So You Really Want To Make Syrian Refugees An Election Issue?

Mark Jeftovic

Thomas Pynchon once wrote: ‘If they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don’t have to worry about the answers.’ Words to live by for the the major political parties in Canadian Federal politics.

The refugee crisis in Syria, Iraq and spilling into Europe has become an election issue, with each of the major parties pulling magic numbers out of their ears around “how many” is the “right number” of refugees to admit to Canada, which once again underscores the Libertarian criticism that the both major political parties espouse largely uniform campaign platforms in which the issues are for the most part homogenous while the really important questions are rendered conveniently out-of-scope (and even the NDP’s, sniffing a faint shot at power, are pivoting off their principles in order to get it)

If we peer behind the veil of mainstream media oversimplification we find that the humanitarian crisis we are faced with today are the straight line consequences of a decades-old policy on the part of the West (defined as the US, the UK, Israel and including complicit Canada) to subvert and destabilize the very nations that are submerged in civil war and strife.

A String of Coup D’Etats

Syria and Iran were both once full-on democracies who’s duly elected governments committed the literal, mortal sins of offending Western corporate powers. Iran’s Mohammad Mosaddegh wanted to audit the books of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company and was instead overthrown and replaced with the Shah. We’re all aware how that turned out why Iran is so fond of the West to this day.

Syria’s plight is not as well known, our (meaning the West’s) first political coup d’etat against their elected government was in 1949, when the CIA over throws Shure al-Quwatly and replaces him with the first of many military strongmen in Syria, Colonel Husni al-Zaim. “America’s Boy” as he was dubbed, wasn’t so strong after all and was deposed and executed after 2 months in power. No fewer than 5 more military coup’s were sponsored over the years in Syria, so many that there is even a Wikipedia page “List of Military Coups in Syria” (1954, 1961, 1963, 1966 and 1970).

When not actively overthrowing the elected governments of Syria and Iran, the west has been for decades, offering up policies designed to justify them and other initiatives that will destabilize and subvert the autonomy of “the target nations”.

A Multi-Decades Policy of Destabilization and Subversion

Via various think tanks and policy institutes, white papers are authored by the same recurring personages to shape the direction of mid-east policy. They have names which overlap heavily with the US Neo-conservative movement which ended up having a much stronger effect on the direction of Canadian politics than many would care to admit.

The rationales for these behaviours is usually the same: “when the citizens of these countries see where their improperly aligned leaders have gotten them, they will embrace democracy” (considering at least two of the targets in question started out as democracies in the first place, it brings to mind the parable of the Harvard MBA and the fisherman).

As far back as 1982, Oded Yinon publishes “A Strategy for Israel in the Nineteen Eighties” in Hebrew in the journal Kivunium.

“The paper, published in Hebrew, rejects the idea that Israel should carry through with the Camp David accords and seek peace. Instead, Yinon suggests that the Arab States should be destroyed from within by exploiting their internal religious and ethnic tensions: “Lebanon’s total dissolution into five provinces serves as a precedent for the entire Arab world including Egypt, Syria, Iraq, and the Arabian peninsula and is already following that track. The dissolution of Syria and Iraq later on into ethnically or religiously unique areas such as in Lebanon, is Israel’s primary target on the Eastern front in the long run, while the dissolution of the military power of those states serves as the primary short term target. Syria will fall apart, in accordance with its ethnic and religious structure, into several states such as in present day Lebanon.”

A decade later, Princeton University professor Bernard Lewis describes the process of “Lebanonization” in his Foreign Affairs article “Rethinking the Middle East” when “[the] state then disintegrates into a chaos of squabbling, feuding, fighting sects, tribes, regions and parties.”

The thrust of the article argues that “the West and Islam have been engaged in a titanic ‘clash of civilizations’ and that the US should take a hard line against all Arab countries.”

Then in 1996 Lewis’ protege, Richard Perle, is lead author on a position paper for Benjamin Netanyahu entitled “A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm” that advocates abandoning the previous peace process in favour of destabilizing Syria and Iraq and exploiting mid-east tensions.

After 9/11 Richard Perle becomes a chief architect of “The global war on terror” and with it came things like “slam dunk” WMDs in Iraq (which were never found) and the Saddam Hussein / bin Laden axis (which did not exist). Today, Iraq is in shambles and not a single WMD was ever found there. Anybody who read former UN weapon’s inspector Scott Ritter’s “War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn’t Want You To Know“, published more than a year ahead of the Iraq invasion, already knew that there were no WMD there. Everybody now has the hindsight to see that the entire Iraq war was premised on lies but few talk about it in polite company.

Canada Gets With the Program…

One could argue that “peace keeping”, in the context we are all supposed to understand it (creating a multi-national coalition in a hot spot to prevent a global thermonculear war from erupting) was a Canadian invention with Lester Pearson’s solution to the Suez Crisis which earned him the Nobel Peace Prize.

