[Marxism] With Fallujah in Ruins, Protests Across Canada Condemn Bush Visit

Socialist Voice socialistvoice at sympatico.ca
Sun Dec 5 18:29:23 MST 2004


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               S O C I A L I S T   V O I C E
  Debate and dialogue on issues before the workers movement

Number 25, December 5, 2004          www.socialistvoice.com
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Editors' Note: Socialist Voice thanks Richard Fidler for a
report on the Ottawa actions. Readers are encouraged to
forward or distribute issues of Socialist Voice. Please
contribute comments and criticisms, subscribe, or
unsubscribe by writing: socialistvoice at sympatico.ca. All
issues of Socialist Voice are available at
www.socialistvoice.com. --Roger Annis and John Riddell


WITH FALLUJAH IN RUINS, PROTESTS ACROSS CANADA CONDEMN BUSH
VISIT

By Roger Annis and John Riddell

U.S. President George Bush met an angry reception during
his state visit to Canada November 30-December 1, as tens
of thousands of people took to the streets in many cities
to protest Washington's wars.

The largest protest took place in Ottawa on November 30,
where close to 20,000 people took part in a day of action
to condemn the U.S./British occupation of Iraq and to
denounce Bush as a war criminal. The following day, more
than 5,000 people marched in Halifax during a 90-minute
stopover by Bush.

In Vancouver, British Columbia, two protests took place on
November 30, both organized by the Stopwar coalition. A
noon march drew 1,000 people, the majority of whom were
delegates to the annual B.C. Federation of Labour
convention. Five hundred people attended an evening rally.

The city of Ottawa resembled an armed camp for the 24 hours
of Bush's visit. Streets were closed, helicopters hovered
constantly, police in riot gear were everywhere, and police
snipers occupied rooftops. Actions were held throughout the
day in an effort to confront Bush as he moved about the
city. A rally of 15,000 took place on Parliament Hill in
the late afternoon and evening. Buses brought participants
to the city from Toronto, Montreal, and other cities across
Ontario and Quebec.

Bush adjusts schedule

The prospect of large protests caused several changes in
the Bush schedule. He did not speak to the Canadian
parliament--normally the custom during a state visit. His
handlers worried that some members of parliament might
interrupt his speaking and condemn his policies.

The visit to Ottawa was cut short in order to stop in the
east-coast city of Halifax for a public relations
performance in front of a select gathering of political and
military figures. The ostensible purpose of Bush's speech
was to thank families in eastern Canada who took stranded
airline passengers into their homes in the aftermath of the
attacks of September 11, 2001. In fact, his speech was a
vigorous defense of the U.S. "war on terror" and policy of
preemptive aggression. Violating diplomatic protocol, Bush
also tossed out a challenge to the Canadian government to
join in the "missile defense" program.

Several of the families who offered post-September 11
hospitality spoke out against this show. Speaking to a news
conference on November 29 beneath a black banner reading,
"He's not welcome," Anne Derrick, a lawyer whose family
took in passengers, said, "Mr. Bush has squandered the
sympathy earned by the U.S. after September 11. I hope he
gets the message during his visit here that we will not be
cheerleaders for his administration's brutal foreign
policies."

Marchers in Halifax carried signs saying, "Stranded
passengers always welcome; preemptive wars are not!" While
the main theme of the march was opposition to the Iraq war,
marchers also condemned Bush's opposition to abortion
rights for women and his government's attack on democratic
rights at home.

B.C. Federation of Labor President Jim Sinclair was the
main speaker at the noon rally in Vancouver. He condemned
the U.S. occupation of Iraq and called for withdrawal of
occupation troops. He also denounced the ongoing occupation
of Palestinian territory by Israel and the erection of its
apartheid wall on Palestinian land.

Ottawa rally

The main rally in Ottawa heard speeches from Jack Layton,
head of the New Democratic Party, a spokesperson of the
Bloc Quebecois, Denise Veilleux of the Union des forces
progressistes (a left-wing party in Quebec), Member of
Parliament Carolyn Parrish, several representatives of
Arab-Canadian organizations, and others.

