Category Archives: Anti-War

Harper’s Hypocrisy on Ukraine

by Evan Engering

It is often said that truth is the first casualty of war. But in the dark days of late capitalism we have learned one more thing. From the tall tales about murdered “incubator babies” and alleged “weapons of mass destruction” in Iraq, we know that even before a war is declared, the truth comes under withering assault.As Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper sends fighter jets and troops to NATO bases in Poland, this becomes evident. After over 80% of the people in Crimea voted to rejoin Russia, western media and politicians went on a propaganda rampage, posing any argument they could imagine to de-legitimize the referendum. While Putin’s actions were heavy-handed, Russia was not alone in recognizing the validity of the vote. Many countries in the global South did. But the Western media played its usual role in trumpeting the claims that the election was held at “gunpoint”, ignoring the fact that Russian soldiers were already legally stationed in the region, by treaty, as they had been for years.

The most brazen display of Western hypocrisy came courtesy of political leaders after the vote in Crimea. Prime Minister Harper flew to Ukraine in March for the purpose of expressing support for the new Ukrainian government and to shake his fist at Russia. Even after flying there and back, Canadian politicians and media were silent on the ultra-nationalist character of the new regime in Kiyiv.

Taking advantage of folks with a short memory, Harper did a double about-face. Late last year he visited Israel. Even writers at the right wing Sun newspapers and the National Post expressed their loathing to hear the tired old argument that criticism of Israel is anti-Semitism. Of course, the ongoing illegal and expanding Israeli settlements in the West Bank were not mentioned. Fast forward to Harper’s recent visit to Ukraine. Suddenly his viewpoint is reversed: annexation of another country or region is instantly outrageous, whereas anti-Semitism (this time not from the dark crevices, but from the junior partner in the ruling coalition government in Kijiv) is ignored. If Harper were a man of democratic principles, such cognitive dissonance would make him dizzy!

The Ukrainian Jewish community was shamelessly used by US Secretary of State John Kerry. A distributed leaflet, purportedly from the “pro-Russian” group, the Donetsk People’s Republic, ordered all Jews in the area to surrender their money and register themselves. But the document was a fraud. Despite Kerry’s fast and furious condemnation of the document, nobody claimed authorship for this supposedly public edict.

Again, Kerry has no known history of speaking out against the actual proven racism of Svoboda or any other pro-Maidan fascists. He does, however, have a history of speaking out against a foreign adventure that was started and waged under a US president from the Democratic Party. Kerry served in the Vietnam war under US President Lyndon B Johnson and, upon his return to the US, joined the anti-war movement as a member of Vietnam Veterans Against the War. Now that he is in a position of influence and power, like a butterfly coming out of a cocoon, he has metamorphosed from anti-war activist to imperialist war hawk.Fortunately for Harper and Kerry, they can maintain these positions and contradict them freely, for it is clear as day that their actions are not motivated by principle or respect for international law at all, but by crude geo-political strivings for power and profit abroad. Unfortunately for Canada, the media’s rabid focus on Putin’s wrongdoings have blown the situation out of proportion. While condemnation of his oligarchical regime is justified, it is no reason to take our own government’s sabre-rattling rhetoric at face value.

Canadians who are outraged Russia’s actions, but were not so opposed to Canada’s presence in Afghanistan, or who don’t mind Ottawa’s role in NATO, should be mindful of the narrative they are being sold by politicians and media. Canada just happens to be on one side of the geo-political divide. Russia is on the other. Considering that this whole situation started with protests against the refusal of Yanukovich to accept a deal with the EU, and that the US (which is no objective party to any conflict in the world) has picked a side, there is no reason to believe this is anything other then an inter-imperialist conflict. We should be calling for NATO to pull back; and for the US to stop funding the ultra-nationalist, rightist regime in Kiyiv. Neither intervention from Russia or Western forces is needed, but for Ukraine to exercise its sovereignty through democratic elections – and to allow its regions more autonomy, outright independence, or if they wish, to choose merger with Russia.

Harper claims Afghanistan ‘better off today’ What’s the truth?

by Evan Engering
The Stephen Harper-led Conservative federal government announced the end of Canada’s large armed presence in Afghanistan on March 12. Harper told returning Canadian troops that “you fought to loosen the grip of terror and repression.” He added, “the people of Afghanistan are better off today because of Canada’s investments.” 

The occasion, at least officially, marked the end of 12 years of Canadian military intervention in the country. The war aligned Canada closer to American foreign policy. It claimed the lives of 158 Canadians, along with those of many thousands of Afghani civilians. 

