"Loud and clear" message as Spring reaches Halifax:
"No to foreign occupation of Iraq!"

By Shunpiking Online

Photographs by Dr Marek Roland

HALIFAX -- Initially more than 70 are on hand, at short notice, to hear views and speak themselves against the foreign occupation of Iraq; then the open-air gathering resolves to demonstrate through the main streets downtown as numbers swell to more than 150.


A vigorous gathering, called on about 36 hours' notice, assembled in front of the Halifax Library Main branch on Spring Garden Road early in the afternoon of Saturday, April 10, to oppose the U.S. occupation in Iraq and denounce the machinations under way to prevent the Iraqi people from exercising their right of self-determination. Throughout Canada and around the world, similar emergency protests were being held as U.S. marines blockaded, bombed and shelled civilian quarters of Falluja, a city of 300,000 people, displacing one quarter to one third of the population.

Halifax-area residents from all walks of life and a wide range in age, from infants and pre-teen youth to retirees and all generations in between, responded to the call initiated by the People's Front (Halifax), the Canada-Palestine Association and a number of well-known local anti-war activists, to come take a stand in one of the most public venues in the city, visible to thousands of passers-by.

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No less than eleven people, ranging in age from 12 to post-retirement, addressed the gathering, giving views against the illegal and criminal war unleashed by the U.S.-led-coalition and the subsequent cruel occupation, as well as in favour of the resistance struggle of the Iraqi people to reclaim their country from all foreign occupiers and interference. Such a level of public speaking participation was unprecedented and had not been seen up to now at the numerous and varied anti-war actions -- forums, demonstrations and other events -- which have unfolded in Halifax since Canada's sending of troops to Afghanistan less than a month following 9-11. As they spoke, the lawn of the Library Main Branch, a commons that progressive people in Halifax have for decades cherished and defended as their "spot" and soap-boxing zone, was bedecked with numerous anti-war, People's Front and anti-imperialist banners and picket signs.

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The common thread in all the speeches was that Canada must play a role internationally in the interests of the world's people and in support of their right to decide their own futures. This includes opposing U.S. threats and blackmail against Canadian sovereignty.


The myth of "humanizing" occupation

Prof Isaac Saney, chairing the proceedings, spoke strongly -- "four-square" -- in favour of the Iraqi people's right of self-determination, vigorously refuting the attempts to paint the country as being on the "brink of civil war". "Iraqis have never engaged in civil war", he pointed out. "They rose as a nation in 1920 to throw out the British colonial occupier" and were the world's first victims of air assault from chemical weapons when the "Royal Air Force", with the enthusiastic support of Winston Churchill, deployed poison gas on Kurdish tribes in that conflict.

Stressing that, contrary to illusions being purveyed in some quarters, there can never be such a thing as a peaceful military occupation or "soft imperialism", he noted the U.S. media is openly advocating war crimes: the Wall Street Journal had called for "public executions" and US columnist George Will for "overwhelming use of force" in Iraq. The calls to "humanize the occupation" by emphasizing "aid and development" -- or a multilateral UN force under U.S. as Spain and others now demand -- dictate conciliate with and defend the occupation. He reiterated that the only road to a solution was in the self-reliant hands of the Iraqi people themselves, not the foreign occupier.

Canada complicit in war crimes

Dr Ismail Zayid, president of the Canada-Palestine Association, reminded the gathering of the responsibility of both George W Bush and Tony Blair for plunging the people of Iraq into "this bloody mess" on the basis of "bald-faced lies" about weapons of mass destruction, the alleged "readiness to attack London or Washington in only 45 minutes' notice", and the invention of links between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda.

Everything we are beginning to see in Iraq under Bremer and the Iraqi Governing Council had already been seen in Palestine at the hands of the Zionist occupier since 1967 -- massive violations of the Fourth Geneva Convention in every clause and sub-clause as war crimes and crimes against humanity mounted, ranging from collective punishments, house demolitions, importation of settlers, etc. Canada was not innocent: "Our government is one of the most hypocritical practitioners of double standards, never criticising the Zionists for their provocations while never failing to condemn in the strongest terms, as 'terrorist', any Palestinian act of self-defence."

