in Mali were either wholly or partially owned by Canadians, but scarcely enough to explain the Harper government’s support for the French.

Then there were the concerns, better founded, that Mali was not really a democracy and thus not worth supporting. A military coup by the Mali army — much better at staging coups than at fighting — had toppled the country’s government in March 2012. Canada had cut its aid efforts as a result and continued to press the interim government to hold elections and return to the democratic path, even as fighting raged.

But the major thrust of the opposition to Canadian efforts, led by Stephen Staples of the Rideau Institute and his Ceasefire.ca website, was a concern about “mission creep.” We had seen mission creep in Libya in the NATO operation that toppled Gadhafi, the argument went, and now the same process was underway in Mali. First, as Staples has noted, Canada was “contributing very large transport planes … (and this) is direct involvement, it is flying into a combat zone, it is transporting light tanks, vehicles, supplies for the French military into Mali, so it is playing a direct role.” Canada had deployed one aircraft, and it was flying into Bamako, the capital, 700 kilometres from the fighting, but a reliance on facts has never been Staples’ strong suit.

Then it was the special forces commitment. Given the secrecy of JTF-2 operations, who knew what they were doing today and might do next week? Prime Minister Harper’s statement that the Canadian Forces would not see combat in Mali was immediately discounted. As one comment on Ceasefire.ca’s blog put it, JTF-2 were only “licensed thugs paid to do the government’s dirty work. With someone as morally bankrupt as Harper generating the targets, heaven knows what they’ll be doing in Mali.” The vision of the Prime Minister sitting in his Langevin Block office and directing JTF-2 to take out an AQIM camp in the sand dunes was clearly a captivating one.

What was completely missing in the comments from the Staples crowd was the obvious: the Ansar Dine-AQIM attempt to take over Mali had to be resisted in order to prevent the creation of an Islamist stronghold that could shelter terrorists and serve as a base for expansion throughout the Sahel and North Africa. The draconian brutality and nihilism of the Islamist occupiers of Timbuktu and other towns has been widely reported, and there were likely links between the Mali Islamists and the terrorists who had killed so many in the Algerian gas plant attack.

Islamist terrorism is a threat to democracies everywhere, but those who oppose any military intervention anywhere — unless it is United Nations blue helmet peacekeeping which is, by definition, always good — seem blind to the realities of 2013. Stephen Harper bad, military intervention of any kind bad, mission creep inevitable and bad — it’s a tiresome refrain. How fortunate that the Opposition parties had better sense in this instance than the Rideau Institute and Ceasefire.ca.

J.L. Granatstein is a distinguished research fellow of the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute.
© Copyright The Ottawa Citizen

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187 Responses to “Granatstein slams Ceasefire.ca”

  1. margaret beresford Says:

    Democracy everywhere? But, it is conditional on countries that have resources that the West vs East want. Please cut the democratic rhetoric, enough already no one believes that the present government is looking around the world just to help out those in such desperate straits, in other words those that have tried and fought for freedom for over 50 years to finally do whatever they can to attain what (others) have or strategically think they don’t deserve. I am talking about Haiti, a country with people that have endure beyond imagining to get so close only to see the one democratic leader they voted for —taken away in the night by —guess which two countries??? Haiti is the one example that defies every Western assertion time after time about how much they care—support—-give—fight for those who really want ‘Democracy’. Not even the UN can act up to their own rhetoric —when proof exist to show culpability —use diplomatic immunity. Meanwhile, Haitian have somehow managed to endure earthquakes, storms, outside manipulations during their supposed free elections—only to be denied the full impact of the billion dollars donated to make them stand on their own. Now if the big Western powers can’t even get it straight and do right by a tiny country like Haiti, do they really think their taxpayers can have any confidence in anything they pledge, promise, or plan???

  2. Steven Staples Says:

    Thanks, everyone, for your comments, thoughts and reactions to Jack Granatstein’s column slamming Ceasefire.ca. Last Friday the Ottawa Citizen ran my response in the newspaper, and a similar version appeared online earlier last week.

    We have posted the printed version of my op-ed on Ceasefire.ca, and you can see it below:

    http://www.ceasefire.ca/?p=14815

    Op-Ed: Canadians are right to worry about getting involved in Mali

    By Steven Staples, Ottawa Citizen February 15, 2013

    Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird stunned parliamentarians studying the situation in Mali this week when he told them, “We’re not at the drop of a hat going to get into another Afghanistan.” Many Canadians would agree.

    In connecting Afghanistan and Mali, Minister Baird was tapping into the mood of a public that is leery of the role being played by our military in the troubled West African country of Mali, and rightly so. Having emerged from the sacrifices made in Afghanistan with seemingly little to show for them, Canadians cannot be faulted for fearing “mission creep” and involvement in another unwinnable conflict.

    Some have found this reluctance to embrace the war frustrating. War historian Jack Granatstein, a well-known supporter of a strong Canadian military and critic of UN peacekeeping, used these pages last week to berate what he described as “the pacifist left,” and my organization in particular, the Rideau Institute, for not supporting the Harper government’s military contribution to the conflict.

