The anti-war movement in this country over the past couple of years has enjoyed broad public support against militarism in general, and against the aggressive foreign policy and empire-building of the U.S. government in particular. Approximately 80 percent of people in Canada opposed the invasion of Iraq.
This widely held sentiment for peace and justice corresponds to the unprecedented worldwide rejection of the war on Iraq. In fact, February 15, 2003 saw the largest coordinated demonstration in history, as upwards of 15 million people took to the streets on every continent. And yet the prerogatives and arrogance of Empire held sway, and the attack went ahead anyway; today, the U.S. persists in its unpopular occupation, which has claimed the lives of more than 1,500 American soldiers and at least 100,000 Iraqis, according to a study done late last year by the Lancet medical journal.
The worst, though, may still be yet to come. After the November election, Bush ominously declared, “I earned political capital, and now I intend to spend it.” Recent reports from a number of sources indicate that the U.S. administration has already decided to bomb Iran as early as this June. The President’s ‘denial’ even sparked laughter amongst a normally staid and humourless press corps:
This notion that the United States is getting ready to attack Iran is simply ridiculous.
And having said that, all options are on the table.
(The Wasington Post, February 23, 2005)
Bush’s comments were made on a recent trip to Europe, where NATO allies including Canada’s Paul Martin met to “mend-fences” that had been damaged by divisions over the Iraq war. The prevalent notion of Canada as a neutral player on the international scene is belied by the actions of the government in Ottawa.
Haiti, Canada’s battlefront
While Jean Chretien famously kept Canadian troops out of the initial invasion of Iraq, he provided aid to the U.S. ‘crusade’ in other ways, providing ship escorts in the Persian Gulf and sending additional forces to Afghanistan to free up U.S. troops for Iraq. Paul Martin has taken a similar tact, just last month announcing that Canada would commit 30 troops and $1 million for training the new Iraqi police forces.
At the same time as Martin has been subtly complicit in Iraq, he has boasted of Canada’s role in Haiti, where last year the democratically elected Jean-Bertrand Aristide was overthrown. Thousands have been killed during the subsequent occupation, under the watch of Canadian and UN forces.
Though far removed from the turbulent, oil-rich Middle East, the Bush Doctrine has also been applied to Haiti, with Canada’s open cooperation: ‘We reserve the right to change regimes, wherever and whenever we have motive and opportunity.’ It is this criminal and frightening return to open imperialism -- not to mention utter disregard for the norms of international law -- that demands the continued effort to build effective and broad anti-war movements.
Prominent rally members
On March 19, the world will mark the second anniversary of this war and occupation with hundreds of protests around the globe. At least 21 actions are already planned across Canada to mark the occasion. In Vancouver, we’ll be following the traditional route for peace marches over the Burrard Street Bridge and will have a number of prominent guests joining us for the rally.
Dahr Jamail is a journalist who has spent most of the past year in Iraq, taking big risks to bring the reality of life under occupation most often glossed over in the mainstream media. Jamail will be joined by Walden Bello, an author and activist who received the Alternative Nobel Prize in 2003 and has been a leading spokesperson for the international movement against the war in Iraq. Father Cortina, a Jesuit priest who survived the massacre of progressives in El Salvador during the 1980s, will also address the rally.
More than to simply imbibe wisdom from the speakers, though, people should come out on March 19 as a conscious show of solidarity with the people of Iraq, and with the millions of others who will be marching in dozens of countries for peace and justice.
Details of anti-war activities on March 18-19 are available at www.StopWar.ca.
Derrick O’Keefe is a founding editor of the on-line journal www.SevenOaksMag.com.