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Harper takes us to war again

Photo: CF-18s in Libya.Canada is at war again with a third combat mission in less than a decade. The Harper government sent fighter jets to Libya in 2011, significantly increased Canada’s combat presence and role in Afghanistan in 2006, and is now about to send CF-18s, support aircraft and 600 military personnel to Iraq.

The Guardian reports, “Canada’s parliament has voted to authorise air strikes against Isis in Iraq, joining the US-led bombing campaign. …[Prime Minister Stephen] Harper has a majority of seats in parliament so the vote was all but assured. The motion passed on Tuesday by 157 votes to 134.”

“The motion authorises air strikes in Iraq for up to six months and explicitly states that no ground troops be used in combat operations. The combat mission includes up to six CF-18 fighter jets, a refuelling tanker aircraft, two surveillance planes and one airlift plane. About 600 air crew will be involved. …Canada has more than two dozen special forces advisers already in Iraq and has plans for up to 69 advisers as part of an effort to advise Kurdish forces against Islamic militants after a request from Barack Obama. The US followed that up with another request for an air combat role.”

Postmedia adds, “The mission will initially run up to six months and be limited to bombing targets in Iraq. However, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has said the mission could be extended and expanded into Syria if the Syrian government gives its permission.”

The Canadian Press notes, “The NDP had proposed an amendment to the motion that would have overhauled the motion entirely, focusing instead on supplying arms to local fighters and increasing humanitarian support. The amendment, however, was defeated 157-134.”

Green Party MP Bruce Hyer voted in favour of the motion to go to war.

The Postmedia report also notes, “The U.S. has faced criticism for targeting not only Islamic State forces, but also destroying such infrastructure as gas plants, power stations and grain silos. An unknown number of civilians have also been killed in the airstrikes.” In 1991, Canadian CF-18s reportedly targeted the electricity supply in Iraq to limit access to clean drinking water.

In terms of the upcoming federal election, the Globe and Mail reports, “Pollster Nik Nanos said the mission carries a series of risks for the Harper government, in part because it could take months or longer to have any sense of how effective the combat mission has been. The next election is scheduled for October, 2015, and he said the governing Tories would prefer to focus the coming campaign on the economy rather than on foreign affairs.” On the economy the Conservatives want to lead on the Canada-European Union ‘free trade’ deal.

The authorization for this initial six-month mission would end in April or May, just a few months before the writ is dropped in September for the October 19 vote. A Global News/ Ipsos Reid poll conducted between September 30 and October 1 found that 64 per cent of Canadians strongly or somewhat support Canada sending fighter jets to launch strikes against ISIS. 71 per cent of respondents in Ontario supported airstrikes, while only 53 per cent support such a mission in Quebec. A question being asked is how quickly this support will deteriorate in the coming months or if it will hold and strengthen Harper’s electoral prospects.

The Council of Canadians opposes CF-18 fighter jets, other military aircraft and personnel being sent to join U.S.-led bombing missions in Iraq and possibly Syria. We’ve argued that this is a war that is very likely to last years and that the Harper government lacks a credible military strategy and a clear understanding of the complex political factors involved in this situation.

Photo: CF-18s in Libya.