Last week's hit-and-run killing of a Canadian soldier in a Quebec town by Martin Couture-Rouleau, and the shooting death of the War Memorial guard on Parliament Hill in Ottawa by Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, were the worst incidents of terrorism since 1989, when 14 women were shot at Montreal's Ãcole Polytechnique in Canada's worst mass shooting. Both attackers were recent converts to Islam. Both were among 90 people being tracked by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police on suspicion of planning to join jihadists in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere. Both recently had their passports confiscated, forcing them to turn their frustrations against local military targets.
Were Couture-Rouleau and Zehaf-Bibeau crazies? Perhaps. Both
showed signs of mental imbalance in recent months. Were their attacks
isolated incidents? Unfortunately, not. Only last month, the first
Canadian jihadist death occurred in Syria, a Somali Canadian Mohamud was
killed in Syria, fighting for the new 'caliphate', one of as many as 70
Canadian jihadists already there. And Zehaf-Bibeau's actions on
Parliament Hill apparently inspired New Yorker Zale Thompson to attack a
group of police officers with a hatchet the next day. Thompson was also
considered troubled, and a convert to Islam.
When one dares to say the obvious to people, that these deaths would not have occurred without the Conservative Party's loud pro-Israeli bias and aggressive war agenda targeting Muslim countries during the past eight years, one is attacked as un-Canadian, a sympathizer of terrorism.
El-Farouk Khaki, head of the secularist Muslim Canadian Congress, warned shortly after Harper came to power, "Canadians need to wake up and realize the recipe offered by George Bush and Tony Blair, and now being adopted by Stephen Harper, has only led to an increase in terrorism fueled by the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan."
Why is this so difficult to understand? People who empathize with those killed by Canadian bombs and bullets inevitably will consider attacking the military responsible for that violence. To give them their due, Couture-Rouleau and Zehaf-Bibeau were not targeting civilians. Even the latter's 20 scattered shots in the parliament building were directed against the politicians responsible for sending the soldiers to Iraq.
Canada's image as conciliator on the world stage disappeared almost overnight. Particularly embarrassing was the refusal of UN Security Council members to appoint Canada in 2010 to a temporary seat. Harper's pro-Israeli bias culminated in a parliamentary junket to Israel in January 2014 composed of 208 Canadians including Harper, 21 rabbis, a handful of evangelical Christians and Jewish Defense League Canada official Julius Suraski. (The FIB labeled the JDL "violent extremist" in 2000.) He has no shame, as confirmed in his loud support for the Israeli invasions of Gaza in 2009 and 2014.
There are lonely, sane voices in Canada. One is Liberal leader Justin Trudeau, who stated recently: "The 2003 Iraq war was waged on false pretences and flawed intelligence. It was a mission that destabilized the region, sowed further conflict, cost our allies $3 trillion, and cost thousands of people their lives. The world is still dealing with the consequences of that mistake." Before the attacks, he criticized Harper's latest foreign policy fiasco-in-the-making: "Once again [Harper] relied on rhetoric rather than facts and information. He has no plan, he has not justified his case for going to war in Iraq." Of course, Trudeau is vilified in the rightwing press.
The Canadian Pease Alliance went ahead with already planned demonstrations. In defiance of the attacks and inevitable surge of support "for our troops", major protests were coordinated across Canada October 25--26 in Halifax, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, London, Winnipeg, Edmonton, Vancouver: "No to US and Canadian Troops in Iraq and Bombing of Iraq and Syria!" No one questions the tragedy of the deaths of the two soldiers last week, but rather the tragedy of why they and hundreds of other Canadian troops have died so senselessly.
What would be a more sensible policy for the Canadian government in dealing with the seemingly unending cycle of violence?
Airstrikes against IS militants (and anyone else who happens to be in the vicinity) do nothing to address the root causes that gave birth to IS. Instead of flooding the region with arms (as at present), world leaders need to cut off funding sources and all arms supplies. Most important, Canada and the West must invest massively in humanitarian and development aid. The UN has registered over three million Syrian refugees in neighboring countries, and over nine million Syrians in need within the country.
The situation reminds us of earlier acts of political violence and their consequences. Malcolm X tried to "wake up" Americans after the assassination of President Kennedy when he called it a case of "chickens coming home to roost," a result of a "climate of hate" fostered by a violent US regularly overthrowing governments and assassinating progressive leaders.
a longer version of this appeared at Al-Ahram Weekly
(Article changed on November 2, 2014 at 09:42)