Archive for the ‘War’ Category

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Roger Annis at the Feb. 24, 2013 annual meeting of Peace Alliance Winnipeg. Photo: Paul S. Graham

Is the military intervention in Mali by France, with the assistance of the United States, Canada and others an example of a humanitarian intervention launched to protect a fragile democracy from the incursion of Muslim terrorists? Or is France meddling in the affairs of its former colony to protect its business interests and further the political and economic interests of its NATO partners?

Roger Annis, coordinator of the Canada-Haiti Action Network and longtime political activist, explored these questions at the Annual General Meeting of Peace Alliance Winnipeg, held Feb. 24, 2013 in Winnipeg.

If you want to read more on this issue, Roger has published a number of thoughtful articles on his blog.


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Oct. 6, 2012: A passerby reads a leaflet distributed by Peace Alliance Winnipeg in Osborne Village. Photo: Paul S. Graham

Activists in at least 6 Canadian cities joined in the International Day of Action yesterday to carry the message “Don’t attack Iran” to our fellow citizens.

In Winnipeg, Peace Alliance Winnipeg held an information picket in the Osborne Village neighbourhood, distributing hundreds of leaflets that exposed the myths that are being spread by our various governments to justify sanctions and a future war against Iran.

At the conclusion of the demonstration, Peace Alliance Winnipeg chairperson, Glenn Michalchuk, spoke about the growing war danger and the implications for Canadians. Here is my video report.


Sept. 21, 2012: Actors Gord Tanner, Sara Constible and Tricia Cooper (l-r) in performance at International Peace Day at the Free Press Cafe in Winnipeg. The evening was sponsored by Project Peacemakers. Photo: Paul S. Graham

Yesterday was International Peace Day. It’s understandable if you missed it. Peace is a rare and beautiful thing in this war-torn world.

Winnipeg’s Project Peacemakers marked International Peace Day 2012 with skits and musical performances at the Free Press Cafe. Performing sketches written by Geoff Hughes and Diane Cooper, actors Tricia Cooper, Sara Constible and Gord Tanner provided a comedic response to the Harper Government’s military spending policies in general and its decision to spend $28 million celebrating the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812.

With skillfully performed covers of songs by Pink Floyd, John Lennon and the Weavers, Tom Penner and Jill Cooper closed out the evening with ballads beloved by peace activists everywhere.

International Peace Day was established by the United Nations in 1981 and first celebrated in September 1982. Since then it has been observed in countries around the world.

Project Peacemakers is a church-based organization that has been active in Winnipeg since 1983. It conducts educational forums, and publishes  educational materials on such issues as child soldiers, war-affected children, and violent video games and toys.

While I tend to be skeptical of international days of any kind, I’m glad I went. It was an enjoyable to be surrounded by people who care actively about world peace and the performances were great. Here is my video report.


by Peace Alliance Winnipeg

During the Vietnam war, tens of thousands of American conscientious objectors sought refuge in Canada to avoid taking part in a war they could not, in conscience, support. While the Canadian government was slow to respond in a positive way, under persistent pressure from peace, church and labour activists, they were eventually permitted to obtain immigrant status. Many remain in Canada to this day as valued members of our communities.

Fast forward 40 years – many US soldiers have sought refuge here  rather than fight in the Iraq war, a war widely recognized as a crime against humanity. Rather than be complicit in war crimes they left their homes, their families and communities and sought refuge in Canada.

Their pleas for refugee status have been thwarted at every turn by the Harper Government. In defiance of two Parliamentary resolutions calling on the federal government to allow war resisters to stay in Canada, the Harper Government has continued to smear American war resisters as criminals. Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Jason Kenney has publicly labelled them as “bogus refugee claimants.” In July 2010, he issued a bulletin to all Immigration Officers requiring them to red-flag applications that involve US war resisters, labeling them as “criminally inadmissible.”

In recent news, the Harper government ordered U.S. Iraq war resister Kimberly Rivera, her husband Mario and their four young children deported to the United States. Kimberly served in Iraq in 2006, and sought refuge in Canada in 2007 after making the decision that she could no longer participate in the Iraq War. She was the first female US Iraq War resister to come to Canada. Kimberly and her family live in Toronto.

If deported, she faces harsh punishment. War resisters Robin Long and Clifford Cornell, two Iraq war resisters deported by the Harper government, were court-martialed and sentenced to 15 months and 12 months respectively for speaking out against the Iraq War.

