Ready, Aye, Ready! Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird whips up the War Party in the House of Commons. Below: Stephen Harper, the prime minister, and Edmonton Centre MP Laurie Hawn.

Stephen Harper, John Baird, Laurie Hawn and the rest of the boys yesterday finally got the war in Iraq they’ve been pining for since 2003.

“We should have been there shoulder to shoulder with our allies,” Prime Minister Harper, who was still the leader of the opposition, complained back in April 2003. At the time, the United States had just invaded Iraq to punish it for having nothing to do with 9-1-1 and having no weapons of mass destruction, although we were told a slightly different version at the time.

Well, we’re playing with the big boys in Iraq War III now, just as Mr. Harper wanted.

Yesterday the Conservative majority in the House of Commons, good soldiers every one, saluted, cried Ready, Aye, Ready, and approved the PM’s plan to get Canadian soldiers and airmen officially involved in fighting the so-called Islamic State (also known as ISIL and ISIS) in Iraq, plus maybe Syria, and possibly other places as well. Armageddon?

Not that any of them will be going anywhere near the place, or their kids either, but you can count of it Canada’s CF-18 fighter-bombers are already on their way, if they’re not in place already.

The War Party in the Commons and the media assured us yesterday they’re doing it to keep us safe here in the Homeland. You can count on it they’re also preparing for the war that really matters to them – holding onto the House of Commons – by concocting a yarn about how opposition MPs are all dangerous wusses, unwilling to deal with a clear threat against Canada and Canadians. You’re welcome to tell yourself this story after you’ve read Snow White and the Seven Dwarves to the kids tonight.

Well, let’s hope this war in Iraq turns out better than the last one, which we wisely largely avoided, or the ones in Afghanistan and Libya on which we spent about $20-billion and saw about 2,000 Canadians wounded or killed. Indeed, it can be argued persuasively that what the Americans did in Iraq last time created the problem we’re trying to deal with now.

Who knew, when Saddam Hussein promised the Mother of All Battles that we’d still be fighting it in 2014? The secular Iraqi dictator the United States successfully toppled may have gone to his reward, but part of the army he built apparently fights on under the guise of IS.

Given the dearth of information about why we’re getting into this fight – other than the perfectly defensible claim that IS is made up of hideous people who would like to roll back history to the Eighth Century – about the only thing that we can say with confidence is that we are not being told the whole story.

Indeed, as it has been explained to us, the whole IS narrative makes very little sense. How did these guys spring up out of nothing overnight? Who funds them? And to do what?

And if we have coherent war aims, they certainly have not been clearly explained.

So while we can be certain members of IS are very bad people, and somehow do need to be stopped, we’re entitled to be skeptical when we hear Edmonton Centre MP Laurie Hawn, in his new role as caucus Top Gun by merit of his previous job as an air force pilot, telling us on the CBC that if we don’t stop the beheaders in the Middle East, we’re going to have to deal with beheaders here in Canada.

Foreign Minister John Baird obviously agreed, as he beat the war drums Monday in Parliament: “If we don’t deal with ISIL and its ilk, they will deal with us.”

This is great propaganda, provided to us courtesy of the macabre IS social media team. But it will probably be a while before IS will have chopped off as many human beings’ heads as our dear friends and allies in the fight for a freer Middle East, the Saudi Arabians, who removed about 80 heads from human shoulders last year alone, including those of many foreigners. It’s only the Saudis, by the way, who have threatened to cut off the head of a Canadian to date.

So this leads to the first of 10 questions I think the Harper Government still needs to answer about this new war we’re now in:

Question No. 1: When IS has been defeated, what are the Harper Conservatives prepared to do keep Saudi Arabia from beheading foreigners?

Among the reasons our allies the Saudis give for these grisly activities is that the victims (who the Saudis would insist are not victims, but criminals) are guilty of practicing the wrong religion, viz., “witchcraft.”

The Harper Government loudly claims to be big on protecting the rights of people everywhere to practice their own religion. In fact, this is one of their justifications for going to war with IS. So…

Question No. 2: What will the Harper Government do to protect the right of Saudi citizens to practice whatever religion they wish? Even witchcraft. Will they even speak to our Saudi allies about this?

This leads inevitably to a question of who is funding and encouraging IS, and why.

We have been told that they’re doing it all themselves through bank robberies, kidnapping ransoms, refinery hijackings and the sale of oil to the Syrian regime, which is secular, and with which IS is also supposedly at war. This strains credulity.

However, there is also credible information that our friends the Saudi Arabians, through the donations of wealthy individuals and the organs of Saudi state security, assisted in the creation of IS to destroy their most hated enemies in the region, members of the Shia branch of Islam. (See Questions 1 and 2 above.)

Question No. 3: What will the Harper Government do to keep Saudi Arabia from financing IS, which has directly and explicitly threatened Canada?

