A collection of articles I have written for People’s Voice, the official newspaper of the Communist Party of Canada, or for independent websites and organizations. A one-year subscription to People’s Voice costs $30 (or $15 for low-income persons), or can be accessed online for free.
Articles I have written have been published or cited in People’s Voice; Rebel Youth, the official magazine of the Young Communist League of Canada; the New Worker, the official newspaper of the New Communist Party of Britain; the Guardian, the official newspaper of the Communist Party of Australia; the Centre for Research on Globalization, a non-profit based out of Montreal, Quebec; the Prometheus Institute, a non-profit based out of British Columbia; Dissident Voice, CounterPunch, Axis of Logic, and RINF Alternative News, all radical newsletters and magazines; Tesfa News, an Eritrean news website; Press TV, the Iranian state-owned international broadcaster; and in an economic and financial committee report of the International Model United Nations Association.
In the future I hope to publish a book about Western imperialism in the post-Cold War era titled, Profits vs. People: The Legacy of Western Military Interventions in the Global South.
Canada Post was founded in 1867 and has since become a vital service to all Canadians, delivering 40 million items to 14 million addresses everyday, and employing over 70,000 full and part‑time employees.
However, Canada Post is under threat from the Harper Government’s attack on public sector workers and unions, with the Conservatives continuing the push for privatization.
In the 1980s and the 1990s, 1500 public post offices were closed, the services offered being taken over by multinational corporations that do not serve the interests of Canadians, but private investors with anti‑worker policies. Now at least 16 closures in urban areas across Canada underway.
The privatization of Canada Post would negatively impact Canadians in many ways. Since private postal outlets are only interested in making a profit, they are less reliable and do not provide the same services that a public postal service does, and unlike public services, are not accountable to Canadians. Rural mail delivery would be especially threatened by privatization, since it is not profitable for private corporations to deliver to remote areas.
The workers at private postal outlets are often underpaid and overworked, as corporations exploit workers in an endless desire to force larger profits out from their workers. Workers are more likely to have less secure and part‑time employment, while many jobs will be eliminated entirely, exacerbating the rising income inequality in Canada.
Countries that have privatized their postal service have experienced significant repercussions, with the workers and the general public forced to endure the burden. More than 16,000 well‑paid jobs were eliminated in Sweden between 1993 and 2005, with only a meager 2,000 jobs created as a result of the privatization. Additionally, postage rates for small business and the public increased dramatically as a result of the privatization of the national postal service. In New Zealand, postal workers suffered a major wage reduction as a result of privatization.
According to polls by Ipsos Reid and The Canadian Federation of Independent Business, 69% and 52% of respondents do not want a privatized postal service in Canada. The two major concerns of the respondents were the environmental consequences of a private postal service and the risk to their privacy.
Canadians don’t want to see their post offices closed and replaced by private corporations. Canada needs a reliable public postal service that is accountable to the public. Stand up to the privatization of vital public services!
A consequence of the western imperialist powers’ intervention in Libya in 2011, under the guise of the Responsibility to Protect doctrine (R2P), which cost the lives of thousands of civilians, was the destabilization of the west African state of Mali.
The US and EU, especially France, the former colonial power, are seeking to militarily intervene in the ongoing conflict. On Dec. 20, the United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 2085, authorizing deployment of an African‑led International Support Mission (AFISMA) in northern Mali. The Harper government is hinting that Canada may take part in such an intervention.
The Republic of Mali, like much of Africa, has a long history of European colonialism and western-backed military coups, which have left the people in extreme poverty and despair.
Following the defeat of Gaddafi, thousands of his Tuareg fighters returned to northern Mali heavily armed and with a deep sense of frustration over their living conditions.
An estimated 1.2 million Tuareg people inhabit the Saharan interior of Africa, living as nomadic pastoralists in Mali, Algeria, Niger, Libya, and Burkina Faso. Since the European powers first colonized the region, causing wide‑scale displacement and suffering, the Tuareg have struggled for better living conditions and the right to self‑determination. They have continued this struggle against the Western‑backed leaders of their now independent nations.
In January 2012, with the experience and resources acquired in Libya, they began the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), an armed insurgency against the Malian government. (Azawad is the territory in northern Mali consisting of the federal regions of Gao, Kidal, Tombouctou, and Mopti.) With them was an influx of radical Islamists who cooperated with NATO to oust Gaddafi, many of them from Sudan, Yemen, Algeria, Egypt, and other Muslim nations.
On March 21, 2012, US‑trained Captain Amadou Sanogo, who maintains close ties with US intelligence, ousted President Amadou Toumani Touré. The circumstances leading to the coup d’etat included social discontent by the mass of peasants and students. Mali was experiencing a food crisis, a consequence of the sellout of arable land to foreign capitalists. After the coup, emergency law was enforced, with the constitution suspended and a curfew imposed on the people.
Soon after the interim government of Dioncounda Traoré was installed, the MNLA unilaterally declared their secession from Mali as the state of Azawad. Although its members are predominately Tuareg, MNLA leaders have said their movement represents all Saharan peoples, seeking independent, secular representation for those neglected by the federal government in Bamako.
Now the US and EU are using the “war on terror” ruse to justify a military intervention in support of the interim government. The official pretext is the seizure of Azawad by the Islamist organizations Al‑Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and Ansar Dine. The Islamists taking control of northern Mali from the MNLA ‑ an area the size of France ‑ can be directly linked back to the imperialist intervention in Libya. Under Gaddafi, Libya invested heavily in sub‑Saharan nations, which made him incredibly popular throughout the continent. He also mediated the conflict between the Tuaregs and the Malian government, and opposed radical Islamist groups such as AQIM. With Gaddafi gone, Islamists from the Middle East are converging to fight for their vision of Sharia law in all of Mali, not strictly Azawad.
Of course, the real aim of imperialism is to further exploit the extensive natural resources in Mali, including gold, uranium, cotton, and suspected oil reserves. France’s nuclear industry is especially dependent on uranium from West Africa, and the French ruling class wishes to recolonize its former colonies, having recently intervened in the Ivory Coast. The US, France, Germany, other European states, and China are all competing for these resources, in yet another “Scramble for Africa.”
Direct investment from China in particular has increased 300‑fold in Mali over the last decade. Along with South Africa, Zambia, and Egypt, Mali has some of China’s largest direct investments in Africa. The US seeks to reduce China’s influence in the region, to reestablish its hegemony, just as the intervention in Libya was in part to deny China access to North African oil.
Oblivious to the mass starvation and malnourishment that plagues Malian civilians, a foreign intervention would undoubtedly result in a new quagmire for the imperialists, similar to the situation in Afghanistan, and could further destabilize the region. The people of Mali have the right to determine their own socio‑political structure without foreign intervention.
The New Scramble for Africa (Page 12)
As the capitalist crisis continues throughout the world, the imperialist powers, with the enthusiastic support of Canada, are seeking to recolonize Africa, in what could accurately be described as the “New Scramble for Africa.” The former colonial rulers, France and Britain, along with the U.S. are at the forefront of this aggression.
The latest intervention in Mali, and before that in Libya, are the more recent expressions of this new scramble. All across Africa the imperialist powers are intervening in an effort to secure geostrategic areas and precious resources, similar to the interventions in the Middle East, but with far less coverage in the media.
U.S. imperialism is expanding its African Command (AFRICOM) to include more than 35 countries, with 3000 troops permanently stationed on the continent. Currently the U.S. is undertaking military operations in countries as diverse as Nigeria, the Central African Republic, Mali, Botswana, Morocco, Somalia, Senegal, Niger, Burkina Faso, Liberia, and Uganda.
The “war on terror” ruse is being used to justify increased American military involvement in Africa, but as with elsewhere in the world, it is easy to see through this thin veil. The recent outbreak of violence in Mali, for example, can be directly linked back to the Western intervention in Libya, wherein these same Islamic extremists were armed by the West, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar to overthrow the Gaddafi government. Furthermore, the U.S. and other imperialist states as well as the Gulf states are arming the same Islamic extremists in Syria in an effort to overthrow the al‑Assad government, which would provide Israel and the U.S. a launching pad for a future attack against Iran.
Western imperialism manufactures “terrorist” threats through its destructive interventions in foreign countries, and then later uses the threat of terrorism as justification for further interventions, creating a permanent state of war.
The U.S. depends on Africa for more than a quarter of the oil and raw materials it requires. But China has now surpassed the U.S. as Africa’s largest trading partner, and the U.S. ruling class, unable to compete with China economically, is resorting to militarism to secure these precious resources.
The former colonial rulers, France and Britain, but also other European states, are actively engaged throughout the continent to control their share of the wealth.
France is continuing its intervention in Mali and the Central African Republic, both impoverished nations with immense natural wealth, in an effort to “defend” the countries from rebel advances. In other words, France requires compliant regimes in power to be able to exploit the resources of these countries. Much of Mali’s arable land and social infrastructure have been eliminated to make way for French capital. In 2011, France intervened for “humanitarian” reasons in Libya and the Ivory Coast, and French forces are stationed across the continent in Gabon, Niger, Senegal, Chad, and Djibouti.
West Africa is crucial to the French ruling class because of its dependence on the resources of the region. The vast majority of the uranium needed for France’s nuclear industry comes from West Africa, especially Niger. French special forces have been deployed in Niger specifically to defend the uranium mines from a possible spill over of the conflict in Mali. The ports in the Ivory Coast have global economic implications, and in 2011, during the civil war, 2% of the world’s global cocoa output sat in the harbour of Abidjan. The Central African Republic has extensive natural resources, especially oil and mineral deposits of diamonds, gold, copper, etc., and oil has been discovered in Chad.
Britain has increased its military forces in Africa in the last few years and has sent troops to assist in the French intervention in Mali. Of interest to British imperialism are countries with extensive oil and gas reserves, especially Nigeria and Algeria. Algeria now supplies 5% of Britain’s natural gas, and BP has a stake at the Amenas facility in southern Algeria. Additionally, Britain is interested in building a pipeline from Nigeria to Europe, to exploit the country’s oil and natural gas reserves more thoroughly.
The German ruling class is also seeking to exploit Africa’s wealth in an imperialist rivalry with the U.S., France, and China.
Although Germany was not involved in the intervention in Libya, the German ruling class has been supportive of France’s intervention in Mali, and German forces are active in the Horn of Africa. German energy and agricultural companies are investing heavily in the Ivory Coast and elsewhere in West Africa in competition with French and Chinese capital. A century after the genocide of the indigenous people of German South West Africa, Germany is once again a colonial power in the scramble for Africa.
Canada has been an enthusiastic supporter of these interventions. Canada shamefully assisted the U.S. and NATO intervention in Libya, and is now assisting the French intervention in Mali. Knowing Canadians would not support Canada’s involvement in Mali, the Harper Government has attempted to describe our role as limited, but the mission has been extended repeatedly, and a Canadian special forces general has been quoted saying this will be an “ongoing” mission for Canada.
In addition to direct involvement in Mali, Canadian forces are now in Niger and Mauritania, allegedly for “training” purposes and for military exercises with U.S. and European troops. Canadian military bases are being built in Kenya, Tanzania, and elsewhere on the continent.
Canada is a major economic player in Africa, and a dozen Canadian mining companies have more than half a billion dollars of assets in Mali alone. Neither the NDP nor the Liberals have opposed the Conservatives’ intervention in Mali, rather they have criticized the Harper Government for not acting fast enough!
Working people should not believe the propaganda campaign of the ruling elite. The “terrorist” threat is manufactured by the ruling class to justify its imperialist agenda, while in the last decade the imperialist powers have made use of these same “Islamic terrorists” when seeking to overthrow anti‑imperialist governments. Imperialist interventions abroad benefit no one but the ruling class, and Canada needs an independent foreign policy of peace and disarmament.
The Threat of Agribusiness (Page 5)
The capitalist system is based on the exploitation of workers and the environment in an effort to maximize profit, and therefore privatization and the corporate control of essential services is a recipe for disaster. Corporate control of food and agriculture is a particularly serious threat to both working people and the environment. Democratic rights, despite their limitations, are increasingly being eroded to make way for unlimited corporate control of our food system.
