Thank you, Alison, for inviting me to participate in the meeting tonight. You asked me to talk about how Canada got involved in the dirty war in Syria.
Hopefully, on your screen now, you can see an article I wrote for Globalresearch.ca three years ago. It was the Harper government of Canada that got us involved in this dirty war against Syria, but it is our Canadian membership in NATO that routinely gets us involved in every war of the US Empire.
But here is the dirt on Harper, six points of how we ended up in this war of aggression against Syria.
In late 2011, after it became clear that the Syrian government was not going to fall, as was predicted of other governments during the so-called Arab Spring, Harper called upon Glenn Davidson, Canadian ambassador to Tunisia. Harper instructed him to organize a meeting, a pre-conference in Tunisia in December 2011, for a founding conference of an organization known as the Friends of Syria Group of Countries. That conference took place in February 2012.
What happened was that when the Syrian government didn’t fall, NATO countries, under the leadership of Hillary Clinton, decided that they were going to make a war against the Syrian government for regime change, using terrorist mercenaries, planted inside the country to attack the country and occupy parts of it. Our Canadian Ambassador helped to organize this Friends of Syria Group, which divided up the tasks among the various countries involved. Saudi Arabia and Qatar with their deep pockets were going to fund the operation; the United States was going to use its vast network for intelligence; the French and British were going to provide training for the terrorist mercenaries; Turkey and Jordan would allow training/supply bases and refugee camps on their territories; and the Canadian government was going to provide humanitarian aid for the refugees that would inevitably be created. Well, we know how that turned out. That was how we got involved in the war.
And the main point of contention with that war is that western NATO countries do not have the right to unilaterally decide to topple the government of any country they don't like. It's illegal under international law to do. Only the people of a sovereign country have the right to put into power or remove from power leaders they like or don't like.
The second way was that Canada volunteered to become the chair of the economic sanctions sub-committee of the Friends of Syria Group of Countries. In June of 2013, it organized a conference in Ottawa, which the Canadian government hosted with your tax dollars, brothers and sisters, to slap illegal economic sanctions against Syria. They were illegal because they were not sanctioned by the United Nations Security Council. They created such a miserable condition of life for people in Syria that manyhundreds of thousands of people were forced to become refugees and leave the country.
A third way that Canada became involved was funding the “rebels,” the so-called rebels. The Canadian government gave millions of dollars to the Syrian “rebels”, that is to say, to sectarian terrorist mercenaries.
The fourth way was the part played by Canadian military brass in laying the plans for the US-led coalition, in which we are still, unfortunately, a part.
The fifth way that we became involved was that the Canadian government invited Syrian expatriates from abroad, who were involved with the so-called Free Syrian Army, to come to Canada and feted them and gave them a lot of publicity and help. Also, the Canadian government worked with Syrian expatriates in Canada who were opposed to the legitimate government of Bashar Al-Assad.
Finally, the Canadian government, through Harper and John Baird, did their utmost to demonize and de-legitimize the lawful Syrian government.
So, that is how we became involved in the war in Syria.
Now, I would like to put up a couple of slides from the slideshow which I created when I was launching my booklet, “Defiant Syria.” I have a slide up on my screen. That is the opening screen of my slideshow, with the cover of the booklet, “Defiant Syria.” I was in Syria in the middle of April, 2016, for one week. There are 71 slides, all of which I am not going to show. But what I am going to show are four slides which start here because Alison asked me to talk about how Canada’s foreign policy looks now.
As you might recall, the Harper government decided to join the US-led coalition in Syria and Iraq and all the opposition parties in Parliament opposed it. During the 2015 election, Trudeau promised to bring these CF-18 fighter bombers out of Syria. The day after the election, he phoned Obama to tell him he was doing so, but he said Canada would still remain a member of the coalition. By the way, the Canadian government does not have the permission of the Syrian government to conduct air-strikes in its sovereign airspace, unlike Russia, for example. So, after six months of bombing raids, Trudeau pulled the CF-18 planes out of the US-led coalition, but he left the re-fuelers, reconnaissance, and the transport aircraft in.
The Canadian military forces are still in the coalition, which is still bombing Syria without the permission of the Syrian government. This is a serious matter of the violation of international law. It is something like you’re being in a bank hold-up, you’re not the one holding the gun to the bank teller's head, but you are driving the get-away car. So you are an accomplice to a crime. In this way, the Trudeau government is an accomplice to a war crime.
More than that, the Canadian government switched its ground involvement and they tripled the number of so-called “trainers” in Iraq. These trainers are exclusively located in the Kurdish part of Iraq, its North. It is a Kurdish, separatist state. It has gotten to the point that the Canadian soldiers are wearing, as you can see on their shirts (this is a CTV television shot), the Kurdish flag on their shoulder flashes.
Now, Canadian foreign policy says that we stand for the territorial integrity of Iraq. But, in practice, what is happening is that the Canadian government is training the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in Northern Iraq as part of an increasingly independent state. What we are really doing is participating in the American plan to dismember and fracture Iraq, and later, if they can, Syria. Again, this is a war crime. That is why I say that it is Canada’s mistaken foreign policy.