It is now also clear that our NATO ally, Turkey, has had a hand in supporting IS – at least by omission and quite possibly by commission as well. This is apparently because Turkey considers the regime of Bashir Assad in Syria to be its enemy. IS is pledged to fight the Assad Regime, although it apparently isn’t actually doing so because it’s making too much money selling it oil.

Question No. 4: What will the Harper Government do to get Turkey to do something about IS, which has directly and explicitly threatened Canada?

There is also evidence that as recently as last year some of the secret services of our closest allies may have supported the groups that have now patched-over as members of IS in order to get at the Assad regime.

Question No. 5: What will the Harper Government do to keep security agencies of our western allies from supporting IS, which has directly and explicitly threatened Canada? 

Alert readers will recall that just last year, the Harper Government was very enthusiastic about knocking off the Assad regime. Now it is very enthusiastic about attacking a group that is an enemy of the Assad regime. (Part of that fight, by the way, is about the fact the Assad family and its supporters and the people fighting it are members of different branches of the same religion.)

Question No. 6: Is the Harper Government proposing to use Canadian F-18s to support the murderous Assad regime in Syria, which is allied with Iran, which we have declared to be a state supporter of terrorism?

Well, it’s not at all clear what the Harper Government thinks our role in Syria ought to be, other than possibly bombing IS units and installations.

Question No. 7: Is the Harper Government also proposing to go to war with the Assad Regime?

If we do so, we will in effect be going to war with Iran as well, which sees itself as the protector of the Shia and therefore as the key enemy of IS. At this point, the narrative starts to read like George Orwell’s 1984: We have always been at war with Eastasia!

Meanwhile, IS seems to be doing everything it can to goad Canada, the United States and Western European nations to attack it. In this, it presumably has the same goal as Al-Qaeda – the Saudi-Arabian-financed group that attacked the United States in 2001, prompting the invasion of Iraq, which had nothing to do with the attack, on the basis of a story that turned out to be fiction.

This is probably why IS is explicitly threatening Canada on social media even though it has no means to carry out such a threat and is tied down somewhere else.

Its leadership – whoever they are – seems to think that if they can get us bogged down in a war close to them, eventually they can unite the entire region against the West. It will help their goals spectacularly if we accidentally but indiscriminately kill civilians with our “precision” bombs, which bomber jocks like Mr. Hawn always promise will never happen, and which almost always does.

Question No. 8: What will the Harper Government do to ensure no Canadian bombs accidentally kill civilians in Syria and Iraq, thereby helping IS achieve its war aims?

This is not really a question for the Harper Government, but it’s also reasonable to wonder if we in the West ought to take the bait offered by IS. It is a fact that virtually nothing the West has done in the Islamic world since 2001 has worked out as promised, or very well at all.

Still, it’s fair to ask, even if we can be pretty confident we’re not going to get an answer …

Question 9: Does the Harper Government seriously expect things to work out any better in Iraq this time?

And finally, of course, since they are obsessed with balanced budgets …

Question 10: How much is all this going to cost?

All these concerns stated, it is in fact true that right now we face the most serious foreign threat to Canada in a generation. That is … the Ebola virus.

So I guess we could ask one more question: While we’re getting ready to get involved in a long, bloody and expensive war in Iraq and Syria that is almost certain to end badly for everyone, what is the Harper Government doing to protect Canada from Ebola?


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  1. A further question should be, how are you going to explain this war to the Canadian people? Today Turkey is doing nothing to help a Syrian Kurdish city close to the Syrian – Turkish border from being routed by IS even though its inhabitants are fighting against IS? How does that work? Audi Arabia now claims to be fighting IS while its mortal enemy Iran is helping Assad (another mortal enemy of Saudi Arabia) fight IS. How does that work? Assad fights IS, while its mortal enemy the moderate rebels of Syria are fighting IS. How will that work? The Americans, who continue to call Assad a thug, murderer, and killer, are now fighting Assad’s mortal enemy IS. What is that all about? This list of unexplainable alliances is not even close to being partially complete. The people of the West – including Canada – will never understand what is going on? And therefore they are bound to be disappointed in the outcome. In other words, no one in the West understands what is going on. We are talking about war. If we don’t understand it we should stay out of it.

  2. Question No. 11: Does the Harper Government believe that participating in this pointless crusade will help it gain approval by the Americans of Keystone XL, thereby allowing foreign controlled oil companies to more easily ship diluted bitumen from Alberta to the Texas gulf coast for processing and eventual export to communist China?

    1. When I heard that the U.S. sent its overflowing thanks to Canada for participation in yet another illegal war, the only thing I could think of was the next line in the thank-you note: “Oh, by the way, keep an eye out for the courier. He should be arriving any minute with the Keystone Pipeline approval. Consider your back scratched.”