In 2012 we witnessed the largest tainted meat recall in Canadian history from an outbreak of E. coli at an XL Foods Lakeside meat processing plant in Alberta. Almost 2,000 items were removed from store shelves in Canada and the United States, and over 600 tons of meat were dumped at a landfill in Alberta. The scandal rocked the Harper Government, but Federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz, who presided over the 2008 listeriosis outbreak at a Toronto Maple Leaf Foods packing plant that killed 23 people, refused to acknowledge any responsibility.
The 2012 outbreak raised questions about food safety regulations in Canada, which have been being systematically dismantled for decades under both Liberal and Conservative governments. The Harper Government drastically cut back food safety regulations and muzzled critics, but the outbreak is only the latest expression of problems when corporations control our food system.
From genetically modified organisms (GMO), unsanitary and unregulated food production, terminator seeds, slave labour, to toxic chemicals in our food, working people and the environment are under attack by major agricultural corporations that have no interest other than to make a profit. Agribusiness does everything it can to lobby governments and to keep its farming practices secret from consumers.
Eric Schlosser, co‑producer of the documentary Food Inc., has said, “The way we eat has changed more in the last 50 years than in the previous 10,000… Now our food is coming from enormous assembly lines where the animals and the workers are being abused, and the food has become much more dangerous in ways that are deliberately hidden from us. This isn’t just about what we’re eating. It’s about what we’re allowed to say. What we’re allowed to know.”
According to the American Academy of Environmental Medicine, the consumption of GMOs is linked to adverse health issues, and a test done on rats shows severe organ damage from the consumption of GMOs.
Of course none of this matters to major corporations. A Monsanto official told the New York Times that it’s not the responsibility of the company to ensure the food is safe, their only interest is selling as much of it as possible. But how do consumers know if their food contains GMOs?
An attempt in California to require retailers and food companies to label products that contain genetically modified ingredients was defeated, thanks to the tens of millions of dollars that major corporations like Monsanto and Hershey contributed to the campaign against the legislation.
Studies have also shown that the use of GMOs has a number of serious environmental consequences, from soil fertility to the decrease in the number of certain plants and animals.
The majority of GMOs are designed to be able to tolerate an excessive use of toxic chemicals, such as pesticides and herbicides. Some scientists predict that the use of herbicides will triple as a result of GM agricultural products, leading to an increase in soil toxicity. Do we want more chemicals on our food?
GMOs have been linked with the decrease in some beneficial insects that are critical to the environment, especially important pollinators like Monarch butterflies and honeybees. During Monsanto’s trial of GM cotton, 40% of the bees died, and GM canola flowers are known to be harmful to important pollinators. Technology companies are now building robotic honeybees as a possible future replacement for real ones. Lacewings, springtails, and ladybird beetles are among other insects that GMOs are known to harm.
Although corporations want us to believe their claims about GMOs, David Ehrenfield, Professor of Biology at Rutgers University, is not convinced: “Genetic Engineering is often justified as a human technology, one that feeds more people with better food. Nothing could be further from the truth. With very few exceptions, the whole point of genetic engineering is to increase sales of chemicals and bio‑engineered products to dependent farmers.”
As more crimes committed by these corporations come to the public’s attention, they are lobbying right‑wing governments to enact legislation to make it illegal to expose or film corporate agricultural practices.
In several U.S. states, this aggressive legislation, supported by anti‑worker and anti‑democratic companies like Koch Industries and ExxonMobil in addition to agricultural corporations, will prohibit anyone from filming or exposing illegal farming practices, other than law enforcement and food and safety regulators. No doubt the push to criminalize exposure of brutal and inhumane corporate farming practices is a result of the high costs associated with massive food recalls, and the unwillingness of corporations to follow current food and safety regulations.
Earlier exposés by animal rights and environmental activists have shown sick animals being shocked or beaten before being shot, farm animals with infected wounds, and animals living in their own waste.
The American Legislative Exchange Council, an ultra‑right‑wing organization, called these activists “terrorists”. A Republican Senator claimed that because law enforcement agencies exist, this legislation is necessary to maintain corporate privacy. However, the senator didn’t say that as regulations are dismantled and austerity forces cutbacks in safety regulators, official agencies are less able to deal with illegal corporate practices.
The real terrorists are companies such as Monsanto, which recently purchased Blackwater (Xe Services), the infamous mercenary army that committed extensive human rights abuses in Iraq and Afghanistan, to target anti‑GMO activists.
Corporations should never be trusted with any vital service, whether healthcare, water, or food. Working people and farmers need to fight the corporate takeover of our food system, and create our own reliable, healthy, and safe food for consumption.
The crisis of imperialism in the Central African Republic (C.A.R.) continues to intensify, with devastating consequences for the people and minimal coverage in the corporate media of the West.
The C.A.R., as its name suggests, is located in Central Africa, and shares borders with Chad, Sudan, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Republic of the Congo, and Cameroon.
During the European colonization of Africa, France, Belgium, Germany, and the United Kingdom competed to establish their claims to territory in Central Africa, with France claiming what is now Cameroon, Gabon, the C.A.R., and Chad, known as French Equatorial Africa. The French ruling class exploited the land and the people in much the same manner as King Leopold II did in the Congo Free State: forced labour, torture, mass killing, whatever was necessary to make a profit for French companies. Much of the territory was consequently depopulated.
The C.A.R. declared independence in 1960, and since independence the country has experienced repeated military coups and instability.
In 2003 a coup led by François Bozizé, with the support of France, overthrew the government of Ange-Félix Patassé. In response to the coup, rebels in northeastern C.A.R. formed the Union of Democratic Forces for Unity (UFDR), led by Michel Djotodia, starting the Central African Bush War (2004-2007).
The French ruling class continued to support Bozizé until his policies tilted towards China, which has been investing heavily throughout the continent. To counter China’s economic dominance in Africa, Western imperialism as resorted to military interventions and troop deployment across the continent. French imperialism alone has intervened in Libya, Mali, the Ivory Coast, and the C.A.R., with additional increases of French troops in Gabon, Niger, Djibouti, and elsewhere. The French ruling class relies heavily on the resources of Africa, including oil in Chad and Libya, uranium in Niger, the extensive mineral deposits in the C.A.R., and the fertile agricultural lands of West Africa.
Under these conditions the French ruling class began to support a coalition of mostly Muslim insurgents from the northeast known as Seleka. Many of the insurgents in Seleka were active in resisting the Bozizé regime in the Central African Bush War, and the leader of Seleka is Michel Djotodia, the former rebel leader of the UFDR.
The Seleka overthrew the Bozizé regime in March 2013, with Djotodia declaring himself president, but the French ruling class’s decision to support the Seleka coalition has led to a disaster for the people of the C.A.R. But there has been an explosion in sectarian violence between Seleka gunmen, many of them coming from Chad and the Sudan, and the predominately Christian population of the C.A.R., with massacres on both sides.
Saying that the country is “on the verge of genocide,” France backs the Seleka transitional government and direct military intervention is needed for humanitarian reasons. Using the U.N. to legitimize its military intervention, more French soldiers are likely to be deployed in the country in the immediate future, with an additional increase in African troops from neighboring countries.
The humanitarian nature of the intervention is nothing more than a public relations act, and the real aims of French imperialism are to secure its geo-strategic interests and counter Chinese influence. Given France’s history of supporting dictators, warlords, and even genocide on the continent, the quick response to intervene for humanitarian reasons on the continent is dubious, and all working and peace loving people should reject Western intervention in the C.A.R.
U.S. Military Option Worst Response to Nigeria Crisis (Page 11) Also published in The New Worker magazine by the New Communist party of Britain and it was cited in The Guardian by the Communist Party of Australia.
The “War on Terror” has provided Western imperialism with too many benefits for it to end in the near future, and to continue to feed the terrorism industry to justify interventions abroad, the corporate media will exploit what are no doubt tragic events to further Western imperialism’s militaristic ambitions around the world. The April 14 abduction of girls by Boko Haram from a secondary school in Nigeria’s Borno state ‑ a criminal mass violation of the rights of women and girls ‑ is an example of this.
The abduction has received international condemnation, with top U.S. officials such as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry pledging to do “everything possible” to support the Nigerian state and President Barak Obama saying he hopes the international community will take action against Boko Haram.
The corporate media and Western officials are depicting the conflict in Nigeria has as a Good vs. Bad’ scenario, of allegedly al‑Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM)‑associated Muslim fundamentalists (don’t all conflicts now involve “al‑Qaeda‑associated” insurgents?) terrorizing a population to enforce its extreme interpretation of Sharia. However the truth about the conflicts in Nigeria and Western imperialism’s role in creating the conditions for these conflicts is much more complicated than that.
Boko Haram started as a non‑violent indigenous resistance movement to the forced imposition of Christianity and Western‑education from the south, which many Muslims of northern Nigeria view with suspicion, remnants of the era of British colonialism in the lower Niger River region. The desire for the imposition of Sharia law in Nigeria (Sharia law already exists in northern Nigeria) is not only a cultural sentiment; it reflects the desire for a more just system. Western corporations have looted Nigeria’s natural resources, including the second largest oil reserves in Africa after Libya, while many Nigerians still live off less than $2 a day.
The ruthless response towards suspected members of Boko Haram by the Nigerian security forces, with the support of Western imperialism, created the conditions for a violent response. Under President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua alone more than 700 people were killed, some being publicly executed. It is worth noting that the use of kidnapping as a warfare tactic by Boko Harm did not start until Nigerian security forces started taking as prisoner the wives and children of suspected Boko Harm members.
Now Western imperialism will use this latest tragedy to continue its exploitation of Africa’s resources. The statements made by U.S. and other Western officials should be viewed with suspicion; the same state that John Kerry will do “everything possible” to support in its conflict with Boko Haram is the same state that tortured and outright shot those protesting oil giant Shell’s exploitation of the Niger River Delta. Where was the international community’s outrage then?
In fact, Western oil corporations steal more than $140 billion of oil wealth from Nigeria annually, but most of Nigeria’s 100 million people live on less than $2 a day and few have access to basic medical care and education. Yet Nigeria has the largest and best equipped military in West Africa, and we are told is a model of “economic development” and “democracy” in Africa, that is despite being ruled by Western‑backed military dictatorships for much of its independence.
As tragic as this latest episode is the solution does not lie with a U.S. military response. What is needed is a democratic, non‑violent settlement between the various parties in Nigeria to bring peace and economic justice to the country. The international community should support such an initiative, not more military responses.
The Human Cost of the FIFA World Cup (Page 5) Also published in Rebel Youth, the Centre for Research on Globalization, and was cited in an International Model United Nations Association economic and financial committee report.
As the world watches the 2014 FIFA World Cup, people are protesting the cost and the human rights violations being committed by police and security forces to protect this corporate investment.
Working people in Brazil are understandably frustrated with the public cost of the World Cup, an estimated $14 billion. When compared to spending on social services, the cost of the World Cup is the equivalent of 61% of funding for education, or 30% of the funding for healthcare. Private companies, including those in the services and construction industries, will be the main beneficiaries of this public money. Adding to this cost is the forced evictions of the poor living in the favelas (slums) and the dispossession of indigenous people from their lands to build stadiums and parking lots.
Over one million people in Brazil have protested the cost of the World Cup, the cutbacks and increased costs of social services, forced evictions, and other human rights violations.
The state security services have cracked down viciously on all anti‑FIFA demonstrations across the country. At least a dozen or more people have been killed and hundreds have been arrested. On the first day of the World Cup, 47 people were arrested, and police shot rubber bullets at medics helping the wounded. The state security services have been accused of killing of the poor and homeless, including children, to “clean up” the favelas prior to the start of the World Cup. To justify this violent response, the federal government has pushed to pass legislation that would criminalize all anti‑FIFA protests as “terrorism”, with 12 to 30 year prison sentences for those convicted.
