Canada's killers

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“We're the Canadian Forces, and our job is to be able to kill people,” said Rick Hillier, Canada's top military officer, announcing last week the deployment of more than 2,000 soldiers to Afghanistan, including commandos mandated to “take down.”

In a press conference in Washington last February, Hillier outlined Canada's new defence policy . Canada's first priority is to conduct operations on its own territory. Second, Canadian Forces are committed to the defence of North America. Finally, providing troops to serve in hot spots around the world, what used to be our top priority, is now third. Action abroad appears to have been redefined; it is no longer to stop the killing.

Hillier is no stranger to the U.S. On assignment from 1998 to 2000, he served as Deputy Commanding General of III Corps, US Army in Fort Hood, Texas, before being selected to head up NATO forces, first in Bosnia-Herzegovina and then, in 2003, Afghanistan.

Now Chief of the Defence Staff in Ottawa, his remarks set off a ruckus across the country.

One of the main goals of propaganda is to create confusion in the public. By exciting emotion, and passion through the use of inflamed language, the powers-that-be gain more room to maneuver. Hillier is preparing us for the news to come of Canadian casualties in the Kandahar region where our commandos will be patrolling come early 2006.

What is needed instead of propaganda pronouncements is some basic discussion of collective security in today's world, and our place in it.

Paul Martin described our foreign policy goals as 3D. He wants to integrate defence, diplomacy and development.His 3D contribution could also be called dumb, dumber and dumbest. What he wants to integrate first needs to be understood separately and, with regard to defence, needs to be differentiated from security or intelligence.

The American way is to link defence to security. Americans fight in Afghanistan, or Iraq, to protect America says the U.S. president. In case that is not enough, he throws in “defending freedom” as did Hillier in Ottawa. In fact, American security is largely economic and social in nature, not military, and increasingly depends on having a harmonious relationship with the environment, not troops in Kabul, or weapons in outer space.

Thinking about what role Canada should be playing in the world, the Group of 78, created to lobby the Trudeau government, argued that world problems had grown to the point where all nations had an interest in common security, including the protection of the environment, and meeting basic human needs. The pursuit of national security through national defence was futile and dangerous they concluded.

Former Liberal Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy offered human security, a way of broadening the agenda of foreign policy to include international action against “failed states,” aka dictatorships, that imperiled their own populations.

The military action in Afghanistan came about as a result of failed intelligence operations by the U.S., not because of the odious regime in Kabul. The Americans lost contact with their man Osama Bin Laden. The agent and his al-Qaeda force created to fight the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, in a classic case of “blowback,” moved to assault the U.S. In retaliation for “non-cooperation” by the Taliban regime in Kabul in seeking the former CIA sponsored agent, the U.S. invaded the country.

Warring factions in Afghanistan are not going to be brought to submission by the NATO forces. Peacekeeping is an honourable alternative, and dangerous enough, without adding “search and destroy” to the mandate. Diplomacy, sharing of political analysis and information, concentration of neighbouring powers, and UN agreement — these are all paths to collective security for the region. Peace-building is not going to be made easier by killing presumed al-Qaeda operatives in a region where alliances shift, and people change sides in conflicts.

There will be no economic and social security in Afghanistan without human development. Currently, UN sanctions are in effect against “terrorists” in Afghanistan. Done to please the U.S. and its allies, how effective is this supposed to be? Smugglers for centuries, the warring hill tribes, probably find sanctions a business opportunity. As with Iraq, UN economic sanctions hurt those who need help, and help those who are supposed to be hurt.

The Canadian government now uses the language of common security to refer to military partnership in defence of North America, not as the Group of 78 had it to be, environmental, economic and social security for the people of the planet.

Preparing us for operations by the Canadian Forces in Canada moves the top Canadian soldier to point to international terrorists, enemies of our freedom and liberties, “detestable murderers and scumbags.” This smacks of the big bogeyman invoked to frighten children. When it comes to being scared, facts and figures such as the death of 11 million children around the world each year before they reach their fifth birthdays give more legitimate reasons for action, than rants, even by Generals.

The Chief of Defence got it wrong. We're Canadians, and we want to stop the needless deaths.

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