Category Archives: Antiwar Movements

How Can We Aid Libya’s Freedom Movement?

by John Riddell
The brutal massacres of civilians in Libya at the order of the country’s dictator, Muammar Qaddafi, have shocked the world. His air force has carried out air strikes against unarmed civilians. On February 25, Qaddafi followers aimed murderous fire on anti-government protests in his last stronghold, Tripoli. The government declares its intention of reconquering the country in civil war.

What can we in Canada do to end the killings? Continue reading

People’s Summit in Quebec issues call for antiwar actions

The People’s Summit Against War and Militarism, which met in Montréal November 19-21, was attended by 225 persons from a wide range of organizations. It issued a Joint Declaration endorsed by more than 70 organizations including trade unions, women’s and student organizations, civil liberties groups, and other social movements and grassroots community organizations in Quebec. Continue reading

Afghanistan Crisis Deepens:
U.S., Canada and NATO Threaten to Extend War

by Tim Kennelly
On March 13, 2008, Canada’s Parliament voted to extend the country’s military “mission” in Afghanistan to July 2011. The motion by the minority Conservative government was supported by the opposition Liberals. The warmakers correctly estimated that fixing an exit date would deflect mounting opposition to the war among the Canadian public and buy time for Canada’s continued participation. Continue reading

Thousands protest opening of Vancouver Winter Olympics

By Roger Annis
(Vancouver BC) Five thousand people took to the streets here on February 12 to protest the opening of the corporate spectacle known as the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics. The largest social rights action in Vancouver in many years coincided with the Games’ opening ceremony at a downtown arena attended by 60,000 people. Continue reading

Escalation of Afghanistan War: Canada Faces a Fateful Decision

by Roger Annis
The United States and its imperialist partners are losing their war of conquest in Afghanistan and a further escalation is required. Such is the blunt assessment of General Stanley McChrystal, the head of the U.S. armed forces in that country. More troops are needed if the invading forces are to prevail, the general says. He is asking U.S. President Barak Obama for an additional 40,000 soldiers. Continue reading

Afghan Women’s Rights Leader Says Foreign Troops Should Leave

Malalai Joya’s book, Among Among Warlords: The Extraordinary Story of the Afghan Woman Who Dared to Speak Out, co-written with Canadian writer and antiwar activist Derrick O’Keefe, will be published in North America in October. Joya, who was elected to the Afghan Parliament in 2005, was subsequently expelled for opposing the war and President Hamid Karzai’s government. Continue reading

Iranian Workers in Action for Democratic Rights

Introduction by Robert Johnson and John Riddell. The mass protests in Iran, sparked by charges of fraud in the June 12 presidential elections, express deeply felt demands for expanded democratic rights. The establishment press has been silent on the aspirations of rank-and-file protesters. Socialist Voice is therefore pleased to be able to publish several statements by components of Iran’s vigorous trade union movement, which has been a major target of repression by Iran’s security forces. We have provided the titles and some introductory comments. Continue reading

Worldwide Protests Condemn Israel’s Assault on Gaza

By Suzanne Weiss. One of the most important protests against the murderous Israeli assault on Gaza took place on January 5 in Kandahar, the Afghan province under occupation by the Canadian army. About 800 Afghan protesters converged in Kandahar city, carrying banners reading “Death to Israel” and chanting anti-Israeli slogans. Continue reading

Why the Antiwar Movement Must Defend Iran

by Faline Bobier

Faline Bobier is a leading member of the International Socialists and a frequent writer for Socialist Worker. This article is abridged from a talk she gave to an IS forum in Toronto on April 10.

It’s been clear for at least a year and longer — remember Bush’s famous speech where he first used the term “axis of evil” in his State of the Union address in January 2002, where he targeted Syria, North Korea and Iran — that Bush and his cabal have Iran and “regime change” in their sights.

Seymour Hersh, in two interesting articles in the New Yorker magazine in April 2006 and March of this year, paints a scary picture of just how much Iran is in the sights of the neocons in the White House — even more so since Bush’s strategy has been shown to be a complete failure in Iraq. He wrote, for example:

“’This is much more than a nuclear issue,’ one high-ranking diplomat told me in Vienna. ‘That’s just a rallying point, and there is still time to fix it. But the Administration believes it cannot be fixed unless they control the hearts and minds of Iran. The real issue is who is going to control the Middle East and its oil in the next ten years.’ ”

The rhetoric that Bush and others have been using to ratchet up the call to war has been based on the so-called threat of Iran building its capacity for nuclear weapons and how dangerous it will be for a “terrorist” regime to have nuclear weapons.

But the charges, from all evidence that we can see, are false and are being used to try and create the same kind of “consensus” based on lies that we saw in the lead-up to the war on Iraq.

The countries that actually have nuclear weapons are the U.S. and Britain and their friends. Both India and Pakistan have developed their nuclear weapons secretly and in defiance of the treaty. The Pakistani military dictatorship has exported its nuclear technology. And Israel has between 200 and 500 thermonuclear weapons targeted at Iran and other Middle Eastern states.

Indeed, the bellicose posturing of the U.S. may push the Iranian government toward developing nuclear weapons capacity. One of Israel’s leading military historians, Martin van Creveld, wrote recently: “Obviously, we don’t want Iran to have nuclear weapons and I don’t know if they’re developing them, but if they’re not developing them, they’re crazy.”

The recent capture of 15 Royal Navy personnel by Iran was used to ratchet up the threats against the country. The U.S. sent two aircraft carriers to the Persian Gulf, with a third battle group on its way last week. All three are nuclear armed.

The whipped-up “hostage crisis” led some pro-war voices to call more loudly for intervention in Iran, particularly after the British sailors and marines were returned to Britain.

War drums being beaten

We can’t let ourselves be fooled by the rhetoric of Bush and Blair yet again. Just as all the justifications for the war and occupation of Iraq were proven to be nothing but a pack of lies, the same is true of the war drums being beaten for Iran.  Bush’s designs on Iran are of a piece with his ambitions in Iraq, which are about re-drawing the map of the Middle East in the image of U.S. imperialism.

Ever since the 1979 Iranian Revolution, in which vast numbers of ordinary Iranians mobilized against the hated regime of the pro-U.S. Shah of Iran, the U.S. ruling elite has worked to regain its lost hegemony in the region.

And the U.S. government is not beneath fomenting sectarian divisions within Iran, as anyone familiar with their strategy in Iraq could guess. The ABC TV network in the U.S. recently revealed that the U.S. has been funneling funds to an armed group operating out of Pakistan. The U.S. has been funding bomb attacks and the seizure of hostages inside Iran.

U.S. officials in Washington had previously linked this group — called Jundullah (Soldiers of God) — to the Taliban in Afghanistan. More than a dozen Iranian soldiers and officials have been killed or kidnapped by the group, which operates out of the Baluchistan province in Pakistan, just across the border from Iran.

The U.S. media has also reported that American intelligence teams have been operating with Kurdish groups, carrying out attacks from northern Iraq across the border into Iran.

Meanwhile an Iranian diplomat who was abducted in Baghdad and held for two months claims he was tortured by his CIA captors. The diplomat, Jalaf Sharafi, says he was seized by members of the Iraqi military who were driving U.S. coalition vehicles. He was held at a base near Baghdad airport where he was questioned in Arabic and English about Iran’s influence in Iraq. He was then released by being dumped from a vehicle at the back of the airport complex.

U.S. considers nuclear option

Perhaps most frightening are the revelations in the pieces by Seymour Hersh, which have been echoed elsewhere, about the U.S. considering the option of using nuclear weapons to launch an attack on Iran — the biggest irony of all. “We’ll prevent them from gaining nuclear weapons [dangerous in the hands of terrorists like the Iranians] by bombing them with nuclear weapons” — Dr. Strangelove logic at its worst.

In some ways it’s hard to judge how serious the Bush administration is in its threats to spread the chaos and slaughter to Iran.

There are disagreements within the ruling class inside the U.S. about whether this would not be the biggest piece of folly yet perpetrated by the Bush administration. But no one should hold their breath while waiting for the victory of the pragmatists. As Noam Chomsky pointed out in a recent article in the Guardian. “A predator becomes even more dangerous and less predictable when wounded. In desperation to salvage something, the administration might risk even greater disasters.”

It’s very clear that the disaster that Iraq has become is pushing the U.S. administration into a corner in terms of what to do next, if they don’t want to relinquish their status as the world’s cop and therefore as the controller of the world’s resources.

One million Iraqis demonstrate against occupation

But even four years of death and destruction didn’t stop almost one million Iraqi citizens turning up in the streets of Najaf April 9, demanding an end to the U.S. occupation of their country on the fourth anniversary of the fall of Baghdad.

Demonstrators came in convoys of cars and buses draped with Iraqi flags. They traveled from across the country, including from Latifiyah and Mahmudiya, areas that have witnessed sectarian violence between Shia and Sunni Muslims. The Najaf march was called by rebel Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr whose Mehdi Army has launched two insurrections against the occupation since 2003.

In an attempt to counter recent sectarian fighting between Shia and Sunni, Sadr issued a call to his followers not to attack other Iraqis but to turn all their efforts to driving out the occupation. “God had ordered you to be patient in front of your enemy, and unify your efforts against them — not against the sons of Iraq.”

The struggle for unity among Iraq’s resistance organizations was symbolized by the presence of Sunni Muslim delegations on the march, with a Sunni cleric marching at the front of the demonstration.

On the eve of the protest Sheikh Harith al-Dari, the head of the influential Sunni Association of Muslim Scholars, blamed the occupation for being behind the “discord” in the country. He said Iraq has become “a vast prison, a graveyard that is devouring hundreds of thousands”, and that the U.S. wants “to silence any voice of opposition and to put an end to the Iraqi people’s resistance to the occupation.”

There is no doubt that the level of sectarian violence has increased since the beginning of the occupation of Iraq by U.S. and British troops. But we have to be aware of how the occupation forces have fomented and encouraged that sectarianism and how their very presence can only increase the violence.

The Iranian people are not passive and backward

One of the strong themes of this anti-war movement has been our opposition to imperialism — that is, our opposition to the idea and it’s bloody realization in practice — that Western governments and corporations have the right to attack and occupy other countries when there has been no threat to us from those countries.

Just as we have fought the U.S./British/Canadian occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan, we need to be vigilant about a possible attack on Iran, for all the same reasons. And we also need to be aware of how our governments and media will use racist propaganda to further their war aims.

One of the ways that Western politicians and media have tried to make the idea of an attack on Iran more palatable is to focus on Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the so-called “mad mullahs” that they claim are in power in Iraq. Bush is couching his attacks on Iran as the U.S. attempt to promote “democracy” and to oppose “Islamic extremism.”

The Iranian government is demonized while the people of the country are portrayed as powerless victims in need of rescuing by the West. The picture of Iranians as passive, cowed and backward is a travesty of the truth. Some 70 percent of Iran’s population are under 30 years old, and they are prominent voices in a vibrant culture of political debate.

Today Farsi is the world’s fourth most frequently used language for keeping online journals. The growth of weblogs in Iran is phenomenal (700,000 of them last year), incorporating anyone from female taxi drivers to established clerics. You can find postings on issues such as the hijab ban in France to the legacy of political figures such as Mohammed Mossadegh, the nationalist president of Iran overthrown by a CIA-backed coup in 1953. These young people constitute a large section of the grassroots support for Iran’s democracy movement.

Women are active participants

We must also forcibly reject the myth of Iranian women as victims. They are active participants in civil society where they form a third of all doctors, 60 percent of civil servants and 80 percent of all teachers. This is not to paint the Iranian regime in rose-coloured glasses. Ahmadinejad is a social conservative, and although he promised to tackle the corruption, unemployment, and inequality that has characterized Iran’s economy since the introduction of neoliberal reforms in the 1990s, he has by and large failed to deliver.

The key civil rights movements in Iran involve women, students and workers. Some 64 % of the country’s students are women. These movements are demanding more democratic rights, especially for women, but they also want jobs and an end to economic inequality. They are also adamantly opposed to U.S. imperialism in the Middle East.

In fact, the threat of a U.S. attack on Iran is only allowing right wing elements in Iran’s ruling class to crack down on the country’s mass movements under the pretext of national security.

Simin Royanian, an economist and 37-year veteran of the anti-imperialist and peace and justice movement in Iran and in the U.S., cofounded Women for Peace and Justice in Iran. She wrote the following in 2003 in response to the assertion, “Under the Shah women had all the rights. When Islamic radicals took over they lost them. How is that U.S. imperialism?”

After explaining that women did not have all rights under the Shah, she discussed the process of fighting for women’s rights in post-Shah Iran:

“As a result of the combination of all these efforts within and in opposition to the system women have made progress in many areas. Today, female students form more than half of the entering class in Iran’s universities. There are many more women in Parliament than there ever were during the previous government; there is a well developed birth control program in place which received an award from the UN about five years ago.

“According to UN WHO statistics, infant mortality and teen-age pregnancy rates in Iran are much lower than those in most third-world countries. For the last two years several women’s organizations have publicly celebrated March 8th as International Women’s Day in Tehran and other cities around the country. Now, there are women publishers and all-women publishing houses, printing books and pamphlets on women’s issues from secular and even left points of view.

“All of this in spite of, not because of the form of government in Iran.

“This is true of all rights movements of people around the world. People have always struggled hard and long to gain their human rights.…

“Colonialism and imperialism have always impeded the struggle of ordinary people to better their lives economically, socially, and politically. That is why the main impediment to the progress of human rights, including the rights of women is the intervention of U.S. imperialism in the affairs of the people of the third world.

“The imposition of the autocratic rule of the shah on the people of Iran through the 1953 CIA coup, the complete repression of any movement by the people, postponed the advancement of rights in Iran for decades. In addition, the elimination of any secular and left opposition to the rule of the Shah and U.S. imperialism, contributed greatly to the superiority of the Islamic forces when the revolution was eventually won.

“This is what imperialism does. It supports the fundamentalist rule in Saudi Arabia, builds and arms the Taliban to overthrow a government friendly to the Soviet Union, arms and helps Saddam Hussein against the Iranian people for eight years, supports the Turkish military massacre of the Kurdish people, assassinates democratically elected leaders in Latin America, and on and on. That is why U.S. imperialism has been and is the main impediment of peace and justice for people all over the world.”

There will be pressure on the global anti-war movement to side with Western governments against the Iranian regime, which has persecuted left wingers and civil rights activists. This pressure must be resisted.

It is only the power of grassroots movements against imperialism and neoliberalism that can bring peace and human rights to the Middle East.

One of the main responsibilities of the antiwar movement in the West and here in Canada, is to side with the people of Iran against the forces of Western imperialism now — and even more in the event of an attack on Iran — and to resist the racist and Islamophobic distortions of politicians and media alike.

