The tragedy of NDP support for NATO bombing of Libya

<!–[if !mso]> st1\:*{behavior:url(#ieooui) } <![endif]–> by Barry Weisleder

The NDP Socialist Caucus federal conference held on March 17at U of Toronto declared its opposition to the imperialist intervention into Libya (the bombing and rocket attacks to impose a ‘no-fly zone’, and impose ‘regime change’).  The SC will campaign across the country for the anti-intervention position reflected in the resolution below, leading up to and at the NDP federal convention, June 17-19 in Vancouver.

NATO Hands off Libya!

Whereas the mass uprising of the people of Libya that began on February 15, 2011 which seeks to
oust dictator Muammar Gadaffi and end his police state, is part of the wave of popular democratic
revolt sweeping the Arab world;

And whereas Gadaffi for the past decade has cooperated with Washington and NATO, been
compliant with the U.S.-led wars of occupation, while privately pocketing billions of dollars of oil revenue,

And whereas Washington and its NATO allies seek to control Libya’s future, and can use the
claim to providing ‘humanitarian aid’, including a ‘no fly zone’ that would be accompanied by
extensive bombing and inevitably massive civilian casualties, to launch an armed invasion of the country,

Therefore Be It Resolved that the federal NDP actively campaign against any U.S. or NATO
intervention in Libya, against the proposed ‘no fly zone’, and demand the withdrawal of Canadian
war ships from Libyan waters, and demand an end to Canadian firms selling/exporting military
equipment, munitions and supplies to the region.

And Be It Further Resolved that the NDP actively encourage the opening of Libya’s borders with
Tunisia and Egypt so that partisans of the Arab democratic revolt can come to the aid of the
Libyan insurgency, and that the NDP organize solidarity with the movement of the Libyan and
Arab peoples for democracy and self-determination.

Sadly, NDP MPs joined the business class parties in Parliament in support of the western military intervention in Libya, which now is conducted by NATO, under the command of Canadian Lieutenant-General Charles Bouchard. The lessons of history seem to be lost on Leader Jack Layton and his NDP Caucus.

For generations, the Canadian state has been consistently on the side of
Israel, and against Egypt and the Arab countries. That includes during the Israeli wars against Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. Ottawa has condoned (sometimes with mild criticism) Israeli atrocities committed repeatedly in Gaza and the West Bank, the construction of the Apartheid wall, the ongoing confiscation of Palestinian homes and farms, and the threats to bomb Iran.

Whether Conservative or Liberal, the federal government has overseen, promoted and facilitated Canadian military exports to 16 countries in the
Middle East and North Africa. Those countries included Mubarak’s Egypt, Gadaffi’s Libya and Netanyahu’s Israel. Between 1990 and 2006, the value of these exports of weapons, munitions, armoured vehicles, jets, helicopters, drones, surveillance equipment and more, was about $1.8 Billion. This has greatly profited Canadian manufacturers like Advantech, Airboss, Astra International, Canadian Airmotive, CEL Aerospace, DEW Engineering, Field Aviation Co. Ltd., (just to name a few from the first six letters of the alphabet), and the omnipresent SNC Lavalin (which is presently building a super-prison in Libya).

Of course that magnitude of trade is dwarfed by the
U.S. military aid programme to Egypt. According to the New York Times on March 13, “the aid programme ­ which has given the Egyptian military roughly $40 Billion since the program’s inception as part of the 1979 Camp David accord signed by Israel and Egypt ­ has supported a military bureaucracy prone to insider dealing and corruption.” Professor Christopher Davidson, an expert on Egypt at Durham University in England, is quoted as saying, “the generals, the Supreme Military Council, is a de facto, separate government with an economy in its own right.” Those are the generals who are drawing up a new constitution and planning elections for September.

Returning to the question of the role of the Canadian state: Is Ottawa’s record in
Egypt and the Middle East the exception, or the rule for the world as a whole? 

Look at Canada’s participation in so-called ‘peacekeeping missions’, such as in Congo in 1960 when U.N. forces isolated revolutionary nationalist leader Patrice Lumumba, facilitating his murder by a right wing, pro-colonialist, pro-mining, secessionist movement. It fits the pattern. As did
Canada‘s ‘peacekeeper’ role on the Golan Heights, in Cyprus, in Somalia, in Yugoslavia, in Haiti, and for the past decade in Afghanistan. The latter was initially touted as a ‘peacekeeping’ alternative to participation in the U.S.-led second invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Meanwhile, Canadian warships ply the waters of the
Persian Gulf in support of the U.S. occupation of Iraq, and in support of the US embargo and its military threats against Iran. Now the HMCS Charlottetown is anchored in waters off the coast of Libya, in support of a bombing campaign involving Canadian CF18s, in the name of a ‘no fly zone’. It is a prelude to an armed occupation by US/NATO forces (or their control of the rebel regime by other means), which is why socialists oppose it. 

