When “withdrawal” means escalation

By BARRY WEISLEDER

— TORONTO — As if in a dance of the seven veils, Canada’s  Liberal government of Justin Trudeau is sequentially exposing its false election promises, revealing an agenda that increasingly resembles that of the widely despised Conservative predecessor regime.

For starters, an immediate and meaningful increase to the Canada Pension is now off the table. Re-settlement of Syrian refugees is well short of the early target figure, and even the revised one. Promised amendments to the repressive Anti-Terrorism Act—at least to hold police accountable for spying, arrest without trial, and disruption of legal organizations—were not even mentioned in the government’s Throne Speech.

And the latest example of a major breach of faith is on the war front. Trudeau campaigned to withdraw its six CF18 fighter jets and pledged that Canadian Forces would play no combat role in Iraq and Syria. Instead, the jets are bombing the Middle Eastern countryside with sudden and accelerating intensity. While Liberal cabinet ministers insist they will stick to their jet exit plan, there is no date set for it.

More importantly, the Trudeau government pledges to increase troops on the ground, to operate under the rubric of “trainers.” It appears that the pre-election 69 “trainers” will soon number in the hundreds. Given their location very near the front lines of the fight with ISIS, a combat role will (continue to) be in effect.

The Conservative Party and major media outlets applaud the bombing and argue that the planes should stay. They want them combined with a dramatic increase in “trainers” inside the combat zone. A telling point the war hawks make is that the Liberal government has given no concrete reason why it plans to remove the fighter jets.

Sadly, they’re right. Instead of saying, honestly, that Western military intervention has outraged the peoples of the region and promoted the rise of ISIS, instead of admitting that Ottawa and its imperialist allies have no legitimate reason to intervene in Iraq, Syria, or for that matter in Afghanistan, Somalia, Libya, or elsewhere, Trudeau espouses a contradictory policy. It is based on a shallow and muddled sentiment—which paves the way for a betrayal of the public opinion that forced the Liberal withdrawal pledge in the first place.

The policy of the labour-based New Democratic Party, now reduced to third-party status in Parliament, is only somewhat better than Trudeau’s. It advocates removal of all troops and weapons. Unfortunately, the NDP leadership has failed to assert clearly the principle of self-determination for the indigenous peoples—that the future of Syria is for the Syrian people to decide.

Moreover, it neglects to express sharp opposition to the corporate agenda of resource plunder. That agenda is behind the actions of the U.S., Canada, and allies that sought regime change, and the installation of more compliant governments across the oil-rich Middle East. The resulting destabilization—and due to the absence of a major progressive working-class military force—opened the door to ISIS, al-Nusrah, Boko Haram, al-Shabaab, and other offshoots of al-Qaeda.

Jihadi terrorism could be quickly stopped. The imperialist powers need only insist that client regimes, like Saudi Arabia and Turkey, stop funding the recruitment and arming of Salafist-inspired fighters, and stop buying ISIS-controlled oil. Instead of demonizing, arresting, or excluding Muslims and Arabs, domestic and foreign, the Western powers could target poverty, racism, and youth alienation at home.

Meanwhile, every bomb dropped by Canadian, U.S., and French jets on Iraq and Syria recruits a village to ISIS. Each assault on the East attracts dozens of discontented young Westerners to the Islamic terrorist brand.

Joining a reactionary sect is a horribly misguided response to growing inequality and injustice. Indeed, it bolsters the state terrorism of the West. It diverts attention from the misdeeds of the imperialists, which dwarf the crimes of ISIS. The biggest crime going is resource plunder for profit. Western rulers pursue their aims with a variety tactics. They exercise a division of labour.

Justin Trudeau’s unctuous “sunny ways” rhetoric, his posturing as a peace-loving humanitarian is camouflage for a widening war of intervention in the East. It must be confronted with principled opposition to the war. United front mass demonstrations against Ottawa’s plan to increase its involvement are urgently needed. 

Photo: U.S. airstrike on the town of Kobani, Syria, on Oct. 8, 2014. Murray Sezer / Reuters