(This article includes information from the British Socialist Worker weekly newspaper.)

Cairo Conference Calls for World Resistance Against Imperialism

  • Part One: A New Pole of Anti-Imperialist Leadership

  • Part Two: The Challenge of World Unity

  • Interview with a Venezuelan Delegate

Part One
A New Pole of Anti-Imperialist Leadership

By John Riddell

[Editors’ note: Because most conference participants face repressive conditions in their homelands, individual’s names are omitted from this report.]

CAIRO, EGYPT — More than 1,500 activists from the Mideast and around the world met in Cairo March 29-April 1 under the banner, “Towards an International Alliance against Imperialism and Zionism.” The conference — the fifth held in Cairo since 2002 by the International Campaign against U.S. and Zionist Occupation — brought together Islamic, nationalist, and socialist forces from the region, together with delegates from anti-war coalitions in Canada, Korea, Venezuela, and many countries of Europe.

The conference revealed increased cohesion among these currents in the struggle against both imperialist aggression and the dictatorial pro-U.S. regimes in the Mideast.

The success of the Cairo conference is an encouraging sign that a new pole of international leadership in anti-imperialist struggle may be emerging in the Middle East — analogous to what we see arising in Latin America under the impulse of Venezuela and Cuba. Socialists in Canada need to strengthen their ties of solidarity with these vanguard fighters in the Middle East.

Four Steps Forward

Opening the conference, the head of a major Egyptian union commented, “This year has written the death sentence for the U.S. project in the region.” This optimism was widely shared among delegates, who drew confidence from four major setbacks to imperialism in the region during the past year:

  • During last year’s July war, the Lebanese revolutionary movement Hizbullah dealt a stinging setback to Israel’s invasion army.
     

  • After the victory of Hamas in the January 2006 parliamentary elections, Palestinians have successfully withstood efforts by Israel and imperialist powers (including Canada) to blockade and starve them into submission.
     

  • The resistance movement in Iraq has held firm against the U.S. and other occupation forces. In the words of the conference declaration, it has “pushed the U.S. into a hopeless swamp.”
     

  • In the face of intense repression, the Egyptian people repudiated dictator Hosni Mubarek’s moves to further diminish democratic rights by abstaining in his March referendum in a proportion variously estimated at 73% (the government) or 95% (independent observers). This victory coincides with a continuing wave of militant strikes and peasant resistance.

Egypt: United Resistance

For the Egyptian oppositionists who made up the majority of those present, attending the conference was an act of defiance against the country’s pro-U.S. dictatorship. “We see growing national rejection of the corrupt regime,” the conference chair told delegates. “The countdown has begun.”

The coalition of democratic forces that led the recent abstention campaign in Egypt — Islamists of the Muslim Brotherhood, secular nationalists in the tradition of former president Gamal Abdul Nasser, and socialists — also joined in calling and organizing the conference. The conference debates revealed mutual respect among these currents and broad agreement on their common political course.

Among delegates from other countries, the most authoritative voices were those of Hizbullah and Hamas. The Egyptian government blocked delegates Iran and Iraq from attending, but delegations were present from a half-dozen other Mideast countries and a similar number of countries in Europe. Delegates also came from India and Venezuela.

The Canadian delegation of 20 was among the largest, but it was overshadowed by a youthful, energetic, outgoing, and extremely well organized contingent of 75 sent by the South Korean anti-war and anti-imperialist organization All Together.

The conference was organized simultaneously with the Third Cairo Social Forum, which featured discussions with worker, peasant, student, and women activists, in a large downtown union headquarters. Plenary took place alongside many panel sessions. Discussions were in Arabic, English, and, occasionally, Korean; simultaneous translation between Arabic and English was professional and effective.

For Egyptian activists, whose events are routinely banned or attacked by police, this was a rare opportunity to speak their minds freely, and the conference was imbued by their joy, optimism, and enthusiasm. Outside the crowded meeting halls, literature stands of different groups were arrayed in a foyer that was usually filled by several hundred participants in intense discussion. Again and again I was approached by young Egyptian delegates, eager to find out who I was, to talk of their experiences, and to exchange information.

The Muslim Brotherhood

The Egyptian groups utilized the conference to build defense for the 40 Muslim Brotherhood supporters now facing trial before military tribunals for their dissident views. Brotherhood members made up the majority of the younger delegates, and young women were very numerous among them.

Among the Egyptian currents, the Brotherhood is the main target of Mubarek’s heightened repression, which aims to drive its 88 representatives out of parliament. The Brotherhood enjoys mass support among Egyptian working people and would be odds-on favourite to win a free election.

But the Brotherhood’s proclaimed goals reach beyond forming a government. “Not a single political, religious, social, or cultural group should be excluded from Egypt’s political life,” the Brotherhood’s jailed vice-president has written. “The objective must be to end the monopoly of government by a single party and boost popular engagement in political activity.”

In the opening session, a Brotherhood central leader called on conference participants to apply this inclusive approach to resistance on a world scale. He denounced the U.S. “military-industrial complex and the capitalist elite” that profit “at the expense of the poor in America and all over the world.” The conference “proves that we can reach a common agenda,” he said. But “a mere meeting is not enough; we should develop our common action” as part of a “popular transnational coalition.”

The conference declaration points out that in the Middle East, resistance against “U.S. and Zionist colonialism” is inseparable from the “struggle against despotism” in the Arab countries. A leader of Egypt’s secular nationalist Karama Party said there is a “real axis of evil” in the Mideast region, consisting of “Egypt, Jordan, and Arabia, which promote the imperialist project.” She stressed that “we must all fight against our own governments.”

Inclusive Social Vision

Spokespersons of different currents stressed their inclusive vision of Mideast society. “We stand together with Christians and Jews — this was decided by Islam 1,500 years ago,” said a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood of Sudan. The Egyptian Brotherhood distributed their program, which calls for partnership with the country’s sizeable Christian minority and respect for their beliefs and worship. Many speakers stressed that they held no antagonism against Jewish people. “We are not against Jews but against Zionism,” said an Egyptian leader of anti-Zionist work. “And there are many who are Zionists but not Jews, like George Bush and most of the Arab leaders.”

Close to 150 participants crowded into a panel discussion of Jews and Zionism. Drawing on material in his new book, The Myths of Zionism, British socialist John Rose reviewed the historic harmony of Jewish and Muslim communities in the Middle East; an Egyptian scholar presented the views of Jewish Marxist Abram Leon (The Jewish Question); and Suzanne Weiss from Canada discussed the holocaust and defense of the Palestinians (see Socialist Voice #111).

Another crowded panel, where delegates presented their experience in combating Islamophobia, was summed up by a Canadian delegate: “It is not enough to defend civil rights; we have to defend religious freedoms. For us secularism means defending the maximum of religious freedom especially for minorities.”

Addressing a plenary session, a central leader of Hizbullah, said that “Islamic movements must apply democracy,” which he described as “the bridge to a better world in the Arab region.” The state, he insisted, must be religiously neutral. “The government may be Islamic, but society must be open to all points of view. As the Koran states, we cannot force religion on people.”

The Hizbullah leader criticized some Islamic groups who consider everyone outside — even other Islamic groups — to be the enemy. “They will therefore fail,” he said. But Hizbullah and Hamas “have no problems collaborating with the left,” he said, pointing to Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci’s insistence on broad popular unity. “The work against imperialism cannot be carried out by just one current.”

Nor did Islamic delegates see any iron wall between their aspirations and those of anti-capitalist movements. A delegate from the Muslim Brotherhood of Sudan, recalling his country’s Cold War-era alignment with socialist movements, added, “When the Soviet Union fell, the principles remained: freedom and equality, embraced by both socialist and religious movements.” The conference declaration cited the importance of “linking the struggle against colonialism and racism on the one hand and the struggle against capitalist globalization and new liberalism on the other.”


Part Two
The Challenge of World Unity

Delegates at this year’s Conference Against Imperialism and Zionism, held in Cairo March 29-April 1, searched for ways to express the urgency of unity between opponents of imperialism in Islamic, socialist, and antiwar movements, in East and West.

  • “There is no essential difference between dictatorship in Egypt and Britain,” said a young woman from the Muslim Brotherhood. “There is no difference between the antiwar movement and women [in Iraq] who have lost their sons the war.”
     

  • Another Brotherhood student activist said that previously, “the left thought Islam was just an anachronism, while Muslims accused the left of trying to destroy their way of life.” But that was changing, due in part to “Latin American leaders such as Hugo Chávez … reaching out to the Muslim resistance.” (Quoted in Al-Ahram)
     

  • Aisha, a young woman member of the Brotherhood student organization, told me, “We tend to think support [from the West] is with words only. But we are becoming more aware. European people say their beliefs change when they come here. All the West is not against us. If we cooperate we can change the world.”
     

  • A young woman delegate from Caracas said, “We need to build in Venezuela the culture of resistance that we find at the conference here, because we face daily threats from imperialism.” Meanwhile, the Mideast peoples “need our culture of social activism.” (See Interview with Venezuelan delegate)

And from conference leaders:

  • A leader of Hizbullah: “We went to the European Social Forum: some approved us and some refused us. Many Marxist parties refuse to work with us because they consider resistance to be terrorism.” However: “We are for unity of the weak regardless of religion, colour, ideology, language.”
     

  • The Muslim Brotherhood: “The Islamic Movement … condemns any attempt to make splits among the various parties of this alliance…. We are proud of all our guests, specially those who came from long distances to participate.”
     

  • A leader of the Stop the War Coalition, Britain: “Movements on the left and Islamic movements who stand for the poor can unite. But it has to be won in struggle. And on each side we have taken losses in order to make these alliances.”
     

  • An Arab leader of the Canadian Peace Alliance: “Regardless of our differences, we have no choice but resistance, whether in arms or in demonstrations. Because when the people are united, they will never be defeated.”

Latin American Allies

The only delegate from Latin America was a Venezuelan of Mideast origin and a member of a community action collective in Caracas. Conference organizers asked her to speak in two major plenary sessions, where she was warmly received. Introducing her, the conference chair pointed to Venezuela as “the country that was more courageous than many Arab regimes” in opposing the U.S.-Zionist war against Lebanon; a country “that is talking of socialism and nationalizing while [our countries] privatize.”

In the closing session, the Hizbullah leader returned to this point: “The fighters in Venezuela are closer to us than the Arabs that agree with imperialism or that impose injustice.” And the conference declaration highlighted the task of “linking the rising movements of the left in Latin America with the antiwar movements on the one hand and the resistance movements and nationalist forces in the Arab region on the other.”

World Anti-Zionist Boycott

The election of a Hamas majority to the Palestinian parliament last year was significant, one of its central leaders said, “not because of Hamas but because the Palestinians chose a different road — not to submit.” Since then, he said, “the resistance has accomplished things that we had never done before,” including forcing Israeli withdrawal from Gaza and Lebanon.

The conference drew encouragement from the recent formation of a united Palestinian cabinet, but its declaration warned against the continuing “American, Zionist, and Arab pressures to surrender” and efforts to “impose a civil war” on the Palestinians. It called for “campaigns to break the siege imposed on the people and resistance in Palestine.”

Meanwhile, as the Hizbullah leader noted, “Defeat [in Lebanon] has struck Israel like an earthquake, causing a shakeup in all levels of society. The role of the Zionist state as imperialist policeman has ebbed.”

The conference called for increased pressure through “organization of an international campaign for the boycott of Israel,” including through development of a website to coordinate the boycott worldwide.” A panel, attended by 100 participants, heard reports of such efforts in Britain, Canada, and Egypt — where an anti-Israel/U.S. boycott in recent years caused losses, by one estimate, of US$13 billion to imperialist concerns.

Struggle for Unity in Iraq

The conference declaration paid homage to “the fierce resistance against the American occupation” of Iraq that “has pushed the U.S. administration into a hopeless swamp.” Yet the resistance is menaced by an “ugly sectarian conflict” promoted by the occupying forces. “The resistance will not be able to liberate Iraq except through … turning the resistance into a unified national one that unites Shiites and Sunnis against the American occupant.”

In this regard, several delegates criticized the role of the Iranian government in Iraq. One Lebanese delegate called on Iran to “cut relations with the Iraqi Shiite puppets, support the resistance, and really make things tough for the Americans.”

However, a Muslim Brotherhood parliamentary representative cautioned that Iran’s interest in Iraq is “legitimate.” Iran is “a free country, taking orders from no one,” he said, while the Arab regimes “simply carry out orders from the U.S.” Still, in his view, “Iran could induce a shift toward unity in Iraq.”

A Hizbullah leader said that “we must hold the Arab leaders responsible for the religious dispute in Iraq and not blame Iran.” The conflict in Iraq is “more complicated than what has been said,” he added. “I think Iran is trying to help the resistance — that, at least, is what the U.S. is saying.

This issue was held over for further discussion.

All delegates agreed, however, on the urgent efforts to defend Iran’s right to nuclear energy and oppose U.S.-led threats against Iran. The declaration declared that “we have to join our efforts to stop this crazy war by organizing protests, demonstrations, and campaigns all over the world.”

Coordinated Actions

The conference declaration took an initial step toward structuring a year-round movement by projecting three coordinated worldwide actions:

  • July: Protest aggression against Lebanon and demand withdrawal of UN occupation forces from that country.
     

  • September: Defend the rights of the Palestinian people.
     

  • March: Demand an end to the U.S. occupation of Iraq.

In addition, the declaration called for a worldwide response to any U.S. act of war against Iran through an international demonstration. It also invited all anti-imperialist and anti-globalization forces worldwide to the next Cairo conference, to be held March 27-30, 2008.

Toward Cairo 2008

The annual Cairo conference has emerged as an important vehicle to unite and coordinate forces for world anti-imperialist struggle. Its unscripted and candid debates provide a profound education about the world of Mideast resistance. The conference stands in the front ranks of efforts to bring together in common endeavour opponents of imperialism in the First and Third Worlds.

Moreover, the Cairo conference stands as an example of unity among forces in the Mideast that have been previously divided by bitter antagonism — an achievement worth emulation by progressive forces in the West.

Representation from non-Mideast countries in Cairo, while significant, needs to be broadened. Here we are up against significant barriers. To start with, progressive forces in North America and Europe are not well informed about Mideast resistance movements, and some still hold misconceptions about Islamic “fundamentalism.”

But more important, the Canadian and other governments occupying Mideast countries are intensely hostile to collaboration between their citizens and Mideast resistance forces, which in their eyes gives aid and comfort to the “enemy.” Ottawa, for example, has blacklisted Hamas and Hizbullah as a “terrorist” organizations.

