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Archive for May, 2011

LIBYA: WHY WASN’T IT AN ELECTION ISSUE?

Posted by strattof on May 26, 2011

On March 19 2011, six and-a-half weeks before the Canadian election, a US-led coalition of western forces began to bombard Libya with cruise missiles and air attacks.

Although Canada contributed military personnel and equipment to the mission, parliament was not consulted until after military action had been taken. Still, with scarcely any debate, all three opposition parties gave their consent to Canada’s involvement in this war.  

The stated goal of the mission is to enforce United Nations Security Council resolution #1973: ‘to take all necessary measures short of occupation to protect civilians…under threat of attack.’ This resolution marks the first military implementation of the doctrine of Responsibility to Protect, or R2P as it is sometimes called, a set of norms adopted by the UN over the last decade. The latest of many pretexts used by western powers to justify military intervention in the affairs of poorer countries, R2P has no legal basis in the UN Charter, as it infringes on national sovereignty. (To learn more about R2P, go to: https://makingpeace.wordpress.com/)

On April 25, one week before the Canadian election, the coalition forces, now under NATO command, began bombing Libyan government compounds. The aim of this and later air strikes, one of which killed three of Muammar Qaddafi’s grandchildren, seems to have been to eliminate the Libyan leader. Is this the real goal of the mission: to remove Muammar Qaddafi from power?  

WHY LIBYA?

How can we account for the difference in the response of western nations to the uprising in Libya, as compared to the uprisings in other Arab countries, such as Egypt or Yemen? There was no talk in Ottawa about helping the people of Egypt overthrow their dictatorial ruler. Indeed, Prime Minister Stephen Harper continued to back President Hosni Mubarak up until the very last moment. Similarly, western nations have been almost entirely silent in the face of Yemeni government forces gunning down their own citizens. Yet these same nations all clamoured first for sanctions and then for military action against Libya. 

OIL: Western countries wish to gain more control over Libya’s energy sector. While Libya only produces about 2% of the world’s oil, it has Africa’s largest proven oil reserves. Libyan oil is also easy to access and high in quality, so production and refinery costs are low.

FINANCIAL INVESTMENTS: Western companies have massive investments in Libya. Canadian business interests in Libya include Suncor Energy, SNC-Lavalin, and Bombardier. All told, Canada has $2.2 billion worth of investments in Libya.

If western governments were serious about democracy, they would not have done business with the Qaddafi regime in the first place. And most certainly, arms sales would have been prohibited. However, most of the military equipment that Qaddafi forces are now using to suppress the Libyan people comes from western countries, including Canada, which, between 2007 and 2009, exported $86,682 worth of arms to Libya. In 2008 alone, the US sold $46 million worth of weapons to Libya.

COMPLIANCE: In contrast to the leaders of many Arab nations, including Egypt and Yemen, Colonel Qaddafi does not always do the bidding of western nations.

When he took power in a military coup in 1969, Colonel Qaddafi nationalized the Libyan oil industry. In 2003, after the “Shock and Awe” bombing campaign that leveled so much of Baghdad, Colonel Qaddafi, in a bid to save Libya from such devastation, opened up the Libyan oil industry to western investors. More recently, he began to threaten to renationalize it or to replace western businesses with companies from China, India, Russia, and Brazil.

POST–ELECTION ISSUES

 1. Civilian casualties: The declared goal of the mission is to protect civilians from Colonel Qaddafi’s security forces. There are already credible reports of civilian deaths resulting from NATO air strikes. As the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq demonstrate, aerial bombings by western forces pose an enormous danger to civilian populations. The use of unmanned drones in Libya increases the risk of civilian deaths.

2. Mission creep: Resolution #1973 authorizes international forces to act to protect civilians. It does not authorize them to support one side in a civil war or to remove Qaddafi from power. Targeted killings are in violation of international law.

3. Cost to Canadian taxpayers: How many millions (or will it be billions?) is the Libyan mission going to cost Canadians? A military expert, cited in the Leader-Post, says he’d “be surprised if it was anything less than $100 million” per month. That’s enough to build 435 affordable housing units every month.

4. Endless war: When Parliament resumes on June 2, one of the first items on the agenda will be an extension of the war in Libya. NDP foreign affairs critic, Paul Dewar, says the Official Opposition will not oppose an extension. When will this war end? Will it be another endless war?

