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.