The best way we can overcome these divisions is to build the antiwar, anti-occupation, and Palestinian defense movements. At the same time, we can also explain and defend the movements that lead the Cairo conferences and prepare for expanded representation at the next meeting in 2008.

A new “Baku”?

Eighty-seven years ago, the world communist movement convened a “Congress of the Peoples of the East” that united about 2,000 delegates from Mideast and Central Asian countries in Baku, capital of Soviet Azerbaijan. This historic gathering was significant above all as a step in consolidating a new, revolutionary leadership of liberation struggles in Asia.

The Cairo conference this year resembles Baku in many ways: size, geographical location, range of political currents, anti-imperialist focus, and its call for coordinated international resistance. Above all, the Cairo conference reflects important progress in the development of anti-imperialist leadership in this decisive sector of the world.

There is a significant difference. The call for Baku was made by Marxists based in Russia and Europe, appealing to nationalists and Islamists in central and west Asia. The call for Cairo comes in reverse: from the Mideast currents to antiwar and anticapitalist forces in the West and elsewhere.

This is as it should be. It reflects the leading role now played internationally by resistance struggles in the Third World. It is now the progressive forces in the Western countries that must struggle against many obstacles, including some misconceptions and prejudices, to make their way to the event.

The following words from the call of the Communist International, announcing the Baku Congress in 1920, are thus worth heeding:

“Spare no effort to ensure that as many as possible may be present…. Make your way over mountains and rivers, through forests and deserts, to meet and discuss how to free yourselves from the chains of servitude and unite in fraternal alliance, so as to live a life based on equality, freedom, and brotherhood….

“May the congress proclaim to your enemies in Europe and America and in your own countries that the age of slavery is past, that you are rising in revolt, and that you will be victorious.”1

Or, as a Hizbullah delegate said at the closing session in Cairo, “Through the conference the world is more beautiful, more promising — and tomorrow is for us, not for imperialism.”

[Note: The quotation from the Baku Congress is from John Riddell, ed. To See the Dawn: Baku 1920, First Congress of the Peoples of the East. New York: Pathfinder Press, 1993. P. 40. The Baku Conference proceedings are also available online.]


Venezuela Depends on Resistance Everywhere’
Interview with Venezuelan Delegate to Cairo Conference

By Suzanne Weiss

“I was sent here by my organization, the 13th of April Movement, because resistance in Venezuela depends on resistance elsewhere, from which we must learn,” said Venezuela’s one delegate to the Cairo Conference, a member of “Resistencia por la Paz” in Caracas.

“I am proud to be here,” she said. “We are sharing different forms of resistance. We see we in Venezuela are not alone.”

Noting the heavy police presence around the conference site, she stressed the courage of the Egyptian participants, “who know they can be jailed for coming here.”

She criticized the leftist groups, especially in Europe, who “support the popular upsurge in Latin America but not in the Mideast.” They are falling for hypocritical imperialist arguments against Islam, when its real campaign is “not against Islam but against resistance [to imperialism].”

Noting the prominence of women in the conference, the Venezuelan delegate said, “Women have an important role as protagonists here and in society as a whole.”

Machismo is found everywhere in the world, she added, flowing from capitalism’s scorn for “work that does not produce direct value.”

But in Venezuela, “women assume more responsibility than men” in the popular movement. “That will happen here too, and, indeed, it is already almost the same,” she said. She noted the balance in Hezbollah’s conference delegation: one man and one woman.

She praised the role of Hugo Chávez in encouraging women’s social involvement. “When he speaks to women, he asks, ‘What do you do in your day? Why so much time watching TV — you should get together with other women: make a bakery in your community; make your own laws. You have to learn to read, even if you’re eighty.’ ”

More Latin Americans are needed at the Cairo conference, the Venezuelan delegate said, especially from Bolivia and Venezuela. “We need to build in Venezuela the culture of resistance that we find at the conference here, because we face daily threats from imperialism.” While the Mideast peoples “need our culture of social activism.”

U.S. Prepares Large-Scale Assault on Iran

Mass Protests Can Stop The War Makers

By Robert Johnson

In November, Americans elected a Democratic majority in Congress as a way of registering their protest against the war in Iraq. On January 27 several hundreds of thousands marched in Washington D.C. and other cities calling for the immediate withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq. Yet, defying public opinion, U.S. President George Bush is now reinforcing his bloody occupation of Iraq and planning to extend the war to Iran. The military preparations for a large-scale air and sea assault on Iran are nearly complete. Meanwhile the White House is working overtime to manufacture a rationale for its aggression.

The headlong rush into a wider war has alarmed some members of the American ruling class.

Testifying before the Foreign Relations Committee of the Senate on February 1, former U.S. National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski sounded a sharp warning:

“The war in Iraq is a historic, strategic, and moral calamity. Undertaken under false assumptions, it is undermining America’s global legitimacy. … It is intensifying regional instability.… If the United States continues to be bogged down in a protracted bloody involvement in Iraq, the final destination on this downhill track is likely to be a head-on conflict with Iran and with much of the world of Islam at large.” (Emphasis in original)

In his public testimony Brzezinski went so far as to set out “a plausible scenario for a military collision with Iran,” namely “Iraqi failure to meet the benchmarks; followed by accusations of Iranian responsibility for the failure; then by some provocation in Iraq or a terrorist act in the U.S. blamed on Iran; culminating in a ‘defensive’ U.S. military action against Iran that plunges a lonely America into a spreading and deepening quagmire eventually ranging across Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.”

The course of events since the beginning of this year suggest that momentum is building toward a large-scale imperialist attack on Iran, following exactly the scenario laid out by Brzezinski.

Iraq Study Group

Ever since they ordered the invasion of Iraq in March 2003, Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld had doggedly insisted that they were winning the war in Iraq. As time wore on fewer and fewer people, both in the American population and within the ruling class, continued to believe in this fiction. Many in the ruling class sought some kind of course correction.

The publication of a report by the Iraq Study Group (ISG) on December 6 brought this debate to a head. The panel was composed of ten prominent figures, five from each of the ruling parties. Its co-chairmen were former Secretary of State James Baker, an intimate of the Bush family for decades and former congressman Lee Hamilton, who also co-chaired the government commission that investigated the events of September 11, 2001.

The ISG sounded a loud alarm over the looming failure of the war in Iraq. The U.S. position there was “grave and deteriorating” it stated. “If the situation continues to deteriorate, the consequences could be severe.”

This assessment met with general approval within the ruling class. Indeed Rumsfeld, the personification of the “don’t worry, be happy” line, had been unceremoniously thrown overboard the day after the election.

What should the U.S. do? The ISG panel unanimously recommended a radical policy reorientation: that the U.S. scale down its aims in Iraq and negotiate a regional agreement with governments such as Syria and Iran.

This proposal provoked a sharp debate within the ruling class in late December, most of it behind closed doors. The decision that emerged was to reject the ISG proposal. Iraq is viewed as too important, the consequences of admitting defeat are too horrible to contemplate, and — whatever the problems, and they are serious — the U.S. has not been definitively defeated in Iraq.

One of imperialism’s major concerns about the impasse in Iraq is the way that it is weakening its client regimes in the region and strengthening Iran. The fears of these Middle Eastern rulers is palpable; the successes of Hezbollah against Israel in the war in Lebanon last summer also weakened their position. A negotiated settlement in Iraq would be widely understood as an admission of U.S. failure.

Such a deal would also require major concessions to Iran, including on the nuclear question, and at this point there is no sign that any section of the U.S. ruling class is prepared to contemplate such a deal. The Israeli rulers would also strenuously object, and their interests must also be taken into account.

Bush’s ‘Surge’ Targets Iran

With the status quo in Iraq untenable, Bush chose to implement a far-reaching escalation of the war.

His first move was to reshuffle the military high command, promoting commanders who would apply his new policy. He then revealed the policy in a speech on January 10.

The most publicized aspect of the new approach was to increase the number of U.S. military forces in Iraq by 21,500. These troops will augment a U.S. occupation force numbering approximately 130,000, backed up by a large number of paramilitary private security contractors (estimated at 50,000 to 100,000), working either directly for the U.S. government or for companies enjoying lucrative contracts under the occupation regime.

This small increment to the occupation forces — the largest number that could be mustered under current political conditions in the U.S. — is not likely to alter the course of the war in Iraq. It does however signal the U.S. rulers’ refusal to concede defeat.

The more important — and ominous — element of the new policy was the threat to extend the war to Iran and Syria.

In his speech Bush repeatedly charged that Iran and Syria were arming and training insurgents in Iraq. He pledged to retaliate: “We will disrupt the attacks on our forces. We will interrupt the flow of support from Iran and Syria. And we will seek out and destroy the networks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq.”

Ever since the speech, the Western mass media have been parroting the steady stream of accusations from the administration blaming Syria and particularly Iran for the U.S.’s problems in Iraq. They played the same role of propagandists for the drive to war in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq.

Bush’s charges against Iran in his January 10 speech were part of a pattern of words and deeds designed to set the stage for military action against Iran. Some of these include:

  • On January 26 the Washington Post revealed that last fall Bush authorized U.S. forces in Iraq to hunt down and kill Iranian government personnel operating in Iraq. The “kill or capture” program also includes other measures aimed at destabilizing the government in Tehran.
  • The day after Bush’s speech, U.S. armed forces raided the Iranian consulate in Irbil, seizing five employees. The attack violated Iraqi and Iranian sovereignty and even the Iraqi government, which depends on U.S. support, protested the action.
  • In mid February the aircraft carrier battle group USS Stennis entered the waters off the coast of Iran, en route to the Persian Gulf, where it will join the USS Eisenhower battle group. Both groups are armed with nuclear weapons. The last time two such carrier battle groups were stationed in the gulf was in early 2003, just before the invasion of Iraq. Twenty percent of the world’s oil supply is shipped through the narrow waterway.
  • Patriot missile batteries have been supplied to several gulf states allied to the U.S. to strengthen their air defenses against possible Iranian retaliation.
  • According to an article by the investigative journalist Seymour Hersh in the New Yorker magazine last April, U.S. special forces were already active at that time inside Iran, collecting information on possible targets. Iranian authorities have recently charged that an attack on a bus carrying military recruits was carried out by a terrorist group backed by the U.S. and operating from Pakistan.

“Preparations for Invading Iran Are Complete”

The British magazine New Statesman reported on February 19 that:

“American preparations for invading Iran are complete. … American military operations for a major conventional war with Iran could be implemented any day. They extend far beyond targeting suspect WMD [Weapons of Mass Destruction] facilities and will enable President Bush to destroy Iran’s military, political and economic infrastructure overnight using conventional weapons.”

“British military sources told the New Statesman, on condition of anonymity, that ‘the U.S. military switched its whole focus to Iran’ as soon as Saddam Hussein was kicked out of Baghdad. It continued this strategy, even though it had American infantry bogged down in fighting the insurgency in Iraq.…

“The Bush administration has made much of sending a second aircraft carrier to the Gulf. But it is a tiny part of the preparations. Post 9/11, the US navy can put six carriers into battle at a month’s notice…. Each carrier force includes hundreds of cruise missiles….

“Several marine forces are [also] assembling, each with its own aircraft carrier. These carrier forces can each conduct a version of the D-Day landings. They come with landing craft, tanks, jump-jets, thousands of troops and, yes, hundreds more cruise missiles. Their task is to destroy Iranian forces able to attack oil tankers and to secure oilfields and installations. They have trained for this mission since the Iranian revolution of 1979.…

“Any U.S. general planning to attack Iran can now assume that at least 10,000 targets can be hit in a single raid, with warplanes flying from the U.S. or Diego Garcia. In the past year, unlimited funding for military technology has taken ‘smart bombs’ to a new level.…

“The whole of Iran is now less than an hour’s flying time from some American base or carrier. Sources in the region as well as trade journals confirm that the U.S. has built three bases in Azerbaijan that could be transit points for troops and with facilities equal to its best in Europe.”

Limits of U.S. Power

Bush’s decision to target Iran is a logical extension of his decision to invade Iraq.

Domination of the Middle East and control over its oil has been a central pillar of American foreign policy for more than half a century. But the world of today is very different from that of 1945, when U.S. imperialism emerged from World War Two as the greatest victor, towering over all its imperialist rivals. In recent decades the U.S. has suffered a steady decline in its industrial and financial strength relative to other major powers. It faces rising competition from many quarters, further eroding profit rates. The international financial system is increasingly unstable; an ever-greater proportion of wealth is derived through various forms of financial manipulation.

Militarily, however, the United States stands far above all other states in the size and technology of its armed forces. More and more it is turning to this military superiority to compensate for its economic decline.

In the run-up to the U.S. invasion of Iraq, many of the most vocal proponents of the war openly proclaimed that their goal was to “remake the Middle East.” They intended to deliver an object lesson to the peoples of the region — and beyond — that it was futile to resist American imperialism. In so doing the U.S. would not only control Iraq’s oil and natural resources, it would exercise a much stronger sway over the resources of the entire region. This would give it huge leverage over its competitors in Europe and Asia whose economies are dependent on access to Middle Eastern oil.

Things have turned out quite differently. The Iraqi people have fought the occupiers to a standstill. At tremendous cost and suffering they have prevented imperialism from taking full control of the country. The object lesson of Iraq, visible to the whole world, has turned out to be a demonstration of the weakness of U.S. imperialism.

The Iraqi people’s struggle against the occupation has stiffened the resolve of other fighters against imperialism in the Middle East and beyond. It has made it more difficult for the imperialist powers to achieve their goals in Afghanistan. And with the American military engaged in Iraq, the U.S. has been limited in its ability to intervene against the rising tide of popular struggles in Latin America.

Incapable of fully dominating Iraq, Washington has turned to a strategy of deliberately destabilizing Iraqi society, actively promoting sectarian violence and ethnic divisions. By sowing chaos and destruction they hope to prevent the Iraqi people from regaining control of their own country, and to prevent U.S. competitors from gaining access to Iraq’s resources.

Stalemated in Iraq but still committed to its goal of dominating the Middle East, Bush and company are now preparing to take on a larger and more important objective: Iran.

Target Iran

Before 1979, the Iranian government under Shah Muhammad-Reza Palavi was the policeman for imperialism in the region, with 200,000 troops trained and equipped by the Western powers. It also intervened to prop up neighboring reactionary regimes. The real power in the country was the U.S. embassy and 20,000 U.S. “advisors.” As a loyal servant of Washington and its allies, the shah turned over much of the country’s wealth to foreign investors while operating a vast police network that brutally crushed internal dissent.

Popular hatred of the shah’s dictatorship led to a wave of strikes and street protests lasting many months that culminated in mass insurrections in Tehran and other cities in early 1979. After a number of bloody clashes the shah’s army and repressive apparatus melted away. This was one of the deepest revolutions of the twentieth century, and it transformed Iranian society profoundly.

