What Are We Getting Into?

Pundits and peaceniks say canada's taking a big gamble sending troops into u.s. war

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“i would think one of the tasks of a government is to secure the safety of its people. Therefore, I feel it’s very odd that, without any consultation to speak of, Canada is suddenly at war with another nation and a very large international network of terrorists. That means we can possibly expect some bad stuff on our soil. That was not inevitable.”We get confused and think we’re brothers of the U.S. and that we’re the same. We’re not. When al Qaeda talks about troops in Saudi Arabia, support for Israel, starvation of Iraqis and collaboration with the elites of Saudi Arabia and Egypt, they’re not talking about Canada at all. They’re talking about the deeds of an imperial power.

“The bombing is a violation of the UN charter. It’s a worse violation by Canada, because at least the U.S. can make the claim that it was an attack on their territory. We’re in danger of committing war crimes.

“What we would all like in these situations is time to think. The U.S. is by far the most militarily powerful nation in the world. They are a big hammer and they treat every problem like a nail. The U.S. has an imperial stance in the world, and it’s engaged in imperial overreach right now. And whenever we support them, we threaten to reinforce our part in the imperial system. Invaders of a country don’t make good peacekeepers. If Canada is going to be a leading invader, peacekeepers (trying to keep civil order in post-Taliban Afghanistan) will have to be drawn from other nations.

“I freely confess I don’t have as good a list of options to war as I would like. But I’m confident that if we had time we would find more. First of all, I believe it’s a situation where Islamic law has to be taken seriously. These guys have to be condemned by Islamic law and not just by secular international law. Some deal might have been worked out by the Taliban over time. We needed to use law and speak with Islamic scholars about where bin Laden could be tried.

“Another thing is, we needed to treat the terrorists like criminals. If we can convince clerics and the general population in Arab countries to think of them as criminals, that’s much less attractive for young people. By immediately going to NATO saying this was an act of war and invoking clause 5, the U.S. has called these people “warriors.’ Exactly what they wanted to be called.”

GRAEME MacQUEEN, Centre for Peace Studies, McMaster University

“It has been felt for some time that we were increasingly a problem within NATO because our defence expenditures had become so slight. If we had sat on our thumbs, the implications for Canada-U.S. relations might be somewhat different. We’re going to be faced, for instance, with a lot of pressure to undertake this peripheral security and harmonization (of immigration rules). Perhaps taking a stronger stand in our commitment overseas will give us some leverage here. But I would be very upset if we sent land troops into other states. It’s a very slippery slope. We have to be very careful and very limited in our objectives.”

DAVID DEWITT, director of York University Centre for International and Security Studies

“The army is already overstretched by current operations the navy will be if the conflict goes on for more than six to 12 months. The air force may be able to cope for longer. This leaves the government only two real alternatives. The first and most likely will be to reduce our commitments after six to 12 months. This will not be popular with our allies. The other is to put more money into defence to recruit, train and equip more people. (But) it will take years to produce more warships or support ships unless we buy some from our allies.”

JIM HANSON, Brigadier-General (Retired), Associate Executive Director, Canadian Institute of Strategic Studies

“In international food crises, air drops are the last resort. The way it’s being done in Afghanistan, without any aid workers on the ground to receive the food to distribute it to people who need it most, is not done. This drop was a drop in the ocean. Afghanistan needs a million tons of food before the winter starts. If you want to help them, you deliver food by road to aid organizations on the ground who can deliver it to the most vulnerable. Also, Afghanistan has the highest number of land mines in the world. You can just imagine, if they were dropped near a minefield with civilians running after these packs.”The only way is to deliver independent humanitarian assistance is to keep it independent, not tied to any political or military objectives. By linking humanitarian and political objectives, the future of aid organizations in the country is put into question. There’s a danger that the whole aid community will be seen as a politicized operation as well.”

TOMMI LAULAJAINEN, Doctors Without Borders

“It’s just as much optics as anything else. The ships they’re sending only have point defence systems, which means they can defend themselves. They’re specifically designed to hunt submarines, and we know the Taliban don’t have any.”

HOWARD MICHITSCH, Esprit De Corps magazine

“Many times you’ll hear pacifists talking that there’s no room for any type of action. I think you have to have a defence aspect to your policies, and when you have criminals who are doing things against the law, you have to stop them from doing that. I can see the need for an intervention under the United Nations that would attempt to get the perpetrators of the crime and put them in front of a world court so that justice can be seen to happen.”

ROBERT STEWART, Centre for Teaching Peace, Okotoks, Alberta

“Having a United Nations operation rather than a NATO one would have placed the Americans under restrictions I don’t think they were ready to be placed under and would have required a lot of negotiation in the General Assembly, a whole host of bargaining and trade-offs. “I myself don’t have this dewy-eyed notion of the UN the majority of members are terrible totalitarian governments. The U.S. is still a country that strives, perhaps unsuccessfully, to fulfill some liberal democratic ideals. It makes an enormous amount of mistakes in foreign policy, but in comparison to most of the member states of the UN, at least it’s trying.

“When we’re dealing with many of the countries that have delegations in at the UN that are only there because of the foreign aid that subsidizes the existence of the delegation — the notion that these somehow represent some higher form of international activity seems to me to be for children, for the dewy-eyed.”

TERRY COPP, Centre for Military, Strategic and Disarmament Studies, Laurier University

“The Canadian government has displayed absolute contempt for Parliament by sending the Canadian military into a very significant role without recalling Parliament or allowing a vote. “Canada is signing a blank cheque in many respects. This idea of dropping plastic bundles of food. What are they supposed to do, run between the bombs to collect their food rations?”


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