The truth is that ‘Canadian peacekeeping’ is a myth, from start to present. It is political camouflage for imperialist intervention. Increasingly, Canadian state officials speak openly in favour of military intervention. They couch it in terms of ‘the duty to protect’ innocent civilians.

In opposing imperialist intervention, and the diplomatic charade that usually accompanies it, socialists do not argue for an isolationist policy. Indeed, our policy can be summarized in this way: Injustice knows no boundaries. Solidarity knows no borders. But solidarity starts with opposition to our own capitalist rulers, including their interventions for power, plunder and profit abroad.

This brings us to the NDP, the only mass labour-based political party in
North America.

Has the NDP leadership consistently opposed imperialist intervention, the arms industry, and militarism? Certainly, that approach would correspond to the interests of its 100,000 members, its 300,000 labour union affiliated members, and its 2.4 million mainly working class voters.

Sadly, the opposite is the case. It took years for the Canadian movement against the war in
Vietnam to win the federal NDP to an ‘Out Now’ position, to get the party to adopt a policy expressed in the slogan ‘NATO, NORAD, ICC, End Canadian Complicity’. It took years to convince the party at convention to adopt ‘Canada Out of Afghanistan Now’. The NDP Socialist Caucus and allies finally succeeded in achieving this at the federal NDP convention in Quebec City, September 2006.

We have yet to win ‘Canada Out of Haiti’, mainly for lack of a democratic opportunity to debate the issue at convention. Of course, we are not about to give up trying.

In terms of
Afghanistan, there are still occasional political relapses at the top. NDP MPs will sometimes say ‘Canadian forces can play a role as trainers or infrastructure builders in Afghanistan – even though that would mean supporting the corrupt, U.S.-imposed Karzai regime. Canadian Forces would still be engaged in combat ‘outside the wire’, since insurgents do not, as a rule, recognize military ‘training’ or ‘building’ by an occupying power as friendly activity. Sometimes NDP MPs, including the Leader, speak wistfully about ‘redeployment’ of Canadian Forces to Darfur, or to elsewhere in Africa where oil or gold or other valuable commodities cannot be harvested due to obstruction by pesky nationalists who want to control their own resources.

That brings us to the current wave of uprisings across the Arab world, including
Egypt. In early January, when the Tunisian masses launched their revolt, after a young man protested the spike in food prices by burning himself to death, the federal NDP issued a statement. It supports the Tunisian people. It says Canada is well positioned to use diplomacy (Really? Remember the election for U.N. Security Council? Ottawa was punished for its pro-Zionist policies, views shared by most NDP leaders). It says ‘stop attacks on civilians’. BUT what about demanding that then-dictator Ben Ali step down?

On January 28, NDP Foreign Affairs Critic Paul Dewar released a statement on
Egypt. It expresses hope that democratic aspirations will be peacefully realized. It urges Canada to use its diplomatic influence with Egyptian authorities (then including Hosni Mubarak) to lift the emergency law; to release detainees. It says it is time for political reforms; to review election laws, …with the input of civil society; and calls for a “fair economy, an end to corruption, for transparent representative government.” BUT what about demanding what millions of Egyptians demanded: Mubarak out! (The NDP was practically the last party to publicly support that demand.)

On February 11, Jack Layton issued a statement: New Democrats admire peaceful protesters’ courage and discipline; Mubarak’s resignation has opened the door to meaningful change; and urges the government of
Canada to use diplomatic means to ensure the process is legitimate and acceptable to the Egyptian people. BUT what about pledging support for the demands of Egyptian workers? Their unions ask that all the companies and resources Mubarak privatized be now returned to public ownership under democratic control. Democracy is about the economy too, not just about parliament.

On February 22, an NDP statement on
Libya expresses concern for protesters and condemns the regime’s use of deadly force against civilians. BUT instead of urging support for the insurgents, including that they be armed to defend themselves against Gadaffi’s hired guns, the NDP urged the UN Security Council to establish a no-fly zone in Libya‘s airspace. That requires, as U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates openly stated, extensive bombing of Libya by U.S. and allied forces. In our view, that leads, as in Iraq, to an eventual armed invasion to protect … the people (?), the oil wells (!), all no doubt to be placed under the protective shield of protective entities, like Xe (former Blackwater) Corp.

So, the more things change, the more they remain the same. NDP leaders are caught in a life-long contradiction. Their interests as capitalist politicians (the pursuit of fame, fortune, good media bytes) conflict with the interests of the millions of workers who look to the party for social justice, equality, human rights, peace, environmental sustainability … in other words, for socialism.

The Socialist Caucus is dedicated to shining a light on that contradiction, to winning the fight for socialist policies, and to challenging the cancerous global system known as capitalism. In short, the SC strives to replace capitalism with a global cooperative commonwealth. That starts with opposing the war makers at home.
The uprisings in
Egypt, and across the Arab world, show that the days of imperial rule, of capitalist rule are numbered. A new day is dawning. NDP members want to be part of that awakening.