Canadian support for American war resisters is widespread. We must redouble our efforts to make the Harper government listen.

Peace Alliance Winnipeg has sent a $300 donation to cover Kimberly Rivera’s legal costs. We have written to each Manitoba MP and we will be taking our message to the Winnipeg Take Canada Back demonstration on September 17th. Here are some things you can do:

1. Write, email, fax and or call your MP. If you wish, you can use or adapt the letter sent by Peace Alliance Winnipeg (below, at the end of this message) or you may wish to adapt the letter being used by the War Resisters Support Campaign.  To get their contact information, follow the links below:

(More MP contact information can be found here.)
2. Make a financial contribution to help with Kimberly Rivera’s legal expenses. You can make a donation online, here. To donate by cheque, make it payable to War Resisters Support Campaign and send to:

War Resisters Support Campaign
Box 23
427 Bloor Street West
Toronto, ON M5S 1X7
Canada

3. Write, email, phone or fax Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Jason Kenney and ask him to let Iraq War resister Kimberly Rivera and her family stay in Canada. You can use thisonline letter, or send your own message to:

325 East Block, House of Commons, Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6
Phone: 613-954-1064 Fax: 613-957.2688
Email: jason.kenney@parl.gc.ca, minister@cic.gc.ca

4. Join the Peace Alliance Winnipeg contingent at the Winnipeg Take Canada Back Demonstration on September 17th, 5:00 p.m., at the Manitoba Legislature. More information on this national demonstration, which coincides with the opening of Parliament, can be found here.

If Kimberly and her family are to be allowed to remain in Canada, we need to act now. Please share this message widely, and take action today.


LETTER SENT TO MANITOBA MPs FROM PEACE ALLIANCE WINNIPEG

September 13, 2012

Dear Member of Parliament for Manitoba

Re: Deportation of Kimberly Rivera , American Iraqi war resister

On behalf of the Peace Alliance Winnipeg I ask for your immediate attention and support on an urgent matter regarding the imminent deportation of Kimberly Rivera, a young American war resister, woman and mother. Her appeal to remain in Canada on humanitarian grounds has been denied by the Federal government and deportation is scheduled for as early as September 20, 2012.

Kimberly has sought refuge in Canada on moral grounds, motivated by her conscience, values, and political opposition to the American military action in Iraq. Many thousands of Canadians support her and view her decision and actions as a heroic matter of conscience.

On being forced to return to he US she will face two to five years of imprisonment made all the more harsh by her separation from her young children.

There is nothing to be gained from this inhumane decision and much will be lost. Kimberly losses her freedom and her ability to parent her children; her children lose precious time with their mother; the American military gains nothing but retribution and, as Canadians, we also lose.

This is a serious and symbolic issue for us a nation. If we fail to reverse this deportation decision, and all others like it, Canada loses a significant degree of independence in determining the value of individual conscience particularly as it concerns the matter of conscientious objection. The deportation of war resisters sends the message that Canada does not value those who refuse to fight in war. It further erodes our standing in the world as peace keepers and a middle power capable of being an honest broker on the world stage.

Most troubling we will have failed our long held national values of defending legitimate moral opposition, defending the right to conscience and protecting political refugees from certain prosecution. Our once highly held principle of humanitarian consideration for refugees will be irrevocably threatened along with our national identity as a compassionate and tolerant country.

This is a costly and grave matter for Kimberly and her family and for us as Canadians. It is erroneously being framed as a criminal matter. Deportation of Kimberly and others like her will have far reaching, long term destructive consequences for us all. The real crime is a moral one in allowing this deportation to proceed unchallenged.

In June 2008 and March 2009 Parliament passed resolutions calling for a halt to the deportations of war resisters and allowing them to stay in Canada as permanent residents. Please use your position and voice as a parliamentarian to immediately stop the deportation of Kimberly Rivera.

Glenn Michalchuk
Chair, Peace Alliance Winnipeg

Canada’s Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Walt Natynczyk Photo: Jake Wright, The Canadian Press

This interview with Canada’s Chief of Defence Staff says more about the psychopathology of militarism than I would have believed could be found in a daily newspaper. Read along with me and ask yourself what kind of madness are we allowing to develop in this country.

My thoughts are in the right hand column. I’d be interested in hearing yours.

