No Harbour for War

Views: Sharing the Burdens of Empire: Canadian Participation in War Crimes in Iraq

By JON ELMER*

HALIFAX (20 March 2003) -- Since the "official" war will surely begin before this issue is off the newsstands, outlining the terror and mayhem of "shock and awe" bombing raids in a city the size of Paris is perhaps an unhelpful conjecture: it will be massive, it will be brutal and it will be deadly -- "liberation" as defined by the American Empire always is.

For months now, as the diplomatic wrangling at the United Nations Security Council consumed our attention, Canada's stance on supporting the American Empire's adventurism in Iraq relied on Security Council approval. Chrétien said as much when he came to Halifax in late February for a $400-a-plate Liberal Party fund-raiser. On the day of Bush's infantile "moment of truth" address to the world, Chrétien affirmed to Parliament that Canadian Forces would not be joining the massacre of Iraqis. He lied.

Setting aside the wicked sanctions regime that Canadian warships have been enforcing on the people of Iraq for the past 12 years -- which has killed more than one million people denied basic medicines -- our involvement in this war is as recent as the arrival of the HMCS Iroquois in the Persian Gulf.

The HMCS Iroquois, with its ill-fated Sea King helicopter, was deployed from Halifax to "hunt terrorists" under the auspices of Operation Apollo (aka Operation Enduring Freedom), but according to Defence Minister John McCallum the ship is understood to be "double-hatting" by providing escort services for the billion-dollar U.S. aircraft carriers. "Double-hatting"?

The Iroquois will be using its anti-aircraft and anti-submarine surveillance to protect the enormous American aircraft carriers whose jets will relentlessly pound Baghdad with Hellfire missiles, cluster bombs, and depleted uranium-tipped warheads. The Iroquois will also be using Canadian taxpayer dollars to protect "vital oil shipping routes" out of the oil-rich Arabian Peninsula. In a war for oil, that is no small assignment -- the multinational oil-tankers are clearly a symbolic target for attack. Significantly, the Canadian Forces will not be patrolling the Arabian Sea as they were during the war in Afghanistan. Instead, according to Time Magazine, our ships will be deploying deeper into the Persian Gulf than ever before -- including the 1991 Gulf massacre. Meanwhile, Canadian Forces are -- something like the journalists in military fatigues -- "embedded" at the United States military Central Command in Doha, Qatar, sitting behind those ever-so important computer terminals and coordinating the destruction of Iraq as if it were a consequence-free video game.

It is uncontroversial that Canadian Forces are in Iraq -- they will be taking part in the massacre of thousands of innocent civilians and likely doing it without ever even seeing a combatant. Such are the rules of engagement in the grossly asymmetrical pseudo-warfare of the 21st century.

In short, Canada is actively participating in a war of aggression that clearly qualifies as a crime against peace and a violation of international law. We are being lied to, and it is time to take that message to the streets -- while war is being waged in our name, there will be no "business as usual."

* At the time of writing, Jon Elmer was a senior columnist at the Dalhousie Gazette at Dalhousie University, Halifax. (Dalhousie Gazette, March 20, 2003). Jon and Valerie Zink now operate the online journal, fromoccupiedpalestine.org



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