Ken Stone speaks at Anti-(Syrian) war event at Art Crawl in Hamilton Dec 11, 2015 –

Dec 11, 2015
Ken Stone

The Hamilton Coalition To Stop The War is pleased to have helped organize this event to say “YES to refugees! NO to Islamophobia!, and NO to war in Syria and Iraq!”

4 million refugees! 7 million internally-displaced Syrians. This is a humanitarian tragedy of epic proportions. Who caused it? Was it “a civil war?” I think not, brothers and sisters. When General Wesley Clark reported to the Pentagon just after 9/11, he was told to his amazement that the USA had a plan to invade 7 countries in the following five years, one of which was Syria. That was 2001, when George W. Bush’s began his “war on terror’ – which is really a permanent war _OF_ terror on the mainly Arab and Muslim people of the Middle East. Bush replaced cold war anti-communism with a new and equally venomous ideology: Islamophobia, the fear and hatred of Muslims. Thanks to Julian Assange and Wikileaks, we now know, from the cables sent back and forth from the US state department to its various embassies, that the machinery was set in motion by the US State Dept. to overthrow the Syrian government in 2006. During the so-called Arab Spring in early 2011, western countries expected the Syrian government of Bashar al Assad to fall in a matter of weeks and they assisted the so-called “rebels.” But the Assad govt stubbornly refused to collapse. So, in late 2011, the Harper government colluded with the US, UK, French, Saudi, Qatari, and other governments to organize, fund, and arm a covert war of aggression to overthrow the Assad government. Using your tax dollars, Harper helped to unleash mainly non-Syrian terrorist mercenaries to invade and occupy huge swaths of Syrian territory. At the time, Harper and the mainstream media called the mainly-foreign terrorists “moderate Syrian rebels”. Harper brought their leaders to Ottawa, he funded them, he gave them political cover. The Toronto Star published stories of brave young people going off to fight the evil monster Assad in Syria. CSIS and the RCMP turned a bind eye to these foreign fighters from Canada. Today, we know them as Al-Nusra, the official Al Qaeda franchise in Syria, which is now in competition in ruthlessness with its offshoot, ISIS. And what did they do? They murdered, looted, raped, pillaged, and destroyed their way into Syria, turning 4 million into refugees, and 7 million into displaced persons. Not a civil war at all, brothers and sisters, but rather a SHAMEFUL and ILLEGAL western war of aggression.

It is interesting to note that the 7 million displaced persons in Syria fled from terrorist-held areas to government-held areas, not the other way around. In the government-held areas, the displaced Syrians are fed, clothed, housed, and their children schooled. Why do I mention this fact? Because the image of a caring Syrian government flies in the face of the narrative that we in the West are spoon-fed every day by governments and mainstream media that the Syrian government is bad and its leader must be removed. However, we in the Hamilton Coalition to Stop the War insist that neither Harper, nor Trudeau, nor Obama, nor Hollande has the right to tell the people of Syria who is going to be their leader or constitute their government. Only the Syrian people in a free and fair election have the right to make that choice! I ask you, who gave the right to Bush and Blair to invade Iraq, to split it into three parts and hang its president? You are right! No one! Who gave NATO the authority to bomb Libya into a failed state and assassinate its leader? Again, no one! Who gave Stephen Harper permission to occupy and terrorize Kandahar province in Afghanistan for 8 long years, turning hundreds of Afghani prisoners over to local authorities for torture and death? Once again, no one!

In the West, governments and mainstream media are infected today by a neo-colonial arrogance that completely disregards international law. All of these western military interventions were completely illegal. They were crimes against international law. International law for the past 450 years was based on respect for national sovereignty: don’t meddle in the internal affairs of other countries. Don’t make war on other countries unless you are attacked. National sovereignty is the cornerstone of the UN Charter. But since the end of the Cold War, starting with the former Yugoslavia, NATO countries have illegally overthrown a number of sovereign governments, creating power vacuums that spawned the growth of terrorism. In each case, western military interventions created tens of millions of refugees. The total refugee & displaced population of the world today is the highest it has ever been in human history: 60 million people, of which 11 million are from or in Syria. This is a shameful situation!

So, now we have a new government in Canada and, today, the first of 25,000 Syrian refugees arrived in Toronto and Montreal. As Canadians, we have an obligation to oppose the Islamophobic backlash from certain quarters to the arrival of these immigrants and we have a duty to do our best to make the Syrian refugees feel welcome here. But, if you listen to the new Liberal government or the celebratory chorus of mainstream media, you would think that Canada had solved the Syrian crisis. The mass immigrant arrival is now being sold as the occasion for a major feel-good event for Canadians. Well, it is good that Canada accepted 25000 refugees. After all, the Harper government colluded to create the Syrian refugee crisis in the first place. But 25000 out of 4 million Syrian refugees and 7 million displaced Syrians is a drop in the bucket. We could feel good all day and all night but the war on Syria continues and new refugees are created every day.

The day after he took office, Justin Trudeau declared he would remove Canadian fighter-bombers from the US-led coalition in Syria and Iraq but would increase the Canadian trainer role on the ground. The US-led coalition has the permission of the Iraqi government to fight ISIS in Iraq. But, because it lacks the permission of the Syrian government, that coalition is in violation of international law. It also lacks the approval of the UN Security Council which is the only legal authority in the world to authorize military action in sovereign states. So that coalition is, in fact, committing war crimes. Has Justin Trudeau therefore quit the coalition? No! Have the Canadian fighter-bombers stopped flying missions? No, in fact, after the recent attacks in Paris, Trudeau announced that Canadian military aircraft such as refuelers and transports would continue to operate _INDEFINITELY_ as part of the US-led coalition! Has Trudeau given up on the plan for regime change in Syria? No! Has he left NATO? No! Has he deviated at all from the Harper government’s Syrian policy, which created 4 million Syrian refugees and 7 million displaced people? NO! but he plans to repatriate a few more refugees sooner than Harper did. I don’t know about you, but I don’t feel particularly good about that.

During his election campaign, Justin Trudeau declared that he would return Canada, from being an international pariah under Harper, to a world leader in international diplomacy. He participated, for example, at the Paris environmental summit. But, if Trudeau wants to be a world-class diplomatic leader, he has to play by the rules. He has to observe international law. That means he has only two choices in Syria. The first is to quit the US-led coalition and bring home all Canadian planes and troops from Syria and Iraq NOW! Are you with me on that, brothers and sisters? TROOPS OUT NOW!!! The second choice is to give up on the US regime-change plan for Syria, re-establish diplomatic relations with Syria, and, just as the Russians and Iranians have done, seek to work with the Syrian government against the terrorists.

In front of these Armouries, a staging area for Canadian military interventions abroad for over a century, the Hamilton Coalition To Stop The War says loudly and clearly to Trudeau: War is not the answer! Stop creating refugees in Syria! Take your lead from the UN peace process for Syria in Vienna, which is closing in on a ceasefire after nearly five long years of war in that country. Use Canada’s good offices for a diplomatic, rather than a military solution, for the humanitarian tragedy in Syria.

Thank you!

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