    Granatstein argued that “the Canadian Forces’ role has been a minor one,” (“Why the pacifist left is marginalized on Mali,” Feb. 6). The Harper government deployed one of our newest and largest transport planes to aid the French military in fighting rebels and al-Qaida-affiliated fighters who had taken control of several cities in Mali. “Prime Minister Stephen Harper made clear that there will be no members of the CF in combat in Mali,” he added, and “Islamist terrorism is a threat to democracies everywhere.”

    But as a historian, can Granatstein overlook our past mistakes in Afghanistan, only to repeat them in Mali?

    Even Time Magazine described Mali as “Africanistan.”

    Like Afghanistan, Mali’s problems weren’t solved with the end of the Cold War. Regional and ethnic grievances and inequality persisted, and this led to rebellions by the Arabic north against the black African south. Canadian troops, if sent to back the southern-based government, would find themselves taking sides in a simmering civil war, infused by Islamic extremism.

    The fight against the Taliban and al-Qaida in Afghanistan was similarly tangled up in a complex civil war. At least three different jihadist groups have been fighting in Mali, sometimes allied with rebels from the northern Tuareg minority who are seeking a separate homeland. All of these groups have been armed by weapons seized in the chaos of the Libyan war.

    And just whose side would Canada be on? Ottawa protested and cut off aid last year when elements of the Malian military staged a successful coup and installed a puppet administration. In fact, as the Ottawa Citizen reported, the Malian troops formerly trained by Canadian Forces took actions to oppose the coup leaders, but are now in hiding or were killed by the military leaders we are now supporting by aiding France.

    Canada’s experience dealing with the untrustworthy and election-rigging President Hamid Karzai in Afghanistan proved that winning the hearts and minds of the people is impossible when you’re seen to be backing a corrupt government.

    Of course there are many differences between Mali and Afghanistan, but clearly the Harper government knows that Canadians are tired of soldiers being killed in fighting. Hence the Prime Minister’s repeated assurances that Canada’s military involvement is limited and will not involve combat.

    But it comes down to this: who can the public trust?

    As one of our supporters wrote to me, “Unfortunately I do not know enough about Mali; however, I doubt if (Canada’s involvement) has too much to do with Islamic terrorists.”

    Some Canadians worry that a new military mission in Mali could be used to advance other interests and investments, just as the Libya conflict was used to promote plans for F-35 stealth fighters and new attack drones.

    Granatstein and his cohorts defended the war in Afghanistan, even when it was obviously failing. Their views rarely, if ever, diverge from interests of the military brass and associations supported by the Department of National Defence. Should his advice be taken now?

    Notwithstanding their resistance to a military role, Canadians are generous and support UN peacekeeping. An informal poll found that a majority of our own organization’s supporters through Ceasefire.ca strongly supported humanitarian aid to Mali, while firmly opposing military intervention.

    As international NGOs are pointing out, the recent fighting between rebels and French troops have created a food crisis in the country. Here Canada could play an important role.

    As well, a new UN-led peacekeeping mission, recently proposed by France, would be a “game changer.” While Canadian military spending is at the highest level since the Second World War, our contribution of UN peacekeeping troops is at a historic low, numbering in the dozens.

    A majority of Canadians support increased Canadian involvement in UN-led peacekeeping missions, likely to the chagrin of Granatstein. But should Canada and the international community learn from past mistakes, there may be help yet for the people of Mali.

    Steven Staples is president of the Rideau Institute, an independent research, advocacy and consulting group based in Ottawa.

    • Lynda Pesklevits Says:

      Thank you for taking a stance – read you e-mail too late to get a comment in – mali and many other african state are “complicated and unclear”, and when situations are complicated and unclear, the wise seek clarity first and an understanding of the situation – I recall the African troops saying they wanted to do this one their own – this is hubris of the first order to interfere.

    • Andrew Kinsman Says:

      Mr. Granatstein should be sent to Mali, preferably with his hands tied behind him and an apple in his mouth.

  3. Derrick Wayne Says:

    Congrats Ceasefire and remember “there is no such thing as bad press.”
    To the pro-war gang,
    My brothers, you have lost some of your humanity. You are addicted to amassing wealth, at the expense of those producing it. Your addiction creates more enemies and insecurity. Stop destroying and start producing. Alay your fears; there is enough of everything to go around. The first step is admitting your addiction.

    Let’s put our military, and related industry, to use on public infrastructure projects.

    Get me out Of NATO, NAFTA, TPP, oil. Get me into transparency, accountability, and a distributed democracy.

  4. Jean Says:

    Herr Harper and his warmonger gang must be removed and charged with treason for working towards their destruction of Canada. NO MORE WARS = NO MORE HARPER CONS. Harper murders innocent people so he can steal their resources, Canada included.

  5. Bonnie Gibb Says:

    Thank you Ceasefire for your stamina to challenge the Harper agenda. I agree with so many of the comments that tell ordinary Canadians to read and think critically, especially the mainstream media. We must not be apathetic to the greed of the corporations and the politicians they control. We can assume that if our government sends in military to Mali, there is an economic need. Noone wants innocent citizens hurt but sending in Canadian military in any way does not guarantee long term safety. The current issue of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives just revealed the atrocities of Canadian mining companies in Guatemala.