TAKE ACTION: CITIZEN ENGAGEMENT AND EMPOWERMENT

  • Let Prime Minister Stephen Harper know you don’t want Canadians killing Libyans in the name of protecting Libyans; you don’t want any more of your tax dollars spent on the war in Libya; you want Canada out of Libya now: pm@pm.gc.ca or 613-992-4211.
  • Send the same message to the Leader of the Opposition, Jack Layton: Layton.J@parl.gc.ca or 416-405-8914.

 Democracy is much more than elections. In a true democracy, it is what happens between elections that really matters.

Stay informed: Read a daily newspaper. Watch the TV news. Listen to Human Rights Radio (Friday, noon–1 pm, CJTR FM 91.3). Visit Democracy Now! online (http://www.democracynow.org/).  

Make your voice heard: Engage in political discussions. Write letters to the editor. Contact your MP. Join us at the vigil (Every Thursday, noon–12:30 pm, Scarth Street at 11th Avenue).

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HUMANITARIAN INTERVENTION: WHAT IS IT GOOD FOR?

Posted by strattof on May 19, 2011

Humanitarian intervention, or Responsibility to Protect (R2P) as the United Nations now calls it, is the reason given by the US and its NATO partners for the current bombardment of Libya with cruise missiles and air attacks.

In addition to bombing Libya, the US-led coalition is considering turning up to $300 billion of Libyan government money, currently in frozen assets in the US, over to the rebels, all to ‘alleviate humanitarian needs,’ according to a Canadian Foreign Affairs spokesperson.  

How can the difference in the response of western nations to the uprising in Libya, as compared to the uprisings in other Arab countries, such as Egypt or Yemen, be accounted for? Perhaps unfortunately for Libyans, Libya has Africa’s largest oil reserves. Also, in contrast to the leaders of many Arab nations, Colonel Qaddafi has not always been compliant with the wishes of western nations.

HUMANITARIAN INTERVENTION

Definition

Humanitarian intervention is one of the more recent euphemisms used by western countries to justify their many interventions in the affairs of other countries. Carried out by rich countries such the US, Canada, Britain, and France, these interventions almost always take place in countries such as Libya that are poor in terms of individual material well-being, but have one or more of the following: sought after natural resources, such as oil or copper; opportunities for substantial corporate investment by the intervenor; strategic value; a non-compliant leader. The ultimate goal of the interventions is world domination by western capitalist countries.

Examples

Iran 1953: The euphemism used here was “secular nationalism,” which the US and Britain employed as a pretext to overthrow the demo-cratically elected government of Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh, who had nationalized the oil industry, and to install the Shah as an authoritarian monarch heavily reliant on US support.  

Chile 1973: When the US deposed the democratically-elected government of Salvador Allende, it was for the sake of “stability.” During his short presidency (he was elected in 1970), Allende had nationalized Chile’s banks and many of its US owned mines and industries.

Panama 1989: When the US invaded Panama in 1989, it claimed it was on “humanitarian grounds.” According to Human Rights Watch, the invasion “inflicted a toll in civilian lives that was at least four-and-a-half times higher than military casualties in the enemy, and twelve or thirteen times higher than the casualties suffered by U.S. troops.” The real goal of the invasion was to maintain control of the Panama Canal, which meant getting rid of the not always compliant Panamanian ruler Manual Noriega.

Somalia 1992: “Humanitarian intervention” was also the reason given for the deployment of a US-led UN sanctioned multinational force, which included Canadians, to Somalia in 1992. Situated on the Horn of Africa, Somalia is of strategic interest to western nations as it provides an excellent site from which to monitor events in the oil-rich nations of the Persian Gulf. In 1993, Canadian soldiers brutally beat and tortured a Somali teenager, Shidane Arone, who was searching for food near the Canadian base. Following a number of humiliations and disasters, the UN withdrew all troops from Somalia in 1995.

NATO

NATO was established in 1949, on the initiative of the US, to contain the Soviet Union and keep communism out of western Europe. With the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989, NATO lost its purpose. However, instead of dissolving, NATO expanded, extending its activities to areas that had not formerly been NATO concerns.

