The decision by the Trudeau liberals to remove Canadian CF-18s from the bombing campaigns in Iraq and Syria is welcome news but, as is often the case with the Liberals, this is more smoke and mirrors than any sort of real change. They followed the announcement that the planes would be brought home by announcing a tripling of troops on the ground.
These troops are supposed to be in the field as trainers for the Iraqi military. As we have seen over the last few years however, troops who are there to train are also frequently in combat. Numerous times over the past two years, Canadian troops have been in firefights on the front lines. One Canadian soldier, Andrew Dorion was killed by “friendly fire” while working with Kurdish fighters. The investigation into his death was declared classified so we have little information about what really happened.
Canadian soldiers were also involved in a major firefight in December of last year. According to Maj.-Gen. Charles Lamarre, it was the largest fight that Canadians had been involved in to date in Iraq. Training missions are combat missions. Period.
It is also the case that training missions have, as yet been terribly unsuccessful. Since the formation of the new Iraqi army by the US occupation forces, the West has spent more than $25 billion to train Iraqi troops. That’s more than $2 billion a year for the last 11 years. It still isn’t working and it is unlikely that this new Canadian commitment will turn the tide.
The reasons why the training of Iraqi troops has not worked for the West are varied. There remains deep anger at the US and its allies for the illegal invasion in 2003 that killed as many as a million people. There is deep distrust of the current Iraqi government and the associated militias and there is of course, the myriad of forces that are operating in the area supported by regional powers which has created a volatile situation with supposed allies working at cross purposes. Adding more trainers doesn’t deal with these political realities. It just means that more people within that chaos will have guns and the expertise to use them.
If the Liberal government were actually concerned about peace and human rights they would cancel the $15 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia and stop military shipments to the Egyptian and Bahraini dictatorships as well.
The chaos we see is a product of US-led Western military intervention. For more than a decade we have been told that just a little more bombing or training would solve the problems the West created. It hasn’t worked and won’t in the future as long as the powers operating in the region are doing so for their own interests.
Every foreign military mission is just adding fuel to the fire. It’s time for Canada to accept that reality and to bring our troops home.
Join the public meeting No boots on the ground: how can we stop Trudeau's expanding war?, Monday February 23, 7pm at Steelworkers Hall, Toronto