The state has deployed more than 200,000 troops, armed with such weapons as Israeli drones, German anti‑aircraft tanks, and rooftop missile defense systems, to protect the World Cup from protestors. The infamous American mercenary company, Blackwater, known for its role in the U.S. occupation of Iraq, is allegedly in Brazil helping with security for the World Cup.
The financial and social cost of events like the World Cup and the Olympics to working people are enormous.
During the London 2012 Olympics, 10,000 police officers and 13,000 troops, more than all British forces in Afghanistan, along with ships in the Thames, fighter jets, and surface‑to‑air missile defense systems, were deployed to protect the $11 billion event. At a time when 2 million are unemployed, 27% of children live in poverty, and austerity budgets are being forced on working people, $11 billion came at a significant cost to working people.
The Sochi Winter Olympics cost a staggering $51 billion, even though 18 million Russians live in poverty and migrant workers were paid less than $2/hour to build the necessary infrastructure.
In 2022 Qatar will host the FIFA World Cup, and already hundreds of migrant workers have died working on the World Cup infrastructure. Over 400 Nepalese and 700 Indian workers have been have are already among the casualties. The conditions migrant workers are forced to work in have been compared to slavery. Robert Booth for the Guardian explains: “Workers described forced labour in 50C (122F) heat, employers who retain salaries for several months and passports making it impossible for them to leave and being denied free drinking water. The investigation found sickness is endemic among workers living in overcrowded and insanitary conditions and hunger has been reported. Thirty Nepalese construction workers took refuge in the their country’s embassy and subsequently left the country, after they claimed they received no pay.” The International Trade Union Confederation estimates that 12 workers will die each week and around 4,000 will have died before the event starts.
The social and financial cost of these international corporate events should be fought by working people around the world at a time where millions are being forced into unemployment and are denied their basic needs, democracy is being eroded, the environment is being destroyed, and the threat of war is increasing.
The use of drones, or unmanned ariel vehicles (UAVs), to murder men, women, and children around the world, including American citizens, continues to be a secretive and highly controversial issue in the U.S. Despite the abundance of articles denouncing the immorality and illegality of the use of drones under international law, few have examined the profit motivations behind the continuous use of drones, under the pretext of the ‘War on Terror’, around the world by U.S. imperialism.
The manufacture and maintenance of UAVs as well as the systems used in UAV warfare are highly profitable to private corporations and are much less risky for their political representatives than conventional warfare, which has frequently been used to transfer public money into the private hands of the ruling class. UAVs offer the advantage to corporations of continuing to profit from a permanent war economy during capitalist crises and to corporate political representatives by eliminating the media backlash caused by soldiers killed in action.
Modern UAV warfare was pioneered by Israel in its 1982 invasion of Lebanon, where it used UAVs to monitor troop movements and more recently to intimidate and control Palestinians in Gaza, and Israel continues to have a controlling share in the UAV market around the world, responsible for 41% of the UAVs exported worldwide between 2001 and 2011. 
However UAVs have expanded far beyond Israel, with many Western weapons manufacturers taking a slice of the market for themselves. The largest corporations that manufacture UAVs or UAV technology, both Western and non-Western, are Boeing, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc., Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, AeroVironment Inc., Prox Dynamics AS, Denel Dynamics, SAIC, Israel Aerospace Industries, and Textron Inc. 
To fully understand how much money is being funneled into UAV warfare it is necessary to understand the costs of UAVs. The infamous ‘Predator Drone’ that President Obama loves so much he makes provocative jokes about is manufactured by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. for the United States Air Force for $4.5 million each. Predator UAVs have been used in combat in the Balkans, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Pakistan, Yemen, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. The missile often attached to Predator UAVs, the Hellfire missile, manufactured by Lockheen Martin, costs on average around $110, 000 each. If we use statistics collected by various non-profit organizations, the almost 400 UAV strikes in Pakistan alone have cost $33 million to $44 million and killed between 2, 000 and 3, 000 people. The cost of flying time for both the Predator UAVs and the Predator’s successor, the Reaper, a $12 million UAV, is $2, 500 to $3, 500 per flight hour. General Atomics had a revenue of almost $700 million in 2012. On average, the U.S. spends $4.8 billion on UAVs and UAV technology, and it is expected to spend $23.9 billion in the next five years.  
The market for UAVs in the U.S. is not strictly for the military; internal U.S. departments such as the Department for Homeland Security and police services are increasingly using UAVs. Homeland Security has spent more than $200 million on UAVs to patrol the U.S.-Mexican border to prevent undocumented immigrants from entering the U.S. and to fight the ‘War on Drugs.’ 
Outside of the U.S. the UAV market is still highly profitable for corporations. The U.K. military spent $30 million on UAVs from the Norwegian manufacturer Prox Dynamics AS; Northrop Grumman, an American corporation, sold $1.2 billion in UAVs to South Korea; and General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. sold $197 million worth of UAVs to the United Arab Emirates.
In fact UAVs have become so profitable that some corporations, such as Textron Inc., have started to develop unmanned underwater vehicles to be used by navies.
War is a highly profitable investment for corporations, especially in times of capitalist economic crises, therefore any examination of the illegality and immorality of imperialist military activities should start with an examination of the capitalist system itself.
There exists in the Horn of Africa a small nation that few living in the West have heard of. A former Italian colony, Eritrea is only reported on in the mainstream media when the U.S. imposes further sanctions on this small country of six million, or when Hollywood makes a movie about a dictator in a fictitious country that shares its exact borders. But for those journalists living in Eritrea, the country is the “Cuba of Africa.”
During the “scramble for Africa”, Italy colonized the port of Asseb in modern day Eritrea in 1869, to compete with French and British control of the Red Sea shipping lanes. Britain administered the colony of Eritrea and Italian Somaliland following the defeat of Italy and the Axis powers in World War 2, and a United Nations resolution, backed by the U.S., made Eritrea an autonomous territory of Ethiopia in 1951. When Haile Selassie I, the feudal emperor of Ethiopia, unilaterally revoked Eritrea’s autonomous status, separatists led by the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front (EPLF) fought a 30 year war of independence.
When Eritrea achieved formal independence in 1993, its infrastructure had been devastated. A third of the population was in exile, agricultural and industrial production was in a state of collapse, and the ruling EPLF had to begin rebuilding the country in a state of ruin. The National Democratic Program outlined socialist development in four pillars: food security, water, health, and education.
Agrarian reforms radically transformed food security. Peasants were allocated small plots of land and provided with more modern tractors to work their farms. But the construction of a micro‑dam irrigation system had the greatest impact on food security. These micro‑dams broke the age-old dependence on the rains in this arid region of Africa. In 2011, the United Nations Famine Early Warning System predicted millions would starve in capitalist Ethiopia, despite being the birthplace of the Nile River and the Zenawi regime exporting 10,000 tons of rice to Saudi Arabia that year. But the people of Eritrea were able to survive the worst of the drought.
Access to clean drinking water has improved dramatically. In 1990, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), only 43% of Eritreans had access to safe drinking water; by 2013 that number had risen to 85%, compared to 48% in Ethiopia. The government has supported a variety of methods to provide safe drinking water, including harvesting rainwater through roof collection and solar-powered pumps to extract ground water reserves.
Eritrea’s “existing national health policy aims to ensure equity and access by majority population to essential health services at affordable cost, consistent with the Universal Health Coverage principles,” the WHO reported. Eritrea is one of only three countries in Africa on target to reach the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals. Eight major vaccine-preventable diseases have been eliminated, life expectancy is 66 years, the country is moving towards eliminating malaria, and HIV/AIDS infections in the general population is less than 1%. By comparison, HIV/AIDS in Washington, D.C. is around 3%, and Eritrea’s life expectancy is equivalent to the state of Mississippi, in the richest country in the world. In Ethiopia, hailed as the “African lion” by pundits for its creation of millionaires, the WHO reports: “The main health concerns in Ethiopia include maternal mortality, malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS compounded by acute malnutrition and lack of access to clean water and sanitation. The limited number of health institutions, inefficient distribution of medical supplies and disparity between rural and urban areas, due to severe under‑funding of the health sector, make access to healthcare services very difficult.”
Adult literacy in Eritrea is 80%. Education is provided free to all students, including university and college, and the government spends 45% of its budget on education.
When it became clear that Eritrea would not adhere to Western neoliberalism, imperialism launched a campaign of demonization and economic sabotage, calling it a “rogue” state, a “dictatorship”, and an “international sponsor of terrorism.” Ethiopia invaded Eritrea in 1998 with the support of U.S. imperialism. Hundreds of thousands of troops were deadlocked in trenches along an 800 kilometer front, the largest and deadliest conventional war since the Iran‑Iraq War.
Allegedly the war was the consequence of Eritrean territorial expansion into Ethiopia, but this can easily be disproven. Ethiopia unilaterally superimposed its Tigray administrative zone into Eritrea. This change can be seen in maps created by the Ethiopian regime in 1997, compared to those by international organizations. The change was even visible on Ethiopian currency issued in 1997 showing an enlarged map of Ethiopia. A peace agreement was signed in Algeria in December 2000, establishing the Eritrean‑Ethiopian Border Commission (EECB), a UN body tasked with identifying a “final and binding” border between the two countries. In 2002, the EECB released its findings, awarding the controversial village of Badme to Eritrea, infuriating Ethiopia’s leaders, who have rejected the ruling. To this date Ethiopia continues to militarily occupy Eritrean territories with U.S. support.
But the war wasn’t about a border dispute. In a secret cable published by Wikileaks, Meles Zenawi, the former prime minister, tells Susan Rice, the former US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs: “The outbreak of hostilities … was never about the border dispute in Badme and Zelambessa… It was about economic and political differences”. Smaller “border conflicts” also occurred between Eritrea and U.S.‑backed Yemen and Djibouti.
Now the U.S. has imposed crippling sanctions on Eritrea for its alleged support for al‑Shabaab in Somalia. Wikileaks also disproved this claim in its “Ethiopia Files”. In a secret cable, former U.S. ambassador to Ethiopia Donald Yamamoto said, “The role Eritrea plays in Somalia… is probably insignificant.” The United Nations monitoring group in Somalia admitted it “has found no evidence to substantiate allegations that Eritrea supplied Al‑Shabaab with arms and ammunition by air in October and November 2011,” even though this was used to justify Resolution 2023, imposing sanctions on Eritrea’s mining development.
Canadians should be aware of Western imperialism’s violent policies, and support the right of all people, whether in Eritrea, Cuba, Venezuela or Korea, to self-determination.
Partners in Apartheid: Boycott Indigo Books and Music (Page 10) Also published in CounterPunch and Axis of Logic.
Branches of Indigo Books and Music and its subsidiaries Chapters, Coles, SmithBooks, and IndigoSpirit are familiar coast to coast, thanks to the company’s monopoly control of retail bookstore sales in Canada. But behind the inviting facade lies a terrible reality – the murder of Palestinians.
Heather Reisman, the founder and CEO of Indigo Books and Music, and her husband, Gerry Schwartz, the co-founder of Onex Corporation, are among the most pro-Zionist capitalists in Canada. With a combined net worth between $1.5 billion and $2.5 billion, they donate millions of dollars to support Israel’s occupation of Palestine, through the Heseg Foundation, which they founded to provide scholarships and other support to foreign-born soldiers who serve in the Israeli military.
The Heseg organization handed out over $100,000 worth of rewards to Israeli soldiers who participated in the 2008-2009 assault on Gaza. The assault, which aimed to weaken the democratically-elected Hamas into submission, killed 200 Palestinians in a single day, and more than 1,400 (including 400 children) in total.
Reisman and Schwartz are close to several powerful Israeli military leaders and war criminals. On the Heseg board are army and air force chiefs of staff, the head of Israeli intelligence (Mossad), and Major General Doron Almog, who has been accused of war crimes for his role in bombing civilians in Gaza during 2000-2003.
Israel’s genocidal war on the people of Lebanon in 2006 killed thousands of civilians and destroyed much of the country’s infrastructure. At that time, Reisman and Schwartz, in a highly publicized spectacle, switched from backing the Liberals to the Harper neo-conservatives, who gave strong support for Israel.
