Posts Tagged ‘imperialism’

Private Sidney HallidaySixteen million people died as a result of World War One. Of these, as many as 64,990 were Canadian. One of them, a Manitoban named Sidney Halliday, was recently identified as being among the remains of five dead Canadians located in Hallu, France in 2006-07.

One suspects the efforts of our Department of National Defence (sic) to notify family members is motivated more by the Harper government’s campaign to glorify war and militarism than it is to offer condolences or compassion to Mr. Halliday’s surviving descendants.

This November 11th, let us remember Mr. Halliday and the millions who perished in that awful war. But let us also remember that this war had nothing to do do with freedom, or democracy, or defending our nation. It was a clash of empires, led by elitist sociopaths for the benefit of bankers and weapons manufacturers, not unlike the murderfest Prime Minister Stephen Harper has insisted we join in the skies over Iraq.


U9In April 2014, the government that had come into power two months earlier in Ukraine launched what it termed an “anti-terrorist operation” against the people of Eastern Ukraine.

The easterners were opposed to the government’s plans for economic association with Western Europe and were demanding a greater voice in central government decisions.

That political conflict, NATO’s backing of Kyiv against Moscow, and the large-scale humanitarian crisis created by the war have shaken the political foundations of Europe and ushered in a new Cold War.

Roger Annis is a Vancouver-based writer who attended an antiwar conference in Yalta, Crimea on July 6th and 7th. Conference delegates included Ukrainians, Russians and antiwar activists from Europe and North America.

Roger talks in depth about the origins of the conflict, the anti-Russian propaganda offensive in the West, the rise of neo-fascism and other recent developments in Ukraine, and what must be done to bring peace to this part of the world.

The evening was sponsored by Peace Alliance Winnipeg. Roger’s web site, which contains several excellent articles on the Ukrainian situation, is

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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.

Speaking at a forum, Jan. 23, 2011, sponsored by Peace Alliance Winnipeg and Project Peacemakers, author/activist Yves Engler explores Stephen Harper’s foreign policy and how it cost Canada its bid, in 2010, for a seat on the United Nations Security Council.

Stretcher Bearers Bringing in Wounded at Vimy Ridge

Every Nov. 11, I get a little weepy.The knowledge that behind the solemn ceremonies and the 21-gun salutes from capitals across the country lie millions of premature deaths and incalculable suffering is overwhelming.

This weekend, the Vimy Ridge Memorial in France has been re-opened and our political and military leaders are mouthing platitudes about sacrifice, democracy, and nation-building. 3,598 Canadians were killed and 7,104 wounded in the battle of Vimy Ridge, and so it is only fitting that we lay to rest some of the bullshit that has been flowing, ostensibly in their memory.

Much is made of the valour and sacrifice of the Canadians at Vimy. Valour means courage under fire and to be sure, our ancestors were brave. One account of the battle says the artillery barrage was so loud it could be heard in southern England, 100 miles away. Imagine the fear this din would have inspired on all sides; imagine being able to stand up and walk, much less fight, in this hellish environment.

And they were sacrificed – gutted on the altar of imperial ambition. Four empires: the Austro-Hungarian, German, Ottoman, and Russian disintegrated, and the Allies divided up the spoils. We continue to reap that whirlwind in the Middle East, among other places.

Democracy? I suppose it’s a relative term, even today. Prior to WW1 the Germans had an emperor and a parliament; we had a king and a parliament. Women were not allowed to vote in either country. Citizens and combatants on both sides were force-fed a stew of lies about their evil adversaries, but looking back over 90 years, it is difficult to see WW1 as a struggle for democracy.

Nation building? In Canada, the battle of Vimy Ridge is portrayed as key breakthrough in the evolution of Canada from a British colony to an independent state. Under British command, Canadians planned, led, provided most of the Allied fighters at Vimy and prevailed. Their blood, we are told, helped us win a seat at the Versailles peace negotiations, which led to our ever growing autonomy on the world stage (which presumably led us to our present status as a vassal of the American Empire — but I digress).

The folks who depend on a compliant source of cannon fodder for current and future wars want us to believe that the battle of Vimy Ridge was a GOOD THING. They want us to believe that Canada “came of age” in the Great War. WW1 is presented as an essential rite of passage, sanctified by our emerging nationhood, almost an historical inevitability if we were ever to find our place in the world. Today’s warmongers are even trying to bask in the reflected glow of long ago bombardments as they direct our young people to slaughter in Afghanistan. (National Defence Minister Gordon O’Connor put it this way: “And much like the Battle at Vimy Ridge, our involvement in Afghanistan is, in many ways, helping to define us as a nation today. A nation that stands up for what we believe in.”)

But consider this: of the 620,000 Canadians who fought in the Great War, 67,000 were killed and 241,000 were wounded. Imagine what a country we might have built if these young men had remained at home, with their families, in their communities.

Friends of mine have an old photo hanging in their dining room of a large gathering of Winnipeggers, taken sometime in the 1920s. One is struck by the conspicuous absence of young men.

Imagine the waste.

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