Canadian Militarism and Libya

Would Stephen Harper attack Libya simply to justify spending tens of billions of dollars on F-35 fighter jets? Perhaps. But, add on doing it for major Canadian investors, reinforcing his “principled” foreign policy rhetoric and reasserting Western control over a region in flux and you pretty much have the range of reasons why a half dozen CF-18s, four other military aircraft and 240-personnel naval frigate are currently engaged in combat 10,000 km away from Canadian soil.

Over the past few months the Conservative’s plan to buy 65 F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jets has become a serious political headache. A recent poll showed 68 per cent of Canadians — including a majority of Conservative supporters — agreed that “now is not a good time” to spend between $16 and $29 billion on these controversial single-engine jets. So, sending Canadian military aircraft to enforce a UN “no-fly zone” in Libya provides an opportunity to soften opposition to the F-35 purchase, an issue bound to be a hot topic in the election campaign that formally began Saturday. Most critics of the F-35 purchase — from the NDP’s Michael Byers to Project Ploughshares Ernie Regehr to Liberal foreign affairs critic Bob Rae — support the “humanitarian” mission in Libya. With these and other liberal interventionists supporting a bombing campaign in North Africa, Harper can more easily justify spending nearly $1,000 per Canadian on the best fighter jets money can buy. (Québec housing group, FRAPRU, claims the cost of a single F-35 equals 6,400 social housing units.)

The right-wing press has already begun to connect the dots. An Ottawa Citizen headline read, “Libya shows why Canada needs jets” while a Sun Media chain commentary explained, “enforcing a ‘no-fly’ zone to shut down a dictator is an expeditionary air operation. Is that something Canadians want to be able to do in the future? If yes, you need an F-35, expensive or not.”

Over the past five years the Conservatives have further militarized Canadian foreign policy. Military spending is at its highest level since World War II — the Harper government expanded Canada’s role in the occupation of Afghanistan, claimed that Russia is planning to attack and sent two-thousand troops to police Haitians after a devastating earthquake.

The Conservatives draw significant support from the military as well as its associated companies and culture. To get us in the fighting spirit, for instance, the Canadian Forces released onboard video footage of a CF-18 destroying a ground target in Libya.

But there is more to it than pleasing the Great White North’s version of the military-industrial complex. On Monday the Financial Times reported that Western oil companies were worried that if Gaddafi defeated the rebels in the east of Libya he would nationalize their operations out of anger at the West’s duplicity. Presumably, this includes Suncor, Canada’s second largest corporation, which signed a multi-billion dollar 30-year oil concession with Libya in 2008.

Home to the second largest amount of Canadian investment in Africa, instability in Libya has put a couple billion dollars worth of this country’s corporate investment in jeopardy. Dru Oja Jay, editor of the Dominion and a candidate for the Mountain Equipment Co-op Board of Directors, notes “Canadian investors are legitimately worried about what’s going to happen to the $1 billion signing bonus Suncor paid out to the Libyan government, or whether SNC Lavalin is going to recoup its investments in the country, which is home to 10% of its workforce.”And these are some of this country’s most powerful corporations. Embassy magazine includes both Suncor and SNC-Lavalin’s CEOs among the nine most influential business executives in determining Canadian foreign policy.

Would a victorious Gaddafi have moved against Canadian companies? Even if he didn’t, with all the bad press SNC and Suncor have received could they continue in Libya without regime change? Finally, will the rebels dependence on the West lead to better contract terms?

Unlike Egypt or Tunisia, the Conservatives denounced Gaddafi’s repression at the beginning of the Libyan uprising. This is partly because Gaddafi has never been on great terms with much of the West, even if there have been warmer relations in recent years. Also, the Conservatives were widely derided for supporting Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak and (to a lesser extent) Ben-Ali in Tunisia to the bitter end. So Libya gave Harper an opportunity to re-affirm his “principled” foreign policy rhetoric.

Beyond wanting to appear on the side of human rights and democracy, another element motivating the military intervention in Libya is the desire to influence the revolutions in bordering states Tunisia and Egypt, which are still in flux. Controlling Libya gives the West another point of leverage over developments in those countries. Bombing Libya tells democratic forces in the region that the West is prepared to use force to assert itself (as does tacit support for the Saudi military intervention in Bahrain).