Kate Gilmore, speaking for Amnesty International, dismissed claims that Israel tried to avoid civilian casualties: “Many of the violations identified in our report are war crimes, including indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks. The evidence strongly suggests that the extensive destruction of power and water plants, as well as the transport infrastructure vital for food and other humanitarian relief, was deliberate and an integral part of a military strategy,” she told the press.
The level of destruction in Lebanon invalidates Israeli claims of ‘collateral damage’ and indicates that the war was about much more than ‘self-defense’. The Lebanese government estimated that 30, 000 houses, 900 businesses, 120 bridges, 94 roads, and 31 other vital points were destroyed in the 7, 000 Israeli airstrikes and 2, 000 naval shells launched against targets in Lebanon. The firing of over a million cluster bombs left large swathes of southern Lebanon uninhabitable, and the extensive use of cluster bombs near the end of the war “looked suspiciously as if Israel had taken the brief opportunity before the war’s end to make south Lebanon – the heartland of both the country’s Shi’ite population and its militia, Hezbollah – uninhabitable, and to prevent the return of hundreds of thousands of Shi’ites who had fled Israel’s earlier bombing campaigns.” (See Jonathan Cook, http://www.antiwar.com/cook/?articleid=11459)
The use of white phosphorus shells, a chemical weapon that causes skin to melt away from the bone and can break down, was a clear war crime committed by Israel. In total, an estimated 700,000 Lebanese were displaced and around 1,100 killed by Israeli forces in the 34 day military campaign.
All peace loving people should support the Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid’s boycott of Indigo Books and Music.
The tragic shooting in Paris of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, which published caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed in 2011, that left 12 people dead is a direct consequence of Western imperialism’s interventions in the Middle East.
The U.S. and its Western imperialist allies have continuously violated the national sovereignty and the right to self-determination of every country in the Middle East and North Africa in the last 50 years. Attacks such as the shooting in Paris, the September 11th attacks on New York (if we are to believe the dubious official story of the U.S. government), the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania, the attempted attack on the Eiffel Tower by Algerian hijackers in 1994, the London bombings of 2005, the Sydney Hostage Crisis, all are an inevitable consequence of the Western imperialism’s policies towards the people of the Greater Middle East and North Africa. From the ethnic cleansing of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians, the overthrow of Iran’s democratic leadership in 1953, to more recently supporting some of the world’s most reactionary and undemocratic monarchies and funding Islamic paramilitaries in Syria and Libya, the people of the Greater Middle East and North Africa have had their human and political rights subordinated to the interests of Western imperialism for decades.
According to various mainstream news sources the attack on the Paris magazine was carried out by men that had returned from Syria, hence their military training, where the U.S., Israel, Turkey, and the Persian Gulf states have been actively supporting reactionary Islamic paramilitaries to overthrow the Syrian government. The U.S. and its allies earlier supported similar violent elements in Libya that murdered the Libyan leader Muammar al-Gaddafi, and in the 1970s and 1980s the U.S. and its allies, namely Saudi Arabia, the Persian Gulf States, and Pakistan, supported and trained violent Islamic paramilitaries to overthrow the socialist government in Afghanistan. These mujahideen that former U.S. President Ronald Reagan referred to a “freedom fighters” would later form the nucleus of al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and the Haqqani network that the U.S. and NATO have been at war with for over a decade now.
The tragic shooting in Paris will undoubtedly be used as a pretext for further restrictions of civil liberties and more violent imperialist interventions abroad. In Canada, an anti-terrorism bill that provides for greater surveillance of Canadians, lowers the threshold for preventative arrests, and allows for the Canadian security apparatus to conduct foreign espionage activities was immediately sent to Parliament following the shooting in Ottawa and the murder of a police officer in Quebec. But as we have seen in the U.S., where FBI counterterrorism operations have specifically targeted environmental, labour, and peace activists, such laws do not serve to protect the citizens of the West, rather they serve to suppress opposition to the capitalist system. It is quite ironic that civil liberties are being suppressed in order to protect ourselves from those that allegedly hate us for our freedoms.
The shooting will also serve as justification to continue the “war on terror” abroad. If readers recall, the September 11th attacks were used as a pretext for the illegal occupation of Iraq, a country that had nothing to do with the attacks on New York and in fact opposed radical Islamists. The recent attacks in Canada and Australia have been used to rationalize both Canadian and Australian participation in the bombing of Iraq and the war on the Islamic State, the latest international boogyman. Already France has been embroiled in the conflict in Mali since 2013 in the name of the “war on terror”, in this case to defeat al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, which Western imperialism supported in its war against Gaddafi in Libya, and the shooting will inevitably be used as justification for more violent foreign interventions abroad under the “war on terror” banner.
As tragic as it is the shooting in Paris is a direct reaction to Western imperialism’s destructive interventions abroad, and working people, instead of supporting the continued erosion of their civil liberties and even more violent military foreign interventions, should support the self-determination of all people and an end to imperialist interventions.
After 13 years, the U.S. and NATO are announcing the end to combat missions in Afghanistan and the withdrawal of troops. But despite the symbolic flag‑lowering ceremony, the U.S.‑led war is in fact not ending, and the brutal war is set to continue through 2015. NATO is set to “transition” to a non‑combat, “Resolute Support” mission to assist the Afghan National Army in its operations, with 4,000 NATO troops to remain in Afghanistan into 2015.
President Obama has authorized 10,800 U.S. troops to remain in Afghanistan in 2015 (an increase of 1,000 from his May 2014 pledge to reduce troop levels), to resume combat operations against Afghan militants (including night raids by Special Operation soldiers, previously banned by former Afghan President Hamid Karzai), and aerial strikes. A senior American military officer was quoted saying that “the Air Force expects to use F‑16 fighters, B‑1B bombers and Predator and Reaper drones to go after the Taliban in 2015.”
The continuation of combat operations comes after the signing of the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) between the U.S. and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, a former U.S. citizen and World Bank employee. The highly controversial agreement allows for thousands of U.S. troops to remain for another decade and grants all U.S. service personnel immunity from prosecution under Afghan laws. Several massacres and unlawful acts were committed by U.S. troops in Afghanistan, including the murder of 16 civilians in Kandahar and footage of U.S. soldiers urinating on the dead bodies of Afghans and posing for photographs with dead civilians.
Imperialism has a long history of occupations and interference in Afghanistan. In the 1980s, the U.S. and its allies, through Pakistan, funded radical Islamic counterrevolutionaries, including bin Laden and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, fighting to topple the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA), then implementing widespread social reforms that benefited millions of Afghans. These “freedom fighters,” as former U.S. President Reagan described them, tortured teachers and activists, burnt down schools, poisoned children, and raped women.
After the PDPA was overthrown, the U.S. largely disengaged from Afghanistan, having accomplished its primary objective, and the various counterrevolutionary factions fought amongst themselves in a devastating civil war. The Taliban, an organization of Islamic students led by Mullah Mohammed Omar, defeated these factions and captured Kabul in 1996. The U.S., keen to see Afghanistan under strong central rule to allow a US‑led group to build a multi-billion‑dollar oil and gas pipeline from Turkmenistan to the Arabian Sea, indirectly supported the Taliban’s rise to power through Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.
The U.S.‑led 2001 invasion of Afghanistan had nothing to do with 9/11 or bin Laden. The invasion was an imperialist war of resource plundering and transferring public wealth into private hands. The media went into a frenzy when the U.S. “discovered nearly $1 trillion in untapped mineral deposits in Afghanistan” in 2010. The New York Times even declared that Afghanistan could become “the Saudi Arabia of lithium,” a mineral used in the manufacture of batteries. It is inconceivable that U.S. authorities weren’t aware of Afghanistan’s mineral wealth before the invasion; the Soviet Union in the 1970s and 1980s confirmed the existence of enormous mineral reserves and produced “superb geological maps and reports that listed more than 1,400 mineral outcroppings, along with about 70 commercially viable deposits.”
Prior to the invasion, opium cultivation was banned by the Taliban in collaboration with the United Nations, and by 2001 the crop had declined by 90% to 185 tonnes. After the U.S. invasion the opium crop skyrocketed under Hamid Karzai. The drug trade was an important source of covert funding for the Afghan counter-revolutionaries during the 1980s and 1990s and has long been under the control of the CIA. Mujahideen counterrevolutionaries forced Afghan peasants to plant opium, turning the Pakistan‑Afghanistan border areas into the world’s top heroin producer, with the collaboration of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency in Islamabad.
The money from the drug trade is laundered through banks and recycled as covert funds for intelligence agencies. Money laundering, according to the IMF, constitutes 2‑5% of the world’s GDP, and a significant share of money laundering is linked to the trade in narcotics. Narcotics represents the third largest commodity after oil and arms, with powerful financial interests behind the trade. “From this standpoint, geopolitical and military control over the drug routes is as strategic as oil and oil pipelines,” writes Professor Michel Chossudovsky.
Working people need to reject the various pretences used by Western imperialism to exploit the people and resources of other countries around the world.
With the West’s latest war in the Middle East against Islamic State, and the vilification of Russian President Vladimir Putin dominating the news, it is easy to forget that the West is involved in numerous brutal military interventions in Afghanistan, Somalia, Mali, Ivory Coast, Pakistan, the Central African Republic, Nigeria, Niger, Haiti, Yemen, and elsewhere.
The Central African Republic (CAR), an impoverished former French colony with abundant mineral resources, has been marred by sectarian violence since the start of hostilities between Seléka, a coalition of insurgents led by Michel Djotodja, a former guerrilla leader in the Bush War, and the regime of Francois Bozize. The Seléka rebels accused the regime of failing to abide by the peace agreements made in 2007 and 2011 that ended the Bush War.
Bozize, who came to power through a military coup in 2003, ran afoul of Western imperialism when he signed mining and oil contracts with China; the U.S. and France indirectly supported the Seléka rebels by withholding support for his regime. In the words of Bozize: “Before giving oil to the Chinese, I met Total in Paris and told them to take the oil, nothing happened, I gave oil to the Chinese and it became a problem.”
French President Francois Hollande cynically declared that the hundreds of French troops in the country were “in no way to intervene in internal affairs,” a clear indication of support for the rebels, considering France has been intimately involved with the internal affairs of the country since its independence in 1960, including launching air strikes against anti-Bozize rebels in 2006 and 2007. The U.S. has dozens of Special Forces stationed in the CAR, ostensibly to assist in the search for Joseph Kony, the leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army, although likely being another deceptive cover for a regional imperialist intervention. When Bozize was overthrown in 2013 and Seléka’s leader Michel Djotodja declared himself president, then U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland (infamous for her leaked “Fuck the EU” tape), symbolically condemned the coup, but stopped short of calling for Bozize’s return to power.
The country quickly deteriorated into a state of warfare following the coup. The predominately Muslim Seléka rebels who brought Djotodia to power, many of whom came from Chad and the Sudan, refused to disarm and committed mass atrocities against civilians, especially Christians from the country’s south. Christian peasants and Bozize supporters formed anti-Seléka groups known as anti-Balakas, and armed with machetes, committed retaliatory massacres against Muslims. Close to a million have since become internally displaced or fled to neighbouring countries; there have been reports of widespread rape, torture, beheadings, recruitment of child soldiers, and even cannibalism.
The African Union and the United Nations formed the International Mission to Support CAR (MISCA), expanded in December 2013 with a force of 6,000, and support from nearly 2,000 French troops, to replace the regional African peacekeeping force. However these “peacekeepers” inflamed tensions in the country; the “neutral” French soldiers have been accused of siding with the Christian anti-Balakas, and the African peacekeepers sent to restore peace have different agendas, with soldiers from Chad supporting the Seléka militias and soldiers from the Republic of Congo and Burundi supporting the anti-Balakas. Indeed, soldiers from Chad and Burundi attacked each other, causing Chad to withdraw its forces from the CAR.
France forced the resignation of Djotodia, replaced by Catherine Samba-Panza, the former mayor of Bangui, in January 2014. Violence nevertheless continued, and the European Union deployed a thousand soldiers to the CAR, its first mission in six years. Several controversial incidents occurred, as foreign soldiers killed unarmed protestors demonstrating against the transitional government and the presence of foreign troops.