  3. It’s not that hard David.
    IS is more chaotic and murderous than the establishment in Saudi Arabia. Are the Saudi’s bad guys? Yeah, pretty much. But so are the North Koreans…you can’t bomb everyone, so you pick and chose depending on severity and context.
    All this moral relativism isn’t much of an issue for more conservative minded folks. Are there a lot of shady, bad guy governments out there? Sure. Is IS something fairly exceptional and scary and destabilizing? Sure. Is it worth foiling their plans before they become the next established nightmare state in the world? Sure.
    What’s the big deal? Use up some ammo by helping out the people resisting the IS menace. Try not to accidently kill good guys in the process. Six months later you leave and hopefully the violent hell-hole we know as the Middle East will be slightly less of a violent hell-hole.

    1. This is a fundamentally silly response. This post is not about moral relativism, although pointing it out is always a useful pedagogical tool. Nor is it about randomly bombing bad guys just for the heck of it, obviously, or we’d be hearing the blasts right here in Edmonton. It’s about communications and war aims. If Canada has war aims in Iraq War III, they have not been communicated to us. War aims, by the way, don’t mean “Stop IS” without understanding HOW we’re going to stop IS. Military officers understand this. If they’re honest with themselves, they also understand that we can’t stop IS through aerial bombing alone. We simply can’t win this war without getting our hands and boots dirty. Really dirty. We are being told otherwise. So either we’re being lied to about what we’re doing or why we’re doing it. Actually, I expect the Harper Government’s war aims in this are “appear to be doing something about IS so we can get re-elected.” If we really want to stop IS, alas, we’re going to have to stop pissing around and do something about Saudi Arabia.

  4. Canada’s darkest hour was when we turned our back on freedom and our allies and didn’t go to war in Iraq in 2003. Had we stayed there this wouldn’t have been an issue.

    1. @Brian, what we turned our back on was lies and obfuscation. Saddam Hussein was no threat to anyone outside his own country’s borders in 2003; he had no so-called WMDs, and his military had been greatly diminished after Gulf War One. Bush Jr & Blair lied to the world and invaded that benighted country without adequate justification. Yes, Iraq was a one-party dictatorship, and Hussein was a barbaric murderer of his own people; but if we invaded every country led by a barbaric murdering dictator, we and every other Western nation would have to reintroduce conscription to get enough troops to do it; think China, Russia, and many others. The real test of whether a country should be invaded should be in response to, or to prevent, naked, unprovoked aggression; this was not the case in Iraq in 2003.

  5. What a profoundly depressing day. The audio feed from the HoC on the news this morning was very enlightening, a bunch of ignorant yahoos whooping and hollering about bombing the the hell out of those IS guys, while most of them couldn’t even point out Iraq or Syria on a map even if they were outlined in red with big arrows pointing at them. And Baird in the bug-eye sunglasses brings the (i>Apocalypse Now quote to mind:

    ” Kilgore: I love the smell of napalm in the morning. You know, one time we had a hill bombed, for 12 hours. When it was all over, I walked up. We didn’t find one of ’em, not one stinkin’ dink body. The smell, you know that gasoline smell, the whole hill. Smelled like [sniffing, pondering] victory. Someday this war’s gonna end…

    And the man from Liberia, Thomas Duncan, has died of Ebola. He carried a patient to the hospital when the ambulance refused to come and pick her up. No good deed goes unpunished.

    When Harper said that “Islamicism” – whatever that is – is the greatest threat to Canadian security on one of his extremely rare CBC interviews ages ago, I knew he really didn’t have a clue. Water wars, air pollution, death by climate change – floods, droughts, wind, snow – diseases that are ignored because they’re “over there”, ignorance and bigotry are far worse.

  6. Interesting with all the Conservative blather so little has been said about Robert Fowler’s comment in G&M last week. Particularly as he is one the most knowleable Canadians with first hand experience in the region.

  7. Here’s some good insights from long time Middle East observer Robert Fisk:

    He calls ISIS the “spiritual children” of years of western intervention in the Middle East that has killed hundreds of thousands. If this is true then they should remind everyone of the Khymer Rouge in Cambodia in the 1970’s where the US dropped more bombs than they did during WWII.

    Some believe the real target of ISIS may be the removal of the Saudi Royal family

  8. Would someone please rip those RCAF wings from Mr. Dressup’s flight jacket? It’s insulting.

  9. First, the case by Harper to join the US coalition has not been honestly and openly made. Second, we are contributing to the creation of more terrorists by taking part in this US led war.

    Canada could have helped, but why does everyone think the ONLY way we can help is militarily? What of humanitarian relief missions? Certainly, that would have been one essential and intelligent way to lend a hand.

    The Harpercon response is stupid and counterproductive.

    1. Would you like to see Canadian humanitarian aid workers beheaded on Youtube? You have to see at least some form of stalemate or control on the ground, or parts thereof, before sending in humanitarian aid.

      1. What a profoundly idiotic comment! Nobody wants to see Canadian humanitarian workers beheaded on Youtube … except perhaps brain-dead members of the conservative war party who would love the excuse to further frighten and control Canadians even more.

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