ISIS: Who exactly are we fighting for?

The list of those allied with Canada includes Hezbollah, Shiite militias and Iranian military advisers – all evil-doers in the PM’s books

Last week, NDP leader Tom Mulcair set the defence community abuzz when he told Peter Mansbridge in a one-on-one interview on the CBC that the NDP would end the current military campaign to combat ISIS in Iraq if it’s elected.

In any previous election, the military old boys’ club would have responded to such a pronouncement with amused chuckles – the NDP could promise the moon because everyone knew it would never form the next government. This time around, the polls indicate that Mulcair as prime minister is a very real possibility.

In response, the usual war-mongering tub-thumpers at the Conference of Defence Associations decried any immediate withdrawal from the U.S.led military coalition in Iraq. “We will lose all credibility with our allies,” they chanted, followed by the emphatic exhortation that we “must stay the course.”

The course they’re referring to could mean another 10 years of military commitment. And there is no way they can make any kind of accurate prediction of when victory will be achieved, because no one knows what victory would look like.

That’s right, folks. We’ve sent Canada’s sons and daughters into harm’s way to battle ISIS evil-doers, but no one has ever explained to the Canadian public who exactly we are fighting for.

At present, the list of those allied with Canadians in the fight against ISIS includes Hezbollah, Shiite militias, Iranian military advisers and Syrian forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad.

When the insurrection began in Syria in 2011, then foreign affairs minister John Baird cut all diplomatic ties with the Syrian government and championed the rebels’ chanting of “Assad must go!” But those cheers became more muted when it was revealed that among those fighting Assad were al Qaeda and ISIS. Whoops!

Then there’s the complicating fact that Iranian-backed Hezbollah fighters have flocked to Syria to combat ISIS. Hezbollah, of course, is considered a terrorist organization by the Canadian government, yet here it is engaging a mutual enemy. 

Inside Iraq, the U.S.trained and equipped Iraqi security forces simply melted away at the first sight of Sunni extremist ISIS fighters in the spring of 2014, and the Shiite majority government in Baghdad had no choice but to rely upon Shiite militias.

To bolster these militias, embattled Iraq Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi called in Iranian military advisers. We know that Iranians are supposed to be evil, because back in September 2012 Baird also cut all diplomatic ties with Tehran.

Canada maintains the position that Iranians are evil. Even when Iraqi Shiite militias, supported by Iranian forces, attacked the ISIS stronghold of Tikrit last March, RCAF spokespeople made it clear that although allied warplanes bombed in support of that attack, Canadians definitely did not.

Similarly, when Canada extended and expanded the mission to include ISIS targets inside Syria, DND spokespeople claimed that such air strikes were not in support of Assad they were simply against his ISIS enemies.

Now comes word that Russia is officially entering the fray by providing support to Assad. Wow, that has to be a mind-twister for the Harper Conservatives, who think Russian President Vladimir Putin is evil incarnate. The Harper government continuously tells us so, but now his soldiers are fighting with us against a mutual enemy. 

Perhaps Mulcair would be better advised to state that, rather than ending the fight against ISIS immediately upon his election, he will be cancelling Canada’s military assistance to Hezbollah terrorists, Assad’s evil regime, Iran’s despotic theocracy and of course those dastardly Russians.

It means exactly the same thing. It would be impossible for Harper to argue with that logic.

Scott Taylor is a former Canadian infantry soldier, founder of Esprit De Corps Magazine, author and documentary filmmaker. | @nowtoronto

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