Ten years, many mistakes

By Ben Rowe

Ten years is a long time. Ten years ago there was no Netflix, no Facebook, no YouTube and no iPods. What there were, however, were two more buildings in the New York City skyline. Ten years ago on September 11 the United States of America came under attack when the Sunni terrorist group al-Qaeda hijacked four passenger planes and destroyed the World Trade Center towers in New York and a section of the Pentagon. The group’s leader, Saudi citizen Osama bin Laden, cited religious reasons for the attack — a declared jihad against American “oppressors” of the Islamic nations. Twenty-four Canadian citizens died in the attack.

On that day it seemed so clear what course should be taken — united in a moral sense of right and wrong, our longtime ally had been attacked, and innocent people had been killed. There was perceived need for retaliation and retribution against those who had attacked us.

It is my opinion that government exists to protect the lives and rights of its citizens. However, the Canadian government has spent lives and violated rights in the name of a cause which is not ours and does not concern us. We pay taxes which fund the military whose duty is to protect us. So for the military to do anything other than protect us, or help our allies, is overstepping what that military is for. It would be like Canadians paying taxes to build hospitals in Russia. Meanwhile, the wars we are fighting — which have nothing to do with us — are interfering in the sovereignty of other nations, which is immoral on any grounds unless we are defending ourselves from an enemy or protecting an ally.

Over the past ten years the list of grievances against our foreign policy and military forces has been considerable. In October of 2001 America responded to the 9/11 crisis by launching a military campaign against the then sovereign state of Afghanistan with the stated goal of eliminating al-Qaeda’s presence. As an ally of the United States, Canadian Forces joined in the invasion. However, Canada’s goals were not to attack al-Qaeda in any kind of counter-offensive, but rather the vague agenda of “ensuring Canadian leadership in world affairs” and “helping Afghanistan rebuild,” goals which ensured a Canadian place in the Afghanistan quagmire years after the moral reason to be there was gone.

Bin Laden was able to escape and be sheltered in Pakistan — a nation that receives approximately $10 billion in military aid each year from the United States, primarily to prepare for war with India, which is a Canadian ally and fellow member of the Commonwealth of Nations. Despite this, Canada has continued to support American operations, and only left Afghanistan in July. In that time 162 Canadians were killed.

In 2003, the America-United Kingdom-led coalition extended their military efforts by invading Iraq, an operation justifying itself by only the most flimsy and of ten fictional connections to the September 11 attacks and the wider war on terror. Prime Minister Chretien advised the governor-general not to join the coalition without un support for the invasion. No declaration of war was issued and officially Canada stayed out of the conflict, but the governor-general did authorize the mobilization of the Canadian Forces to serve in supporting roles, and over 100 officers served in exchange positions with the u.s. and u.k. militaries. $300 million in Canadian funds were also pledged to assist in the rebuilding of the country, support for a war the Canadian government officially opposed and with which the average Canadian citizen did not agree with. Canada enjoys its fantasy that we had nothing to do with the Iraqi quagmire, but with both troops and funds we tacitly gave our support.

Furthermore, the “spreading of democracy” throughout the Arab world has resulted in a severe destabilization of the entire Middle Eastern region. Hostile nations such as Iran and Syria have poured their resources into military build-ups, and this year the world watched the dramatic events of the Arab Spring and its offshoot, the Libyan civil war. Even now Canadian Forces have been sent to enforce un resolutions in Libya and oppose the forces loyal to long-time dictator Mohammar Gadhafi. Beginning in March, Operation Mobile is another in a series of military operations which does not serve the interests of Canadian citizens nor protect Canadian sovereignty, but merely interferes in the internal relations with a nation with which Canada has no relations.

So, where does this leave us as a nation? Have we learned anything from our actions? Over ten years after an ally was attacked, we are still paying the price. We have paid an exorbitant fee in dollars and in lives, not to mention a sacrifice of freedoms the world over, an unpredictable domino effect that seems to have no end, progressing from mistake after mistake by those in charge, each action adding to the toll being placed on the Canadian people. Rational objective moral standards dictate that the primary goal of the Canadian military 10 years ago would be to assist our ally in striking back at al-Qaeda and bringing bin Laden to justice, a goal failed and forgotten as quickly as three months later. Instead, we have continued to invest Canadian money and blood interfering in the sovereignty of other nations on objectives which neither further Canadian interests nor succeed in defending Canadian lives, the prime directive of our military. Instead, Canadian lives merely continue to be lost.

Our government is meant to protect the lives and rights of Canadian citizens, but instead it has spent lives and violated rights in the name of a cause which is not ours and does not concern us. Ten years of death, and our primary achievement in Afghanistan is the establishment of a government backed by drug lords and described by Transparency International as the second most corrupt in the world.

It is our duty as citizens to look at the choices our government makes on our behalf and judge them by it. Only if we find those choices agreeable does that government deserve re-election. Our government’s military goals should be defined by defending Canada from foreign aggression, not assuming the cost and responsibility for the welfare of other nations. By any standard our government’s foreign policy of the past 10 years is a failure.

Ten years, Canada. Happy anniversary. God save the Queen.