The Iranian people regained sovereignty over their own country and began to undertake urgently needed reforms, for example extending literacy and health care programs to rural and less developed areas of the country. The rate of illiteracy in Iran has declined from 52.5 per cent in 1976 to 24 per cent in 2002. Women have particularly benefited from these measures. Iran broke all ties with Israel and called on all Islamic countries to unite in struggle against U.S. imperialism and Zionism.

Imperialism has never forgiven the Iranian people for their “crime” of overthrowing a U.S.-backed dictator. Washington in particular has followed a policy of unrelenting pressure and aggression against Iran. It quickly reacted to the revolution with an economic embargo that continues to this day. It encouraged its ally Saddam Hussein to invade Iran in 1980, and it supported the Iraqi assault through an eight-year war that cost the lives of an estimated one million people.

Contrary to the impression given in the Western mass media — and echoed by much of the left — Iran today is a rather modern society, more socially and technologically advanced than many Third World countries. Its 70 million people are justifiably proud of their achievements and their relative independence from imperialism.

Iran is ruled by a capitalist government that aims for some kind of accommodation with the western powers. This government represses dissent. However, many of the gains of the revolution remain intact, and this is reflected in Iran’s positions on various international questions. Iran stands shoulder to shoulder with anti-imperialist fighters in Lebanon, in the West Bank and Gaza, and in Iraq; it not only supports them politically but in many cases it provides material support. Iranian government officials have also voiced their nation’s solidarity with Latin American countries shaking free of the grip of Uncle Sam.

There are many social movements in Iran, some of them opposed to the present government. But all Iran stands united against the threatened U.S. assault. (See Socialist Voice #93)

The U.S.-led outcry against nuclear power in Iran is shameless hypocrisy, exposed by U.S. acceptance of not just reactors but nuclear weaponry in neighbouring Pakistan and Israel, not to mention in the U.S. bases and ships that surround Iran. Washington’s real objection is to Iran’s successful defiance, and the example this sets for the world.

Moreover, the U.S. government now looks to war on Iran as the best way to escape defeat in Iraq. Devastate Iran, shatter its state, overthrow its government, seize its oil resources, and fragment the country — in short, the Iraq model for destruction of a resistant society and strengthening the U.S. military stranglehold on the region.

‘Troops Out of Iraq, Hands Off Iran’

Despite the late hour, a U.S. attack on Iran is not inevitable. Mass protests, particularly in the United States, can stay the hand of the war makers.

Significant antiwar actions are scheduled to take place on March 17, an international day of action against the war in Iraq. In Canada the Canadian Peace Alliance is organizing actions across the country on that day against the wars of occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan. These protests provide an excellent occasion to also demand “U.S. hands off Iran”

Canada/NATO Invasion of Afghanistan Sows Destruction and Misery

By Roger Annis and Ian Beeching

A few months following the launch of the Canada-led NATO invasion of southern Afghanistan in late 2005, the newly elected Prime Minister of Canada told assembled Canadian soldiers in Kandahar that the goal of the foreign occupation of Afghanistan was to “create a democratic, prosperous, modern country that can be a model in this part of the world.”

An October 6 editorial in the Globe and Mail national daily says the military defeat of the “Taliban” is “a superfluous sideshow to the real Canadian mission of painting schools and drilling wells.”

The reality in Afghanistan puts the lie to these stated goals. Occupation forces have brought widespread death, misery and destruction to the country. The invasion and occupation of southern Afghanistan is degenerating into a military and political debacle for the four countries engaged — Canada, Britain, the U.S. and Holland.

Senlis Council report

On September 5, 2006, the Senlis Council, a prominent think tank based in Britain, released a comprehensive report on the U.S./NATO occupation of Afghanistan. It says, “Five years of international presence in the country aimed at increasing the living standards of the Afghan population have failed to make any measured improvements in the accessibility and quality of health and educational services in most of Afghanistan, beyond the confines of Kabul.”

The report was compiled by a large number of researchers based in Afghanistan and it reveals a country living a social and humanitarian disaster.

“Despite promises from the U.S.-led international community guaranteeing to provide the resources and assistance necessary for its reconstruction and development needs, Afghanistan’s people are starving to death. Afghanistan continues to rank at the bottom of most poverty indicators, and the situation of women and children is particularly grave. One in four children born in Afghanistan cannot expect to live beyond the age of five, and certain provinces of the country lay claim to the worst maternal mortality rates ever recorded in the world”

According to Senlis, more than 70% of the Afghan population is chronically malnourished, while less than a quarter has access to safe drinking water.

Human loss, social destruction

The United Nations Development Program reports similar catastrophic conditions. It says the average life expectancy for the people of Afghanistan is 44 years, at least 20 years lower than in neighbouring Central Asian countries.

According to the United Nations Human Rights Commission on Refugees, Afghanistan had 2.9 million refugees in 2005. That number is growing as a result of foreign military operations.

The occupiers like to point to the region surrounding the capital city Kabul as proof of their accomplishments and good will. But progress there is as elusive as in Iraq’s capital city, Baghdad. Open sewers line the streets. Rent for an intact home is too expensive for ordinary Afghans, forcing many to live in dilapidated and structurally unsound buildings. Residents of Kabul receive, at best, four hours of electricity a day.

Prison conditions in Afghanistan are reportedly worse than the horrors that came to light in the prisons of Iraq. According to a May 12 article in the Globe and Mail, six thousand prisoners were crowded into Afghanistan’s 34 prisons at that time, a tenfold increase from the numbers incarcerated at the time of the fall of the Taliban-led government in 2001.

“As the Afghan court system expands, the prison population is rising sharply. Yet the jails are falling apart,” the article explains.

A February 2005 story in the UK Guardian reported widespread Abu Ghraib-style abuse by U.S. forces against Afghan prisoners, including torture, taking ‘trophy photographs’ of detainees, and carrying out rape and sexual humiliation.

Earlier this year, Canada announced that it does not apply the Geneva Convention governing the treatment of prisoners in Afghanistan. It hands prisoners over to the existing prison system, thereby making Canadian soldiers accomplices to war crimes.

Failure to reconstruct

Canada and NATO are failing to rebuild infrastructure with their “Provincial Reconstruction Teams.” According to Senlis, “There is a large and increasing gap between the massive international expenditure on security in Afghanistan, and the limited nation-building achievements…. This security-focused spending indicates that right from 2001, the priorities of the U.S.-led international community for Afghanistan were not in line with those of the Afghan population. Rather … the international community has prioritized physical, military-focused security over the relief of Afghans’ extreme poverty and economic instability.”

Guillaume Fournier, Afghanistan Country Manager for the Senlis Council, told CBC Radio One in September, “The biggest hindrance to reconstruction is the weekly bombing of civilians.”

According to World Bank estimates, Afghanistan needs $27.5 billion to rebuild its shattered social and physical infrastructure. But according to Senlis, Afghanistan received only $7.3 billion between 2002 and 2006, while NATO military spending was $82.5 billion during that time.

A September 23 Canwest News Service article, entitled “Reconstruction in Baby Steps,” described the reality of Canadian reconstruction efforts in Kandahar province. A Canadian military officer said that resources are lacking and reconstruction is still a “work in progress.” “I don’t have a squadron’s worth of engineers here. I don’t have troops that go out with equipment and build things and build bridges.”

The September 26 Globe and Mail reports that an ambulance donated by Canada for use by the medical center in the Panjwaii agricultural district west of Kandahar city four months ago is instead being used by local police and government administrators. Two doctors in the medical center told the reporter they are not keen to work with NATO-organized medical clinics because of the deep resentment of the population towards the occupiers.

Similar failure surrounds the British presence, according to the September 9 Economist magazine. Citing one example, it wrote, “British troops in Helmand (a neighbouring province to Kandahar), who have $36 million to spend this year, have built the odd bridge and market stall…”

If the failure of “reconstruction” in Afghanistan is little known in Canada, one reason is the concerted efforts by authorities to hide it. An article by Geoffrey York in the June 3 Globe and Mail described the rules for journalists working in Afghanistan who choose to “embed” with Canadian forces.

“The restrictions warned sternly that I could be ejected from the military base if I spent ‘an inordinate amount of time’ covering non-military activity. The Department of National Defence doesn’t want the embedded reporters to write much about refugees, schools, health care or electricity – all the basic realities of life for Afghans.”

Warmaking trumps “reconstruction”

In early September, the 2,300 Canadian troops in Kandahar launched a massive ground assault in Panjwaii district, code-named “Operation Medusa” and backed by U.S. troops and airpower. Residents were warned in advance of the offensive to leave their homes and villages.
The assault was declared a huge success several weeks later. “More than one thousand” enemy fighters were said to be killed. But reporters saw few bodies of resistance fighters.
Canadian and NATO authorities admitted that fighters had staged an orderly retreat and appealed for more troops into the area. Canada quickly dispatched several hundred more soldiers, and for the first time it will be deploying tanks. Deadly attacks on Canadian and other NATO forces resumed within days of the “victory.”
Meanwhile, some 20,000 residents were made homeless after their homes, villages and crops were destroyed in the fighting. Winter is approaching and they face an uncertain future.
The September 11 Globe and Mail reported on the use of the chemical weapon white phosphorous during “Operation Medusa.” The banned weapon is now routinely used against Afghan fighters and to destroy agricultural plantings. The chemical severely burns human flesh upon contact.
Deepening resistance
U.S./NATO officials say they are surprised by the scope and success of the resistance to their latest offensives. “The fighting is extraordinarily intense,” said the commander of British forces in Afghanistan. “The intensity and ferocity of the fighting is far greater than in Iraq.”
But the reasons for deepening resistance are not difficult to understand. The Senlis report states:

“During the past five years, there have been some limited achievements in Afghanistan…. Yet these visible achievements, frequently lauded in the West, mask the [Afghan government’s] lack of independence and the growing irrelevance of the Afghan government to the Afghan people.”

The Afghan puppet government and its police and army forces are deeply resented by much of the population for their corruption and abuse. Looting and wanton destruction by foreign and puppet forces routinely follow in the wake of their military operations.
On May 29, a popular uprising occurred in the streets of Kabul following yet another in a long line of civilian deaths caused by reckless driving of a U.S. military convoy. Protesters marched on the presidential palace chanting “Death to America.” The protest was brutally suppressed, with Agence France-Presse reporting at least 14 protesters killed.

Canadian soldiers have killed civilians, including children, during patrols in Kandahar. Scores of civilians were killed during the recent “Operation Medusa” bloodletting.

“For 30 years, we’ve had this problem,” Abdul Zahir told a Globe and Mail reporter in June while caring for three injured relatives in a crowded hospital in Kandahar. “Foreign troops come here and start fights.”

The death toll of Afghans is so bad that even the puppet president Hamid Karzai has spoken out. In late June, during an earlier U.S./Canada/NATO offensive in southern Afghanistan, he declared, “It is not acceptable that in all this fighting, Afghans are dying. In the last three to four weeks, 500 to 600 Afghans were killed.”

The poppy eradication program pursued by occupation forces is another major reason for growing disaffection and is sharply criticized by the Senlis Council. Farmers receive no alternative support when their poppy plantings are destroyed.

Support for occupation eroding at home

The Canadian government is losing support at home for its warmaking abroad, according to recent polls. An EKOS Research/Toronto Star poll in mid-September shows 48 percent opposed to Canada’s part in the war in Afghanistan and only 38 percent in favour.

Candidates for the leadership of the opposition Liberal Party are feeling the heat of shifting public opinion. Most now say they oppose the Canadian offensive operations in Kandahar. (The party initiated the Kandahar offensive last year while still in government.)

A major foreign policy report by the Canadian Senate that was issued on October 5 decries the absence of ”reconstruction” projects in Afghanistan. “If we don’t get aid in there, then we won’t win militarily, ” said the chairman of the committee that produced the report.

NDP convention delegates vote for “troops out”

Another sign of growing antiwar opinion was the vote by delegates at the national convention of the New Democratic Party in early September to demand a withdrawal of Canadian troops from Afghanistan. The resolution calls for “the safe and immediate withdrawal of Canadian troops from Afghanistan.”
The vote was a striking victory for antiwar forces and will help broaden support for antiwar protests.
Unfortunately, the resolution also provides justification for continuing Canadian military intervention in poor and underdeveloped countries, including Afghanistan, by advocating what it calls “peace building.” It says the party should “support the continuation of development assistance to Afghanistan and democratic peace building in that country so that reconstruction efforts and good governance are achieved.”
“Democratic peace building” is code language for continued violations of the sovereignty of the Afghan people. The same language served as justification for the invasion of Haiti in 2004 and overthrow of its popular government by Canada, the U.S. and France.
Leaders of the NDP have taken their distance from the “troops out” section of the resolution. Party leader Jack Layton told CBC Radio news on September 24 that he favours a continued military presence by Canada in Afghanistan. He said he wants an end to the current combat operations in Kandahar but a continuation of “peace-building.”
The party’s foreign affairs critic in Parliament, Alexa McDonough, wrote a newspaper column on September 17 that criticized the Canadian-led offensive in Kandahar but made no reference to a withdrawal of Canadian troops, from either Kandahar or anywhere else in Afghanistan.
Canada out of Afghanistan
The Canadian government and its NATO allies have accomplished nothing for Afghans. They are propping up a reactionary and illegitimate government that has little popular support, have killed thousands of Afghans, and have destroyed crucial infrastructure and food production.
A column in the October 3 Globe and Mail by U.S. journalist Sarah Chayes underscored the dilemma of the occupation forces. She described the Afghanistan government of Harmid Karzai as, “a government devoured by corruption.” It, “seems just as hostile to [the people’s] legitimate interests as the Taliban are.”
Chayes has no solution to this problem because she staunchly defends a continued presence of Canada and NATO in Afghanistan, and those forces in turn support and defend the very government that she so harshly condemns.
The occupation forces are deeply hostile to the social and economic aspirations of Afghanistan’s poor majority. They are in Afghanistan to foster pipeline deals that will deliver oil from Central Asia to seaports and earn billions of dollars in profits for Canadian and other foreign oil companies. They are transforming Afghanistan into a military base to attack patriotic forces throughout Asia and the Middle East and to pressure and threaten China and Iran.
October 28 day of antiwar action
A cross-Canada day of protest against the war has been called by the Canadian Peace Alliance on October 28. The call is supported by growing numbers of political, social, student and religious organizations, including the Canadian Labour Congress, many local and regional trade unions, and the Canadian Islamic Congress.
People from across Canada will come into the streets on that day to demand the unconditional withdrawal of Canadian forces from Afghanistan.
In so doing, we will be joining with those in Afghanistan who are resisting the pillage and destruction of their country and who want democratic government and meaningful programs to improve living standards and rebuild the shattered country.
These protests will strengthen the struggle for justice and peace at home, including the fight to reverse the vast cuts to social programs recently announced by the Conservative Party government and the campaigns to end the abuses of democratic rights that led to the torture ordeal of Maher Arar and the indefinite detentions of political prisoners.


