The Liberal government must end the airstrikes now!

CF-18 in Iraq is currently in the process of preparing a web-based letter-writing campaign calling on the Prime Minister of Canada to live up to the promise he made during the election campaign, and which he included in the mandate letter to his Minister of Defence, to end Canadian air strikes in Iraq and Syria.

Despite this unequivocal commitment, reiterated by the PM to the President of the United States in their first conversation after the election, Canada continues to engage in air strikes and, unbelievably, even increased the tempo over the Christmas holiday period.

Since the horrific terrorist attacks in Paris in November, there has been an incessant drumbeat in the media that Canada should reverse its decision to end air strikes, as if the decision was based on a misunderstanding of the threat posed by Islamic State, rather than on a determination that Canada could play a more useful role in other ways.

I wrote about a more effective role for Canada in an article for the Canadian International Council on December llth, 2015. In preparation for our Action campaign next week (which will be announced on the website and via email to all newsletter subscribers), I am reposting that article below.

Bombing and training are both problematic

The United States alone can easily handle all militarily useful airstrike targets against ISIS. Participation by others is therefore symbolic and token at best. While in the case of Arab states, this might at least have been useful — in that it would weaken the idea that this is a war between the West and Islam — those coalition members have abandoned their bombing in Iraq and Syria in favour of decimating the already utterly impoverished country of Yemen.

But bombing even of the token variety has consequences, most notably collateral damage in the form of death and injury to innocent civilians, which in turn leads to yet more violent jihadists, seeking revenge.

Since a war cannot be won through bombing but only through the actions of ground forces, in theory at least training of local Iraqi and Syrian forces should be a more productive role for Canada. In practice, however, problems abound. The Americans to date have spent about US$500 million on training local, so-called moderate Syrian fighters with shockingly abysmal results: namely a total of four or five fighters trained and with countless American-supplied weapons ending up in extremist hands in the process.

Training of Kurdish Peshmerga, which Canada is already doing, may yield better fighters but not a stronger Iraq, since what the Kurds have in mind is an independent Kurdistan, something about which our NATO ally, Turkey, has grave concerns. Then there are the disturbing allegations of grave human rights abuses by Kurdish forces including their refusal to allow non-Kurds to return to their villages, once the Peshmerga “liberate” them from ISIS.

And we have precious few Iraqi Sunnis to train since, in their stronghold of Anbar province, Sunni tribes have largely chosen what they see as the lesser of two evils, ISIS, over a corrupt and sectarian Iraqi government utilizing Iranian-backed Shia militias as its main fighting force against ISIS.

Bombing Islamic State and training local fighters is doing little to end the civil war in Syria. But without an end to that war, ISIS cannot be effectively contained. Canada, then, urgently needs to throw its support wholeheartedly behind the UN-facilitated peace negotiations which now involve all but the most hardline Syrian factions, and to participate actively in the Vienna process of the so-called Syrian Support Group, which finally includes virtually all of the external backers of the various warring factions, including Russia and Iran.

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16 Responses to “The Liberal government must end the airstrikes now!”

  1. Douglas AltonJanuary 10, 2016 at 9:00 pm #

    ‘Another person’ suggests that, ” _ _sometimes you got to fight for peace”. Peace is achieved through negotiation, not by fighting. Fighting represents the failure of diplomacy. Can ‘another person’ give me an example of peace achieved by fighting? Even Winston Churchill, who was not averse to war said, “Better to jaw, jaw, jaw than war, war, war.”

    • Another PersonJanuary 11, 2016 at 11:22 am #

      True. I 100% agree with you, but negotiation doesn’t always work due to others serving their own intrests. What then?
      And as for peace achieved by fighting, look at both World Wars. Germany went from their imperialist and race ideals to a country that’s against nuclear development and is leading on the road to solving climate change. Of course, there was a horrible cost, I’ll be stupid and ignorant to say otherwise. Hopefully WWIII will not happen, but as I said before, there are leaders that serve their own intrests, so not everyone can be happy, only at best, OK.
      As least no country is interested in war.

  2. Jean LeahyJanuary 9, 2016 at 5:05 pm #

    If we have all this money to spend militarily wouldn’t if be better to spend it on ways to meet real human needs!Who needs to be bombed! Making even small efforts to spend it on ways to meet real human needs, supply some basic necessities such as food, clothing, etc. might show that part of the world that we are all brothers and sisters in our human family.