  • In April 1999, NATO adopted a new Strategic Concept, reserving to itself the right to interfere in the internal affairs of any country.
  • In June 1999, without the backing of the UN, NATO initiated an aerial assault on Yugoslavia, giving “humanitarian intervention” as the reason. For 78 days, bombs rained down on a country about 1/5th the size of Nova Scotia, thus demonstrating the power of NATO. Strategically placed in relation to Russia, Yugoslavia also had a position of importance for the exploitation of the oil of the whole region, as well as having many mineral resources of its own. 

THE CANADIAN CONNECTION

  •  Canada is a founding member of NATO.
  • Many of the bombs dropped on Yugoslavia were carried by Canadian planes.
  • In 2000, in support of a US campaign to align the UN Charter more closely with NATO policy, Canada sponsored an International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty. The task of the Commission was to reinterpret the UN Charter by replacing “national sovereignty/non-intervention in the affairs of another state” with “humanitarian intervention” as the basic principle regulating the relations among nations. In order to overcome the objections expressed by humanitarian agencies and organization “towards any militarization of the word humanitarian,” the Commission adopted the phrase “The Responsibility to Protect” as the title of its report.
  • Over the next decade, the UN Security Council adopted the doctrine of Responsibility to Protect as a set of norms regulating international relations. The UN Security Council resolution on Libya is the first military implementation of the R2P doctrine.

As a group, poor countries have explicitly rejected humanitarian intervention: “We reject the so-called right of humanitarian intervention which has no legal basis in the UN Charter or in the general principles of international law.”

             –113 countries of the Non-Aligned Movement, 1999

             –Group of 77 Summit, 2000

TAKE ACTION

Let Prime Minister Harper know you don’t want Canadians killing Libyans in the name of protecting Libyans: pm@pm.gc.ca or 613-992-4211

Send the same message to your Member of Parliament:

Ray Boughen, Palliser: boughr@parl.gc.ca  or 790-4646         

Ralph Goodale, Wascana: goodale@sasktel.net            or 585-2202

Tom Lukiwski, Regina-Lumsden: lukiwt@parl.gc.ca or 790-4747

Andrew Scheer, Regina Qu’Appelle: scheea@parl.gc.ca 790-4727

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ENOUGH! LET THE PEACE BEGIN

Posted by strattof on May 13, 2011

THE DEATH OF OSAMA BIN LADEN: A TIME FOR PROFOUND REFLECTION

The desire to capture or kill Osama bin Laden provided the pretext for the war in Afghanistan. Canadians have been fighting in this war for more than nine years. It is already Canada’s longest war. It is time to bring all the troops home and to start healing their physical, mental, and emotional wounds.

If it was wrong for al-Qaida to kill 2,740 Americans on 9/11, it is also wrong for NATO to kill dozens of Afghan civilians on a monthly basis. According to the United Nations, in 2010 alone, NATO forces were responsible for the death of 694 Afghan civilians.

The desire to capture or kill Osama bin Laden also provided the pretext for western countries, including Canada, to violate international and domestic human rights legislation and to target citizens of certain ethnic or religious backgrounds. It is time for Canada to face up to its responsibility to the Canadian citizens whose human rights have been violated.    

What does the targeted killing of an unarmed man, along with the hasty disposal of his body at sea, say about how we in the west conduct ourselves around the world? Is such a killing permissible under international law?

 The United States military used the name of the Native American hero, Geronimo, as the code name for Osama bin Laden when they raided his compound in Pakistan. As Native American leaders have pointed out, the identification of bin Laden with Geronimo perpetuates the US tradition of treating Native American nations and peoples as enemies and is a terrible slander for Indigenous peoples everywhere.

WE SAY ‘ENOUGH!’

At this time, we remember and mourn all the lives lost on September 11. We also remember and mourn all the lives lost in Afghanistan:

155 Canadian soldiers

2,186 soldiers from other NATO countries

1,000s of Afghan soldiers

10,000+ Afghan civilians

As lovers of peace, we say ‘ENOUGH! We call on the Canadian government to put an end to Canada’s involvement in this endless war. Our troops must come home now!

We also call on the Canadian government to focus the federal budget on improving the lives of Canadians, not on making new enemies abroad.

In 2010-11, Canada will spend at least $22.3 billion on the military. That’s 61% more than we spent in 1998-99 and 18% more than during the peak spending year of the Cold War. Indeed, Canada is now spending more on the military than it has at any time since the end of World War II.

What a difference it would make if that money were to be invested in early childhood education, healthcare, poverty reduction, and affordable housing.