For more information on the October 28 day of protest, visit the Canadian Peace Alliance website at: www.acp-cpa.ca/en/index.html.
The Senlis Council report quoted in this article is available online at  http://www.senliscouncil.net/modules/publications/014_publication/

Venezuela Rallies International Resistance to U.S./Israeli War

By Suzanne Weiss

While Israel invaded and brutally bombarded Lebanon in July, most of the world’s governments nodded in approval or folded their arms. Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez, by contrast, roundly denounced Israel’s aggression against the Lebanese people.

“It really causes indignation to see how the state of Israel continues bombing, killing … with all the power they have, with the support of the United States,” Chavez said August 21 after a military parade in Venezuela’s northwestern state of Falcon. “It’s hard to explain to oneself how nobody does anything to stop this horror.”

Chavez backed up these words with action: Venezuela withdrew its ambassador from Israel. On August 4, he declared he is “not interested in sharing any business, offices, or anything” with the Israeli state. Israel responded by recalling its ambassador to Venezuela on August 7, criticizing what it called Chavez’s “one-sided policy” and “wild slurs.”

The Bolivarian government’s actions, strikingly bold and courageous in the context of imperialist-dominated world diplomacy, were consistent with its foreign policy of defending and aiding countries under imperialist attack. Nor did Chavez hesitate to condemn the U.S. sponsors of Israeli aggression. “I am telling you with all honesty that the hand of the Americans is spurring (Israel) on,” he told the Arab TV network Al-Jazeera on August 4. The “real threat to the world is the imperialistic threat posed by the U.S., and Israel is one of its imperialistic instruments in this part of the world.”

Venezuela’s Mideast Roots

Venezuela’s stand in the Mideast conflict also reflects the direct experience of many of its citizens. About 1.5 million Venezuelans are immigrants or descendents of immigrants from Arab countries, many of them recent arrivals from Lebanon and Palestine. There are at least five deputies of Arab origin in Venezuela’s National Assembly and one state governor of Lebanese descent. Across Latin America, 17 million are of Arab descent, of whom six million are Muslim.

During July, there were many marches in the streets of Caracas and other cities in Venezuela – as well as in Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Colombia – to show solidarity with the Lebanese and Palestinians.

In 2005, the first Arab-South American Summit, held in Brazil, brought together heads of state and representatives of 33 countries. (A U.S. request for observer status was denied.) The summit adopted the “Declaration of Brasilia” calling for close ties between South America and the Arab world, and criticizing Israeli and U.S. aggression against Palestinians.

The solidarity expressed in Brasilia was tested in July this year, when member governments of the South American trade pact Mercosur held a summit in Cordoba, Argentina. The meeting was also the occasion for Venezuela’s formal entry into Mercosur. Plans had been laid for the signing at the Cordoba conference of a trade agreement between Mercosur and Israel. But the Mercosur nations refused to sign the accord and instead adopted an official document calling for a ceasefire and an end to the attack on Lebanon.

The Venezuelan president’s participation in the Mercosur summit doubtless played a role in this decision. And surely the presence of Fidel Castro, who came to sign a Cuba-Mercosur trade pact, also weighed in the balance. Cuba’s solidarity with the victims of Israeli government aggression is of long standing, and the island has no diplomatic relations with Israel. On June 29, Cuba’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemned Israel’s military actions and called for the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of Israeli troops from all occupied territories, the ceasing of state-terror actions by Israel, and respect for the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people.

Venezuela Walks the Talk

In an August 3 address to the Venezuelan people, Chavez asked “everyone in the country to give what we can for this fundraising campaign for the reconstruction of Lebanon … destroyed by the genocidal and fascist hand of Israel and its masters, the U.S. empire.”

In addition, his government pledged to send Lebanon 20,000 tonnes of aid to “help alleviate the humanitarian crisis caused by the Israeli bombing,” dispatching a Boeing 707 full of supplies as a starter.

Hezbollah representative Mahmoud Komati, told the Latin America-wide TV channel TeleSur that Venezuela took measures that were “an example for revolutionaries when defending “the oppressed, enslaved and humble peoples of the world.” (Associated Press, August 8)

On world television channels one could see Venezuelan flags in demonstrations in Beirut, next to Lebanese and Palestinian flags. It was also reported that in Gaza and the West Bank city of Ramallah, people placed posters of Chavez next to those of Arafat and Che. (Al-jazeera, August 18)

Addressing the Masses
Israel’s war on Lebanon coincided with an eight-nation tour by Chavez to discuss south-south cooperation and emphasize the need for a “multi-polar world,” in which he advocated alliances to tie the third-word countries more to each other and break U.S. hegemony.

Chavez denounced Israel at each stop. He called the Lebanese and Palestinians “heroic people” and repeatedly voiced his criticisms of Israel over its military offensive in Lebanon.

During Chavez’s visit to Iran, he called for a global coalition to combat “the U.S. imperialist monster” and reaffirmed that Venezuela would “stand by Iran at any time and under any condition.” Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad responded that Hugo Chavez “one of the rare world leaders whose word and deed are the same.”

In Damascus, Chavez received a hero’s welcome: thousands of Syrians waved banners and Venezuelan flags along the route Chavez took to his meeting with Syrian President Hafaz el-Assad. The Syrian government daily, Tishrin, described Chavez as “America’s enemy number one, international leader and the biggest supporter of Arab cause.” After a meeting with Assad, Chavez said, “We want to cooperate to build a new world where states and peoples self-determination are respected.”

While Chavez’s official meetings were on a governmental level, his words were directed to the masses and had deep resonance throughout the Middle East.

In many prominent Arab newspapers, columnists ask why Arab government leaders could not do for Lebanon what a Latin American non-Arab non-Muslim leader dared to do. A protest held in Kuwait after Venezuela withdrew its ambassador from Israel featured a large placard of Chavez that declared him a “true Arab leader.”

The Venezuelan news service Vheadline.com reported on August 6 that it had been inundated with email from Arab readers supporting Chavez’s stand on Israel’s war.

UN Candidacy
The second Arab-South American Summit took place in Caracas in July, with delegations from 15 Arab and 12 South American nations. Among other issues, the Summit approved Venezuela’s application to join the Arab League, which was accepted in September. It also backed bids by Venezuela and Egypt for seats on the UN Security Council.

The U.S. has “stabbed the Middle East peace process in the heart,” Chavez said as he left for the Summit. “We see a Security Council blocked by the power of the veto, that of the government of the United States especially…. If Venezuela could occupy a seat on the council,” he continued, it might be able to “contribute modestly towards the battle to free the world from the imperialist threat.”

Venezuela’s foreign ministry is optimistic it will get the 128 votes it needs to gain a UN Security Council seat, despite strong opposition by the U.S. government.

Strategy of Solidarity
The outspokenly militant spirit of Chavez’s comments were frequently out of step with the politics of his often conservative governmental hosts. In fact, he used a diplomatic platform to address the Third World masses, irrespective of the nature of their own governments. It is to the masses that he entrusts the cause of 21st century socialism. And the popularity of Hugo Chavez in the Mideast reflects new thinking among the working masses of these countries.

Venezuela has taken initial steps toward socialism. Venezuela stands as a powerful example that the wealth generated by the oil industry can be used to improve the lives of Venezuelans and to aid working people in other countries, even as far away as the indigenous and poor people of Alaska. This is a contagious example that may not sit well with wealthy aristocratic and capitalist rulers in such countries as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and nearby states.

Behind Hugo Chavez’s response to the Lebanon war lies a powerful strategic concept. On January 31, 2005, at the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre, Brazil, he declared, “It is impossible, within the framework of the capitalist system to solve the grave problems of poverty of the majority of the world’s population.” U.S. imperialism is not invincible, he said, repeating the words of Jose de san Martin, an Argentine independence hero, “Let’s be free without caring about what anyone else says.”

Chavez’s tour of the Middle East and Africa echoed this theme. “If we don’t make that better world possible,” he said, “if we fail through the rifles of the U.S. Marines, and through Mr. Bush’s murderous bombs; if there is no coincidence and organization necessary in the South to resist the offensive of neo-imperialism, and the Bush doctrine is imposed upon the world, the world will be destroyed.” (Granma, September 5)

As he told Al-Jazeera August 4, “We must defeat imperialism in this century, so that this elite will not annihilate the world.”

Why Socialists Must Campaign for Troops Out Now

An Appeal to the Young Socialists of Britain on the Iraq War

By Katan Alder and James Haywood

Editors’ note: As imperialist war rages across the Middle East, some socialists in the imperialist countries still stand aloof from the antiwar movement. One noteworthy case is that of the U.S. Socialist Workers Party. In the 1960s and 1970s, the SWP and its co-thinkers around the world spearheaded the building of a mass movement against the Vietnam war. They have now abandoned that heritage: no one from the SWP or any of its affiliated groups has played any role in building demonstrations or other actions against the imperialist assault on Iraq. They have remained on the sidelines, condemning those who are trying to build an antiwar movement as “middle class radicals.”

This outrageous position has not gone unchallenged, as the powerful document below illustrates. It was written by two members of the Young Socialists, the youth group of the SWP’s sister organization in Britain. They have been trying to convince the Young Socialists and its parent organization, the Communist League, to change course and join in building the antiwar movement.

The leadership of the Young Socialists and Communist League stifled such discussion. On August 4, Alder and Haywood were informed that their position, unheard and unread, had been rejected as petty-bourgeois. The two then submitted the following declaration together with their resignation from the Young Socialists. – Roger Annis and John Riddell


1. The war waged by the British, U.S. and other foreign forces on Iraq, an oppressed nation, is an imperialist war. It has taken the form of a direct military assault, invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq, previously a sovereign nation. This war has to be understood in a broader context of heightened imperialist threats abroad, the occupation of Afghanistan, the recent attack on Lebanon by Israel, the ‘long war’ promised by senior bourgeois politicians both at home and abroad, and the further introduction of ‘anti-terror’ measures directed against the fighting capacity of working people. The ruling class has staked its authority on being able to successfully prosecute these wars, without being challenged. Building a movement that does challenge their wars is central to Marxism today, as is understanding the need for unconditional defence of the Iraqi peoples’ right to self-determination.

2. Imperialist wars occur, not because of the wills of certain politicians who occupy commanding heights of the bourgeois state, but because capitalism, in its highest stage, imperialism, is driven to constantly wage wars of plunder, conquest and national oppression. This analysis applies to the Iraq war — a war waged to:

i) Guarantee that Iraq’s oil reserves come under British and American imperialist control, and generally reorganise Iraq’s economy for the benefit of participating imperialist powers, opening up markets for both commodities and capital investment, and thus hoping to gain an edge over their competitors.

ii) Stage a vital lesson to governments, oppressed people, and workers and farmers, that those who oppose the dictates of monopoly capital can expect the ‘Iraq’ treatment.

iii) Oppress the Iraqi people, deny their sovereignty and their right to a nation through direct political and economic control.

iv) Gain a stable launch pad for further military interventions within the Middle East, including against Iran and Syria.

3. The war abroad in Iraq is directly linked to the war at home – to ‘our’ rulers’ declining profit rates and crisis-ridden world system, coupled with their inability to move working people to their political agenda. This forces them to attack us and our living standards. The war at home also takes an ideological form — constant disinformation by the big business press, growing censorship, and the intimidation of journalists who publish critical articles on the occupation. One of the intended effects of this propaganda war is an attempt to stop working people from showing solidarity with their brothers and sisters in Iraq, which not only further divides working people internationally, but also makes it harder for workers to resist the offensive by the same bosses in this country.

4. Through struggles against imperialism and wars of national oppression a communist method of action has been forged, starting from:

i) Our complete opposition to imperialist wars.

ii) Our scientific understanding of their cause and historically reactionary character.

iii) The need for an organised class-struggle response, coming from the working class and its allies.

iv) The understanding that class struggle, of which the movement against imperialist wars is a vital part, taken to its logical conclusion, is a struggle for power.

v) The necessity of forging a party of the Leninist type, recruited from the most advanced workers, capable of leading working people and their allies to power.

5. Communists and Young Socialists should be aiming to lead the struggle against ‘their’ imperialists, including imperialist war drives. We orient to the workers organised both in and out of trade unions, and to all those who are appalled by the war — including working class Muslims and youth, who have been especially outraged by the war, and attempt to turn their legitimate anger against the millionaire exploiters and thus deal massive blows to our rulers through struggle on the streets.

6. In conflicts between imperialism and oppressed nations, communists unconditionally side with the oppressed nation, independent of the oppressed country’s political leadership. Putting this policy in practice, Fidel Castro supported Argentina (a semi-colonial nation) in its 1982 war with Britain over the Malvinas (Falkland) Islands, despite Argentina’s brutal dictatorship. The Cuban Communists argued for this line throughout the war and all subsequent events, including Argentina’s eventual defeat.

7. This policy was also advocated by the Militant in its issue of April 28, 2003, with regard to the Iraq war: “In a war between an imperialist power and a nation oppressed by imperialism, class-conscious workers always side with the oppressed nation — regardless of its political regime — and argue that the defeat of the imperialists in the war is in the interests of working people everywhere, including those living in the imperialist country.”

8. Communists unconditionally support the right of oppressed nations to self-determination. This support is given unconditionally — we don’t put conditions on our support for the struggle against imperialism. We view the fight of the Iraqi people against imperialism as progressive, and defend them and support them against ‘our’ imperialists. Our support for the Iraqi people against imperialism continues from before the war, during the war, and carries on during the occupation, independent of the struggle’s political leadership. Thus, it is unconditional support for their right to self-determination. Unconditionally supporting the Iraqi people against imperialism is a grounding block for beginning to build international working class unity. (Marx on Ireland.) This is especially true since it is ‘our’ nation which is oppressing the Iraqi people. We do, therefore, have an urgent duty to support the struggle against ‘our’ imperialist troops.

9. Every aspect of the struggle against British imperialism in Iraq is progressive, regardless of its leadership; this includes those led by the Baathists. Our support for this struggle is part of our consistent unconditional support for the Iraqi people’s right to self-determination. Withholding support to those struggling against ‘our’ imperialists in Iraq fails to understand:

i) That our support for the Iraqi people is unconditional, not based upon the character of their government or leadership, but upon the fact that the struggle of an oppressed people against Imperialism is historically progressive, and the counter-struggle waged by imperialism is historically reactionary.

ii) That every defeat suffered by imperialism in Iraq is a victory for the Iraqi people, as it will weaken their oppressor, leading to further openings in political space, vital for the formation of genuine national liberation movements.

iii) That growing difficulties for the British ruling class in Iraq weakens that very class which exploits workers and their allies in this country, allowing breathing space for workers in conflict with imperialism across the world, for instance in Venezuela.

iv) That the Iraqi people have every right to struggle under a leadership of their choosing.

