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      Open Letter to Federal Caucus of
      the New Democratic Party re: “The White Helmets”

      September 21, 2016

      To the Federal Caucus of the New Democratic Party

      Dear Members of Parliament:

      It is with great disappointment and regret that we find ourselves calling into question your unanimous caucus decision1, announced by MP Nathan Cullen, to support the nomination of the White Helmets organization in Syria for the Nobel Peace Prize for 2016. After all, as an anti-war organization formed to oppose the Anglo-American attack on Iraq in 2003, our Coalition was founded in part by NDP members in the greater Hamilton/Burlington area and one NDP riding association in Hamilton. Many of our present executive and rank-and-file members either belong to and/or support the NDP.

      In making his announcement, Cullen called the White Helmets “incredible civilians”, “connected to peace”, “the best of humanity”, “saving lives…in the midst of terror.”

      Nothing could be further from the truth.

      The White Helmets organization was founded by James LeMesurier, a British army officer formerly connected to the notorious Blackwater mercenary organization. The White Helmets describe themselves as “fiercely independent.” However, they are actually well-funded by the same governments who are waging the current aggression against Syria. In the past 2.5 years, they received £19.7m. from the British government and $23m. from the US government. Millions more dollars in cash, equipment, and training were contributed by various European NATO countries (including $4.5m. from the Netherlands).2 Would the caucus members agree that these amply-documented facts prove the White Helmets are NOT fiercely independent?

      The White Helmets operate only in terrorist-controlled areas of Syria. The organization is, in fact, deeply embedded in the Nusra (Al Qaeda’s official affiliate in Syria) and ISIS terrorist networks.

      Is Mr. Cullen and the caucus unaware that the White Helmet leader, Raed Saleh, was refused entry to the USA and deported from Dulles Airport in Washington, DC, on March 29, 2016, because immigration officials found that he had “terrorist connections.”3 Saleh has repeatedly called for a no-fly zone over Syria, the same tactic used by NATO in 2011 to bomb Libya into a failed state.

      The White Helmets are first-responder poseurs. The REAL Syria Civil Defence was established in Syria in 1953 and was a founding member of the ICDO [International Civil Defence Organization] which is recognised by the United Nations. The White Helmets were only formed in 2013 by the UK, Turkey, and the US as part of their neocolonialist program in Syria. The White Helmets are not members of the ICDO.

      In short, contrary to Mr. Cullen’s statement to the CBC, the White Helmets are not civilians. And they are not “connected to peace.” In fact, they were recruited as part of the illegal regime change operation in Syria responsible for nearly half a million deaths, 11 million displaced persons, and the widespread destruction of civilian infrastructure. They are part of the reason that over 25,000 Syrian refugees have had to look to Canada for resettlement. And, being embedded directly in Al Qaeda’s Syrian franchise hardly qualifies them to be “the best of humanity.”

      To his credit, party leader Tom Mulcair argued on March 20, 2015, in the House of Commons against expanding the Canadian military mission in the Middle East to include the bombing of Syria:

      Canada does not have the legal grounds to conduct airstrikes in Syria.

      ‘But our friends are doing it’ is simply not a defense. That sort of childish reasoning is more suitable to the schoolyard than it is to the House of Commons and the Prime Minister should know better.

      The fact is, what this government is proposing will put our Canadian Forces in the dubious position of acting outside of international law.

      New Democrats will not stand for it. 4

      The White Helmets call for a no-fly zone over Syria, a policy much-favoured by the Pentagon, but completely at odds with the view (expressed above) of the NDP leadership in the House of Commons. For this reason, the NDP should also not stand in support of the White Helmets.

      We note that your decision to support the White Helmets was taken unilaterally at a closed caucus retreat held several days ago in Montebello, Quebec. This matter was NOT raised at the NDP policy conference in Edmonton only a few months ago in April 2016. In fact, at that conference, party leaders prevented a wide-ranging discussion of the Syrian and Palestinian conflicts from taking place, as well as the $15 b. Canadian sale of arms to Saudi Arabia. A resolution, endorsed by several riding associations, for the party to engage in a wide-ranging foreign policy review was likewise prevented from even coming to the convention floor.

      We would like to emphasize that the humanitarian tragedy in Syria has gone on for far too long: five and a half years. The White Helmet organization does NOT seek to end the tragedy. Instead, it’s part of the propaganda apparatus of the same western governments (which included the Harper government of Canada) that were responsible for causing the tragedy in the first place. They use the White Helmets organization to promote further violence and bloodshed against the Syrian people, up to and including a full-scale and direct western military intervention in Syria.

      Judging by Cullen’s statement, it’s obvious that the caucus did not consider the partisan and fraudulent nature of the White Helmets. We urge you, then, to reverse your decision to support the nomination of the White Helmets organization for the Nobel Peace Prize. Further, our anti-war Coalition urges you to lobby for an end to Canadian economic sanctions against Syria and for a resumption of normal diplomatic relations with the government of Syria. We also hope that you will call for an end to Canada’s participation of the so-called “Friends of Syria” Group of Countries, which was put together in 2012, partly with the help of the Harper government, to wage a proxy war, using terrorist mercenaries, against the Government of Syria. And, we expect that the NDP in Parliament will continue to oppose the participation of the Trudeau government in the US-led coalition in Syria and Iraq.

      Thank you for your consideration of this very important matter.

      Yours truly,
      Doug Brown
      Co-chair, Hamilton Coalition To Stop The War
      band@cogeco.ca or 905-632-4774
      (after Monday, Sept 19, 1 pm)

      1 NDP pushes for Syrian ‘White Helmets’ to win Nobel Peace Prize
      2 Who are Syria’s White Helmets?
      3 New York Times Article: Leader of Syria Rescue Group, Arriving in U.S. for Award, Is Refused Entry – The New York Times
      4 March 30, 2015 – prepared text of speech to Parliament;

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