Despite the arrival of a larger United Nations peacekeeping force and a peace agreement between the belligerents, the sectarian violence continues, and last July the leader of Seléka called for the country to be partitioned into Christian and Muslim states.
The exploitation of the CAR’s extensive natural resources – oil, timber, gold, diamonds, copper, iron, and uranium – by Western corporations, and competition with Chinese investments, are the true reason for the Western-backed intervention.
Former French President Jacques Chirac famously acknowledged in 2008 that “without Africa, France will slide down into the rank of a third [world] power.”
Several Western corporations have invested heavily in the CAR’s mineral resources. Areva, the French-state owned nuclear corporation notorious for its exploitation of African uranium, was forced to suspend its Bakouma mine (“France’s biggest commercial interest in its former colony”), following an attack on the mine by rebels. The first French troops to arrive in the country were sent to “protect its [France’s] nationals, many of whom work in Areva’s large uranium mine at Bakouma in the south-east of the country,” as reported by the BBC. Nuclear power is France’s main source of electricity, therefore a continuous supply of cheap uranium from Africa is vital for French economic interests, a fact that was not lost on the French ruling class when Bozize’s regime contested Areva’s acquisition of the mine.
Nowhere in recent years have the contradictions of imperialism been so clear than in the West’s war against ISIS. Working people are bombarded with messages in the media of the worldwide threat of ISIS, with the aim of the messages to convince working people of the need to sacrifice their civil liberties and democratic freedoms to counter ISIS and to support more military interventions in the Middle East. If Barack Obama, David Cameron, Tony Abbot, and other Western leaders were truly interested in countering the threat of ISIS, perhaps they should follow Stephen Harper’s “strong leadership” by finding the nearest closet to lock themselves in.
The rise of ISIS has its origins in the illegal occupation of Iraq by the U.S., the U.K., and other Western forces in 2003, which caused the deaths of an estimated 5% of the Iraqi population. The Bush and Blair administrations falsely accused the Iraqi regime of harboring weapons of mass destructions, of supporting al-Qaeda, and of having some connection with the 9/11 attacks. What the public wasn’t informed of was that the Bush administration had plans to attack Iraq long before 9/11. What’s more, the U.S. facilitated the rise of Saddam’s regime, supplied it with weapons of mass destruction in its war against Iran, and unlike Saudi Arabia and other allies of the U.S. in the region, Iraq was a secular state that was violently opposed to the reactionary Islamist ideology of al-Qaeda. The war, if anything, was a boon for al-Qaeda, which was never active in Iraq before the U.S.-led occupation.
In 2011, the U.S., the U.K., France, Canada, and other Western imperialist states, along with their allies in the region, including Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Qatar, allied themselves with militant Islamist organizations in Libya and Syria to overthrow the secular governments of Muammar al-Gaddafi and Bashar al-Assad respectively.
Western imperialism invoked the ‘responsibility to protect’ (R2P) doctrine to justify NATO airstrikes on Libya, killing thousands of civilians. Libya was the wealthiest and most stable country in Africa, with the continent’s highest standard of living and with universal healthcare and education for all its citizens, but in the aftermath of NATO’s humanitarian intervention, the country fell into a state of collapse as rival tribes and Islamist organizations battled to control the country’s wealth. Militant Islamists captured, brutally tortured, and murdered Gaddafi.
The NATO intervention in Libya directly facilitated the breakaway of the Azawad and the rise of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) in Mali. Using the “war on terror” ruse the U.S., E.U., Canada, and other imperialist states have been actively supporting the Malian regime in its war against Tuareg autonomy and AQIM, which they earlier supported in Libya along with the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group. Libya was virtually handed to al-Qaeda by NATO.
With their success in Libya, al-Qaeda and other Sunni Islamic militants quickly mobilized to overthrow the secular government of Bashar al-Assad in Syria, where the failure of Western imperialism is eerily similar to Afghanistan from the late 1970s to the 1990s and, albeit on a much larger scale, to Libya.
The U.S. policy of supporting hostile Sunni insurgent groups laid the foundation for the rise of ISIS, the Taliban, al-Qaeda, and nearly every single Sunni extremist group that has appeared in the last 40-50 years. In Afghanistan, to undermine the country’s 1978 socialist revolution and spread instability into Soviet Turkestan, U.S. imperialism with its allies in the Persian Gulf and in Pakistan supported militant Islamist groups that would later form the nucleus of al-Qaeda and the Taliban.
The policy of supporting Sunni insurgent groups was given a further impetus following the 1979 Iranian Revolution, where an anti-U.S., theocratic Shiite regime was established. Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh wrote in 2007:
“To undermine Iran, which is predominantly Shiite, the Bush Administration has decided, in effect, to reconfigure its priorities in the Middle East. In Lebanon, the Administration has cooperated with Saudi Arabia’s government, which is Sunni, in clandestine operations that are intended to weaken Hezbollah, the Shiite organization that is backed by Iran. The U.S. has also taken part in clandestine operations aimed at Iran and its ally Syria. A by-product of these activities has been the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups that espouse a militant vision of Islam and are hostile to America and sympathetic to Al Qaeda.”
The Islamic State was formed in 2006 when al-Qaeda in Iraq merged with other Sunni insurgent organizations. The name was changed to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (or Levant) (ISIS) in April 2013 after a second merger, this time between the Islamic State and al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria, the al-Nusra Front.
The U.S., the U.K., Canada, and other imperialist states, through their allies Israel, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar, have been supporting the “moderate” Free Syrian Army (FSA) rebels with hundreds of millions of dollars in weapons as well as setting up training camps and offering free medical treatment to injured fighters. The question that begs to be asked is how ISIS has managed to defeat the FSA despite hundreds of millions of dollars in aid from the West and its allies in the region?
You would have to be an absolute lunatic to believe that Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf States, all absolute monarchies run by a small clique of corrupt Arab sheikhs that couldn’t be farther from an acceptable version of democracy, would support a moderate, democratic, and free Syrian organization. Even to the corporate media in the West it is no secret that these allies of the West fund reactionary Islamist organizations whose interests are antithetical to democracy. The Washington Post reported that “Qatar’s cultivation of African Islamists, principally Somalia’s al-Shabab insurgents, has…troubled the United States,” which is drone bombing Somalia in the name of the “war on terror.” Israel, the region’s “only democracy” we are told, itself supported Hamas to counter the influence of the secular Palestinian Liberation Organization in the 1980s.
These “moderate” FSA fighters that the U.S. and its allies support, if there really was an independent FSA, have en masse joined the ranks of ISIS. Dozens of outlets have detailed this fact. A Lebanese newspaper quoted an FSA commander as saying, “We are collaborating with the Islamic State and al-Nusra,” and Al-Jazeera reported in 2013 that “hundreds of fighters under the command of the opposition Free Syrian Army (FSA) have reportedly switched allegiance to al-Qaeda-aligned groups.” The World Net Daily quoted Jordanian officials as saying that the rebels trained by U.S. instructors in Jordan have joined ISIS.
Furthermore there is overwhelming evidence that the U.S. and its allies are both directly and indirectly supporting ISIS. According to a source close to Iraqi intelligence, there is allegedly an ISIS training camp in Turkey that is in the vicinity of Incirlik Air Base near Adana, where American personnel and equipment are located . NATO member Turkey is among the most staunch supporters of the rebels, a fact that an ISIS fighter detailed to the Jerusalem Post: “Turkey paved the way for us. Had Turkey not shown such understanding for us, the Islamic State would not be in its current place.”
Former Iraqi Prime Minister and current Vice-President Nouri al-Maliki publicly accused U.S. allies Saudi Arabia and Qatar of bankrolling ISIS. Kuwait, in particular, due to its weak financial laws, has become a financial and organizational hub for Syrian rebel groups. The Brooking’s Institute in Washington, D.C. reported “evidence that Kuwaiti donors have backed rebels who have committed atrocities and who are either directly linked to al-Qa’ida or cooperate with its affiliated brigades on the ground.”
Evidence exists of direct Israeli support for ISIS fighters. United Nations observers in the Golan Heights reported to the United Nations Security Council of direct contact between ISIS and Israel, including Israeli Defense Forces supplying ISIS with unmarked crates and offering medical treatment to wounded fighters. An Israeli officer spoke out in opposition to the U.S. war against ISIS, claiming that in fighting ISIS the U.S. is strengthening what Israel perceives as the real threat, the Shiite alliance of Hezbollah and Iran.
Finally nearly all of the aid provided to the “moderate” rebels has been captured or sent to ISIS. It wasn’t long after the Washington Post reported that aid from the CIA and the State Department, which included dozens of Toyota pickup trucks, were being delivered to rebels on the Turkish-Syria border that the iconic photo of ISIS militants in a convoy of Toyota pickup trucks invading northern Iraq became public. Less than four months after Obama pledged $500 million in weapons and aid to the FSA rebels, ISIS had acquired the same amount of weapons from the FSA; a Syrian fighter told Al-Quds al-Arabi that much of the aid was sold to unknown parties in Turkey and Iraq. Don’t forget about the repeated “accidental” weapon drops by the U.S. in ISIS-controlled territory!
The war against ISIS in the Middle East by Western imperialism is a farce. ISIS has and continues to dutifully serve Western and Israeli imperialist interests in the Middle East, causing chaos in formerly staunch anti-imperialist states that had the strength to oppose Israel, and creating a force capable of countering Iranian influence.
The reason ISIS is now a “threat” is that Western imperialism, in failing to topple the Syrian government, requires a new pretext to continue its aggressive military interventions in the Middle East, in particular to weaken Syria and the Shiite leadership of Iraq for an attack on Iran. If defeating ISIS was the real objective, the Western powers would form an alliance with Iran, Syria, and Hezbollah, which have relentlessly battled ISIS on the ground, not with Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Turkey.
Working people need to realize that the real threat to the world isn’t ISIS, Iran, or Syria, it is Western imperialism.
Refugee Crisis: The Root Cause is Imperialism (Page 2) Also published or cited in Rebel Youth, the Centre for Research on Globalization, Dissident Voice, CounterPunch, and Press TV as “Refugee Crisis is a Crisis of Imperialism”.
The widely circulated photo of Aylan Kurdi, a three-year-old Syrian boy whose body was found on a beach in Turkey and whose family was “making a final, desperate attempt to flee to relatives in Canada even though their asylum application had been rejected” by the Harper Government, has caused widespread outrage and forced Western leaders to acknowledge that there is a “refugee crisis”.
In Canada, the leaders of the Liberal and New Democratic parties have used the news of Kurdi’s tragic death, along with the deaths of his five-year-old brother and his mother, to criticize the Harper Government’s response to the Syrian refugee crisis. Trudeau and Mulcair have called on Canada to accept more Syrian refugees, while the Harper Government, with its lust for military action, insists on more illegal bombing raids in Syria and Iraq as the solution to the surge of Syrian refugees.
The real tragedy is the refusal of Western leaders to acknowledge the cause of the refugee crisis – Western imperialism’s genocidal and never ending wars on the people of the Middle East, Central Asia, and Africa.
There are now more refugees than at any time since World War 2, and the number of refugees has increased markedly since the start of the “Global War on Terror”. Wherever the U.S. and its imperialist allies have intervened, whether through direct military action or indirect proxy wars, economic sabotage, and coups, in the name of “democracy”, the “War on Terror”, or the “responsibility to protect”, death and despair have been forced upon millions of innocent people, who have been left no other choice than to abandon their native lands to embark on a dangerous future of desperate struggle.
In Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Pakistan, Somalia, Mali, Korea, Vietnam, East Timor, Sudan, Ukraine, and elsewhere the livelihoods of millions have been destroyed by the forces of U.S. and Western imperialism.
