Yvonne Ridley, patron of CAGE, writes for Middle East Monitor on the recent shootings in Canada – drawing parallel with the attacks in London in 2005 – intervention in Iraq being the sole cause of such attacks. Where Canada claims it has only now “lost its innocence” – in fact this innocence was lost a long time ago; its participation in the War on Terror and intervening in conflicts that are not its own have become common place.
Within hours of the 7 July bombers wreaking havoc, death and terror in central London back in 2005 it was clear to many this was a direct legacy of Britain’s involvement in the war against Iraq. On that terrible day I invited trade union giant the late Bob Crow onto my TV show to discuss the attack which had impacted on thousands of commuters as well as directly and indirectly on all London transport workers in his union, the RMT.
He was angry and outraged, and when I asked him for his immediate thoughts he said in his trademark robust and forceful tones, “This is what happens when you go round bombing other peoples’ countries.” He was referring to the invasion of, and war against, Iraq, pointing the finger of blame directly at the then Prime Minister Tony Blair.
Many – apart from Blair who is still in denial to this day – agreed with his sentiments. When a video emerged in September of that fateful year, Ayman al-Zawahiri of Al-Qaida confirmed as much. He said that the group would target the “lands and interests of the countries which took part in the aggression against Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan.”
Of course, there is no justification for targeting civilians anywhere in the world but you can’t legislate for the actions of random individuals (and governments, for that matter) who, for whatever reasons, take it upon themselves to launch devastating terror attacks, but Bob Crow’s words are still ringing in my ears. This is why I was surprised at the comments of Ontario’s Senator Jim Munson in the wake of the Ottawa attack this week, when a lone gunman brought terror to the Canadian parliament after gunning down a soldier standing guard at a war memorial nearby.
“It’s a day, I feel, where Canada lost its innocence,” he said during a TV interview. As sound bites go, it was no surprise that the media leapt on to it in order to convey the emotions of the Canadian people after gunman Michael Zehaf-Bibeau was shot dead in the halls of the parliament building. The theme was followed up by some international media outlets.
However, the real surprise is that Canada has not been targeted sooner. This is a country which, like its allies Britain, America and Australia, has played a major military role in the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq. In fact, as journalist Glenn Greenwald observed: “Canada has spent the last 13 years proclaiming itself a nation at war. It actively participated in the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan and was an enthusiastic partner in some of the most extremist War on Terror abuses perpetrated by the US. It is always stunning when a country that has brought violence and military force to numerous countries acts shocked and bewildered when someone brings a tiny fraction of that violence back to that country.”
Greenwald’s comments were made following a shooting two days earlier against another uniformed Canadian soldier; nevertheless, his words are extremely relevant to the second murder.
The shootings reminded me of a visit that I made to Canada in 2003, during which I had a private meeting with several parliamentarians in Ottawa who were concerned even then about a possible backlash from the war in Afghanistan and the merits of keeping soldiers there.
I reminded them that no Western military venture had ever succeeded in Afghanistan and suggested that the wisest thing to do would be to withdraw Canada’s troops and walk away before more soldiers paid the price of the politicians’ folly with their blood.
We know, of course, that it is difficult to “walk away” when you have the ever persuasive forces of Washington exerting pressure on you. The same pressure was applied recently and resulted in a squadron of Canadian fighter jets leaving their home base in Alberta on a six month mission to bomb “Islamic State” forces in Iraq.
I’m genuinely saddened that Canada and its people have now found themselves at the unwelcome centre of the never-ending War on Terror and I hope that the actions of this latest lone gunmen are the last that they suffer. I also hope that Canadian citizens don’t sacrifice their freedoms and liberties in the name of over-the-top security measures as has happened in the US.
Perhaps they should cast their minds back to a bombing campaign in May 1970 across Montreal where, by autumn the same year a group of French-Canadians kidnapped two politicians. The abductions ignited a series of events known as the October Crisis. Kidnappers from the Front de Libération du Québec had also plotted to abduct the American and Israeli consuls in Montreal in their campaign for sovereignty for the predominantly French-speaking province.
Best not to get swept up, therefore, with the idea that Canada has only now lost its innocence, for innocence can only be lost once; in Canada’s case, that happened a long time ago.
This article was first published on MEMO and can be seen here.
(NOTE: CAGE represents cases of individuals based on the remit of our work. Supporting a case does not mean we agree with the views or actions of the individual. Content published on CAGE may not reflect the official position of our organisation.)