Veilleux evoked strong applause from the crowd when she
explained that the occupation in Iraq results from an
international system of domination and exploitation that
must be changed.

Member of Parliament Carolyn Parrish received the strongest
applause. She was recently expelled from the ranks of
Liberal Party members of parliament by Prime Minister Paul
Martin for her outspoken opposition to the war in Iraq and
the new anti-ballistic missile program that the U.S.
government is pressing Ottawa to sign onto.

Jack Layton spoke on the proposed missile program and
concerns about the effects of global warming. He made no
comment on the war and occupation in Iraq. Just prior to
Bush's visit, Layton had failed to mention Iraq among the
steps he proposed the U.S. government take to "make the
world a safer place."

For more than a year, the NDP leadership has downplayed the
party's opposition to the Iraq war and focused instead on
themes of defending Canadian sovereignty. It is from mainly
this angle that Layton and other party leaders Jack Layton
oppose Washington's "missile defense" program.

Canada's rulers tighten ties with Washington

Bush's visit was first and foremost an initiative by
Canada's ruling elite to strengthen its support for U.S.
war policies in Iraq and elsewhere. Unfortunately, speakers
in the anti-Bush said little about Ottawa's complicity in
the war drive. It is vital that the antiwar movement in
Canada strongly oppose the warmakers here at home--
otherwise it will be robbed of its potential political
impact.

And the federal government has taken many steps over the
past year to increase its active support U.S.-led wars and
occupations:

-- Canada has announced it will join the U.S.-led effort to
arrange a national "election" in Iraq in January. This
electoral sham, to be staged under the control and watchful
eye of occupation forces, is a centerpiece of efforts by
the U.S. and Britain to divide and demobilize Iraqi
resistance to occupation.

-- Canada is also an enthusiastic partner in the
imperialist occupation in Afghanistan. It committed 3,000
troops there earlier this year, (since reduced to 700) in
the name of helping the U.S. and Britain with their
occupation in Iraq.

-- In February, Canada joined the U.S.-led intervention
that overthrew the elected government of Jean-Bertrand
Aristide in Haiti. Canada's national police force is a part
of the ongoing international occupation force there.

-- The Canadian government has signaled its interest in
signing the proposed ballistic "missile defense" agreement
with the U.S. If successful, this armament program would
enable the U.S. military to achieve a long-cherished dream:
the capacity to launch a devastating nuclear attack on a
rival power while absorbing only "tolerable" retaliation on
U.S. soil. Obviously, this effort can only escalate the
world arms race.

-- On the day of Bush's departure from Canada, Ottawa
carried out a decisive shift at the United Nations in its
support to the imperialist state of Israel. It voted
against three resolutions there that recognize the national
rights of the Palestinian people. For many years, Canada
abstained on such votes at the UN. Only three other
countries of significance voted against the resolutions--
the United States, Australia, and Israel.

Destruction of Fallujah

Bush arrived in Ottawa in the shadow of the destruction of
the city of Fallujah in Iraq by U.S. occupation forces.
Details of the gruesome toll of the U.S. assault on the
city, launched on November 7, continue to accumulate.

A massive aerial and artillery bombardment preceded the
invasion. Bombardments continued during the two-week
assault. U.S. forces prevented military-age men from
leaving the city, barricading them into what then became a
free-fire zone. Anyone in the city after the invasion began
was a target of U.S. snipers.

Most dwellings, commercial buildings, and infrastructure
have been destroyed or heavily damaged, and the destruction
by occupation forces is continuing as they conduct house to
house searches for anti-occupation fighters. "The marines
try to avoid ambushes," describes a correspondent in the
December 1 Independent newspaper in Britain, "by blasting
holes in side walls instead of coming in through the front
door. They throw grenades into every room before entering."

More ominously, the al-Jazeera news network and the Daily
Mirror newspaper of Britain have reported the use of napalm
in Fallujah, a chemical weapon banned by international
convention in 1980. The Mirror reports that several Labour
Party members of the British parliament have denounced the
use of napalm and demanded an explanation from Prime
Minister Tony Blair.