In the 1980s, Afghanistan had a “genuinely popular government”, according to John Ryan, retired professor from the University of Winnipeg, that was implementing widespread reforms. Labour unions were legalized, a minimum wage was established, hundreds of thousands of Afghans were enrolled in educational facilities, and women were freed from age-old tribal bondage and able to earn an independent income. U.S. and Western imperialism, fearful of that kind of equitable distribution of wealth, supported the feudal landlords and fundamentalist mullahs to sow chaos across the country, bringing rise to elements that later formed al-Qaeda and the Taliban. The Afghan people were once more dealt a severe punishment by the forces of Western imperialism following 9/11, despite a lack of conclusive evidence linking either the Taliban or al-Qaeda to the attacks. 30 years of U.S. intervention in Afghanistan have left the people of Afghanistan impoverished, traumatized, and desperate.
The conflicts in Libya and Syria are eerily similar to the Western destabilization of Afghanistan. In 2011, when the Arab Spring protests swept across the Middle East and North Africa, Western imperialism hijacked legitimate grievances of the masses as a pretext for intervention in the name of the “responsibility to protect” and “democracy promotion”.
Prior to the 2011 U.S./NATO intervention, Libya was among the wealthiest and most stable countries in Africa, with the continent’s highest standard of living. Housing was enshrined as a human right, education and healthcare services were free for all citizens, and the country was pushing to establish an African currency linked to gold to help end the endless cycle of debt and impoverishment of the African masses by Western imperialism. Under the cloak of the United Nations, Western imperialism, using the pretext of protecting the people of Libya from Gaddafi’s murderous rule, launched airstrikes on Libya and allied themselves with al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and other Libyan extremists. NATO airstrikes killed hundreds of civilians and forced Libya back into the Stone Age; Gaddafi was mercilessly tortured and murdered by the rebels. Thousands have been killed as rival tribal and extremist factions, some now allied with ISIS, battling for control of the country.
The conflict in Syria has frequently been referred to as “Libya 2.0”. U.S. imperialism with the support of Israel, Turkey, and the Persian Gulf States, trained and financed “moderate” rebels to overthrow the secular and popularly supported government of Bashar al-Assad. The “Free Syrian Army”, i.e., the “moderate” rebels, has been virtually eliminated in the conflict despite millions of dollars in aid from the U.S. and its regional allies. FSA fighters have deserted to the ranks of ISIS en masse, itself a product of the illegal U.S. occupation of Iraq that killed 1 million Iraqis. There is overwhelming evidence that the U.S. and its allies have been actively training and supporting ISIS elements since the start of the proxy war in Syria. It wasn’t until ISIS invaded Iraq with its new Toyota technicals, curtesy of U.S. imperialism, that ISIS was declared a threat to the world. Western imperialism changed its tactic from supporting ISIS to airstrikes on Iraq and Syria, with the support of other Western imperialist states, Turkey (which is also conveniently bombing anti-ISIS Kurdish fighters), Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf States, but without consultation with the Syrian government, Iran, or Hezbollah that have been fighting ISIS and al-Qaeda elements since the start of the conflict. Hundreds of thousands have died in the West’s proxy war against the Syrian government.
From Libya to Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Pakistan and Somalia, U.S. and Western imperialist interventions, coups, and sanctions have displaced and killed millions of people. Physicians for Social Responsibility estimates that in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan alone Western imperialist interventions have caused the deaths of 1.3 million people. It is no wonder then that hundreds of thousands seek asylum elsewhere; however, after traveling huge distances overland and on water, refugees find themselves abused, discriminated against, held in detention, or rejected from Europe, Canada, the U.S., and Australia.
More than 2, 500 have died this year trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea into Europe, while the International Organization for Migration estimates that 30, 000 could die by the end of 2015.
Refugees attempting to enter Europe, even if they are granted asylum in a mainland European country such as Germany, have been met with police violence in Greece, Italy, and other countries on the Mediterranean that are the first landing points for boats sailing from North Africa and Turkey.
Greek riot police have beaten refugees protesting the failure of local governments to process their applications. Conditions are so poor for refugees that while waiting for processing newborn babies have died in Greece.
On the Macedonia-Greece border, where more than a thousand refugees are crossing daily, refugees that broke through the barbed wire fences were shot at with stun grenades, and the Macedonian police have treated refugees as rioters, according to Amnesty International.
Italian police forcibly removed African refugees camping out at the French border after France refused to grant them asylum. Hungary is building a fortified wall, similar to the barbaric wall that divides the U.S.-Mexico border, to stop refugees from crossing the border.
The thousands of refugees that seek asylum in Australia are detained in Australia’s detention facilities in Papua New Guinea and the small island nation of Nauru, dubbed the “Guantanamo Bay of the Pacific”. Refugees can be detained for several years in these facilities, where social workers have observed “profound damage” to those detained through “prolonged deprivation of freedom, abuse of power, confinement in an extremely harsh environment, uncertainty of future, disempowerment, loss of privacy and autonomy and inadequate health and protection services”. An Australian Senate investigation received reports of guards raping women on tape and sexually exploiting children as young as 2-years-old. Just as Britain refuses to assist drowning refugees in the Mediterranean out of fear that it will encourage more migrants to seek asylum, the unannounced policy of Australian authorities is to make refugees suffer abuse and inhumane living conditions to deter them from seeking asylum in Australia, as if Australian imperialism hasn’t inflicted enough suffering on the people of the Middle East, South and Southeast Asia.
U.S. and Western imperialism is the root cause of the “refugee crisis”. Everyday men, women, and children are killed by U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan, U.S. and Western-backed militias in Afghanistan, Syria, and Somalia, European and North American mining and oil conglomerates in Central and Western Africa, or are starved to death in Yemen by the U.S.-backed Arab blockade of the country. Until the genocidal aims of U.S. imperialism, with the support of Canada, Australia, the European Union, and regional allies, are defeated, the “War on Terror” will continue to make life too unbearable for working people in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East to remain in their home countries.
In the aftermath of the latest attacks on Paris that left more than 120 dead, the corporate, Eurocentric media of the West is in overdrive to scare working people into sacrificing their civil liberties and convince us of the need to launch more aggressive bombing raids, with the possibility of deploying troops, in Iraq and Syria to defeat the Islamic State (ISIS). The attacks reek of a false flag operation by French security forces, but even if the attacks were indeed the work of ISIS, the attacks are nevertheless the inevitable response to Western imperialism’s exploitation of the Middle East and North Africa and worldwide military interventions.
Each conflict in the Middle East and North Africa can be attributed to the policies of Western imperialism. The conflict in Syria is not a civil war; it is a regional proxy war being waged by Western imperialism through air strikes, sanctions, and support for regional proxies (i.e., so-called “moderate” rebels, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar, Israel, etc.), all with their own agendas, to weaken movements and states opposed to their interests. Likewise, the war in neighboring Iraq can be directly attributed to the illegal occupation of the country by Western imperialism in 2003; al-Qaeda in Iraq, the predecessor of ISIS, was not formed until after the U.S.-led occupation.
The U.S. and its allies have over the last 50 years caused untold devastation and suffering to millions of people in dozens of countries throughout the world, especially in Latin America, Africa, and the Middle East. There is hardly a single country in all three regions that hasn’t been subjected to airstrikes, invasions, coups, sanctions, and/or mass murders by U.S.-led imperialism.
The rise of radical Islamic extremism itself has its origins in the policies of U.S. imperialism to overthrow the People’s Democratic Government of Afghanistan in the 1970s and 1980s. Muslims were recruited, trained, and armed by the U.S. and its allies Pakistan, then under the control of Zia ul-Haq, an authoritarian, US supported military dictator with a radical Islamic agenda, and Saudi Arabia, still controlled by one of the most corrupt and oppressive regimes in the world with an extreme interpretation of Islamic law, in camps and madrassas on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.
These “freedom fighters”, as Ronald Reagan referred to them, poisoned the water of schoolchildren, mercilessly tortured teachers, raped women, and fought to reestablish the power of the feudal landlords. After the Soviet withdrawal and the overthrow of the socialist government, many of these Muslim fighters left Afghanistan to wage violent insurgencies against the authoritarian dictators that serve as the puppet masters of Western imperialism in their home countries and against the Western states that support them.
Whenever a terrorist attack is committed, Western politicians and the media try to capitalize on the anger and fear of the masses to implement pre-planned agendas, while deliberately ignoring the history of these very states in committing terrorist acts themselves.
France has terrorized the people of its former colonies for decades. In Algeria, 1.5 million were killed fighting for their independence from France, among many other bloody wars of independence fought against France. French imperialism routinely intervenes in its former colonies whenever its interests are threatened; French special forces were sent to control the uranium mines in Niger and the Central African Republic, and thousands of troops were deployed in the Ivory Coast to control the cocoa tradeand also to Mali to control the country’s mineral wealth in competition with Chinese investments.
To this day 14 former French colonies in Africa are forced to pay France a ‘colonial tax’, putting $500 billion of wealth into the French treasury each year instead of being used to help the desperately impoverished people of Africa. When French President Hollande declared, “Our democracy stands more true than these assassins,” he is referring to the same ‘democratic’ state that massacred 200 Algerian protestors in Paris in 1961.
The most recent attacks in Paris have the hallmarks of a false flag operation. A Syrian passport was conveniently located by French police at the scene of one of the attacks, an extremely helpful piece of evidence to justify closing the borders for refugees fleeing the violence created by France and its allies and illegally bombing cities in Syria. Hollande’s accusation that ISIS was responsible for the attack, before any investigation was completed and before ISIS, itself, claimed responsibility for the attack, as well as the appearance on Wikipedia of a detailed account of the attacks within two hours of them happening and Hollande’s statement an hour before he made it raises serious suspicions that this was a pre-planned attack by French security.
False flag operations have been used by many states to carry out pre-planned agendas. The Nazis did it in 1933 when they set fire to the Reichstag, Israel did it when Israeli agents planted bombs in American and British own civilian targets (known as the Lavon Affair) in Egypt, and the U.S. did it during the Vietnam War (Gulf of Tonkin Incident) and was prepared to do it Operation Northwoods, a plan by the U.S. to bomb civilians targets in the U.S. as a pretext for war against Cuba.
French police conducted more than 150 raids following the attacks in Paris. If the U.S. Patriot Act and anti-terrorism activities of police in Canada, the U.K., Australia, and elsewhere tell us anything about these raids, it is that not all of them were against suspected terrorists. The FBI has used the Patriot Actto target anti-war, anti-globalization, environmentalist, immigrant, and socialist movements in the U.S., and the RCMP have used anti-terrorism legislation to monitorenvironmental and Aboriginal movementsopposed to the Alberta Tar Sands.
Working people must remember that the tragic and despicable attacks on Paris are the inevitable consequence of Western imperialism’s destructive policies of exploitation and terrorism abroad. Further restrictions on domestic civil liberties and more military interventions will not keep working people safe. To fight terrorism Western imperialism must first stop engaging in it and recognize the fundamental right of the people of the Middle East to live in peace and to self-determination.
Canada’s $15 Billion Saudi Arms Deal: What History Tells Us published in CounterPunch and Rebel Youth
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said it is a “matter of principle” that Canada follows through with a $15 billion armaments deal with Saudi Arabia, a totalitarian state which funds international terrorism, stones women to death for the crime of being raped, and that leads the world in public beheadings. This decision has been sharply criticized by journalists, activists, and international organizations. In a public statement Amnesty International said that it has “good reason to fear that light armored vehicles supplied” to Saudi Arabia by Canada “are likely to be used in situations that would violate human rights” in both “neighboring countries” and for ‘suppressing demonstrations and unrest within Saudi Arabia.” Montreal students and a former Bloc Quebecois MP and law professor have filed a class action lawsuit to block the deal, citing that by selling weapons to countries with poor human rights records Canada is violating its own laws.
Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion, in response to criticism about how these weapons will be used, replied that Canada has undertaken similar deals with Saudi Arabia, and that country “has not misused the equipment to violate human rights” according to the government’s “best, and regularly updated, information.” This is an outright lie.
