By Ron Heusen
On Sept. 8, I watched Peter Mansbridge interview Stephen Harper.
He asked what the biggest threat to Canadians was and whether Canadians were safer today than 10 years ago.
Harper’s response that “Islamicism” was the biggest threat we face was disconcerting to me. The use of Islamicism seemed to be a deliberate attempt to conjoin terrorism to the Islamic faith; otherwise, he would have simply stated “terrorism” was the biggest threat.
Harper also stated he felt we were safer.
I read a book titled Dying to Win by Robert Pape, an American political scientist at the University of Chicago and director of the Chicago Project on Suicide Terrorism. Pape studied suicide-terrorist attacks around the world and came up with some conclusions.
Suicide-terrorism was mainly a response to direct or indirect foreign occupation in lands perceived as the homeland of the terrorist, and that once foreign occupation ended, the suicide-terrorism tended to stop.
Pape sees suicide-terrorism as an extreme strategy for national liberation that employs martyrdom to commit acts of murder on behalf of the terrorist’s community. Pape concludes that suicide-terrorism has little to do with Islamic fundamentalism.
I have a keen interest in the history of the Middle East.
The influence of the Roman and Persian Empires, development of Christianity, spread of Islam, crusades, rise of the Ottoman Turks and the changing balance of power between Muslim and Christian worlds, has shaped the Middle East today.
Iraq is centrally located between Saudi Arabia and Iran at the top of the Persian Gulf, making it an excellent strategic military location. Iraq is also sitting in the middle of the heaviest concentration of oil in the world and its vast reserves have been virtually untouched.
America had control of Middle East oil until nationalistic regimes united under OPEC, and the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries, of which Iraq became a member.
In 2003, after failed attempts to garner UN Security Council authorization, the American led “coalition of the willing” attacked Iraq to root out alleged weapons of mass destruction that threatened international and American security.
Legal experts state the war was illegal under international law as set out in the United Nations Charter, an interpretation that Secretary General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, confirmed.
The insertion of the Coalition Provisional Authority that followed, combined with the illegal nature of the war, have defined the coalition presence in Iraq as one of “military occupier”.
Interestingly Pape’s study determined that before the American invasion of Iraq, Iraq never had one single suicide-terrorist attack in its history and now they are a fact of Iraqi life.
Canada’s role in the Middle East has become actively combative as we hitched our military to American interests.
Over time, our international position as an autonomous peace loving nation will be lost if this present ideological shift in military behavior and political thinking erases the legacy of justice and diplomacy left us by Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson.
Harper’s responses did nothing to engender pride or a sense of safety in me.
Retired Nanaimo resident Ron Heusen writes every second week. He can be reached through the News Bulletin at email@example.com.