Ottawa eyes role in Syria conflict

Flush from its part in NATO’s bloody intervention in Libya to impose a pro-western government there, Canada‘s Defence Minister Peter MacKay said Ottawa will not rule out military action in Syria. Speaking to the International Security Forum in Halifax on November 20, MacKay postured as the defender of democratic forces suffering repression at the hands of the Syrian regime of President Bashar Assad.

But taken together with Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird’s bellicose threat to take “necessary action” against Iran, amid media speculation about a possible pre-emptive Israeli-American strike at Iran‘s nuclear power facilities, MacKay’s words help to form a different picture.

It is the picture of expanding imperial intervention — designed to blunt and re-shape uprisings across the Arab world. It is the image of western powers seeking geo-political control over the world’s foremost oil patch.

The business media call it “sabre-rattling”. But such noises have led to bombing and military occupation. In 1999, CF-18s flew 684 combat sorties against Yugoslav forces, roughly 10 per cent of the NATO effort to make the Balkans safe for the restoration of private enterprise. More recently, in Libya, Ottawa flew 942 of NATO’s 9,600 strike missions, resulting in thousands of civilian casualties. Between those forays was the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan, where over 900 Canadian soldiers continue to occupy, to kill, and to die.

Canada will keep war-ships in the Mediterranean Sea until the end of 2012, MacKay said. It deployed the frigate HMCS Vancouver as part of NATO’s Libya intervention. After early 2012, HMCS Charlottetown will continue so-called ‘anti-terrorism’ duties.

Certainly, former and present dictators, like Gadaffi and Assad, committed high crimes against workers and farmers, women and youths. But those dictators were in the good books of the western powers when they imprisoned leftists and smashed unions, as are Washington and Ottawa‘s current allies ruling Saudi Arabia.

But imperialism is always on the prowl for more compliant regimes – ones that would be eager to dismantle state enterprises and public services; ones that would happily sign ‘free trade’ agreements with the vultures of Wall Street, Bay Street and the City of London.

The task of deposing dictators is the task of the people suffering under them. The job of working people and progressive folks living in the rich countries is to stay the hand of foreign intervention, to disarm the war makers, and to demonstrate solidarity with those who fight for freedom and social justice. The famous advice of Karl Marx to the English working class on the Irish question bears repeating: No nation that oppresses another can itself be free.

It is a message that must be driven home in the unions and the labour-based New Democratic Party to avoid another debacle, as when NDP MP s voted in 2011 to support the bombing of Libya. The Syrian and Iranian test cases are coming soon. Canada, hands off!

> The article above was written by Barry Weisleder.