In 2011 more than a hundred thousand protestors participated in an uprising against the undemocratic monarchy in Bahrain, calling for “political reforms, right of political participation, respect for human rights, stopping of systematic discrimination against Shias.” The regime responded by banning all demonstrations, caging villages in barbed wire, firing live ammunition at doctors that tried to help injured protestors in hospitals, torturing some protestors to death in police custody, and calling in the military of Saudi Arabia. 1, 000 Saudi troops crossed into Bahrain in armored vehicles not unlike those sold to Saudi Arabia by Canada throughout the 1990s and early 2000s. The Canadian government has neither confirmed nor denied that Canadian armored vehicles were used to suppress pro-democracy demonstrations in Bahrain.
In Yemen, where Saudi Arabia and its Arab allies have been at war with the country’s Houthi rebels, the U.N. has accused Saudi Arabia of war crimes. The Saudi-led coalition’s war against the poorest Arab country has caused the deaths of more than 8, 000, displaced millions, and destroyed nearly all of the country’s schools, hospitals, and historical heritage. Hundreds of thousands of children are at risk of starvation due to the violence and the Saudi-led coalition’s naval blockade in a bid to starve the country into submission. Based on photos of Saudi ground forces in Yemen, the armored vehicles being used by the Saudi military bore a striking resemblance to those manufactured in Canada, while a retired Canadian general, speaking anonymously to the Globe and Mail, identified the armored vehicles as having been manufactured by General Dynamics Land Systems, the same company manufacturing the armaments in the latest $15 billion deal.
An arms deal with Saudi Arabia raises serious questions about the role of Canada in the international community. Critics of the deal have said that if Canada follows through with selling arms to Saudi Arabia “we can kiss Canada’s human rights credibility goodbye.” But such criticism presupposes that Canada has a credible human rights record. “Canada,” writes BJ Siekierski, “hasn’t suddenly been transformed from Boy Scout to arms merchant.” The history of Canada, both domestically and internationally, isn’t a history of a country dedicated to the defense of democracy and human rights, it is a history of an imperialist state built on the theft of Aboriginal land that faithfully serves as a junior partner to U.S. imperialism’s war of exploitation and subjugation of the world.
Canada’s first Prime Minister, John A. MacDonald, was an ally of the most racist section of the elite of that time. In the House of Commons he was in favor of a system of legalized racism, claiming Europeans and Chinese were different species, introducing “biological racism as a defining characteristic of Canadianness.” While starving thousands of Aboriginal people to death by withholding food, MacDonald argued that the disenfranchisement of the Chinese people was imperative to protect the “the Aryan character of the future of British America.” Liberal Prime Minister Mackenzie King wrote in his diary that after meeting Adolf Hitler he believed Hitler “might come to be thought of as one of the saviors of the world.” Trudeau, like his father before him, is an avowed supporter of apartheid regimes. The late Pierre Trudeau, Justin Trudeau’s father, “sympathized with the [South African] apartheid regime not the black liberation movement or nascent Canadian solidarity groups,” while one of the first acts of the Justin Trudeau Liberals was to pass a Conservative motion to condemn all Canadians who exercise their democratic right to support the non-violent Boycott, Divestment, and Sanction movement as a form of resistance to Israeli apartheid.
Let us not forget the ongoing genocide of Aboriginal people in Canada. For more than a century Aboriginal children were taken away, sometimes at gunpoint and in handcuffs, to be shipped off to residential schools, where they were to learn how to “assimilate” and become “civilized” through a system for forced labour and re-education. The “Residential Schools were predicated on the notion that Indigenous children were less human than other children, so they were worked like animals in the slave labour many schools mandated.” Thousands of children died from malnourishment, disease, physical and sexual abuse, with many buried in unmarked graves near the site of the schools. To this day Aboriginal people are more likely to be born into poverty, are less likely to graduate from high school, and have a shorter life expectancy than non-Aboriginal people.
Internationally Canadian foreign policy has been reflective of the country’s imperialist system of exploitation. Canada was among the 14 imperialist states that invaded the Soviet Union in 1918 in an effort to bolster the forces of the anti-Bolshevik White Army and stop the Russian working class from establishing socialist government. More recently the Canadian military has been involved in Somalia, the former Yugoslavia, Mali, Libya, Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan. In Somalia, where Canadian troops were participating in the U.N. mission, Canadian ‘peacekeepers’ tortured and murdered a 16-year-old boy. In a sociopathic ritual that has repeatedly been documented wherever Western forces are active, these Canadian ‘peacekeepers’ photographed themselves with boy’s bloodied corpse like he was a trophy kill. In Libya, a country that prior to the NATO-led intervention had the highest standard of living in Africa, the Canadian military supported al-Qaeda-linked Islamist terrorists that ransacked the country’s wealth, brutally murdering the country’s former leader Muammar al-Gaddafi by sodomizing him with a bayonet.
Nine years before Canada’s invasion of the Soviet Union trains “loaded not only with supplies, rifles, and ammunition, but also with machine guns and light artillery pieces” were dispatched to Cape Breton in preparation for the military occupation of the island, where miners and steelworkers were striking for improved working conditions and higher wages. Such violence and disdain for the working class has been repeated throughout Canadian history. During the “Hungry Thirties,” striking miners in Estevan, Saskatchewan were murdered in cold blood by the RCMP, while the unemployed were rounded up and sent to labour in slave-like conditions in relief camps.
The deal to sell armaments to Saudi Arabia must be opposed on all moral and political grounds, but to be able to effectively oppose such a deal, the deal must be put into the historical context of Canada’s role as a junior partner of U.S.-led imperialism.
Politicians of all political stripes like to dress inflated military budgets, and the wicked arms deals that frequently accompany them, in terms of “job creation.”
Former U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, arguing against any reduction in military funding, claimed that any decrease “would result in job cuts that would add potentially one (percentage point) to the national unemployment rate.”
Here in Canada, both Stephen Harper and Justin Trudeau have justified the $15 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia, the largest such deal in Canadian history, as a means of creating jobs. “The fact is that there are jobs in London relying on this” deal, Trudeau said.
A closer examination will reveal something different. By not producing a life-serving product, i.e., an article used for either consumption or for further production, military spending is not only the worst of available choices for job creation, it contributes to industrial and infrastructure decay.
Researchers at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst found that for every $1 billion in military spending, far more and better paying jobs could be created in education, healthcare, and green energy. A billion dollars spent in green energy would generate 6,000 jobs that pay between $32,000 and $64,000 a year, and another 2,300 jobs that pay over $64,000. The equivalent amount in military spending, however, would generate 4,700 mid-income and 2,350 high-income jobs, 15% less overall than in green energy. In education the results were far more striking, where $1 billion would generate 120% more jobs than would be generated through the military. “[S]pending on clean energy, healthcare, and education,” the researchers concluded, “all create a much larger number of jobs that pay wages greater than $32,000 per year” than are created through military expenditures.
A permanent war economy also leads to deindustrialization and the slow death of local communities. Workers are led to believe that it is due to their excessively high wages that multinational corporations transfer production overseas. While it is true that multinational corporations have transferred production to countries such as Mexico and the Philippines to profit from low wages, that in itself does not explain how after World War II the U.S. auto industry, for example, paid the highest wages in the industry while still being able to produce the lowest price per pound of vehicle in the Ford, Chevrolet, and Plymouth plants, and why they no longer can (or will). Nor does it explain how Japanese and European automakers have been able to seize a large chunk of the North American market.
These are questions Seymour Melman addresses in his book Profits Without Production. Melman argues that the deindustrialization of America can be traced back to the adoption of cost-maximizing in the machine tools industry, a consequence of producing for the military economy.
In the 1950s, in the heat of the space race between the Soviet Union and the U.S., the U.S. Air Force was the chief sponsor of technological development in this critical industry. Numerical control technology, for instance, allowing many of the tasks of a machinist to be supplanted by prerecorded control information for greater accuracy, was developed by MIT engineers and the Air Force. This became an open invitation to abandon cost-minimizing.
Since capability and performance are primary to the military when selecting a contractor, any incentive to offset costs by changes in internal production methods and design were discarded by the leading manufacturers. Costs were simply “passed” along to be added to the final price. This cost-maximizing is at the root of the exponential increase in the cost of military equipment, such as the F-35 fighter jet, which has increased in price by more than 93% before even being put into operation.
Between 1971 and 1978, as the new management style of cost-maximizing became more widespread, the cost of machine tools increased on average by 85% annually, outpacing the rise in wages. Consequently, in important industries like steel and auto, there was no incentive to invest in new machinery, and this in turn led to an unprecedented decrease in productivity. The machine tools industry itself had failed to invest in the very technology it developed to improve productivity.
In the decade 1965-1975, annual productivity growth in Japan and the U.S. was 10% and 2% respectively. By 1980 the annual productivity growth in the U.S. had reached an unprecedented low of -0.5%, as investments in new technology and machinery came to a virtual standstill. During this same period the U.S. military used up every $52 of capital resources for every $100 assigned to civilian production. Unable to compete with Japanese and West German manufacturers, many U.S. manufacturers of steel, autos, electronics, machines, and other industries were pushed out of the international and domestic markets. Despite the hourly wages of Japanese workers increasing on average 4.9% annually between 1960-1967 and 8.8% between 1967-1976, compared to 1.7% and 0.8% for American workers respectively, by 1980 Japanese manufacturers supplied 20% of all U.S. steel, eliminating one out of every five jobs in the U.S. steel industry; 27% of all the autos on American roads; 87% of all the televisions; and 15% of all the executive aircraft.
The massive quantity of capital needed to feed the war machine has also led to the deterioration of infrastructure and social services. “The federal government,” writes Melman (p. 231), “has been milking the economy of New York State (and Illinois, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Wisconsin – all of them centers of civilian industry) and transferring capital and purchasing power to the states where military industry and bases are concentrated.”
Healthcare, social services, education, and clean water have all been shortchanged to fund the war machine. In 1981, according to a report by the Council of State Planning Agencies, one out of every five bridges required rehabilitation or reconstruction; the Interstate Highway System was deteriorating at a rate requiring reconstruction of 2,000 miles of road a year; and 9,000 dams were in need of safety improvements (p. 228).
The case of New York was particularly striking. The report estimated that in New York City 6,200 miles of paved streets, 6,000 miles of sewers, 6,000 miles of water lines, 6,700 subway cars, 4,500 buses, 17 hospitals, 19 city university campuses, 950 schools, and 200 libraries would require repair, service, or rebuilding to remain operational. A New York City Councilman, so desperate to acquire funding to rebuild the South Bronx, asked for a $5 billion loan from the Soviet government through a Soviet Peace Committee delegation in 1980.
Due the application of federal funds to the war machine, an estimated 1,015,000 man-years of labour was lost between 1977-1978. This estimate, however, does not include the secondary effects of the absorption of capital by the war machine, “like further productivity forgone owing to the economically nonproductive character of military goods and services.” (p. 238). The social cost of the deindustrialization of America is staggering. According to a study conducted by Harvey Brenner, for each 1% rise in unemployment nationally, there is a corresponding annual increase of 650 homicides, 920 suicides, 20,000 deaths from heart disease, 3,300 admissions to state mental hospitals, as well as increases in prison admissions.
A permanent war economy is not sustainable. The working class and all peace loving people must reject any further military expenditures, and struggle for a future where peace and prosperity are to be shared by all.
The word peacekeeping is like the word terrorism: it is meaningless on its own and able to be molded to serve the interests of a political clique. Like Alex P. Schmidt’s description of terrorism in The Routledge Handbook of Terrorism Research, peacekeeping “is usually an instrument for the attempted realization of a political…project that perpetrators lacking mass support are seeking.”1
Peacekeepers have never kept the peace in any conflict. On the contrary, peacekeepers themselves have been linked to an increase in violence and human rights abuses, particularly of a sexual nature. In Bosnia, Somalia, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Haiti, Mozambique, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea, peacekeepers have been “associated with criminal misconduct, including sexual violence. Crimes against women and children have followed UN peacekeeping operations in several locations, and the UN reported that the entrance of peacekeeping troops into a conflict situation has been associated with a rapid rise in child prostitution”. Allegations of sexual violence against peacekeepers dates back to the 1990s. During the 1995-2002 UN mission in Bosnia, Kathryn Bolkovac, a human rights investigator, found that young “girls from Romania, Ukraine, Moldova and other Eastern European countries [were] being brought in to service the UN and military bases as sex-slaves. The cases involved the officers from many foreign countries, including the USA, Pakistan, Germany, Romania, Ukraine, government contractors, and local organized criminals”. Bolkovac was subsequently fired for her investigation. As of 2015 more than 200 women and girls have been sexually exploited by UN peacekeepers in Haiti in exchange for food, clothing, medicine, and other basic necessities. In the Central African Republic, French peacekeepers have forced young girls to have sex with dogs, starving and homeless boys as young as nine have been sodomized by peacekeepers, and an entire UN contingent was expelled from the country due to sex crimes.