For Justin Trudeau, we have a wish list. That is to say the Hamilton Coalition to Stop the War, the peace movement, has a wish list for Trudeau, which should be on the screen in front of you. We are asking the Canadian government, instead of participating in war crimes, to establish a fact-finding mission of parliamentarians, journalists and academics, just as the French and British and the European Union did recently, and send it to Syria. We are asking for the normalization of diplomatic relations. We are asking that Canada lift its economic sanctions against Syria; that they quit the so-called Friends of Syria Group; that it leave the US-led coalition; that it make a clean-break from the Harper era policy of using your tax dollars to fund terrorist outfits inside Syria; that it terminate the Saudi arms deal; that it quit NATO and establish an independent Canadian foreign policy. That is our wish list that we talk about all the time.
Why is this important? It is important because the Middle East, as you can see in the cartoon, is a modern-day powder-keg in the same way that the Balkans were a powder-keg for World War I, 100 years ago. Unless we are able to defuse the situation in the Middle East, we are running the risk of a much bigger, wider, regional war. Because there are so many players involved in the war in Syria, anything could start it into a major conflagration. Also, we have three of the world’s superpowers involved. We have Russia, China and the United States, all of which have nuclear weapons, deeply involved in Syria. One mis-step, one accident, one wrong decision could start World War lll.
The Middle East is a powder-keg for a third World War, and people do not realize just how much the tensions have been ratcheted up in the last few weeks in Syria by the United States, such that - if you take the situation in Ukraine as part of this – we are in the most dangerous situation to world peace since 1939. That’s my personal opinion.
Now, I will talk a couple of minutes about the White Helmets because that’s something that we have become involved in here in Hamilton. The White Helmets have to do with Syria and Canada’s role in Syria, Canada’s dirty role in Syria.
Recently, a bunch of us went to the Toronto International Film Festival to protest the showing of the film “The White Helmets.” It is a Netflix film, about 40 minutes long, which you can watch on Netflix if you are so inclined. Recently, Nathan Cullen of the New Democratic Party introduced a motion at the NDP Federal Caucus retreat in Montebello, Quebec, just before Parliament resumed a few days ago. At this meeting, they unanimously voted to endorse the nomination of the White Helmets for the Nobel Peace Prize.
So, who are these White Helmets?
I have to tell you, contrary to the claim made by the Toronto International Film Festival, they are not a bunch of “volunteer heroes.” They are not volunteers in the first place. They are heavily funded by the same governments that are behind the aggression in Syria. They, in fact, received over $40 million just from the US and British governments alone. They received more from France and Holland, and other NATO countries threw in equipment and training facilities as well. The training is done inside of Turkey, which is a NATO member. So, they are not volunteers at all, it’s a very well-funded operation. It was founded by John Le Mesurier, who is a British contractor, a former British Army Officer who worked with the infamous Blackwater mercenary group. He organized this White Helmets operation and is still its director of operations. The White Helmets, notably, are only to be found in the terrorist-occupied areas of Syria. They are not to be found in any other areas of Syria, just the terrorist-occupied areas. That’s because they are deeply imbedded in the Al-Nusra organization, which is the official franchise of Al-Qaeda in Syria.
So, these White Helmets, who claim to be first-responders, rescuers, civil defense personal, are actually an appendage of Al-Nusra. What they do is emergency work for Al-Nusra in the areas that it occupies. Now, I have to point out to you that there is a real Civil Defence Organization in Syria. It was founded in 1953, and it was a founding member of the International Civil Defense Organization. So, these White Helmets are complete poseurs. They are pretenders and they are used for propaganda purposes. They are supposed to be really nice guys, people who are doing really great things. But, if you check the videos that Al Nusra terrorists post on line, you will see that bearded men who are in one video fighting the Syrian Army with assault rifles and RPG's are in the next video donning their white helmets and White Helmet uniforms. Their membership is very fluid. It's really a propaganda outfit. What they are doing is promoting a certain political line. Now, the Red Cross, the Red Crescent, don’t take political lines, they serve people on all sides. But, that is not true of the White Helmets. The White Helmets call for the overthrow of Assad government. The White Helmets also called for a ‘No-Fly Zone’ over Syria, which is precisely the same tactic that NATO used in 2011 to destroy the Libyan state and turn it into the failed state where there are rival militias fighting each other and the population is piling into boats trying to get away to Europe. This is part of the refugee problem. The leader of the White Helmets is Raed Saleh. He was recently barred from entering the USA in April of this year to accept a prize on behalf of the White Helmets and deported directly from Dulles Airport in Washington, DC, straight back to Turkey. If the leader of the organization is barred from entering the USA, what does that tell you about the organization?
So, the White Helmets are a construct of the West. They were a creation of several Wall Street publicity firms and the fact that they are getting coverage at the Toronto International Film Festival and by the NDP really is shameful because people are being duped, people are being asked to believe that this White Helmets organization is a force for good, when actually it is an appendage of Al-Qaeda.
I hope I've answered the questions that you put to me, Alison, for yourself and the brothers and sisters that are at your meeting. I wanted to let you know that my booklet, which you have there, are the very last of the print copies. If people want to read my account of being in Syria during April, the booklet is also available online. It is called “Defiant Syria” and you can get is at any major online book-selling site, such as Amazon, Kobo and i-Tunes for about $3.
I hope that my presentation has been of some use to you and wish you all every success at your meeting.
*Ken Stone traveled to Syria in early 2016 as part of a solidarity tour. He is an executive member of the Syria Solidarity Movement and treasurer of the Hamilton Coalition to Stop the War
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