Rivalry amongst big powers bound to sharpen

Gary Zatzman, a co-editor of the Dossier on Palestine, stated that "there can be no freedom for the Iraqi people or any other amid the bayonets of the occupier". The ruling circles of France, Russia, Germany and others covet the oil resources of the Iraqi people, and resent the U.S. demand that "all countries must accept that the entire world is a U.S. sphere of influence". He warned that "this inter-imperialist contradiction is bound to sharpen, as the factor posing the gravest danger of a third world war." Canada is "fishing in troubled waters. It seeks to make hay while the sun shines", espousing an international rule of law that is nothing but "the right of the big powers ot engage in secret diplomacy, conspire against the peoples and call this the 'will of the international community'."

He questioned the ability of the United Nations as currently constituted to defend the weak and vulnerable, since "the UN Security Council has betrayed the UN Charter in sanctioning governments and constitutions based on the conception of the European nation-state, which defends the property rights of contending forces while doing nothing to defend an international order where every country, big or small is equal and where their right to self-determination is defended. What happened recently in Haiti, as well as US attempts to overthrow the Chavez regime in Venezuela, and threats against Cuba, Zimbabwe, North Korea, Syria, Iran and China exemplified the dangerous level to which matters had now descended on this score."

He concluded that "peoples are entitled to constitute their nations on the basis of the principles which guide them to elabotrate a way of life that permits their own people to flourish and contribute to the same flourishing for all others."

U.S. slaughter: 1,600 dead and injured in Fallujah

Dr. Nouman Ali, an Iraqi-Canadian engineering professor, related the first-hand news he had received from his sister suffering under the occupation in his homeland. He bitterly denounced the United States. "They have lost all credibility. They must leave immediately. They are doing anything they please in Falluja, in al-Kut, as though the needs and will of the Iraqi people were nothing. The Iraqi so-called Governing Council is a mess, a 'gang of 25' that the Americans should take with them."

Suggesting the United Nations intervene to look after the humanitarian needs of Iraq, he noted at present the people themselves -- Sunni and Shi'a civilians assembling their own convoy and "walking 60 km there through US Marine checkpoints" -- were the only reason any humanitarian aid reached the 300,000 people of besieged Falluja on Friday. There, some 1,200 people have been reported injured and more than 400 killed after the occupier resolved to avenge the deaths in Falluja earlier in the week of four US mercenaries.

U.S. used weapons of mass destruction

Ayat El-dewary of the Arab Students Union passionately denounced the "genocide going in Iraq for the last fifteen years", singling the especially dirty role of the United States in deploying Depleted Uranium to devastating effect on the immediate generation as well as future generations unborn. "The U.S should cease proliferation of its own weapons of mass destruction before it dares to utter a word about anyone else's, actual or otherwise", she advised.

Her voice filling with emotion as she mounted the library steps to speak, Dr Sheila Zurbrigg, a member of Physicians Against the War and long-time campaigner (with CANESI) against the vicious campaign of more than a decade of UN sanctions against the Iraqi people, was extremely gratified to see the level of support beinghttp://canesi.org/ shown to the "twenty-five million vulnerable people of Iraq" at this moment on such short notice in a small Canadian city. She called for a vigorous UN humanitarian intervention.

Fatima Cajee, another prominent women's activist, told the gathering everyone was "here because we are human beings, part of the human family, and the horrific crime being done to the Iraqi people cannot be countenanced in silence."




A crime under Nuremburg

Michael Oddy, Green Party candidate for Halifax, reminded the assembly that, Bush and Blair had committed what the Nuremburg Statute defined as "the supreme crime". They instigated a war of aggression in Iraq in the absence of any prior attack from the Saddam Hussein regime on their territories and in the utter absence, of either means or intent to stage any such attack. Denouncing as "bogus" the U.S. "war on terrorism", which created the pretext for invading Afghanistan, he called on the Canadian government to bring the troops home immediately and stated the position of his party that Canada should only send troops abroad "for genuine peacekeeping" when authorized by the UN Security Council.


"Kids that I know feel this war isn't right, either.

A twelve-year-old youth Hamza Ayaz then came forward to speak. He said that more than 50 per cent of the Iraqi population are children "like me. I don't feel this war is right. No kids that I know feel this war is right, either."

Presenting numerous examples of resistance by U.S. soldiers both in Iraq and within the armed forces in the U.S. and of military families, John Dimond-Gibson, a Dalhousie student, suggested that, with the present situation going the way it was now in Iraq, people were bound to re-learn "the lessons of the war in Vietnam" from the 1960s and intensify their mass mobilisations to compel the authorities to withdraw their military forces from yet another unjust conflict.

