On November 2 Canada dropped its first bombs on Iraq as part of “Operation Impact.” While the impact in Iraq is unknown, the main target is rehabilitating Canadian wars abroad while refusing to support veterans and at home.
We have no way of verifying the actual targets but apparently the CF-18s destroyed a couple of bulldozers that may or may not have been used by ISIS to build defensive positions. Or, since Fallujah has been destroyed multiple times over the last decade, they may have been used for construction. Either way, without any actual eyewitness reports we have no idea if anyone, civilian or ISIS militant, was killed.
While the Canadian military's announcement of delivering 1,600,000 pounds of military supplies and 418,000 pounds of fuel is good news for weapons manufacturers and the oil industry, there's no mention of humanitarian aid to the people of Iraq and no mention of how much this is costing people in Canada. Meanwhile the Tories are continuing to attack refugee healthcare while stoking xenophobia through a bill against "barbaric cultural practices."
What the government of Canada did succeed in doing is controlling the news cycle for 48 hours with the Parliament Hill press corps eagerly awaiting any type of briefing from the military. It came a couple of days after the US announced Canada’s participation in the airstrikes. It allowed Canadian Lt-General Jonathan Vance to stand in front of a new and snazzy TV screen that showed the video-game like airstrikes on a six foot screen emblazoned with a giant picture of a CF-18 on patrol.
It is impossible to state what the impact of the airstrikes actually is. It has certainly not crippled ISIS in any significant way but you can bet we are in for many more press conferences with the shinny new “Operation Impact” logos.
As with all the Conservative government’s moves, this has more to do with domestic opinion than actual “impact” in Iraq. The Harperites are happy to run an election on war, knowing that the real truths behind the mission are unlikely to be known until well after the vote.
We’ve seen this pattern before. The initial surge in support for the Canadian bombing of Libya was used by the Conservatives to build more support for foreign interventions. They even held a victory parade with full CF-18 overfly in Ottawa. Libya is, of course, in chaos and some of the fighters that make up ISIS were armed during the disastrous mission—but you won’t hear anything about that from the Conservatives.
Lip service for troops
What we will see over the net few months is continuing press briefings showing that Canada is being “tough on terror.” We will also see the constant use of the tragic killings of Canadian soldiers in Ottawa and Quebec as an after-the-fact justification for the war. The Canadian military has already started: the new bases for the operations in Iraq have been dubbed Camp Vincent in Kuwait and Patrol Base Cirillo in Iraq.
This is a cynical play by a government that continues to say that it alone supports the troops, while simultaneously gutting benefits for veterans and closing veterans affairs offices that provide vital services. There are many real ways to support veterans. One is to stop going to war, which inevitably results in more veterans with PTSD. Another is to stop nickel-and-diming the vets that come home in need of help.
And if we want a safer Canada we need to stop the war and address the issues that led to the killings in Ottawa and Quebec. The partner of Nathan Cirillo, Andrea Polko went public with a wonderful and principled reaction to the killings: “What we SHOULD be talking about is the dismal state of mental healthcare in our country. What that deeply disturbed man killing my boyfriend SHOULD make Canadians focus on is how we can PREVENT another event like this through more accessible and effective mental health treatment programs that target the REAL source of this tragedy."