Canada’s top soldier says troops ready and eager for new overseas missions

By Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press
Winnipeg Free Press, July 7, 2012

CALGARY – When it comes to future missions for the Canadian Forces, Canada’s top soldier has to battle to keep his eager troops satisfied with staying out of major combat zones for now.

Our military exists, or should exist, to defend this country from aggressors while occasionally helping Torontonians dig out of blizzards and Manitobans fight floods. However, it seems that rather than guardians of national sovereignty and security we have a pack of blood thirsty attack dogs on a leash, restrained only by the herculean efforts of Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Walt Natynczyk.

Canada’s military presence in Afghanistan will come to an end once the current training mission concludes in 2014 and Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Walt Natynczyk acknowledges that’s a disappointment for many soldiers, sailors and air personnel.

If Natynczyk is correct in his assessment, we have allowed our military to become a haven for a large number of homicidal psychopaths. Is this what happens after a decade of war?

“We have some men and women who have had two, three and four tours and what they’re telling me is ‘Sir, we’ve got that bumper sticker. Can we go somewhere else now?’” Natynczyk said in an exclusive interview with The Canadian Press in Calgary.

These men and women need help. Failing that, they should never be allowed to own anything sharper than soup spoons.

“You also have the young sailors, soldiers, airmen and women who have just finished basic training and they want to go somewhere and in their minds it was going to be Afghanistan. So if not Afghanistan, where’s it going to be? They all want to serve.”

I like it when our troops are on hand to fight floods and forest fires. I’d prefer not paying taxes to help them make their bones overseas. If they are really that eager to kill people, our American cousins seem to have an insatiable appetite for cannon fodder.

But Natynczyk is unsure about what is in store for the Canadian Forces or even himself for that matter.

If you believe that, I have some prime muskeg, suitable for agriculture, that you won’t be able to resist.

He has been on the job for four years, which is past the normal tenure for someone in his position, and if he knows what is going to happen next, he isn’t providing any details.

“I’ll just keep on sprinting in this job until I’m told to get off the playing field and recognizing that I’m living in a pretty good time to be in the military,” he said.

Ah, so many people to kill, so little time!

“I never aspired to this job. I just serve. I serve Canadians and the country and look on every day as an opportunity to make a contribution.”

If you really want to serve, Walt, there’s a Starbuck’s near you that is always looking for talent.

Natynczyk said he is telling Canadian troops to keep their “kit packed up” because the world is an unpredictable place right now.

Iran? Syria? Northern BC, if the First Nations don’t allow Enbridge to build it’s Northern Gateway Pipeline?

“The world is turbulent right now and the fact is our allies want more of Canada, more of the men and women who wear Canadian uniforms,” he said.

Our allies want us to kill more brown people who have the misfortune to be in some proximity to undeveloped fossil fuels. We happen to be good at it, I guess.

“I’ve told them all to catch up on that training that lapsed while we had this high operational tempo between Afghanistan and the Olympics and Haiti and Libya, and let’s make sure we have all qualifications and training up to date so when we’re called upon we’re ready to go.”

We’re learning new ways to kill people every day.

The general said outside of Afghanistan, Canada has a number of other smaller missions underway including in the Middle East, Africa and the Caribbean.

Oh, and guess what! We’re opening up seven new military bases on foreign soil in Senegal, South Korea, Kenya, Singapore, Kuwait, Jamaica and Singapore.

Natynczyk said he is satisfied with the success of the Canadian mission to Afghanistan and pointed out that he flew into Kabul on a commercial airliner for the first time when he visited troops in the city last month.

Let’s see now . . . at great cost to ourselves and and a much greater cost to the Afghan people, we’ve helped a gang of drug lords maintain some control of a couple of urban centres which, when NATO leaves, will undoubtedly revert to Taliban control. The good news is, however, when the dust finally settles, commercial airlines will still fly into Kabul – just like they did before we invaded.

He said the departure of Canadian and U.S. troops will give the Afghan forces the little push that they need to succeed.

“It has helped the Afghans in a sense, taking ownership of their own security. One of the real challenges was the sense that NATO and our allies were going to stay there forever. (That) actually was not helpful in terms of their own culture and own atmosphere,” he said.

Natynczyk is a master of understatement.

