Tag Archives: Yemen

Canada’s stance on the Islamic State literally doesn’t make any sense

When he announced his intention to follow through on his campaign pledge and withdraw Canada’s combat planes from the bombing mission in Iraq and Syria, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was determined to make clear that the Canadian government was still very serious about the fight against ISIS.

Trudeau pledged that Canada would do “more than its part”, that it would continue to have a “meaningful” role in the mission, and that the number of Canadian military trainers working with the peshmerga in Iraq would be substantially increased. The drawdown of Canada’s CF-18s wasn’t a marker of Canada’s disenchantment with the mission, Trudeau insisted; on the contrary, it would allow us to be more effective partners in the coalition fighting the Islamic State.

The Canadian government’s position on ISIS, then, remains essentially the same as it was under former Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Harper pledged to use the Canadian Forces to “degrade the capabilities of ISIL, that is, to degrade its ability to engage in military movements of scale, to operate bases in the open, to expand its presence in the region, and to propagate attacks outside the region.” His use the word “degrade” was no doubt a deliberate echo of Barack Obama’s pledge to “degrade and destroy” ISIS.

Trudeau doesn’t use such blunt and violent language, to be sure, but his firm commitment to continue the mission Harper embarked upon as effectively as he thinks is possible speaks volumes; he thinks this is a fight worth fighting, and if we take him at his word, he only differs with Harper and the Conservatives on how best to go about conducting that fight. And on that topic a feverish debate is raging, with some, including retired general Rick Hillier, wanting to see Canada to much more to combat ISIS, including sending Special Forces troops into Iraq and Syria.

This debate makes mountains out of minor differences. The continued presence of Canadian fighter jets – which participated in a mere 3% of the coalition’s strikes against ISIS – wouldn’t amount to much one way or the other, notwithstanding the Conservative Party’s feverish objections. The simple truth is that Canada has been and will remain a bit player in this coalition, and any adjustment of our approach will have a negligible impact on the ground.

And yet this petty dispute dominates the political conversation about Canada’s mission in Iraq and Syria, entirely drowning out more fundamental absurdities with our government’s position. Continue Reading

HypocrISISy and the House of Saud – The Canadian Government’s Double Standard on Radical Islam

There is a group currently terrorizing large sections of the Middle East.

Using a radical interpretation of Islam as their pretext, they treat women and minorities horrifically. They are internationally renowned for their beheadings and public floggings of “heretics” and “witches”. The United Nations and major human rights organizations have accused them of war crimes and of violating international law. In their most recent offensive, hundreds of innocent civilians have died, and access to medical care has been cut off for millions.

They are the House of Saud, rulers of Saudi Arabia and one of Canada’s partners in the war against ISIS and the bombing campaign in Syria. And the Canadian government confirmed today that it is proceeding with a $15-billion sale of weaponry, notwithstanding the kingdom’s atrocious human rights record.

In fact, the government insists that it doesn’t need to justify the purchase to the public.

From the Globe:

The Department of Foreign Affairs argues it must keep deliberations secret regarding this deal – by far the largest export contract ever brokered by Ottawa – citing the need to protect the “commercial confidentiality” of General Dynamics Land Systems Canada, which makes the light armoured vehicles.

Ottawa maintains this despite the fact that Foreign Affairs, by its own stated rules, is required to screen requests to export military goods to countries “whose governments have a persistent record of serious violations of the human rights of their citizens.” Among other things, it must obtain assurances “there is no reasonable risk that the goods might be used against the civilian population.” [my emphasis]

When it comes to persistently violating the human rights of its citizens, few countries can rival Saudi Arabia. Indeed, its record of human rights violations is well-known, although few Western nations are willing to call it out on the virtual enslavement of its women or its incredibly harsh treatment of dissidents. Human Rights Watch summed up the situation in this commentary from shortly after the recent death of Saudi King Abdullah: Continue Reading

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