Posts Tagged ‘War’

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.


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Aug. 31, 2013: Two of the Winnipeggers who gathered at the Canadian Human Rights Museum to oppose military intervention in Syria. Photo: Paul S. Graham

Aug. 31, 2013: Two of the Winnipeggers who gathered at the Canadian Human Rights Museum to oppose military intervention in Syria. Photo: Paul S. Graham

By Peace Alliance Winnipeg

As the United States moves closer to a direct military strike on Syria, the world draws closer to a conflict that could spread well beyond the boundaries of that war-torn nation.

The pretext for an American strike is an allegation, as yet unproven, that Syrian government forces used sarin gas on opposition forces and civilians. A UN weapons inspection team is on site to determine if chemical weapons were used, though it has no mandate to determine who might have used them. Regardless of what the UN might say, the American government has decided to press on with “punishing” the Syrian regime. No such action is mandated by the 1925 Geneva Protocol on chemical weapons, and an attack would violate international law.

Despite the US government’s assertions of overwhelming proof, only France has said it will join the US in an attack. The British Parliament, last week, voted against military intervention. The UN Security Council has refused to authorize a strike. NATO has ruled out military action.

British MPs voted against military action because the British people were well aware of the falsified British and American intelligence reports that were used to justify attacking Iraq in 2003. That invasion caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and almost 5,000 coalition troops. Four million Iraqis became refugees, the country’s infrastructure was destroyed and Iraqi society was fragmented by sectarian violence that continues to this day.

Canada has funneled more than $5 million to opposition forces and endorsed the use of military force. PM Harper has ambiguously stated that, “at the present time the Government of Canada has no plans, we have no plans of our own, to have a Canadian military mission.” Although Canada has said that it doesn’t intend to send troops, it has provided the US government with consistent political support. We must pressure the Canadian government to reverse that support and we must express our opposition to the US war drive.

The Syrian war is widening

The people of Syria have already suffered over two years of a devastating war, with more than a hundred thousand Syrians killed and millions driven from their homes. What began as a nonviolent protest and then civil war has expanded to sectarian and even more dangerous international conflict.

Syria is a battleground where conflicts are being fought out between regional powers (Saudi Arabia and Iran) and global powers (the US and Russia). A US military attack would worsen the conflict between heavily armed and powerful forces, seriously escalating the war and further destabilizing the Middle East.

Attacking Syrian forces with cruise missiles and drones, which is what the US military is likely to do, will only add to the death toll and delay the peace negotiations that must ultimately bring this war to a close. Even if, through some miracle, the violence remains contained within Syria, the price will still be paid by the Syrian people.

Antiwar sentiment is strong and growing

Last weekend there were antiwar demonstrations around the world. Protests were held in more than 12 Canadian cities, including Winnipeg.

This attack can be prevented, but only with a huge global response. We need to show our solidarity with the people of Syria and stop the US from launching its missiles under the guise of humanitarian intervention. The lives of tens of thousands more Syrians are at stake.

What can we do, here, in Winnipeg?

There are positive, constructive steps we can take to show our support for the people of Syria. We can contact our Members of Parliament. We can insist that they reconvene Parliament and take the following constructive steps:

1. Provide genuine humanitarian aid to the victims of the civil war in the form of food, medical supplies and financial contributions to the reputable humanitarian aid groups that have been stretched to the breaking point by this crisis.

2. End all forms of material and political support to opposition forces.

3. Adopt a genuinely neutral position on the world stage and press for peace talks that involve all of the contending forces.

Parliament must be reconvened to reverse the damage that our government has done by taking sides in this civil war. Canada has to become a responsible voice for peace in the Middle East and the world. If you don’t know how to get hold of your MP, here are some phone numbers.

  • Niki Ashton (Churchill): 204-677-1333
  • Joyce Bateman (Winnipeg South Centre): 204-983-1355
  • Candice Bergen (Portage-Lisgar): 204-822-7440
  • James Bezan (Selkirk-Interlake): 204-785-6151
  • Rod Bruinooge (Winnipeg South): 204-984-6787
  • Steven Fletcher (Charleswood-St. James-Assiniboia): 204-984-6432
  • Shelly Glover (St. Boniface): 204-983-3183
  • Kevin Lamoureux (Winnipeg North): 204-984-1767
  • Pat Martin (Winnipeg Centre): 204-984-1767
  • Joy Smith (Kildonan-St. Paul): 204-984-6322
  • Robert Sopuck (Dauphin-Swan River-Marquette): 204-848-7000
  • Lawrence Toet (Elmwood-Transcona): 204-984-2499

For more complete contact information, go here.

What else can we do?

Get educated. There are excellent sources of critical analysis on the Internet. Here are a couple:

Centre for Research on Globalization

Middle East Research and Information Project

Get involved. You can find No War With Syria (Winnipeg) on Facebook. Peace Alliance Winnipeg is also on Facebook, and on the Internet.

Please contact us. Together, we can do our part to work for peace.

Reposted from Peace Alliance Winnipeg News


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.


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?

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.

vimy pic1