U.S. pays heavy price

Fallujah was an important material and political base of
the opposition to foreign occupation, and it has been lost
for the time being. Similar large-scale attacks are
underway against other centers of resistance in the
country.

The U.S. military claims to have killed 1,200 "insurgents"
in Fallujah. The real number is, according to many
accounts, considerably less. A Red Cross official in the
city estimated 800 civilian deaths. Resistance continues in
the city, including in areas supposedly "cleared" by U.S.
forces.

The vast majority of anti-occupation fighters in Fallujah
succeeded in withdrawing to fight another day. Occupation
casualties in dead and wounded were heavy--more than 10%,
by U.S. count, of the approximately 6,000 U.S. soldiers
thrown into the battle.

Meanwhile, plans to create a compliant and reliable Iraqi
army and police service are in tatters. Few Iraqi soldiers
were used in Fallujah. In Mosul, the third largest city in
the country, an uprising of Iraqi patriots took control of
the city in the opening days of the Fallujah assault. The
carefully nurtured pro-U.S. police force of 5,000 in that
city disappeared--most resigned or joined the patriotic
forces.

Each day in Iraq, there are scores of attacks on occupation
forces. U.S. combat deaths in November were 135, equaling
the previous monthly high, April 2004. Since the invasion,
1,250 U.S. soldiers have died and 9,300 have been wounded.
As a result of the worsening attacks, the U.S. is
increasing the number of troops by 12,000, to a total of
150,000.

The destruction of Fallujah brought the U.S. no closer to
its goal of subduing the Iraqi people. Three hundred
thousand people were driven from their homes and their
city. A New York Times correspondent wrote December 1 (with
probably unconscious irony), "Military officials
face an
unusual challenge: how to win back the confidence of the
people whose city they have just destroyed. Their task will
be made harder by the need to deter returning insurgents,
who will try to sabotage the reconstruction with attacks."

The murders of several injured and unarmed Iraqis that were
caught on camera and shown on U.S. television during the
battle give a glimpse of the reign of terror that prevails
in the city. Those revelations, and those from this past
summer earlier this year depicting the torture of Iraqi
prisoners in the country's prisons, underscore the
impossibility for the occupation forces to win the "hearts
and minds" of the Iraqi people.

Occupiers sow divisions among Iraqis

While the U.S. claims of victory in Fallujah ring hollow,
it did achieve a political goal that eluded it in the
preceding offensive there in April of this year. At that
time, massive protest inside Iraq, including by forces
within the Shia community, put a halt to an offensive
against Fallujah. This time, important sections of the Shia
religious and political hierarchy stood aside as U.S.
battle plans unfolded. The Shia establishment is anxious to
participate in the election scheduled for January 2005.
They expect to win, and to share in the spoils of
governing.

In northern Iraq, the U.S. has achieved a measure of
support from leaders of the main political parties of the
Kurdish population by tolerating--for now--de facto Kurdish
regional autonomy. Washington's stated goal is to end
Kurdish sovereignty, but it is unable to act on that goal
for the time being. (See Socialist Voice #14)

Massive protests needed

The U.S. is in Iraq for the long haul. It has built a
series of permanent military bases and has no plans to
leave unless forced to do so. The generals are prepared to
accept substantial casualties among their troops, who,
recruited from the poorest layers of U.S. society, are
deemed expendable. The U.S. intends to use its overwhelming
military power to wear down the will to resist among the
Iraqi people. So far, it has made little headway. But
Washington hopes that divisions among Iraqi communities to
enable it to crush them one by one.

As in Vietnam three decades ago, driving out the occupiers
will be primarily a political process, in which Iraqis find
the path to unity against the invaders, while working
people (including soldiers) in the U.S. and internationally
conclude that they, too, are losers from the devastating
assault on Iraq and must act to bring it to an end.

Demonstrations like those in Canada during the Bush visit,
and the larger and more militant ones that greeted him
recently in Chile, are the best help that antiwar activists
can provide to the Iraqi people as they struggle to lift
the boot of imperialist occupation from their necks and
free their country.




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