10. This does not stop communists from taking a firm stance against instances where the national bourgeois forces move against the working class. This was Lenin’s meaning was when he wrote “Insofar as the bourgeois of the oppressed nation fights the oppressor, we are always, in every case, and more strongly then anyone else, in favour, for we are the staunchest and the most consistent enemies of oppression. But insofar as the bourgeois of the oppressed nation fights for its own bourgeois nationalism, we are against.” (“Rights of Nations to Self-determination,” in V.I. Lenin, Selected Works [1977], vol. 1, p. 581. emphasis in original)

11. “If in our political agitation, we fail to advance and advocate the slogan of the right to secession, we shall play into the hands… of the bourgeois.” (Lenin, as before) There is no third camp communists can set up tent in. We are either with the unconditional right to self-determination camp, or in the imperialist camp. Through the publishing efforts of Pathfinder, we are fortunate in that we have a rich collection of books and pamphlets that document how revolutionaries have defended self-determination in the past.

12. By being the most consistent builders of the protests, and their most conscious section, communists and Young Socialists are able to mobilise and lead the movement on an anti-imperialist course of action, making it increasingly difficult for the ruling class to continue its war against the Iraqi people. Communists and youth should blaze the way in:

i) Organizing broad united fronts against the war.

ii) Mobilising the masses in the streets against our common enemy.

iii) Calling for Troops Out Now, and self-determination for the Iraqi people.

iv) Supporting action that is organizationally and politically independent of the capitalist parties and politicians.

13. In areas where these united fronts already exist already, communists and young socialists should consider joining these coalitions in order to help build the protests. Through this mass work, our units will be brought into contact with radical youth and workers, and it is from here that we can recruit and build certain layers of a communist organisation. In protests and actions which do not call for troops out now, we should follow the Militant’s analysis, which has urged participation in peace marches and other actions, where communist views can be advanced, even if the event organisers do not agree with them. (Feb 2004)

An example of this is the mass work the Young Socialists did in building the World Youth Festival in Venezuela last year. We inspired many people around us with our ability to work together with different forces, and at the same time fighting around keeping the festival on an anti imperialist course. We met many new and different political forces; we gained a huge amount of experience, and we made a significant impact on the festival from an international level right down to the local level.

We should be doing the same kind of mass work inside the anti-war movement as well. We must expose the lies and distortions inside the anti-war movement by liberal and petit-bourgeois forces, but we should also work with them to organize mass protests like the ones we have already witnessed over the Iraq war. Imagine the possibilities if we could make these protests into genuine fights against imperialism, and imagine the recruitment opportunities we would have inside the movement. Right now our forces are small and it will take time to reach such a stage, but with consistent work we will gain a huge amount out from building and organizing the anti-war movement in this country and everywhere else.

14. Since the initial anti war demonstration of over one million in February 2003, anti-war activity has declined, but not disappeared. They are now rising again with the imperialist slaughter in Lebanon and Palestine. Communists can still do important work in these groups, including building them further with our co-workers and fellow students, keeping the action in the streets and independent of the bosses, explaining why it is important that we call for Troops Out Now (and not in a little bit), leading educational activity, and explaining to those that we meet how the anti-war movement is inextricably linked to the struggle for a workers and farmers government and a socialist future.

UK and All Imperialist Troops Out of Iraq Now!

Self-Determination for the Iraqi People!

Thousands March in Montreal Against Israel’s War on Lebanon

By Sandra Browne and Robert Johnson

MONTREAL – Between ten and fifteen thousand people marched here on August 6 in a powerful protest against Israeli war crimes in Lebanon. The turnout was particularly significant since the action was organized on short notice and at the height of the summer vacation season in Quebec.

More than 50 organizations sponsored the protest, many of them expressions of the Lebanese and Middle Eastern communities of Quebec. (There are 40,000 Lebanese in Montreal alone; many have been there for several generations and are well integrated into Quebec society). A good number of the demonstrators were Lebanese and the action was effectively organized as a kind of “voice of Lebanon” representing the different currents of Lebanese society, united in their desire for justice and peace in Lebanon, and against the Israeli atrocities. The Lebanese flag was omnipresent. There were also many Palestinian flags and various speakers who mentioned the Palestinian struggle received a warm response.

However, it was also apparent that many of those present were not of Middle Eastern origin. We spoke with a quite a few who said that they were participating out of a sense of solidarity with the Lebanese and Palestinian people and to oppose the Israeli slaughter. This reflects the deep antiwar sentiment in Quebec, which opinion polls consistently show to be much stronger than in the rest of Canada.

The main Quebec union federations co-sponsored the protest, as did three political parties, the Parti Québécois, the Bloc Québécois, and Québec Solidaire. Leaders of these unions and political organizations addressed the closing rally, as did Denis Coderre, a former federal cabinet minister speaking in the name of the Liberal Party of Canada (Quebec section).

Another strength of the Montreal protest was the political prominence given to the participation of small contingents of people who identified themselves as Jews. Representatives of two of these groups spoke to the closing rally and were particularly warmly received.

The political weight of the demonstration was reflected in the media coverage. Several Quebec television networks broadcast reports of the action and at least three of the Montreal daily newspapers featured it on their front pages with an article and a photo. AlJazeera.Net reported on the Montreal action as well as on protests in Windsor, Ontario, another city with a large Arab population, that were directed against Canada’s pro-Israel stance. Noting plans for several fact-finding trips to the region by Members of Parliament, AlJazeera concluded that “the criticism may be having an effect.”

The August 6 protest was organized around four demands. The leaflet read:

“We call on all Quebecers to DEMONSTRATE with us to:

  • Demand, immediately, a cease-fire without conditions;
  • Demand the respect of international conventions, international law and “all” UN resolutions on the Middle East;
  • Insist that the Harper government disassociate itself from the policies of the US and work for justice and peace in the Middle East;
  • Show our solidarity with the Lebanese and Palestinian people.”

New forces join the fight

Many of the participants brought their own hand-lettered placards, often conveying a powerful message of protest not only against Israel and the U.S. but also Stephen Harper. These included “Harper, stop spitting on Palestine and Lebanon,” and “Harper ferme ta Bush” [Harper shut your mouth – a play on the French word for mouth, “bouche”], One Lebanese community group organized a particularly moving display with three small coffins on the ground, each draped in a white sheet with a small bouquet on top. A large color photo of one of the child victims of Israeli bombs was placed behind each coffin.

One placard carried by a number of demonstrators carried the title “Zionist checklist.” It listed a number of categories such as hospitals, roads, power plants, women and children with a checkmark against each category, The last line read “Hezbollah;” it had no checkmark. A few other placards read, “The Arab League is silent.”

In an outrageous infringement of democratic rights, police intervened to confiscate some Hezbollah flags. This may have intimidated some people, but we saw at least 50 Hezbollah flags throughout the crowd, and a scattering of large photos of Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah. A leaflet headed “What is Hezbollah?” which answered many of the slanders against the organization, was widely distributed and well received.

There were a small number of union flags and placards, but most union members who participated in the protest did so as individuals. The same was true for the political parties and currents who were present. We saw one banner each from the Communist Party, Québec Solidaire, the New Democratic Party, and the Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist). There were no literature tables of political groups, no sales of political newspapers within the crowd, and only a few political groups handing out leaflets.

Political challenges

Many features of the protest, including the limited character of its demands, reflected the fact that many of the participants were becoming involved for the first time in political action against imperialist war. As such it represented a significant strengthening of the antiwar forces.

The weight of this development was also shown by the fact that the BQ, the PQ, and the Liberal Party, sought to use the protest to strengthen their position against Stephen Harper’s Conservatives. They aim to use the issue of the war to deprive the Conservative Party of the additional Quebec seats it needs to form a majority government after the next federal election.

The August 6 action was organized around a simple framework, “Quebec stands up for justice and peace in Lebanon … NOW!” and the four demands quoted above. This was clearly the right approach to achieve the kind of unity that was the strength of the protest, particularly with the entry into struggle of new and broad community-based forces.

However, the call for the action contained a number of significant omissions and concessions. It demanded an unconditional cease-fire but did not demand that Israel withdraw from Lebanon. It also acknowledged Israel’s supposed “legitimate right to exist” and its supposed right to security. It did not mention the resistance of the Lebanese people against the aggression. It demanded the application of all U.N. resolutions on the Middle East, presumably including resolution 1559 that requires the disarming of Hezbollah. There was no mention of Iraq or Afghanistan.

In the days leading up to the protest, the Quebec-Israel Committee, which outrageously claimed to speak for the entire Jewish population in Quebec, published several large ads in the newspapers challenging organizers of the protest to “think of Israel” and insisting that they dissociate themselves from Hezbollah and Hamas. Leaders of the protest obviously felt some pressure from this quarter.

Many speakers and photo displays effectively exposed Israeli war crimes. But only one of the speakers at the closing rally expressed solidarity with the fighters of the Lebanese resistance. Many leaned in the direction of deploring the violence of both sides. Most speakers did this with a light touch, while emphasizing Israeli atrocities. One exception was Denis Coderre who bluntly denounced “the rocket attacks of both Israel and Hezbollah.” The crowd responded with sustained booing.

Gilles Duceppe, leader of the Bloc Québécois (BQ), followed him to the podium and echoed similar themes: both sides should stop fighting, Israel’s reaction is disproportionate, we are for disarming all militias including Hezbollah. Duceppe was more adroit than Coderre in his presentation and he was generally well received – although the crowd responded to his statements against the resistance with silence, then resumed its applause when he turned his fire against the Canadian government.

(Standing next to Duceppe during his presentation was a BQ Member of Parliament who was introduced as the first Member of Parliament of Lebanese descent in Canada. It is apparent that the BQ has a strong base of support in the Lebanese community in Quebec.)

The protest lasted more than four hours, including a march of at least two hours through downtown Montreal. By the end of the lengthy closing rally, the crowd had dwindled to a few hundred or so. Those who left early missed the two best talks of the event. Rabbi Yisroel Dovid Weiss of the Neturei Karta (www.nkusa.org), a group of anti-Zionist Orthodox Jews, gave a rousing, uncompromising speech: “We pray to God for the speedy and peaceful dismantling of the state of Israel.” He voiced the view that Zionism, a political outlook, conflicts with Judaism, a religion, and that the state of Israel is a racist state and against God. He stated that the present conflict is not one between Muslims and Jews and he recalled the many centuries during which Jews had lived in peace with the Muslim world before the advent of Zionism. The demonstrators responded to his points with several sustained ovations.

The representative of Échec à la guerre, the Quebec antiwar coalition, follow with a forthright anti-imperialist presentation. He explained that for the Lebanese, the question was submission or resistance, and he saluted the courage of the resistance fighters. He denounced the proposed United Nations resolution drafted by the United States and France as completely unacceptable since it does not even demand that Israel withdraw its troops from Lebanon. He linked what was happening in Lebanon to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and pointed out that Canadian troops form part of a large army of occupation in Afghanistan; that army should be withdrawn immediately. While other speakers had attacked Harper for spinelessness or for being Bush’s poodle, this speaker insisted that Harper was acting effectively on behalf of Canadian corporate interests.

All in all, this was a very successful and powerful protest, one that offers a promising basis for further actions against the imperialist war drive.

End Canada’s Occupation of Afghanistan!

Call for action on October 28, 2006

This call for a pan-Canadian day of action, co-signed by the Canadian Peace Alliance, the Canadian Islamic Congress, the Canadian Labour Congress and the Montreal coalition Echec a la Guerre, is being distributed and discussed at the World Peace Forum now taking place in Vancouver. -SV

The Collectif Échec à la guerre, Canadian Peace Alliance, the Canadian Labour Congress, and the Canadian Islamic Congress are jointly calling for a pan-Canadian day of protest this October 28th, 2006, to bring Canadian troops home from Afghanistan. On that day, people all across the country will unite to tell Stephen Harper that we are opposed to his wholehearted support for Canadian and U.S. militarism.

This October marks the fifth anniversary of the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan, and the people of that country are still suffering from the ravages of war. Reconstruction in the country is at a standstill and the needs of the Afghan people are not being met. The rule of the new Afghan State, made up largely of drug running warlords, will not realize the democratic aspirations of the people there. In fact, according to Human Rights Watch reports, the human rights record of those warlords in recent years has not been better than the Taliban.

We are told that the purpose of this war is to root out terrorism and protect our societies, yet the heavy-handed approach of a military occupation trying to impose a US-friendly government on the Afghan people will force more Afghans to become part of the resistance movement. It will also make our societies more — not less — likely to see terrorist attacks. No discussion on military tactics in the House of Commons will change that reality. Indeed, violence is increasing with more attacks on both coalition troops and on Afghan civilians.

While individual Canadian soldiers may have gone to Afghanistan with the best of intentions, they are operating under the auspices of a US-led state building project that cares little for the needs of the Afghan people. US and Canadian interests rest with the massive $3.2 billion Trans Afghan Pipeline (TAP) project, which will bring oil from the Caspian region through southern Afghanistan (where Canada is stationed) and onto the ports of Pakistan. It has been no secret that the TAP has dominated US foreign policy towards Afghanistan for the last decade. Now Canadian oil and gas corporations have their own interests in the TAP.

Over the last decade, the role of the Canadian Armed Forces abroad has changed, and Canadian foreign policy has become a replica of the US empire-building rhetoric. The end result of this process is now plain to see with the role of our troops in Southern Afghanistan, with the enormous budget increases for war expenditures and “security,” with the Bush-style speeches of Stephen Harper, and with the fear campaigns around “homegrown terrorism” to foster support for those nefarious changes. It is this very course that will get young Canadian soldiers killed, that will endanger our society and consume more and more of its resources for destruction and death in Afghanistan. We demand a freeze in defense and security budgets until an in-depth public discussion is held on those issues across Canada.

The mission in Afghanistan has already cost Canadians more than $4 billion. That money could have been used to fund human needs in Canada or abroad. Instead it is being used to kill civilians in Afghanistan and advance the interests of corporations.

On October 28th, stand up and be counted.
Canadian Troops Out of Afghanistan Now!