  3. Lynne GrillmairJanuary 9, 2016 at 11:10 am #

    Absolutely the Liberals must live up to their promise of ending air strikes in Syria and region. Airstrikes kill more civilians than combatants and create more friction than peace. We need to see Canada play a leadership role in peace keeper once again. Hilliar (sp?) is wrong to demand the continued bombarding by air . We are making more enemies than friends.

  4. Willa ThayerJanuary 9, 2016 at 10:42 am #

    Kingston, ON demo today, 1pm Skeleton Park, at the cannon, demanding that Canada stop bombing Syria

  5. Carol PickuipJanuary 9, 2016 at 1:35 am #

    The Liberals were elected the government of Canada making false promises-when will the people of Canada wake up and elect a government that will bring about REAL change-the NDP????

    • Another PersonJanuary 10, 2016 at 5:30 pm #

      Maybe the NDP will be the same as the Liberals or Conservatives on this. You never know.

  6. Frank L. ShowlerJanuary 9, 2016 at 12:35 am #

    We cannot end terrorism by more use of terror, by bombing raids that produce more death and destruction and more refugees. We in Canada must join the efforts to end the war.

  7. Dr. David Lorge ParnasJanuary 9, 2016 at 12:27 am #

    Before every Ceasefire and Peace Treaty, there is a time when the warring parties have to talk. That includes even the worst of them. Canada can’t help much in Vienna but it could try to open a channel to parts of ISIS.

  8. William Stollery FamikyJanuary 8, 2016 at 10:05 pm #

    Violence begets violence.

  9. Howard DoughtyJanuary 8, 2016 at 7:37 pm #

    I’m signed this partly because I felt so sorry for Mr. Dion, having to make excuses – “everybody’s doing it”; we have to honour our contracts; 3,000 jobs are at risk.

    Faustian deals may occasionally be necessary, but – like most initiatives such as the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, never mind the “regime change” in Iran that started all this in 1953, the results tend to be the opposite of the intentions.

    It’s time to dismiss the “crackpot realists” and reclaim the moral (and pragmatic) higher ground.

  10. Mary DeighanJanuary 8, 2016 at 7:23 pm #

    Please end the air strikes. Innocent people are being killed with each strike despite the fact some argue that is not the case.

  11. anne cameronJanuary 8, 2016 at 6:45 pm #

    It is totally stupid…on the one hand we are trying to accommodate and accept thousands of Syrian refugees and on the other hand we’re dropping bombs and turning their homes to rubble, thus making more refugees… if this makes sense to you then I suggest you need to seek psychiatric help.

  12. EricJanuary 8, 2016 at 6:16 pm #

    This is part of a letter I sent to PM Trudeau on November 27:

    I implore you to continue along a path that removes Canada from the spheres of violence in which the previous government was determined to insert us in order to convert us into a warrior nation. I’m not sure what you believe, but I believe that this world already has far too many warrior nations, every one of which exists in servitude to the bloody merchants of violence, the military industries who reap breath-taking personal profits as they destroy the very planet that gives them breath. In your fight (our fight, really) against the forces of chaos and destruction, have the courage to resist the voices that tell you that peace will come only through weapons of violence. This is completely illogical and unwise. Equally unwise is the long established tradition of training foreign militaries in the use of such weapons. I am fully convinced that if we could trace the personal journey into violence of every single perpetrator in the Taliban, Al Qaida, and Da’esh, we’d find a pretty direct, and perhaps even long-standing, connection to a military trainer authorized by a foreign government.

    I look forward to the headlines on the local press saying that our bombers, and eventually all Canadian Forces members, have been brought back home from their destructive sorties overseas.

    • Another PersonJanuary 10, 2016 at 5:34 pm #

      Anything, from peacekeeping to fighting either a terrorist group or a high-tech nation requires a strong military. You might say peacekeeping doesn’t, but if it doesn’t, then it’ll be ineffective, because sometimes, like it or not, you got to fight for peace, which means things will get destroyed and people will die. If you have a better way that everyone could agree to, I’m happy to hear it.


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