But how true are Harper’s claims?
Former Liberal Prime Minister Jean Chretien sent troops to Afghanistan in 2001 following the terrorist attacks of 9/11. In the wake of massive protests across Canada against joining the US war in Iraq in 2003, Chretien instead began ramping up the Afghanistan ‘mission’. Despite the Taliban’s initial willingness to co-operate in pursuing Al Quaeda, NATO forces occupied the country and waged the conflict themselves, only to have Taliban fighters retreat to mountainous regions to pursue a painfully protracted war.

Canada’s participation stirred domestic political unrest. A majority of Canadians opposed the intervention from the start, and through most of the 12 years of the debacle. In 2009, Prime Minister Harper prorogued Parliament for a second time, then to shield his government from mounting allegations of handing over prisoners to Afghan authorities for torture – a war crime in violation of the Third Geneva Convention. In 2006, New Democratic Party convention delegates, led by the Socialist Caucus, debated and passed a resolution calling for an end to Canada’s role in the war. Anti-war opposition was visible in the streets, where large demonstrations took place at least annually.

Canada’s many years of involvement in Bush’s jingoist ‘crusade’, indifferent to the lessons learned by Stalinists during the ten year Soviet Union occupation, failed to win over many Afghani hearts and minds. In fact, it only retarded Afghani political progress, and fuelled religious fanatics in their jihad against the West.

So what is the ‘success’ that Harper and the business media are touting? Decades of conflict driven by foreign powers have left Afghanistan one of the poorest countries on Earth. Over one third of the population is unemployed and living below the poverty line. Even with all the foreign aid, the country is ranked last, or in the bottom ten for every category in the Human Development Index. The only industry in which Afghanistan leads the world is the production of addictive drugs. The opium industry has accounted for over a third of the country’s GDP, with 10% of the population working in the poppy fields to generate almost all of Asia’s supply of heroine. No solution to the problem of poverty is here though, as most of the profits go to drug lords.

Perhaps the most tragic failure is insecurity – still a major problem, underscored by the March 20 attack on Kabul’s luxury Serena Hotel which left nine dead, including two Canadian aid workers.

The Taliban is hardly gone, and given the country’s stagnation and rampant corruption, Afghanistan is doomed to the same cruel fate of countries devastated by foreign intervention – until the menace of imperialism is ended. Foreign powers, whether Russian, Pakistani or Western, can drop bombs and kill people, but only democratic grassroots organizing by the Afghani people themselves can make their country self-governing and prosperous.
Fight Imperialism! Canada out of NATO!

Manning sentenced to 35 years

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By ANN MONTAGUE – Socialist Action USA

U.S. Army whistleblower Pfc. Chelsea (Bradley) Manning has been sentenced to 35 years in prison for giving hundreds of thousands of secret military and diplomatic documents to WikiLeaks. The military judge, Col. Denise Lind, offered no explanation for her sentence. As military guards conducted Manning from the courtroom on Aug. 21, his supporters shouted out, “We will keep fighting for you!”

The response to the sentence was swift. Daniel Ellsberg, the whistleblower who released the Pentagon Papers in 1971, stated, “The only person prosecuted for the crimes and abuses uncovered in the WikiLeaks’ releases is the person who exposed them. That alone proves the injustice of even one more day in prison for Bradley Manning.”

Ben Wizner, director of the ACLU’s Speech, Privacy and Technology Project, said, “This is a sad day for Bradley Manning, but it’s also a sad day for all Americans who depend on brave whistleblowers and a free press for a fully informed public debate.”

“It seems clear,” Wizner noted, “that the government was seeking to intimidate anyone who might consider revealing valuable information in the future.”

Three and a half years will be credited to Manning’s sentence for time served. This will include time for the period that the judge ruled he was mistreated at the Marine Corps Brig at Quantico, Va., before being moved to the prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Throughout his time at Quantico, he was designated a “maximum custody” detainee and locked up alone for at least 23 hours a day. He was forced to sleep naked for several nights and required to stand at attention naked in the morning. He will have to serve one-third of the sentence before he is eligible for parole.

Manning faced a possible 90-year sentence. The government had denied him a whistleblower defense and the right to describe intent or to show that his actions harmed no one. U.S. prosecutors asked for a sentence of 60 years while acknowledging Manning’s youth. But it was clear that the true motivation for the prosecution’s request for the extremely long sentence was to deter future leaks. Prosecutor Capt. Joe Morrow stated, “There is value in deterrence.”

“Pfc. Manning was one of the brave Americans who was not willing to remain silent,” defense attorney David Coombs told the media. “Instead he decided to provide us with information that he believed would spark reform, would spark debate and he provided us with information that he believed might change the world.”

“Perhaps the biggest crime was that he cared about the loss of life that he was seeing and couldn’t ignore it, and was struggling with it.”

The forensic psychologist who testified in Manning’s defense, Capt. David Moulton, told the military court, “Manning was under the impression that his leaked information was going to really change how the world views the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and future wars. … It was his opinion that if through crowd sourcing that enough analysis was done on these documents, that it would lead to greater good.”