As Julia Ward Howe declared in her Mother’s Day Proclamation, “Disarm! Disarm! The sword of murder is not the balance of justice.”

At this time, we remember all those whose human rights have been violated in the name of the “war on terror.” They include a number of Canadians. Here is the story of one of those Canadians:

Abousfian Abdelrazik

In 2003, at the request of Canada’s spy agency, CSIS, Abousfian Abdelrazik was imprisoned in Sudan where he had gone to visit his mother. While in prison, Mr. Abdelrazik was beaten and tortured. He was also interrogated by CSIS officials. He was never charged. 

Following his release, Mr. Abdelrazik made many attempts to return to Canada, but because his Canadian passport had expired while he was in prison, he needed a travel document. Even though he had been cleared of all suspicion by CSIS and the RCMP, the Canadian government refused to issue one to him. Afraid of being rearrested, Mr. Abdelrazik claimed refuge in the Canadian Embassy in Sudan, living there for 14 months until a Federal Court order forced the Canadian government to bring him back to Canada. 

Mr. Abdelrazik has been back in Canada for two years, but he is still not free as his name is on the UN list of suspected terrorists, placed there in 2006 at the request of the US. The list, known as the ‘1267 list,’ is not only a no fly list. It also prevents him from earning a salary, receiving gifts or loans of money, or maintaining a bank account.

Because we love justice, we say ‘ENOUGH!’ We call on the Canadian government to lift the sanctions from Mr. Abdelrazik in Canada and to lobby the UN Security Council members to have his name removed from the 1267 list.

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THE VIGIL’S FOURTH BIRTHDAY

Posted by strattof on May 5, 2011

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THE VIGIL CELEBRATES ITS FOURTH BIRTHDAY

Posted by strattof on May 5, 2011

Today, May 5, marks the fourth anniversary of the Making Peace Vigil. For the past 208 Thursdays, we have assembled on the Scarth Street Mall, from 12 noon to 12:30 pm, to further the cause of peace and justice. 

  • Thanks so much for taking our flyers.
  • A special thanks to those who have stopped and discussed issues with us.
  • Let us know what other issues you would like us to examine.
  • Should you ever be free on a Thursday at noon, please join us.

MAKING PEACE VIGIL

Bearing witness to our society’s involvement in violence and injustice

Committing ourselves to creative action for change

EVERY THURSDAY

until  peace breaks out

FROM noon to 12:30 pm

ON SCARTH STREET AT 11TH AVENUE

 EVERYONE IS WELCOME

The vigil takes a stand on a range of issues, including:

  • The deployment of Canada’s military in Afghanistan
  • Canadian Pension Plan investments in corporations making weapons
  • Saskatchewan’s involvement in the uranium industry
  • The suspension of human and civil rights in the name of national security
  • The failure of the Canadian government to settle First Nations land claims
  • Social inequity in housing and employment in Regina
  • Racism in Canada and elsewhere
  • Violence against women in Canada and world wide
  • The lack of a national early learning and child care system
  • The unequal distribution of wealth both in Canada and world wide
  • Canadian Pension Plan investments in the tar sands industry
  • War against the earth systems that give us life

For further information please contact

Florence Stratton: florence.stratton@uregina.ca

Catherine Verrall: cfverrall@yahoo.ca

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HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY

Posted by strattof on May 5, 2011

THE ORIGIN OF MOTHER’S DAY

In North America, Mother’s Day comes from an anti-war Mother’s Day Proclamation written in 1870 by U.S. suffragette, abolitionist, and peace activist Julia Ward Howe.

Horrified by the carnage of the American Civil War, Howe became a crusader for peace and for the equality of all people, regardless of race, religion, or gender.

Howe’s Mother’s Day Proclamation calls on women everywhere to rise up against war. As a passage from it shows, Howe’s original words are as relevant in 2011 as they were in 1870:

Arise, then, women of this day!

Arise, all women who have hearts,

Whether our baptism be of water or of tears! 

Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause.

Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn

All that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy, and patience.

We, the women of one country, will be too tender of those of another country

To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.

From the bosom of the devastated Earth a voice goes up with our own.

It says: “Disarm! Disarm! The sword of murder is not the balance of justice.”

It is not too late to answer Julia Ward Howe’s Mother’s Day call for world peace and justice. 

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