Extrajudicial murder, torture, and mass murder – all war crimes under international law – have also been committed by peacekeepers. A 14-year-old Somali boy was beaten, tortured, and murdered by Canadian peacekeepers in Somalia; the peacekeepers having posed in photos with the boy’s bloody corpse. Not to be outdone, Belgian peacekeepers were photographed roasting a Somali over a fire.
In some countries UN peacekeepers have behaved more like heavily armed, rampaging militias than ‘peacekeepers’. Since the start of the UN mission, peacekeepers have committed numerous human rights violations and massacres in Haiti. Peacekeepers were deployed in Haiti to support the brutal regime after the country’s first democratically elected government was overthrown by the U.S., France, and Canada in February, 2004. On July 6th, 2005, 350 heavily armed UN peacekeepers massacred 20 to 50 unarmed civilians in one of the vast ghettos of Port-au-Prince, the capital of Haiti. An eyewitness told a U.S. labour delegation that “[t]here was systematic firing on civilians.”
All exits were cut off. The community was choked off, surrounded …facing tanks coming from different angles, and overhead, helicopters with machine guns fired down on the people. The citizens were under attack from all sides and from the air. It was war on a community.
Seth Donnelly, a member of the delegation, who visited the scene within 24 hours, described what the delegation found:
What we found actually when we went into the community the day after the operation was widespread evidence that the troops had carried out a massacre. We found homes, which when we say homes, we are talking basically shacks of wood and tin, in many cases, riddled with machine gun blasts as well as tank fire. The holes in a lot of these homes were too large just to be bullets. They must have been tank-type shells penetrating the homes. We saw a church and a school completely riddled with machine gun blasts. And then the community came out.
Once we had passed through, and we were — the community understood who we were, women, children, old and young, came out en masse and started to give us their testimony. They clearly were not being coerced by (quote/unquote) “gang leaders” or “gang elements.” They took us into their homes. They showed us bodies that still remained. They gave us very emotional testimony. People were hysterical still. And they all claimed that the U.N. forces had fired into their homes, had fired into their community, and people were saying at a minimum 20, if not more, people were killed.
The target of the attack was Emmanuel “Dread” Wilme, a prominent community member and supporter of Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the ousted Haitian president who was kidnapped by the U.S. At least 30 more were killed in a second massacre committed by UN peacekeepers in December 2006. “They killed women, children and old people,” Samuel Leconte, a community activist, said, “They shot them like animals.” Then again, in December 2014, UN peacekeepers fired live ammunition and chemical agents on protesters demanding a new government.
Haiti is not alone in massacres committed by UN peacekeepers. Mass graves of those murdered by UN peacekeepers have been uncovered in the Central African Republic as well. The remains of 12 people detained by peacekeepers from the Republic of the Congo, including two children, one less than a year old, and a pregnant woman were exhumed near Boali. Other crimes committed by peacekeepers in the Central African Republic include “the death by torture of two anti-Balaka leaders in December 2013; the public execution of two suspected members of the Christian militia in February 2014; and the beating to death of two civilians in June 2015.”
Underlying the abject failure of peacekeeping is the contradiction between the maintenance of peace and a socio-economic system where the pursuit of surplus value at the expense of humanity and the planet reigns supreme. Peace is anathema to the ruling class. There is no “peacekeeping tradition,” as Canadian Foreign Minister Stephane Dion claims, to be found in the history of Canada, or in any other U.S.-NATO alliance member state. From the slave societies of Athens and the Roman Empire to European colonialism, the Transatlantic slave trade, the genocide of Aboriginal people, the forcible expropriation of peasant land, and the rise of industrial capitalism, where the living standards of the masses are continuously under attack, there has only been exploitation and violence. The Canadian state itself was founded on the violent and brutal exploitation of Aboriginal people and their land; the enslavement of Chinese and other Asian immigrants for the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway, in which conditions were so bad that two Chinese labourers died for every mile of railroad built; the exploitation of the world’s natural resources and people by Canadian finance capital and by the murderous suppression of the working class within Canada.
Peace cannot be maintained if powerful Western interests – arms manufacturers, oil and energy companies, big agribusiness, mining companies, etc. – stand to profit from violence and exploitation. At the root of many of the world’s conflicts is “the role of interventionary core capitalism in perpetuating poverty through discriminatory policies that structure the global economy.”2 In Africa, writes Yash Tandon, “rich natural resources are taken away from the continent at a fraction of their value.”
The terms of exchange between Africa’s natural resources and the West’s capital-and-knowledge intensive technologies continue to remain the basis for vast seepage of net value out of Africa and into Europe, the USA and Japan … Africa’s poverty does not just ‘exist’, it is systematically created. It is created not by any conspiracy. It is created by the simple operation of the so-called ‘law of the market’3
U.S.-NATO alliance foreign and international economic policy is conducted with the aim of maintaining these unequal terms of exchange. In Somalia, IMF and World Bank imposed structural adjustment policies decimated the country’s pastoralist economy, leading to the collapse of the state and a brutal civil war; in East Timor, the U.S., Britain, Canada, and Australia funded the genocide of 200, 000 people to secure the rich oil and gas deposits beneath the Timor Sea; the democratically elected governments of Iran and Guatemala were overthrown in 1953 and 1954 respectively to prevent the nationalization of natural resources; in Haiti, the democratically elected Aristide government was overthrown shortly after it nearly doubled the minimum wage; in the Central African Republic, the government was overthrown for accepting Chinese investments; in Libya, once the wealthiest African nation, U.S.-NATO alliance death squads brutally murdered Gaddafi to prevent his gold-backed African currency from competing with the euro and the dollar; in Afghanistan and Iraq, hundreds of thousands have been killed to control oil, strategic pipeline routes, and, in the case of Afghanistan, the drug trade. In many countries – from Greece to the Democratic Republic of the Congo – Western-backed paramilitaries and right-wing dictators have murdered tens of thousands of people, displaced millions more, and caused untold devastation and human suffering.
Western corporations have themselves been complicit in extrajudicial murder, torture, and other human rights abuses. Thousands of trade unionists in Colombia have been murdered since 1986. A human rights lawsuit in 2001 charged that Coca-Cola “contracted with or otherwise directed paramilitary security forces that utilized extreme violence and murdered, tortured, unlawfully detained or otherwise silenced trade union leaders.” In an interview with the Chicago Tribune, Luis Adolfo Cardona, a worker at a Coca-Cola bottling plant, recounted how in December 1996, armed paramilitaries came into the plant and murdered a union leader. Two days later workers in the plant were rounded up by armed paramilitaries and told if they didn’t quit the union by a specific time, they, too, would be killed. Royal Dutch Shell, in another lawsuit, was charged with complicity in the torture and murder of protesters in Nigeria. According to the Center for Constitutional Rights, Shell has “frequently called upon the Nigerian police for ‘security operations’ that often amounted to raids and terror campaigns against the Ogoni” people. Deforestation, oil spills, and pollution in the Niger Delta have caused massive environmental destruction, destroying the subsistence farming and fishing the Ogoni people depend on.
The U.S.-NATO alliance, however, notwithstanding any claims to peacekeeping, is reluctant to hold corporations accountable for human rights abuses. Montreal-based Anvil Mining, for example, transported Congolese troops who killed 100 people, mostly civilians, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Anvil also provided the trucks used to dump the corpses of the victims into mass graves. In Tanzania, Toronto-based Acacia, formerly Barrick Gold and former Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird’s current employer, has killed dozens of impoverished villagers searching for bits of gold near its mine. Yet, in response to a UN inquiry into human rights abuses committed by Canadian mining companies, the federal government retorted that it is under no obligation to regulate the activities of Canadian companies overseas. Canada’s unwillingness to hold Canadian companies accountable for human rights abuses “merely confirms a clear tendency to shirk its human rights obligations in favour of promoting and protecting private investments, with serious consequences for local communities.”
The Trudeau Government’s recent commitment of $450 million and 600 troops to UN peacekeeping operations should be understood for what it is: the will and need to intervene to protect Western corporate interests and the hegemonic power of the U.S.-NATO alliance, “by identifying with, and using the language of, the interests of the international community.”
On June 14, the 220 ft. tall Grenfell Tower went up in flames in a matter of minutes, as if it were tissue paper, witnesses reported. The world watched in horror as residents desperately tried to flee the fire, with one mother even dropping her baby out of a window. The BBC has reported that the total number of those killed could be as high as 70.
The fire was no accident; it was an attack on the poor by the capitalist system and its political supporters.
As far back as 2004 concerns were raised about the safety of the building. The EMB Property Management Committee found that the lighting system was in such poor condition it would fail in an emergency situation, with two-thirds of the batteries dead. A 2012 fire risk assessment report found that some portable firefighting equipment hadn’t been inspected or tested in years. Some portable firefighting equipment even had the word “condemned” written on the side.
The building’s residents’ organization, the Grenfell Action Committee (GAC), expressed concern about the existence of only one escape route and the lack of a building-wide sprinkler or alarm system. In November 2016, the GAC warned of “dangerous living conditions,” but after years of being ignored, concluded that “only a catastrophic event will expose the ineptitude and incompetence of our landlord, the KCTMO.”
When the building was under renovations in 2016, The Guardian reported, the owners requested the more flammable exterior cladding to save £2 (a little over $3 CAD) a square foot. Cladding of a similar material is banned in Germany and the U.S.
In the aftermath of the July 7th, 2005, London Bombings, Ken Livingston, the then-Mayor of London, said the attacks were “aimed at ordinary, working-class Londoners, black and white, Muslim and Christian, Hindu and Jew, young and old.”
Weren’t the victims of the Grenfell fire also victims of such indiscriminate mass slaughter? Like the London Bombings, the victims of the Grenfell fire were working-class, mostly low-income, Londoners from all walks of life. And if the BBC is correct, more working-class Londoners have died as a result of the Grenfell fire than were killed in the London Bombings.
And like the men responsible for the London Bombings, those responsible for the Grenfell fire were motivated by their own political agendas. The owner’s of Grenfell Tower, the Kensington and Chelsea TMO (KCTMO), despite stockpiling £270 million in reserve, chose to disregard the safety of its Grenfell residents in favour of cutting costs. Even when a similar disaster was only narrowly averted in 2013, the KCTMO continued to downplay the seriousness of its residents’ concerns. The Conservative-controlled Kensington and Chelsea Council even went so far as to threaten the publisher of the GAC’s blog with “defamatory behaviour” and “harassment” if they continued posting concerns about the safety of the building online.
Central austerity budgets, moreover, ensured that when a did fire occur, it would cause terrible human suffering. Budget cuts of up to 80% in some communities have drastically reduced frontline services, “visible to all in unrepaired roads, uncollected bins and closed libraries, gyms and children’s centres,”writes George Eaton. Cuts to legal aid made it more difficult for Grenfell’s mostly low-income residents to obtain legal advice, Eaton argues, while the loss of 7,000 firefighters in the last five years, resulting in longer response times and less fire prevention visits, all but guaranteed a major disaster.
“The terrible Grenfell Tower fire in North Kensington was entirely avoidable,” Deon Lombard, an architect, wrote.
Austerity kills. Capitalism kills. The only difference between those responsible for the London Bombings and the Grenfell Tower fire is that the perpetrators of the latter were mostly white men wearing expensive suits and sitting in plush offices.