I join with many others who stand for a world of peace and justice in completely repudiating the terrorist attacks in Paris and the similar atrocity in Beirut. We express our full solidarity with the hundreds of innocent victims, dead and injured, many of whom remain in critical condition at this time.
That said, the terror attacks must be seen in a wider context.
We live in a world of massive inequality and environmental degradation, one dominated by the global 1% and the states that act in their interests. To maintain their power, in recent decades the U.S. and its allies have engaged in a seemingly endless series of imperialist interventions across the globe, unequal wars that have killed hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians, destroyed societies, created profound animosities between communities, and forced millions of people to flee their homes to seek safety in bleak refugee camps or risk death on land and sea. Our condemnation of the crimes committed in Paris and Beirut must not blind us to the crimes of imperialism, many orders of magnitude larger, and which create the conditions that have led some to turn to terrorism.
That is why I refuse to stand with Barack Obama, Justin Trudeau or François Holland when they condemn the attacks in Paris. Obama and Hollande have too much blood on their hands. Their statements are hypocritical, designed to promote more repression, war and violence.
Trudeau has just assumed office, but the record of his party in office and his election program indicate that his foreign policy will not differ from that of Stephen Harper in any substantial way.1 It is apparent that the leaders of the G20 who met in Turkey on November 15-16 have made plans to take maximum political advantage of the opportunity that the killings in Paris afford them.
One day before the attack in Paris, two suicide bombs exploded on a busy street in Beirut, killing 43 bystanders and injuring many more. The attack, which was directed against supporters of Hezbollah, received only perfunctory attention from Western leaders or the Western press.2 This illustrates that the reaction of the self-proclaimed leaders of ‘the civilized world’ to acts of violence (other than their own) is highly selective, as they shape their response to serve their larger aims. It also demonstrates that a life lost in the Middle East matters less to them than a life lost in New York or Paris.
For those of us committed to the struggle for a world of peace and social justice, it is important to reflect on the lessons of 9/11. The path of restrictions on democratic freedoms in the name of “national security” is a fraud and a dead end. Casting suspicion on ‘others’
in our midst who are not like ‘us’ and heightening police surveillance of them – in this case, Muslims – promotes racism and Islamophobia and weakens us all. Participation in imperialist wars – such as Canada’s lengthy commitment to the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan, which left the country in ruins – must be vigorously opposed. (The previous Liberal government, under Jean Chrétien, took the decision to go to war.)
In this situation, it becomes particularly important to demand of Justin Trudeau that he:
- Fulfil his election pledge to withdraw the Canadian jets from combat in Iraq and Syria;
- Withdraw Canadian special forces from Iraq. There should be no Canadian boots on the ground, in any capacity, in Iraq or Syria;
- Refuse to employ the Canadian military anywhere in the Middle East or North Africa, except to facilitate the transfer of refugees to Canada;
- Repeal Bill C-51, Harper’s far-reaching attack on democratic rights3 and enact no further restrictions on fundamental freedoms;
- Meet his election commitment to bring 25,000 government-sponsored Syrian refugees to Canada before the end of the year;
- In the New Year, continue welcoming even more refugees on an emergency basis, extending the invitation to include refugees from all countries, including Afghanistan. Canada has a special responsibility to the people of Afghanistan in light of the destruction it has visited upon them;
- Eliminate the massive bureaucratic obstacles to accepting privately sponsored refugees;
- Provide generous government support for the resettlement and integration of all refugees;
- Vigorously oppose all manifestations of Islamophobia, in contrast to Harper’s deliberate promotion of anti-Muslim racism before and during the election campaign;
Art Young is a long-time socialist and solidarity activist who lives in Toronto, Canada.