Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Canadian Military Creating New Guidebook For Attacking Oppressed Populations

Here is a depressing article called "Canada's Counterinsurgency Strategy" by Jon Elmer and Anthony Fenton, which documents the latest stage in Canada's transition from its longtime quiet complicity in war and empire to a more active, openly bloodthirsty, "out" kind of complicity.

The article's focus is a new counterinsurgency manual that will soon be released by the Canadian Armed Forces. This is the first time the Canadian armed forces have had a formal guide for how do participate in the violent suppression of what the article says that the manual characterizes as "local and often popular movements". However, it is a long Canadian tradition -- for example, the lead author of the manual has in the past cited the armed suppression of the Metis nation and their allies in 1885, a classic example of a white settler state militarily crushing indigenous peoples who do not particularly wish to be colonized, as a historic counter-insurgency by Canadian forces. Needless to say, this does not appear to trouble him.

The article talks about three current counter-insurgency efforts of various levels of intensity in which the Canadian forces are participating: the recolonization of Afghanistan, the support of the government in Haiti installed after the U.S.-sponsored coup against the democratically elected president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, and the enforcement of colonial relations in Canada against indigenous insurgencies.

I found some of the quotes from senior Canadian military officials to be particularly chilling, things like this:

"It is a fascinating time to be a Canadian soldier," Lt. Gen. Andrew Leslie, head of the army, told journalists at a recent policy briefing at the Fraser Institute, a conservative research institute in Vancouver.

"We are no longer a blunt instrument relegated solely to watching from the sidelines or inter-positioning ourselves between two formerly warring factions," Leslie said.

Canadian generals such as Leslie, Chief of Staff Rick Hillier and retired Maj. Gen. Louis MacKenzie have been outspoken critics of the accuracy and utility of the long-fostered national self-image of the Canadian military as a neutral middle-power and "blue-helmeted" peacekeeper.

While the Canadian Forces commitment in Afghanistan is currently slated to end in February 2009, "Let's not kid ourselves," Gen. Leslie said. The enormous resources invested by the government in the transformation of Canada's armed forces are clearly not for Afghanistan alone, he said, adding: "It is logical to expect that we will go somewhere fairly similar to Afghanistan and do much the same sort of activity."

Well, I do agree that we shouldn't kid ourselves. But these men should not just be fired, they should be locked up and provided with access to free psychological care for their casually cruel boosterism of Canadian complicity in murder, torture, and other oppressive violence against (mostly racialized) human beings.

The fairly open complicity of the Canadian International Development Agency, which used to have a few quite progressive corners from what I've heard, is also interesting. Particularly telling is the list of countries receving the greast aid, which are defined as "countries of strategic importance for Canada": Afghanistan, Haiti, and Iraq. why could they be "of strategic importance for Canada"...hmmm....

Read the article.


Red Jenny said...

"It is a fascinating time to be a Canadian soldier"...?

Well, I guess, if you have a fascination with dominating and killing.

Good post and excellent article

Scott said...

Thanks RJ.

Yeah, isn't that just a completely sick quote?

thwap said...

Holy fukkin's shit Scott! What a catch!

it's nauseating to know that our country can produce such a twisted document.

skdadl said...

Great post, Scott. Thanks very much.

Anonymous said...

but haven't we known this? i mean as a 'people'... i wonder if our populations are beginning to question the reinstatement of draconian definitions of "terrorists"... who are the 'oppressed' in this climate of twisted and/or misused words?

i'm babbling... all to say that such a 'guidebook' seems hardly a new concept... : )

just stopped in to stand on the soapbox - i mean - see what yer up to these days ; )

Scott said...

Thanks thwap and skdadl.

And welcome back to active blogging, ricia...I've seen that you're back to posting again, but hadn't quite got around to leaving a "Welcome back!" comment over at your place. That healthcare stuff you've been going through sounds like a nightmare!!

Yes, I agree that the "guidebook" is not describing anything radically new in the behaviour of the agents of the Canadian state. Heck, even the guy who wrote the thing admits that, and is a-okay with it. For me, what is notable about this is exactly what I said up in the first paragraph of the post: formally codifying it is one more step in a transition not from innocence to complicity but from one mode of complicity to another, as I wrote about here some time ago. Even if the most important aspect of this is the continuity of the fact of complicity, there is also political significance to the change in approach to complicity -- the current shift is, of course, making bad worse.

Scott said...

(And the thing about the change being from bad to worse assumes a particular timeframe and a particular standpoint...I haven't thought about the details in awhile, but from what I remember of what I wrote way back when, the period of quiet, liberal complicity has roughly corresponded to the welfare state, whereas before WWII Canadian enthusiasm for empire was more open, albeit checked somewhat by the particular sort of anti-imperial sentiment found in francophone Quebec.

I would qualify all of that by saying that I don't think that periodization really applies to complicity in empire within north america, but rather to modes of complicity in empire in the rest of the world. However colonial relations within Canada have shifted since Confederation, I think it has more to do with the capacity to resist and decisions made by the indigenous nations than with any big changes on the part of the settler state -- the form of settler state repression has shifted at different times in response to tactical necessity, but the colonial goals seem pretty much constant over time.)

Anonymous said...

well said! i'm going to pass this thread along...

sort-of "back posting" quite irregularily, indeed.
haven't got the heart to nix it, but haven't got the time to rant and rave as i do : )