    We citizens of Canada demand that our tax money be used to help us first. We want democracy restored, our resources protected, jobs secured at home, health and safety money sent down to the provinces, teaching peace respected and honoured, not the military might so loved by Harper and money set aside for all people. So many social groups have had funding cut with only skeletal remains for the ‘look’ of caring. What has happened to our sense of being an honourable and peacekeeping country? If we have to pay the most taxes, we should have the most say, not the elite who simply want to make more on the backs of the helpless.

  6. Robert Walker Says:

    Unfortunately Canada’s main interest is the export of capital, mostly in the form of mining interests. Canadian intervention through our “special” forces in Mali started long ago directly involving us in factional conflict within the Mali armed forces. The sooner Canada gives up its colonial interests and finds the means to deploy peacekeeping forces as part of a legitimate UN brokered peace agreement between all parties the better. The real question is whether the UN is capable any longer of doing this

  7. cherylyn Says:

    This is one conflict I believe it was right to enter. Libya was the only other intervention I supported. Sometimes what is being done to people is just too heartbreaking to stand by and watch.

    Yes, “helping” doesn’t solve everything, and sometimes it makes much more sense for someone else to do the helping but it’s heartbreaking when no one will. I was very relieved to see that the Arab nations covertly came to the aid of the Syrian people when the UN couldn’t. Weren’t we all?

  8. gary jackson Says:

    what is not unclear and complicated is jack’s change from a peace stance to being in suppoert of imperialism.It comes down to money.In the western world,if you support the facists,then you will be successful.If you do not,you will be marginalized.Take a look at all those lefty pundits that are now sucking up to the western politicians-its about money.

  9. kim nielsen Says:

    “complicated and unclear” means we have no business being there. Involvment, no matter how minor, is still involvment; and just because party leaders approve dose not mean that the people Canada approve.

  10. ruth maclean Says:

    blessed are the peacemakers….

  11. Edward Mullens Says:

    Anyone who has followed the writings of Mr. Granatstein knows that he is one of the USA’s most loyal sychophants. When it comes to judging US actions and intentions his opinion can be totally discounted.

  12. Herman Bakker Says:

    Granatstein opens with the line that the situation is unclear and complicated. Therefore not a reason to go to war.

  13. Geoffrey McDade Says:

    Granatstein has written that Canada does not need UN approval to attack other countries and believes we should do so if it is “in our national interest”. You may recall that Hitler relied upon a similar justification. This is the justification for wars of aggression i.e. wars in which those we attack in no way threaten Canadians. Granatstein uses the word “pacifist” as if it is shameful to oppose war. Odd really when you consider how well recent wars have worked out like Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and the earlier bloodbath in Vietnam.
    Indeed the Mali mess is blowback from the attack on Libya which enabled islamic fanatics to gain access to vast amounts of modern weaponry and invade northern Mali. Libya is now in a state of violent anarchy following our “help”.
    Granatstein mentions the fact that we are now intervening in support of yet another military coup leader but doesn’t consider that to be an objection worth discussing. To him every threat to our “national interests” is eligible for solution by violence. He is a soulmate of George Bush Jr.

    Read his recent ravings here:
    http://www.macdonaldlaurier.ca/jack-granatstein-we-dont-need-the-uns-permission/

    • Hector Leiserson Says:

      I completely agree with you.
      I found in the web (google), under “Canadian Gold mining companies in Mali”
      that at least 6 – 8 Candian companies are operating. I have no info to evaluate how big or small they are… but I can imagine that Harper feels it’s his obligation to support a country where they opearte, and if the government is a military dictatorship, so much better for the companies.
      Those military can easily repress any protest from the local population, as it is the case in Central America an probably around the world.
      I fully agree also with Robert Fisk, on his opinion that basically in Mali
      there is a several decades old civil war, and consequently “THE WEST HAS NOTHING TO DO IN MALI” AND SHOULD NOT INTERVINE”.
      As an antecedent, France and Canada were also in Haiti (jointly with US)to remove the democratically elected President Aristide… and to protect the
      business interest of Canadian agro-companies who exploited the workers.
      In addition, this Harper decision is in line with his purpose to make Canada a militaristic country.
      Thank you.

  14. darcy curtis Says:

    Just what al c.i.a.duh are we fighting. the ones that attacked us on sept 11 or the ones we are supporting in Libia and Siria? It would be laughable if it wasn’t so serious. Again i guess it has nothing to do with Mali being the 3rd largest gold producer in the world. Seems “spreading” our version of a democracy is at the barrel of a gun and hell be damned to all that get in the way. What really matters is the banks get there pound of flesh and the rest of us go along with it (like we were asked anyways) that’s our version of democracy pay up and shut up. That being said most people are to busy watching hockey to really give a damn about anything else, apathy is why we are in the mess were in and unfortunately i don’t see that changing anytime soon until it may be too late.
    Thanks for doing what you do. At least there are still some people that do care about what is going on in the world.

  15. Shakilah Mehrunnisa Says:

    Who was it that said that it is easy to gain support for war – you just drum up irrational fear in the population?

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