Recent developments in Libya are a reminder that if you give the Western decision-makers an interventionist inch they take an imperial mile. In principle trying to stop Gaddafi from massacring people in eastern Libya is a good thing. But, the “no-fly zone” immediately became a license to bomb Libyan tanks, Gaddafi’s compound and other targets in coordination with rebel attacks. On Tuesday Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon claimed the UN resolution allowed for “boots on the ground”.

Beyond the inevitable death and destruction in Libya, the Security Council resolution further undermines state sovereignty, which provides the weakest states with some protection from the most powerful. This is the main reason why many Latin American and African countries have opposed the intervention.

Finally, let’s put the current moral outrage in perspective. A little over two years ago Israel launched a 22-day onslaught against Gaza that left some 1,400, mostly civilians, dead. There, the power imbalance between the two sides was much greater and the aggrieved population had been under the boot of the attacking force for as long as Gaddafi has ruled. Yet there was no talk of imposing a no-fly zone over Gaza. In fact, the Harper government cheered Israel on.

Yves Engler is co-author of the recently released New Commune-ist Manifesto — Workers of the World It Really is Time to Unite, a rewriting of the original designed to spark debate about a new direction for the Left and union movement. For more information go to www.newcommuneist.com. Read other articles by Yves, or visit Yves's website.

7 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Deadbeat said on March 28th, 2011 at 10:10am #

    Here is yet another typical pseudo-Left article designed to promote “War for Oil(tm)” mantra in order to deflect scrutiny away from Zionist influence on the Canadian political system and particularly its embrace by the Harper government. This article relies on rhetoric and biased assumptions to make its points. The author writes …

    But there is more to it than pleasing the Great White North’s version of the military-industrial complex. On Monday the Financial Times reported that Western oil companies were worried that if Gaddafi defeated the rebels in the east of Libya he would nationalize their operations out of anger at the West’s duplicity. Presumably, this includes Suncor, Canada’s second largest corporation, which signed a multi-billion dollar 30-year oil concession with Libya in 2008.

    Obviously, this means these companies are CURRENTLY operating in Libya and that they would prefer STABILITY over the instability caused by the “Zionist-backed” (Western-backed) rebels.

    Followed by …

    Would a victorious Gaddafi have moved against Canadian companies? Even if he didn’t, with all the bad press SNC and Suncor have received could they continue in Libya without regime change? Finally, will the rebels dependence on the West lead to better contract terms?

    If these companies want to know what Qadaffi thinks all they have to do is to phone him. These questions posed by the author are rhetorical and are designed to create FUD in order to convince the reader that the primary impetus for the attack on Libya are grounded in “Capitalist” interest so that no light be shown on Zionist demands for the overthrow and destruction of Libyan society.

    This misdirection is the chronic of the pseudo-Left.

  2. 3bancan said on March 28th, 2011 at 10:44am #

    “On Monday the Financial Times reported that Western oil companies were worried that if Gaddafi defeated the rebels in the east of Libya he would nationalize their operations out of anger at the West’s duplicity”

    Typical zionazi speak: to present Qaddhafi as a threat to the West. Btw, the same tactic was used against Saddam.
    It’s the zionazis who want the destruction of the muslim societies – for the benefit of the Jewish nazi state of Israel…

  3. Ismail Zayid said on March 28th, 2011 at 11:03am #

    As emphasized, by Yves Engler, the Canadian politicians who describe the invasion of Libya as a “humanitarian mission”, are playing with words. This attack on Libya, by the US and its allies, is a blatant example of imperial and colonial design. On top of that, it confirms the hypocrisy of these warmongers who remained completely silent, if not also supportive, of the vicious Zionist assault against the people of Gaza killing over 1400, including hundreds of children, and the demolition thousands of homes as well as scores of schools and hospitals.

    It is time that the perpetrators of these crimes are taken to the International Criminal Court.