"The whole world is concerned with these great moral crimes of the 21st century but the Martin Liberals have kept their mouths shut"

The concluding and major speaker was Tony Seed, editor and publisher of shunpiking magazine and of the Dossier on Palestine, speaking on behalf of the People's Front. He stressed the powerful role of social conscience in the upsurge of humanity, as in this gathering, to stand as one against the war crimes being perpetrated in Falluja and the threat to Najaf.

"We declare that the war and occupation in Iraq, the occupation of Palestine, the intervention in Haiti, the so-called war against terrorism followed by intervention in Afghanistan, the maneuvers in the Caribbean aimed at 'regime change' in various countries there such as Cuba and Venezuela -- all done under the veneer of 'high ideals', for 'democracy', for 'restoring human rights' etc. -- is WRONG. The whole world is concerned with these great moral crimes of the 21st century but the Martin Liberals have kept their mouths shut."

In spite of the disinformation and hypocrisy of the Martin Liberals to justify Canada's support for "regime change," the anti-war movement has kept its bearings and opposed "regime change" on principle, not on a case by case basis.

Warming to this theme, he stressed that "peoples in all countries have the right to be 'masters in their own house', and this must be upheld no less for the First Nations, the people of Quebec and the Canadian as a whole who also suffer the consequences of domination by the United States." But pitted against this are all the forces of the status quo. Thus, for example, there was the racist malice reserved by Canadian media like The Globe and Mail in such headlines as "Sunni and Shi'a unite in hatred" against the United States -- at the very time that the Canadian government is looking at beefing up enforcement with specially-trained police of "hate crime" laws in the wake of suspicious arson and related incidents at Jewish gravesites and other Jewish and Muslim community property in Toronto and Montreal. "What could be the aim?", he asked.

People must be vigilant about the modus operandi of the authorities in Iraq and within Canada. The U.S. has trampled the rule of international law and is escalating plans for war, which it calls the "Middle East Initiative", using Israel as its nuclear weapon and Iraq as its new land base in the Middle East. Fallujah and Najif are aimed to send the message. Tt is telling the world that it will impose its dictate through the use of force on a greater scale unless all peoples, including Canadians and Europeans, "voluntarily" submit to its dictate.

"Worst of all, according to recently published opinion in Iraq, is the danger of civil war, the elements of which are being incited and stirred into sectarian, ethnic and political blood bath -- a 'civil war' in Iraq, a country that had no history of any such thing. The people of Iraq are a civilized and ancient people and will not stand for it. Communalism was originally introduced into the Middle East, South Asia, Ireland, etc., by British colonialism. Today, all the western media propaganda and reporting like so-called internecine Sunni-Shi'a hatred is based on this premise. The occupation aims to institutionalize domestic conflict by formalising into political reality the neocolonial division of Iraqi society along religious, sectarian and ethnic lines through membership shares in the Governing Council and other administrative bodies. The Iraq Governing Council, appointed by its head, Paul Bremer, is constructed according to sectarian and ethnic identity, with the Shia Arabs holding 13 seats, the Sunni Arabs six, the Kurds four, and the Assyrians and Turkmen one each. Other leaders represent particular tribal groupings. Realistically, the Sunni are conscpicious in their absence. All members of the council, bar one, were brought from abroad with the US and UK invading forces. They even codenamed the military invasion 'freedom Iraq'.

"Invented pretexts, including fake encounters, staged events, planted news stories, etc., and state terrorism are part of the modus operandi, including assassinations of the UN special envoy Sergio Vieira deMello and the Swedish foreign minister who deefended Palestine rights, ongoing incidents of bombings of Shia mosques by the intelligence forces and Mossad agents, raids by US special forces and oppressive operations by militia and armed gangs into civilian homes and neighbourhoods.

Canada's secret game

Tony Seed further pointed out that while the Martin Liberals are pushing integration with the United States they are aggressively participating in empire-building schemes in the Middle East and around the globe whether directly (Afghanistan, Haiti) or indirectly (Iraq). A majority government is vital to implementing their own imperialist strategy in what, in its recent report that no media have discussed, the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs calls "the Muslim world". Here lurk great dangers.