Three days before Manning was sentenced, British authorities made their own effort to intimidate whistleblowers when they detained David Miranda, the partner of Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald, and confiscated his laptop. Greenwald has been writing articles based on leaked information from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. Officials told Miranda that he was being held under Britain’s Terrorism Act, and threatened him with prison if he didn’t “cooperate.”

It was reported recently that the NSA has no idea what or how much information Edward Snowden has in his possession.  Clearly, the United States and Britain are terrified about what information might be revealed next concerning their war machines and surveillance networks.

Manning downloaded the leaked material to his computer when he was deployed as an intelligence analyst in Iraq in 2010. What did he actually reveal? The most widely seen information was seen in the “Collateral Murder” video, which showed an Apache helicopter attack on a group of people walking in a Baghdad street in 2007. Two of the victims were employees of Reuters news agency. A member of the helicopter crew yelled “dead bastards!” at those they killed. They also blew up a van of civilians who had stopped to help the initial victims of the first round of gunfire.

The “Reykjavik-13 Cable” was the first leak to be published by WikiLeaks; it describes frank discussions of meetings between the U.S. embassy chief in Reykjavik and members of the Icelandic government. The scornful attitude of the U.S. representative towards their nation in the middle of its banking crisis so angered activists in Iceland that they edited the “Collateral Murder” video, which was soon released worldwide.

The “Iraq War Logs” were 75,000 Army documents that detailed U.S. nighttime raids with reports from U.S. troops on the ground. These reports have been used to track civilian casualties that officials previously had said were not available.

The “Afghanistan War Logs” were 75,000 pages of documents that The New York Times described as “a ground level picture of the war in Afghanistan that is more grim than the official portrayal.”

The “Guantanamo Files” included 700 detainee files and 250,000 State Department cables detailing CIA extraordinary renditions, in violation of international law, of people suspected of “terrorism.” Shane Kadidal, a lawyer for the Center For Constitutional Rights, believes the volume of the material is part of the importance of these leaks: “It is one thing to tell a few anecdotes based on a few items, but to be able to say across the board that most of the men that are there shouldn’t be there and are people that could be safely released, that is pretty staggering.”

The leaks also showed the hypocrisy of the U.S. collaboration with Arab dictators while proclaiming a commitment to democracy.

The Bradley Manning Support Network will continue to keep the spotlight on Manning. They have organized international support through education and activism about his case as well as raising $1.4 million for his defense. Even as the sentence was handed down, the network announced that they were teaming with Amnesty International to launch a petition asking President Obama for a pardon.

At the same time, Manning’s attorney, David Coombs, is preparing to bring the case to the Army Court of Criminal Appeals to address violations of due process rights. Manning was detained without trial for more than three years in violation of his Constitutional right to a speedy trial. He was only awarded four months off of his sentence for the psychological torture he suffered while in solitary confinement for more than nine months.

The U.S. Marine Corps was never held accountable for Manning’s treatment. Also, President Obama declared Manning guilty in April 2011, more than two years before the trial began. This constitutes unlawful command influence, in violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

The Center For Constitutional Rights has made clear that all of the supporters of Bradley Manning must continue to struggle for his freedom and raise the demand that President Obama issue a pardon for Manning.

[Update: Aug. 23] The campaign to free Manning immediately showed that the push for a presidential pardon will be more aggressive than simply a legal maneuver and e-mail petitions. On Aug. 22 Ursula Rozem and Amelia Ramsey-Lefevre interrupted President Obama’s speech at Henninger High School in Syracuse by raising a sign saying, “Free Bradley Manning,” and shouting, “President Obama, you must free Private Manning. With all due respect sir, Private Manning exposed war crimes. Private Manning exposed torture. Private Manning aided the public, not the enemy. Private Manning is a hero.” The two women were then escorted off the premises. They then issued a longer statement about why they had interrupted the president and detailed his record of prosecuting whistleblowers.]

[Update: Aug. 23] This article was written immediately after the sentencing, on Aug. 21. The next day, Manning provided a statement to the press, “As I transition into this next phase of my life, I want everyone to know the real me. I am Chelsea Manning. I am a female. Given the way that I feel, and have felt since childhood, I want to begin hormone therapy as soon as possible.”  In future articles, Socialist Action will respect Chelsea Manning’s wishes, and refer to her using female pronouns.

Toronto area Anti-Drone tour

The Anti-Drone War tour came to Toronto November 29-30 to raise awareness about a state-sponsored crime against humanity – America’s use of unmanned bomber aircraft to conduct wars of intervention in Pakistan, Afganistan, the Middle East and Africa. Over a hundred people attended meetings that included a talk and photo slide show by veteran peace activist Joe Lombardo at Mississauga Central Library and at two downtown Toronto university campuses.