For more information see:

www.acp-cpa.ca
www.echecalaguerre.org/
www.clc-ctc.ca/
www.canadianislamiccongress.com/

The Toronto ‘Anti-Terror’ Arrests: An Attack on Muslims and Antiwar Opinion

by Ian Angus

On June 2, a combined force of local, provincial and federal police arrested 15 young Muslim men, including five minors, in the Toronto area. Those 15, and two others who have been in jail since last August, are accused of plotting terrorist attacks on various targets in Ontario. If convicted, they could be sentenced to life in prison.

These arrests were conducted in the name of “stopping terrorism,” but a close look at the facts suggests that they were actually the opening salvo in an intense propaganda campaign to divide the Muslim community, build support for the federal government’s draconian “anti-terrorism” laws, and push back the considerable opposition in Canada to Ottawa’s war policy in Afghanistan and elsewhere in the Middle East.

The arrests were carefully orchestrated to ensure that the stories concocted by police received maximum publicity. The arrests took place on a Friday evening. This meant the men could be held incommunicado through the weekend, giving the police maximum opportunity to get their story out.

Friendly journalists and politicians were briefed before the arrests took place. Details of the police allegations were made public at a press conference the following morning, before the accused and their lawyers received any information at all.

Trial by media

All normal standards of decency or concern for accuracy were abandoned by most journalists in the following days. Most reports were based on a police-prepared eight-page “synopsis,” a document normally given only to defense lawyers. Prominent criminal lawyer Julian Falconer told CBC Radio that such synopses are “notoriously acts of fiction” that seldom bear any resemblance to the evidence eventually presented at trial. Despite that, newspapers across Canada reported every lurid accusation. Most devoted several pages a day to the “plot.”

No allegation was too nonsensical to get front-page treatment. The men were said to be planning to take over Parliament, hold MPs hostage, and behead politicians one at a time until Canada withdraws from Afghanistan. Other reported targets include the CBC, the Toronto Stock Exchange, and the Toronto offices of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS). The Globe and Mail raised fears of a 9/11-style attack by reporting that the accused were taking flight training — in fact one of the men took one semester of an aircraft maintenance course that involves no flying at all.

The media coverage reeked of racism: article after article featured references to the arrested as “Canadian-born” (rather than simply “Canadian”); to “brown-skinned young men”; and to sinister goings-on in Muslim mosques.

Meanwhile, the 17 accused, five of whom are minors, were held in isolation cells with the lights on 24 hours a day, denied the right to consult lawyers in private, denied visits from their families. When they were taken to court, the police put on a show. Over 30 officers with machine guns surrounded the building while sharpshooters patrolled nearby rooftops. The accused, none of whom has been accused of committing a single violent act, were brought in wearing leg irons.

No evidence

There is no reason to believe any part of the police story. Less than two years ago, Toronto Police arrested 19 young men from South Asia, and the press was filled with charges that they planned to blow up the CN Tower and the Pickering nuclear plant. The entire story was false: no charges were ever laid. Bear in mind also that these latest arrests in Toronto occurred just before police in the UK were forced to apologize for a heavily publicized raid on a London apartment that they wrongly claimed was a storage site for chemical weapons — a young Muslim man was shot and seriously injured during that attack.

But even if every word of the bizarre police synopsis is true, it’s clear that this was not a sophisticated terrorist cell plotting to rain devastation on our “pluralistic western society.” What the synopsis actually describes is a group of devout young Muslim men, angry at Canada’s increasingly active role in the international war against countries where Islam is the dominant religion , venting their frustration in wild online chat and “plots” that were mostly fantasy. They may have wanted to strike out, but they had no skills, no realistic plans, and no resources. As Toronto-area imam Ally Hindy told Newsweek magazine, “I just think these people were bullshitting.”

The police say they have been watching these young men for nearly two years: tapping their phones, reading their emails, interviewing friends and employers. Until now the RCMP and CSIS have claimed that their policy is to break up groups like this before anything actually happens. Such heavy-handed police interventions have long been standard procedure against political activity the cops regard as threatening — an RCMP/CSIS briefing paper presented to the new federal Cabinet in February bragged that they have carried out 12 such disruptions in the past two years. (Globe and Mail, June 7, 2006)

But this time the cops changed tactics. Someone, undoubtedly with Cabinet approval, decided that rather than simply intimidating the young dissidents into inactivity, they should arrange for an anti-terrorist propaganda coup.

So they orchestrated a sting, setting up the young men to buy fertilizer from an undercover cop, allegedly to build giant bombs. It’s not yet clear to what extent the cops used agents or provocateurs to promote the purchase. Entrapment is standard police procedure in this type of case, and there’s no reason to think that the RCMP and CSIS have clean hands now.

In any event, it’s not illegal to buy fertilizer in Canada, so the police have fallen back on charges of “plotting” and “conspiring” — the usual resort of prosecutors when hard evidence is weak or non-existent.

These young men are being used as pawns to promote Ottawa’s pro-war, anti-immigrant policies. The evidence against them is virtually non-existent; the media coverage is a blatant witchhunt; and the police propaganda campaign has so poisoned the atmosphere that they are unlikely to get a fair trial.

The weakness of the police case was demonstrated on June 12, when the prosecution sought (and a judge granted) a complete publication ban on court proceedings, over the objections of defense lawyers.

“After they’ve had 10 days with the media, feeding the media whatever they want to feed the media, denying us disclosure of any evidence and doing what they need to do to conduct a trial in this parking lot of this courthouse, they now have the audacity to request a blanket publication ban of all proceedings from today’s date,” said Rocco Galati, lawyer for one of the accused.

The cops were eager to get their unproven “synopsis” allegations out to the widest possible audience, but when it comes to court-tested evidence, well, that’s different. It’s hard not to conclude that the actual evidence is even less convincing than what we’ve seen so far.

Why now?

The police could have moved against this small and poorly organized group at any time. The decision to move now was driven by the cops’ political bosses, who wanted a dramatic event they could use to build support for the government’s pro-war and anti-immigrant policies. Defense lawyer Galati told reporters that the government’s goal is “a show trial for political ends” designed to influence the Supreme Court’s review of the legality of security certificates under which five Muslim men have been held without trial for as long as five years.

He also said that the arrests and publicity aimed to build support for Cabinet’s plan to renew the Anti-Terrorism Act, which eliminates important civil rights, including the right not to testify. That law, which was rushed through Parliament in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, will expire this year unless Parliament votes to extend it.

But the number one goal of the June 2 arrests and the subsequent propaganda campaign is to intimidate opponents of Ottawa’s growing war in Afghanistan, where 2,200 Canadian troops are participating in the NATO occupation force.

On May 18, a motion to extend Canada’s “mission” until 2009 passed in the House of Commons by only four votes, and antiwar sentiment has been growing across the country. The government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper is expanding Canada’s partnership with Washington’s imperial war drive, but it fears that growing domestic opposition will block its ambitions. The war is not going well in Afghanistan for the Canadian invaders, and large numbers of people at home are opposed to it. With these arrests, Canada’s rulers are renewing the fraudulent claim that the illegal invasion and occupation of Afghanistan is somehow connected to stopping terrorist attacks in Canada.

The anti-terrorist propaganda barrage has had a short-term impact on antiwar sentiment. In May, a Strategic Counsel poll found that 54% of Canadians opposed Canada’s involvement in Afghanistan, while only 40% were in favour. Three days after the arrests, the same polling company found 48% in favour and only 44% opposed. That’s a substantial shift — but 44% opposition is still very strong, and support for the war will certainly erode again as people realize the destructive effects of the war on both Afghanistan and Canadian society.

Opposition to the war is particularly strong among Muslim Canadians, most of whom correctly see Canada’s military involvement in Afghanistan as part and parcel of Washington’s war in the Middle East. The June 2 arrests and the subsequent propaganda campaign are part of a concerted effort by the government to isolate the Muslim community, to split that community itself by pressuring “moderate” Muslims to condemn “radicals and extremism” — and to block the developing alliances between Canadian Muslim organizations and antiwar activists, particularly in Toronto. The message is very clear: support the government, refrain from criticism, and keep your head down — or you might be next.

But the government’s campaign of intimidation can be countered. Opponents of the war must defend the right of everyone in Canada to speak out against the war, against “security certificates,” and against all attacks on civil rights. We must condemn every attack on immigrants and refugees, and ally ourselves unconditionally with the Muslim community in their fight against discrimination and religious or racial profiling by the police.

And we must build the antiwar movement, which opposes Ottawa’s imperial ambitions in the Middle East. Canadians are dying in increasing numbers in Afghanistan, and working people at home are suffering as the government diverts money from education, health care and social programs into increased military spending. Ottawa’s demagoguery about “supporting our troops” must be countered with an unequivocal demand that Canada end its participation in the occupation of Afghanistan now.


Editors’ Note: Socialist Voice #82  included two statements opposing the arrests of the 17 in Toronto. Another statement, by the Vancouver-based Mobilization Against War and Occupation, can be found at http://www.mawovancouver.org/toronto17.html

Statements on “Anti-Terror" Arrests

The following statements, by the International Socialists and by the Toronto Coalition to Stop the War, were issued in response to the recent highly-publicized arrests of 17 Toronto-area men.

Islam Is Not the Enemy War and Racism Are Not the Answers

by Socialist Worker (newspaper of the International Socialists)

The Canadian media is on the rampage. “Face of a Terrorist?” screams the front page of the Toronto Star. “The Friendly Zealot” screams the front page of the Globe and Mail, followed the next day with “Storm, Seize, Behead”. Pages and pages and pages are devoted to the fact that 17 people, five too young to be identified, have been arrested on suspicion of planning terrorist attacks in Canada.

You would think we had never seen this before. But we have. August 14, 2003, Toronto police kicked in the doors of 19 young men from South Asia. The total arrested later rose to 22. At least one government official said that they had uncovered “an al-Qaeda sleeper cell”. The press was full of reports of plans to topple the CN Tower and blow up the Pickering nuclear reactor.

The CN Tower is still standing. The Pickering nuclear reactor is still functioning. All talk of “al-Qaeda in Toronto” has disappeared. No charges were ever laid. No one ever went to trial. No one was ever convicted. All the “evidence” turned out to be bogus.

All that happened was that most of the accused, immigrants from Pakistan and India, were deported — after spending months in detention — with their reputations in ruins, and their lives turned completely upside down. There was no official apology delivered. There was no huge front page in the Toronto Star or the Globe and Mail saying “Sorry, we were wrong.” The stain of Islamophobia remained long after the unfortunate victims of what was called “Project Thread” were forgotten.

We must demand that history not repeat itself. These men are innocent until proven guilty.

We should condemn the press for sensationalist coverage which is, in effect, convicting these men in advance of a trial. We get pious editorials saying that of course, they have the right to fair trial, while the front pages say “Zealot” and “Terrorist” with screaming headlines. This is irresponsible and the very stuff that makes a fair trial almost impossible.

And then there is the matter of the demands being put on the Islamic community to “account” for the “creation” of young terrorists.

First of all, we have no idea whether these 17 are terrorists are not — nothing has been proven.

Second, what does this have to do with the Islamic community?

Were young white accountants called to account for creating a culture of violence after Paul Bernardo was found guilty of a string of horrific rapes and murders?

Were angry young sexist men called to account after Marc Lepine murdered 14 women engineering students in Montreal?

Were white Christians who were members of the Republican Party and the National Rifle Association called to account after Timothy McVeigh murdered 167 in Oklahoma City?

The targeting of the Islamic community is racism, pure and simple.

Stephen Harper will use these arrests as an excuse to try and come out looking great during the upcoming mandatory five-year review of Canada’s “anti-terror” laws.

He will also use them to try and bump up support for the war in Afghanistan — support that has been steadily declining as the body bags come home, and news of atrocities committed by NATO forces begins to surface. But the real source of terror is Canada following the lead of George Bush and engaging in wars abroad — wars which at the end of the day are not about democracy, but about oil and gas. The real terrorism is the practice of racist detentions, and the suspension of civil liberties. The real terrorism is assisting the US to deport Maher Arar to detention and torture abroad.

There is a way to end all this nonsense and bring us closer to a world of peace and human rights.

· Remove the troops from Afghanistan.

· End all secret trials.

· Free the four Islamic men still detained on “security certificates”

To subscribe to Socialist Worker, send a cheque for $30 to Socialist Worker, P.O. Box 339, Station E, Toronto, M6H 4E3. The International Socialists will hold a public meeting on the arrests on Thursday, June 22, at 7pm, at OISE, 252 St. George St., Toronto


Statement on Anti-Terror Arrests

by the Toronto Coalition to Stop the War

The recent wave of “anti-terror” arrests in Toronto has sparked a national debate about the threat of terrorism in Canada and the issue of security. In response to this debate, the Toronto Coalition to Stop the War would like to put forward the following points:

1. All those arrested must be treated as innocent until proven guilty. This precept is the cornerstone of our justice system and, in order to guarantee a fair and open trial, must be consistently applied to all those now facing charges;

2. What has been reported in the press are alleged acts and not proven facts. Only a trial by the public courts system — and not the media — can determine the difference. All media has a responsibility to report on the case fairly and accurately and without resorting to sensationalism;

3. Members of government and other public officials should not publicly comment on the case in any way that undermines the precept of “innocent until proven guilty” or that compromises the integrity of a fair and open trial. So far both Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Minister of Public Safety Stockwell Day have already suggested that those charged are guilty;

4. The Muslim community and the Islamic faith should not in any way be held responsible for the alleged acts of individual suspects. Every effort should be made to ensure the safety and security of Muslims and to prevent any kind of backlash against the Muslim community. All acts motivated by Islamophobia and hate should be opposed and condemned;

5. Canadians should bear in mind that this recent wave of arrests is not the first. Two years ago, as many as twenty-six Muslim men were arrested in Toronto in a sweep called “Project Thread” that received widespread international attention and that, according to at least one government official, had uncovered “an Al-Qaeda sleeper cell” in Canada. This statement was proved to be false, not one of the men were ever formally charged (or convicted) of committing a crime, and most were deported from Canada. No effort was made to clear their names or restore their reputations.

Please circulate this statement in order to help defend civil liberties and to stand in solidarity with the Muslim community against any kind of backlash. It is critical that this recent wave of “anti-terror” arrests and the media coverage about it not be exploited to perpetuate divisions between Muslims and non-Muslims and that relationships of solidarity and support between communities be expanded and deepened. The arrests should also not be exploited in order to justify Canada’s deeply unpopular participation in the occupation of Afghanistan or the use of repressive measures that curtail civil liberties in Canada such as secret trials and security certificates.

The anti-war movement in Canada has an important role to play in defending civil liberties, opposing racism and Islamophobia and supporting the Muslim community. We hope that you will join us in this effort.

