The Canadian Arab Federation has stood in opposition to the war on Iraq, along with thousands of organizations and millions of people around world, to speak out against the devastation and destruction that will be the result of this aggression. The humanitarian disaster we had warned against has come to pass, and the dangerous regional consequences are slowly unfolding.
Canada’s brave and honourable stand in opposing this illegal and illegitimate war has saved the Arab and Muslim Canadian communities from the terrible backlash that would have threatened our multicultural coexistence. But despite our government’s vocal opposition to this war, it did not succeed in preventing it or in asserting the role of the United Nations and the international community in resolving conflicts. However, and particularly at this time, there remains a great deal that Canada needs to do in opposing the American occupation of Iraq and its political and military hegemony over the Middle East.
Iraq has been decimated
For over a decade now, Iraq has been disarmed both literally and figuratively. Its people have endured, under sanctions, astronomical rises in infant mortality, malnutrition and disease. Having instilled terror and untold civilian casualties with this latest, largely unopposed, military campaign, aptly named “Shock and Awe”, the occupation forces also unleashed criminal elements onto Iraqi society to lay waste the very fabric of that society, its institutions, culture and the enormous repost of humanity’s heritage present in Iraq.
Invading troops have assisted, by commission or omission, in the destruction of all that is indispensable for a stable civic life. Population, land, employment, business, the banking system, schools, hospitals, public utilities, public sector institutions, industrial plants, food and medicine warehouses, shops and even homes have been looted and destroyed. Under the pretext of security operations, the forces of occupation secured the Oil Ministry in Baghdad and other oil facilities in the country while claiming lack of capacity to protect civil facilities and civilian property.
In only twelve years, Iraq has gone from a country that boasted one of the highest literacy rates in its region, with a vibrant, productive and educated middle class, an advanced health care system and a booming economy, to a wasteland of death, destruction and despair.
Through its support of these sanctions Canada has been complicit in adding to the misery of the Iraqi people. The time has come for Canada to play an active and visible role in addressing the ongoing and growing humanitarian tragedy in Iraq, and to stand in opposition to the United States’ exclusive monopolizing of Iraq’s natural and monetary resources.
The War Remains Unjustified
While the Canadian Arab Federation and its constituency have always deplored the human rights abuses in Iraq, and have in no way supported the brutal and inhuman oppression of the Iraqi people by their regime, and while a process of democratization and good governance needs to be put in place, not only in Iraq, but in the entire region, we remain unshaken in our conviction that this war was illegal, illegitimate and unjustified. It is clear to even the most casual observer of the international scene, that the only reason for waging this war of destruction was for the US to achieve full control over the region and its resources.
In the build up to the war, the US stated several reasons to justify its planned attack on Iraq. These have ranged from Iraq’s stockpile of weapons of mass destruction, its ability to develop nuclear weapons, its readiness to use them, it’s connection to terrorist organizations, and its complicity in the 9/11 attacks on the US.
To date no weapons of mass destruction or nuclear weapons have been found, no capabilities to produce said weapons has been revealed, no connection between the Iraqi regime and al Qa’eda has been established, and Iraq’s military capabilities to threaten the United States and Britain have been proven baseless by the virtually unopposed occupation of Iraq by the invading forces. Moreover, the only illegal weapons deployed were unleashed by US and British forces, pounding a defenceless civilian population and a largely demoralized and ill-equipped Iraqi army with 1500 cluster bombs, and adding an as yet undetermined number of depleted Uranium rounds to the 940,000 dropped in 1991.
Concern for Post-war Iraq and the region
Long before the war, however, it had become clear to the entire world that these reasons were only pretexts. At which point Operation Iraqi Freedom was born. But the liberation of Iraq soon turned into the sacking of Baghdad in which not even hospitals, museums or libraries were spared the looting and destruction.
Weeks after the bombs have stopped falling, Iraqis are still suffering the effects of the destruction of their infrastructure, including water treatment plants, power generation, and communication facilities. Hospitals are unable to treat the thousands of civilians injured and maimed by the bombing, and food and medical supplies are scarce.
Moreover, there has been little information about what the US intends to do in Iraq. The US’s claims that the war is not yet over and that it is not an occupying force, absolves it’s military from having to take any form of responsibility for civilian life and well being in accordance with the Geneva Conventions.
However, the appointment of Rt. General Jay Garner as Viceroy belies these claims and consolidates an occupation by military might. The claim that the US will use its presence in Iraq to build a democratic government and institutions has no merit judging by its track record in Afghanistan and its history of allying itself with dictatorships, including the regime of Saddam Hussein during it most brutal and oppressive incarnations.
From its position of control in Iraq, the US has started to threaten other countries in the region, namely Syria and Iran, and to intimidate the Palestinians into accepting whatever the US Administration’s road map dictates. The assertion that the US will redraw the map of the region to serve its interests is no longer an idle claim, but a deliberate policy of domination and hegemony over the region, its people and its resources. Fears of more military adventurism by the US in the region are growing.
A Role for Canada
The Canadian Arab Federation urges the Canadian Government to look objectively at all facets of the emerging and rapidly changing geo-political realities in the region.
CAF urges the government to take a strong and assertive stand that guarantees the people of the region their dignity and right to self-determination. Canada’s proven track record in helping countries build democratic systems and institutions from a rights-based perspective should be put to full use in a new Iraq now emerging.
As one of the countries with the greatest outreach in social and human development in Third World countries, Canada is well placed to provide Iraqis with the expertise needed and the aid required to rebuild their country on democratic principles.
CAF believes that Canada, with its respect for international law and its understanding of the vital role of the United Nations in the world, needs to stand firm against the United States’ continued marginalization of same. Canada should use its position in the world to strengthen and regain the role of the United Nations and the Security Council in resolving world conflicts.
By virtue of its opposition to the war, Canada is placed to strengthen its ties with the Arab world by providing an alternative path to democratization and institution building in the region that does not emerge out of the barrel of a gun.
Canada’s long-standing involvement in the Middle East as a fair and honest broker, with primary concern for human and humanitarian issues, places it in a position to play a pivotal in bringing about a just and peaceful resolution that would preserve the dignity and integrity of the Palestinian people and ensure respect for their human and political rights.
Arab Canadians stand ready to support their government in any actions it takes that will result in peace, justice and prosperity for the people of the Middle East.
CAF acknowledges the substantive contribution of Ms. Thuraya Khalil to this paper.