"In this secret game", Mr. Seed outlined, "Canada is supporting the 'multi-lateral' intrigues at the United Nations as a demagogic cover for the imperialists. It cannot be forgotten that in April, 2002 the Liberals and the NDP stabbed the Palestinian people in the back during the genocidal Israeli military invasion of the West Bank called "Operation Defensive Shield". Since then, they have been obliged to do what they could to enhance their lost prestige through demagogy. During the period of the American aggression against Iraq, all Canada saw once again the dirty face of the Canadian conciliators, saw more clearly how the modus operandi by which the Liberals rumbled in the jungle with the Bush. The USA attacked, shocked and awed, occupied and enslaves, while the Liberals and the media beat the drums to conceal the aggression under the din. They declared all civilized people support the aim but not the method. But we Canadians, being civilized, being a people of conscience, did not and do support neither the aim nor the method. It was if they had joined the peace movement, and a few elements declared that they were one with the Liberals. It is The Evil One -- the problem -- they declared in chorus.

"As with the first Gulf War, the naval task force was deployed from Halifax and Victoria to protect the shipping routes in the Arabian Sea, isolated airfield bases in Newfoundland were opened to the USAF to move thousands of troops to Iraq without opposition, Canadians staffed Central Command and Canadian arms flowed unchecked to the US occupying forces, while a hue and cry was raised about the inadequacy of military materiel in the Canadian Armed Forces (helicopters, jeeps, air transport and lift).

"The Canadian government was famous for disputing only the methods of the U.S. or other big powers, while accepting and endorsing the underlying principle: in Iraq 'regime change' was fine, but by criticising invasion for this purpose without UN authorisation, Canada decked itself out as 'civilised'.

"When it comes to Liberal policy in 'the Muslim world', it will as ever be the interests of the multinationals that call the tune. What are those interests? The family shipping company of the Prime Minister has deep and long-standing links and involvements with the Suez and Panama Canals; could its interests and policy in the Middle East and the Caribbean not be affected? The Montreal multinational SNC Lavalin has a massive contract to modernise the postal and telecommunications systems in Lebanon. In Israel, it is partnered with the originally Canadian but now U.S.-controlled financial group responsible for the Cross-Israel Highway project, a scheme that further "bantustan"-ises the Palestininans by seizing more and more of their land for extensions between this highway and Zionist colonies on the West Bank. This is the same multinational that built the Highway 407 toll highway project, the toll highway in northern Nova Scotia on the Trans-Canada Highway. Each $3.25 toll that we pay profits Canadian Highways International Corp. Is Canada's posture against the Palestinians accidental, or deliberately ideological, or in the service of these material interests? The government has a 'Liberal demagogy' to cover the fact that the troops and young people in the armed forces go wherever the interests of the multinationals dictate. The naval ships are the bailiffs for the banks and oil monopolies." The anti war movement stands against such use of Canadian ports, bases and territory to facilitate aggression and occupation as it does against the militarization of the economy.

No harbour for war

The problem is deeper than the government's stand in any particular conflict. What is needed is an anti-war government, and this is part of the practical and action program needed by the movement, what the People's Front calls "No harbour for war". In that spirit Mr Seed said that he had been happy to sign the nomination form for Mr. Oddy and announced to applause that he would be running in Halifax West in the upcoming federal election for the Marxist-Leninist Party of Canada. He would tackle the Liberal Fisheries minister Geoff Regan, who publicly endorsed sending Caandian troops to Afghanistan -- most of them from the Maritimes -- while presiding over a department responsible for the cleansing of the outports of Atlantic Canada and inciting sectarian strife between Mi-kmaq and small fishermen. He would use the campaign to continue building weekly discussions in the community on the serious developments taking place and how the people can be a factor for peace and justice and nation-building under all circumstances. He invited everyone to participate in these discussions, the Halifax Political Forums.

"From Iraq to Palestine, occupation is a crime"

The gathering then resolved to proceed to march through the downtown to issue slogans against the U.S. occupation and the war in Iraq, as well as against all forms of Canadian support for the dangerous schemes of the big powers in Afghanistan, Iraq, Haiti, the Caribbean etc. The main slogan was, "From Iraq to Palestine, occupation is a crime".

Over the next 45 minutes the gathering which had thus empowered itself, without seeking the authorities' "permission" to exercise their rights to freedom of speech and freedom of association, swelled to more than 150 as it proceeded, amid car honkings and many other gestures of support, to march around the provincial legislature and return to the Library lawn.

In this manner, the sideline attempts by local police even as the speeches had been taking place to make an issue about "not being told about this meeting in advance" were consigned to their rightful place.

As the event concluded there was discussion and enthusiasm about the forum slated for Wednesday, April 14 on current developments in Iraq and the showing of the film about the Israeli occupation of Palestine entitled "Beyond the Mirage, slated for Thursday April 15.

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