Toronto Coalition to Stop the War
TCSW is Toronto’s city-wide anti-war coalition, comprised of more than fifty labour, faith and community organisations, and a member of the Canadian Peace Alliance. www.nowar.ca / stopthewar@sympatico.ca / 416-795-5863

Into the Quagmire: Canadian Military Invades Southern Afghanistan

By Roger Annis

The newly-elected Prime Minister of Canada has committed his Conservative Party government to a long-term military adventure in Afghanistan. So as to make the commitment crystal clear, Stephen Harper made the new, forward Canadian military base in Kandahar his first foreign foray. He made a highly publicized visit on March 12-13.

In a speech to soldiers and assembled journalists, Harper declared, “We recognize—the international community recognizes—that this is a long-term project. And we’re here for the long term.”

The Conservatives are following the trail blazed by their Liberal Party predecessor. Canada joined the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan in 2002. Late last year, it made a significant increase in that commitment when it accepted to head up a ”provincial reconstruction team” (PRT) in Kandahar and neighbouring provinces in the south of the country.

“PRT’s” are the forward offensive units of the U.S. and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) occupation forces in Afghanistan. Troops from the U.S., Germany, Britain, Italy, and more recently Canada and the Netherlands, have divided the country into operational zones. Comprising more than 2,000 combat troops, the Canadian military force arrived in Kandahar in February and immediately began offensive military operations.

Canada’s corporate media, most already strongly supportive of the U.S. war in Iraq, quickly fell into step with the Afghanistan adventure. Television screens and print news publications have been filled with reports from embedded journalists, cheering on the Canadian mission. For one week in early April, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s based its main nightly television news broadcast at the Kandahar air base.

War, not peacekeeping

The Canadian mission to Afghanistan is the first foreign mission in a half-century in which the declared aim is warmaking, not “peacekeeping”. Brigadier-General David Fraser described it as follows on February 15, “We’ll be training the Afghan national security  forces … so when they want to go out and do operations against that minority that’s trying to destabilize the good people here, we’ll be out there to support them. And if that means hunting, we’ll be out there hunting.”

A Canadian commander, Lt.-Col. Tom Doucet, told journalists in Kandahar on March 12 that while the eventual goal of the “PRT” is to rebuild schools, roads and infrastructure, the key issue now is security.  “Once we get rid of the bad people,” he said, “we can carry on with full force in terms of the reconstruction and development.”

The “bad people,” or as the head of Canada’s armed forces put it last summer, “the murderers and scumbags,” are those people in Afghanistan who resist for whatever reasons a foreign occupation of their country or who protest the refusal of foreigners to help solve crying social and economic needs.

The new warmaking strategy ties the projects of non-governmental organizations and other “civil society” groups directly to the military effort. An article in the March 2006 issue of Walrus magazine explained:

“One unique aspect of the new strategy is the way that development and humanitarian aid are being used specifically for the purpose of building loyalty toward coalition forces and democratic reforms. The American, British, and Canadian governments all have representatives from their international development and relief agencies stationed in Afghanistan; the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) alone plans to spend $616 million there by 2009….

“The strategic use of aid [sic] may offend some, but this approach is gaining credibility and has been adopted by CIDA and Foreign Affairs.”

Such abuse of foreign aid has prompted some highly reputable aid organizations to leave Afghanistan. Doctors Without Borders pulled out in 2004 after a 26-year presence delivering vital medical services to the civilian population. Marie-Madeleine Leplomb of the group’s Paris office told Radio Free Europe, “Given the multiplication of actors, how can the [Afghan] community recognize who is a humanitarian worker and who is doing intelligence? We are not credible anymore.”

Government, media rally prowar sentiment

The Kandahar mission received a rude shock from public opinion polls in February and March. In one, a Globe and Mail/CTV poll published on February 24, 62 percent of respondents said they were opposed to sending troops to Afghanistan, while 43 percent said they opposed Canadian participation in “the war on terrorism.” In response, an intense government and media campaign in support of the war in Afghanistan went into high gear.

Poll numbers may improve for the government as its pro-war propaganda campaign progresses, but they reflect a major problem for the Canadian intervention. Large sections of the Canadian population are deeply skeptical of the war’s stated aims, if not outright hostile. Demonstrations across Canada on March 18, the day of international opposition to the war in Iraq, drew attention to this. Opposition to the war in Afghanistan was a prominent theme. More than 3,000 people marched in each of Vancouver and Toronto, more than 2,000 in Montreal, and some 750 in Ottawa.

Like the U.S.-led war in Iraq, the war in Afghanistan is being waged in the name of helping the people of that country to build a new and progressive society. “The international community is determined to create a democratic, prosperous, modern country that can be a model in this part of the world”, Stephen Harper stated in Kandahar on March 13.

But Canada is there in order to earn its share of the oil, mineral and other resource wealth in the region and to earn its place in the new imperialist world order that its allies in the U.S. and U.K. are determined to create. To cite one example, Canada’s long-serving and former prime minister Jean Chrétien is today a legal representative for several Canadian oil and gas companies seeking production and pipeline investments in central Asia. These projects require a “stable” Afghanistan so that pipeline projects can go ahead.

Common economic interests are drawing Canada closer to U.S. political and military strategy throughout the Middle East and the world. Canada sat out the 2003 Iraq war. But since then, it has undertaken significant political and military moves to back the U.S./U.K. policy in Iraq and the region. These include establishing a military base in Dubai, on the shores of the Persian Gulf, and joining in the international gang-up on the government and people of Iran.

Canada played a lead role in the overthrow of the elected government of Haiti in 2004, a government that Canada and the U.S. deemed to be a threat to their extensive interests in the Caribbean.

The new, Canada-backed imperialist world order has no place for the provision of basic human rights and social services to peoples. Thus, in Iraq today, there is still no reliable supply of electricity, clean water, health care, and economic development to the people of that country, three years after the U.S. and U.K. “liberated” it. Prisons are overflowing, and torture is routinely practiced.

Similarly in Afghanistan and Haiti, the provision of meaningful services to the populations are little more than an afterthought to the Canadian effort. Accusations of brutalizing Afghan civilians have already been levied against Canadian soldiers. The family of Nasrat Ali Hassan, a rickshaw driver in Kandahar, condemned the Canadian military after a Canadian soldier opened fire without warning and killed him on March 14. In Haiti over the past two years, Canada has trained a new police force that stands accused of massive human rights violations.

Prison conditions in Afghanistan are reportedly worse than the horrors that have come to light in Iraq. This poses a delicate dilemma for the Canadian occupiers. On December 18, chief of Canada’s armed forces Richard Hillier signed an agreement that has Canadian soldiers turning people it has imprisoned over to the Afghan government military authorities.

“Hillier is placing rank-and-file Canadian troops, unwittingly, in the position of very likely being accessories to torture and, therefore, war criminals under international and Canadian law,” commented Amir Attaran, a law professor at the University of Ottawa.

Even the Afghan police and army get rough treatment from their erstwhile foreign allies. They are poorly armed and trained, and suffer very high casualties. Six Afghan police were killed on April 17, apparent victims of “friendly fire” from Canadian soldiers and U.S. helicopter gunners.

Sham “debate” in Canadian Parliament

None of the four political parties in Canada’s Parliament oppose the Afghan adventure. The New Democratic Party voiced the unease of the Canadian population when it called for a debate in the parliament. The government convened a “take notice” discussion in Parliament on April 10 where no vote would be taken. Most members of Parliament did not bother to show up, including Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Bloc Quebecois leader Gilles Duceppe.

New Democratic Party Member of Parliament Peggy Nash said in the discussion, “I question whether the war on terrorism, as originally designed south of the border, was really a struggle for women’s rights and the dignity of Afghan women. I did not hear that in the public debates at the time of the invasion of Afghanistan in 2002, but it is still a worthy goal.”

The NDP’s unease concerns only the way Canada’s war effort is organized, not the war itself. Nash went on, “Could the government please tell us when our military will finally leave this U.S.-led operation and instead become part of a NATO-led mission with which we could all feel more comfortable?”

(Command of the “PRT” in southern Afghanistan, including Kandahar, is scheduled to shift from U.S. to NATO this summer.)

Several NDP MP’s joined an antiwar rally outside the Parliament while the “debate” took place. They did not voice their views inside.

The more aggressive military posturing by Canada will cost lots more money, and all parties in Parliament voted last June to significantly boost military spending in the coming years. Military spending in 2005 was $13.4 billion. The new Conservative government is talking of boosting that to $17 billion annually. It has specifically cited the need for new naval craft and aircraft to boost Canada’s capacity to intervene abroad.

The war is ours to stop

Sixteen Canadian soldiers have died in Afghanistan since 2002, and the pace of casualties is rising. Four soldiers died on April 22 when a convoy of Canadian vehicles was struck by a roadside bomb. It was the largest loss of life by the Canadian military in combat since the war in Korea. The government responded by following the example of its warmaking ally south of the border and banning all future media reporting from military bases when the bodies of dead soldiers are returned.

The refusal and inability of occupation forces to tackle the staggering social and economic problems in Afghanistan will fuel opposition to their presence. So, too will the occupiers’ backing of the reactionary and anti-popular governing authority in Kabul.

As the Canadian mission fails in its stated aim of “winning the hearts and minds” of the Afghan people, it will bring more suffering to the Afghan people. The occupiers will resort to the same brutal methods of rule that the U.S. and Britain have already made infamous in Iraq.

Canada’s rulers are deeply committed to their war alliance with the U.S. and its disastrous plans for military conquest of the Middle East. With meaningful debate closed off in Parliament and the media, Canadians must increasingly take to the streets in order to voice our opposition.

For news on the Afghanistan conflict and actions demanding Canada’s withdrawal, contact the Canadian Peace Alliance, www.acp-cpa.ca.

Canada’s War Profits: Building a Relevant Anti-War Movement North of 49

This article originally appeared in Seven Oaks Magazine

by Derrick O’Keefe

The Canadian Peace Alliance recently held its 20th anniversary conference in Ottawa, November 11-13, gathering close to 200 anti-war activists from across the country. Convened under the slogan of ‘Challenging Canada’s Role in Empire’, participants came out of the weekend resolving to make March 18, 2006 – the 3rd anniversary of the illegal invasion of Iraq – the largest day of protest against the occupation since the massive pre-war rallies of 2002-2003.

Peace and justice coalitions and organizations in Canada are also gearing up to campaign against war and occupation during the federal election. Foreign policy issues that need to be highlighted – and that have yet to be consistently raised by the federal New Democrats (NDP) or any other major party – include Canada’s stepped-up role in the occupation of Afghanistan, the overthrow of democracy in Haiti, and the Liberal government’s refusal to come out in support of U.S. war resisters’ right to stay in Canada.

So as we set out on the anti-war campaign trail, towards both mass rallies on March 18 and the goal of having a meaningful impact on the discourse surrounding the election, it is useful to consider the obstacles in our path.

The first, already alluded to, is that the NDP – unlike in the period before the launching of the Iraq war – has failed to aggressively raise any of the key issues, with the possible exception of the war resisters. Jack Layton’s refusal to condemn General Rick Hillier’s bellicose and racist remarks regarding the Afghanistan war in July 2005 was an ominous signal; the NDP’s silence on Haiti, with some important exceptions, has also hurt efforts to disseminate the truth about Canada’s role in throwing out a democratically elected president in the hemisphere’s poorest country. The sheer scale of the human rights disaster in Haiti, and the growing exposure of Canada’s role, may just compel the NDP and Layton to make this a campaign issue.

There are, though, larger and more deeply rooted causes behind the lack of awareness of Canadian complicity in policies of war and Empire. The generalized corporate media blackout, of course, almost goes without saying, but it has been particularly galling with respect to the lack of substantive coverage on Haiti.

The single biggest impediment to getting people mobilized around war and occupation issues is the widespread perception that Canada’s hands are clean in the world; that unseemly regime changes are things carried out by George W. Bush and that at worst we are benevolent bystanders or well-meaning peacekeepers coming in after the fact.

Perhaps one under-utilized way to get around this pervasive myth is to highlight the blatant war profiteering of massive Canadian corporations. While the sordid operations of the likes of Exxon and Halliburton are internationally known, equally rapacious war companies based north of the 49th parallel are getting away with scant attention. The two that stand out are Gildan Activewear and SNC-Lavalin. 

For commuters in the Vancouver area, in particular, these two mega-corporations are becoming downright ubiquitous. SNC-Lavalin has been awarded the contract for the largest P3 (public-private partnership) in British Columbia’s history, the multi-billion dollar construction of a rapid transit line from downtown to the airport and the suburb of Richmond (the RAV-line). Meanwhile, SNC also partners with the public sector wherever the Canadian and American armies venture, holding a contract to supply the U.S. army with hundreds of millions of bullets each year, building the new Canadian Embassy in occupied Port-au-Prince, and receiving ‘reconstruction’ contracts in Palestine, Iraq and elsewhere.

Gildan Activewear is a massive garment manufacturer, controlling 40% of the North American t-shirt market. Following the coup against Aristide, and the de facto government’s decision to overturn minimum wage increases brought in by the Lavalas Party government, Gildan announced that it would be moving some operations from Honduras to Haiti. The company is currently engaged in a massive publicity campaign, with ads on hundreds of bus shelters in Vancouver proclaiming the sweatshop label ‘A part of your life’. It has been speculated that they are building their public profile with an eye to winning the Vancouver 2010 Olympics clothing contract. The cases of Gildan and SNC are not unique in terms of Canadian corporations, but only two of the most blatant examples that belie the quaint notion of a harmless, innocent big business community, and the related myth of a political policy pursuing lofty, disinterested ‘humanitarian’ objectives.

Nearly two years ago now, at the World Social Forum in Mumbai, acclaimed author and activist Arundhati Roy made a widely discussed call for the anti-war movement to take aim at the corporate backers of Empire:

“I suggest we choose by some means two of the major corporations that are profiting from the destruction of Iraq. We could then list every project they are involved in. We could locate their offices in every city and every country across the world. We could go after them. We could shut them down. It’s a question of bringing our collective wisdom and experience of past struggles to bear on a single target. It’s a question of the desire to win.” (‘The New American Century’, The Nation, February 9, 2004)

No such coordinated global campaign has really taken flight. This doesn’t, however, diminish the importance of identifying and exposing the corporate machinations behind war.

Here in Canada, we should focus on explaining the very real business interests behind our government’s foreign policy, beginning with the profits of Gildan and SNC-Lavalin. These corporations are indeed ‘a part of our lives’. It’s high time we made them, and their government allies, pay a political and financial price for the destruction they have wrought, from Iraq to Haiti and far beyond.

Today’s system of empire is much more than the demonic image of Dick Cheney and his Halliburton gang. As we head into a federal election campaign, and build towards the March 18 rallies across Canada, we would do well to remember that there are more than enough warmongers with addresses much closer to home.