  4. 3bancan said on March 28th, 2011 at 11:30am #

    Ismail Zayid said on March 28th, 2011 at 11:03am #

    “It is time that the perpetrators of these crimes are taken to the International Criminal Court”

    It’s these perpetrators of crimes against humanity who own the ICC and who decide who is to be taken to the ICC…

  5. shabnam said on March 28th, 2011 at 8:09pm #

    {Unlike Egypt or Tunisia, the Conservatives denounced Gaddafi’s repression at the beginning of the Libyan uprising.}

    Is not onlythe ‘conservatives’ who denounced Gaddafi, an independent leader, but also the so phony ‘progressives’ who have lied up behind a war criminal, Obama, denounce him.

    Juan Cole hit the lowest point when he followed the footsteps of the war criminals. He NONSTOP spreads propaganda lies of the empire to support Obama and other ‘leaders’ of the West who are complicit in crimes against humanity to execute Western’s geopolitical arrangement in the region which is based on Oded Yinon Protocol.

    He, as an agent of US government, attacks the pseudo left:

    {I would like to urge the Left to learn to chew gum and walk at the same time. It is possible to reason our way through, on a case-by-case basis, to an ethical progressive position that supports the ordinary folk in their travails in places like Libya. If we just don’t care if the people of Benghazi are subjected to murder and repression on a vast scale, we aren’t people of the Left.}

    He basically says: the ‘left’ should accept the military action against Libya and get over it to support Obama without delay.
    He spreads propaganda to demonize the government of Liby taken from Aljazeera, the voice of the empire, and Zionist media without any doubts.

    {http://www.juancole.com/2011/03/womens-rallies-in-libya-protest-rape.html}

    I remember Juan Cole, a US government propagandist poses as ‘progressive’, spread many lies about the Iranian election and called the election’ fraud’ and never apologized for it.
    Now, Cole spread a rape charge against government officials in Libya. He writes:
    {CNN reports that Libyan women in Benghazi staged a demonstration on Sunday to protest the alleged rape of Iman al-Obeidi by Libyan government officials in Tripoli. Al-Obeidi made headlines on Saturday by bursting into a Qaddafi government press conference and telling her story to the reporters. She was bundled away and disappeared, but on Sunday the government announced that she had been freed (this allegation could not be verified).}

    I remember after the Iranian election, the embedded ‘journalists’ spread a lie given by the Green stooges . These embedded western ‘journalists’ without further investigation posted it on their websites and spread it over the world in no time to demonize Iran.
    According to this fabrication, Taraneh Mousavi, a fictional female figure, was raped and killed by the Iranian government forces. In fact, this hoax was made by two Iranians who posed as ‘journalists’ and wanted to obtain a visa and a job at MI6 ( BBC) using this lie.

    They were successful to fool the West. Professor Siegel has written a post about Terrene Mousavi, a fictional figure, created by Green stooges. This hoax was used by Mehdi Karrubi, one of the candidates with less than 1% of the total votes against the government and by the embedded Western ‘journalists’ to expand their careers.

    {http://www.qlineorientalist.com/IranRises/tawana-mousavi-affair/}

  6. Deadbeat said on March 28th, 2011 at 10:45pm #

    Shabnam is right out I would go further to include “Socialist” primary of the white and Jewish variety have also lend their voices to the reprehensible demonetization of Qaddafi.

    Here’s a link to Cynthia McKinney regarding Libya and Qaddafi and his relationship to the African American community …

    From Cynthia McKinney: On President Obama and Libya; Japan and 9/11 Truth
    [http://dignity.ning.com/profiles/blogs/from-cynthia-mckinney-on]

    This is not just a war on the Libyan people but also a war on Black America. The Zionist Socialists, Progressives and Liberals have EXPOSED their true allegiances to the RACIST ideology of ZIONISM. There is no Left in the USA. NONE whatsoever.

  7. hayate said on March 28th, 2011 at 11:58pm #

    Canada is more of a ziofascist puppet than the usa is. Who but a ziofacist puppet would spend scare tax income on that obsolete f-35 piece of dung, AND fight israel’s wars?

    These people, if they can be realistically termed that, are traitors and grotesque war criminals and should be put on trial.

    Then executed.