Natynczyk is focusing much of his efforts now in making sure more attention is being paid to injured soldiers and their families, especially those suffering from the psychological effects of war.

Shattered bodies and broken minds are the inevitable outcomes of war. Why is Natynczyk so eager to get into another one?

“It’s almost easier to handle people with physical injuries, with physical wounds. People can see it. They can understand it, whether it be shrapnel, a broken leg, even these horrific amputations,” he said.

“It’s much more difficult in the mental injury, whether it be post traumatic stress, operational stress injury, traumatic brain injury because we’re just understanding the beginning of a process of understanding the complex nature of this.”

According to The Department of National Defence, 19 men and one woman died by suicide in the Canadian Forces in 2011, up from 12 in 2010. Since 1996, 187 soldiers have committed suicide. How many more suicides are we going to tolerate while the military is figuring out the “complex nature of this”?

Natynczyk said he talked about mental health on his last visit to Kabul, especially about overcoming the “stigma” of mental issues and making sure people come forward if they have a problem.

And how’s that workin’ for ya, Walt?

Every August 6, Winnipeggers commemorate the August 1945 atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki with a Lanterns for Peace Ceremony. People come together to make and float their lanterns in a pond in the middle of the city to express their desire for a peaceful world and to show solidarity with countless others around the world who are doing something similar on that day.

The Cast

  • Glenn Morison – Project Peacemakers
  • Ismaila Alfa – CBC Radio
  • Doug Martindale – MLA, Burrows Constituency
  • Steve Plenert – Mennonite Central Committee
  • Jessica Nagamori – Manitoba Japanese Canadian Citizens’ Association
  • Terumi Kuwada – Manitoba Japanese Canadian Citizens’ Association
  • Haley Rempel – Flautist

Lanterns for Peace Sponsors

The Crew

The more we learn about the so-called humanitarian intervention in the skies above Libya, the less it looks like a war Canadians should support. Like the bogus humanitarian claims Tories and Liberals have used to support extending Canadian participation in the occupation of Afghanistan, the war against Libya has more to do with imperialism and any humanitarian benefit is simply “collateral.”

US Democratic Party Congressman Dennis Kucinich recently drew attention to the amazing similarity between the NATO invasion of Libya and a NATO war game entitled “Operation Southern Mistral 2011.”

“While war games are not uncommon, the similarities between ‘Southern Mistral’ and ‘Operation Odyssey Dawn’ highlight just how many unanswered questions remain regarding our own military planning for Libya.

The ‘Southern Mistral’ war games called for Great Britain-French air strikes against an unnamed dictator of a fictional country, “Southland.” The pretend attack was authorized by a pretend United Nations Security Council Resolution. The ‘Southern Mistral’ war games were set for March 21-25, 2011.

On March 19, 2011, the United States joined France and Great Britain in an air attack against Muammar Gaddafi’s Libya pursuant to UN Security Council Resolution 1973.

Scheduling a joint military exercise that ends up resembling real military action could be seen as remarkable planning by the French and British, but it also highlights questions  regarding the United States’ role in planning for the war. We don’t know how long the attack on Libya has been in preparation, but Congress must find out. We don’t know who the rebels really represent and how they became armed, but Congress must find out. (Denis Kucinich, Kucinich: President Had Time to Consult with International Community, Not Congress? | Congressman Dennis J. Kucinich, Press Release, March 29, 2011)

Professor Michel Chossudovsky, of Global Research, in an article entitled When war games go live: “Staging” a “humanitarian” war against “Southland,” shows that the similarity is no coincidence.

Rep. Kucinich does not appear to have a Canadian counterpart who is questioning why we are involved, much less speaking out against it. Harper’s decision to send jet fighters to bomb Libya was supported unanimously by Canada’s MPs, some of whom one would expect to do their homework before being caught up in media-hyped war hysteria.

Did any of them stop to consider why we are doing nothing to stop the governments of Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Jordan, Qatar and Oman from murdering their citizens in large numbers? Did none of them find it odd that the uprising in Libya was armed and violent from the beginning — in stark contrast to the peaceful mass movements Canada has refused to defend? Isn’t it strange that we will rush to war against Gaddafi who, arguably is no better or no worse than any number of despots but we will not do a thing to restrain the routine brutality of the Israeli state against Palestinians?

The war in Libya is the pink elephant on the campaign trail that none of our politicians want to acknowledge. We have to change this.