Joe is Co-Coordinator of the United National Antiwar Coalition (UNAC). During the Vietnam War, he was a staff person for the National Peace Action Coalition, one of the 2 major anti-war coalitions at the time. Joe, a retired public service worker, lives in Albany, New York, where he is a leader of Bethlehem Neighbors for Peace.

He participated in the 31-member CodePink-initiated U.S. delegation to Pakistan in October to meet with anti-drone activists and relatives of the 760 civilians murdered by U.S. bombs. The delegates visited Karachi, Islamabad, and Lahore, but were turned back by the Pakistan military as they approached Waziristan (the province bordering Afghanistan).

The American delegation was front-page news in Pakistan for the duration of its visit. Participants met with scores of victims of drone warfare, and spoke at several news conferences. They travelled the countryside in a kilometres-long caravan of vehicles, addressing impromptu rallies in town after town. The caravan was led by Imran Khan, prominent anti-drone politician and legendary cricket star.

The speaking engagements in the Toronto area were organized by Socialist Action-Canada. Endorsing groups included: Code Pink – Canada; the Executive of the Greater Toronto Area Council of the Ontario Public Service Employees’ Union;Toronto-Danforth NDP; Thornhill NDP; Canadian Arab Federation; IJV- Independent Jewish Voices; NION – Not in our name, Jewish voices opposing Zionism; Crescent International newsmagazine; Science for Peace; NDP Socialist Caucus; Youth for Socialist Action; Toronto Haiti Action Committee; TorontoForum on Cuba; the Latin American and Caribbean Solidarity Network; TorontoAssociation for Peace and Solidarity; and the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty.

Each meeting featured a lively question and discussion period. Early on, one person asked, “What is the Canadian connection to drone war crimes?” Organizers responded, “It is the NATO connection. As junior partner to US imperialism, Ottawa wages wars of intervention across the Arab Nation, in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Canadian police occupy Haiti. Canadian Forces led the bombing of Libya. Ottawa supports the siege of Gaza, backs Israeli apartheid, and condones the use of drone bombers against Palestinians. Canada is the seventh biggest arms exporter in the world. And, according to the Ottawa Citizen newspaper in July, the Harper government is committed to spend $1 billion on the purchase of unmanned aircraft able to carry precision-guided munitions. The Tories might even have called it part of their Economic Stimulus Programme, except that they retired that self-serving moniker a year ago. Whatever they call it, we call it wanton waste and horrific destruction of innocent lives. We join with our American comrades, sisters and brothers, to rid this world of the war-makers, their machines of death, and the capitalist system of plunder for profit.”

Another person asked, “How does the drone issue relate to the average person here?” SA-Canada members pointed out that workers continue to face the biggest economic crisis since the 1930s. And while there is plenty of money for corporate bail-outs and for military spending, our rulers maintain there is no money for housing, transportation, education, health care, childcare – not even for enforcement of decent food inspection standards.

The truth is: people can’t eat bullets. The homeless can’t live in fighter jets and tanks. And military spending is not the key to peace and security. Social justice is the key.

Ottawa’s policy is not, and never was peacekeeping. It is about militarism for profit. It is about arms production and sales. At the United Nations in late November, Canada’s delegate was one of only 11 reps, out of 194 countries, to vote against observer state status for Palestine.

The Canadian state does not approach international relations with clean hands. Seventy per cent of the largest mining firms in the world are based in Canada. They cause untold harm to indigenous peoples. The mine owners want ‘security’ – to plunder and profit from the labour and natural resources of the less developed countries.

So, in this struggle against war and for social justice, which emanates not from a policy, but from the capitalist system, who is on our side?

The New Democratic Party is the only labour party in North America, based on the unions. But the policy of NDP leaders is pro-capitalist, pro-pipelines and pro-Zionist. This stance is in violent contradiction with the interests of the vast majority of NDP voters and members. The same contradiction is evident in our unions. Union leaders preach against social cuts, layoffs and inequality. At the same time they negotiate concessionary contracts that establish two-tier wages and benefits – economic provisions that discriminate against young workers and immigrants.

What are we, working people, to do?

Well, it makes no sense to abandon our organizations. We struggle to build them, and to make them work for the majority, for the working class and the poor. We fight to win support for a Workers’ Agenda in the unions, and for socialist policies in the NDP.

Socialist Action is a revolutionary workers’ organization with members across the country, from Montreal to Vancouver. We are active year-round. We publish a monthly newspaper, many booklets and other literature. We organize conferences, film festivals, concerts, student study groups and demonstrations.

With your participation we could do much more. We could turn the tide on capitalist austerity and war. We can build a socialist movement that will transform Canada and the world. If you agree with those goals, we invite you to join Socialist Action today.