In those days, both major parties would be headed by leaders with strong convictions about what was “the right thing to do” for the world at large and for Canada as a nation. Whether it was Pearson’s aforementioned statesmanship during the Suez Crisis or Deifenbaker’s stance, very much ahead of its time, on the issue of South African Apartheid. As a nation we seemed to have some kind of functional moral compass which had important divergences from both our UK and US “allies”.

Today, not so much.

While Chretien did manage to keep Canada out of the disastrous and criminal invasion of Iraq, he did join in the occupation of Afghanistan, which seemed a turnkey, off-the-shelf intervention just waiting for an excuse to happen. Ostensible reasons for the invasion aside (i.e. like that it was actually legal), the one big outcome of the invasion (and our participation in it) has been the steady increase in heroin output of that country ever since.

On a parallel track to neo-Con flavoured designs on a “new American Century” south of the border, the co-opting of Canadian diplomacy began in earnest during the 90’s with the country’s largest corporate interests positioning for a “Grand Bargain” with the US, it was once again 9/11 that provided the catalyst for putting these policy tracks into overdrive.

The Canadian Council of Chief Executives (CCCE) sent a delegation to Washington in April 2003 where they received their marching orders from US overseers, namely DHS Secretary Spencer Abraham and (once again) Richard Perle (congenially known within the beltway by now as “The Prince of Darkness”). The latter delivered a particularly moving lecture* to the corporate elite in attendance that Canada had to unambiguously “get with the program” and step up as an unwavering ally of US foreign policy. This included dramatically increasing military and security commitments. This was framed as the “ante” for having the next round of Free Trade talks with the USA. (*detailed in Ricardo Grinspun and Shamsin Yamsie’s “Who’s Canada? Continental Integration, Fortress North America, and the Corporate Agenda“)

The meeting is considered a defining moment in Canada/US relations. The Paul Martin Liberals quietly adopted the CCCE agenda and which was then embraced more aggressively by Team Harper.

Again we have the incumbent parties following the same path, largely dictated by an external power along which we find ourselves today: party to the latest military engagement in Syria, actively complicit in ubiquitous surveillance both at home and abroad and none of it open to discussion, debate or alternatives among the citizens of Canada.

ISIS did not arrive on a comet from deep space

To borrow a phrase coined by David Stockman in his book about the (mal)response to the 2008 Gobal Financial Crisis, “ISIS did not arrive on a comet from deep space”.

Rather, they are the consequences of deliberately executed campaigns of intervention and subversion designed to produce exactly the kind of humanitarian crisis occurring now. Granted, it gets messy when the fallout from grand stratagems fail to confine themselves to the target countries of Syria, Iraq and Iran, but these “deep-policy” ideologues have a track record for underestimating “blowback”.

The rise of ISIS then, is hardly surprising. Nor is their meteoric ascent within their sphere of operations. For decades, we’ve been usurping any democratically elected governments in the target countries, instead propping up strongmen and authoritarian regimes, inducing various factions into war with each other (supplying both sides), dropping and droning bombs from the sky and occasionally stepping in with boots-on-the-ground military invasions.

Now we’re shocked when another reactionary, fundamentalist, West-hating movement steps into the vacuum?

Former NATO Secretary Generals Javier Solana and Jaap de Hoop Scheffer lamented that any further intervention and escalation in Syria would have precisely the opposite effects of their ostensible intentions:

“Rather than secure humanitarian space and empower a political transition,Western military engagement in Syria is likely to provoke further escalation on all sides, deepening the civil war and strengthening the forces of extremism, sectarianism and criminality gaining strength across the country. The idea that the West can empower and remotely control moderate forces is optimistic at best. Escalation begets escalation and mission creep is a predictable outcome if the West sets out on a military path [emphasis added].”

Today in Syria, the situation tragically comic as the West supplies it’s “anti-Assad rebels” with weapons, who often end up switching allegiances to ISIS.

The truth is that what Solana & Scheffer were cautioning against has been going on since at least 1949 (the date of the first of six Western engineered military coup d’etats in Syria) and what we have today is the result of it.

Conclusion: Sooner or later….

“Sooner or later, everyone sits down to a banquet of consequences…” – Robert Louis Stephenson

So if you really want to make “refugees” the election issue “du jour”, one can waste a lot of time watching the mainstream incumbent parties bicker over the “right” number of refugees to allow into Canada or how much taxpayer money to throw at aid, or even whether more Canadian “boots on the ground” should be headed over there on various “peace keeping” escapades.


You could ask the really hard hitting questions like
•Why is there a refugee crisis in the first place?
•Would there be one if Western foreign policy wasn’t one of destabilization and subversion going back for decades?
•Could what we call “terrorism” possibly be an asymmetric response to our pre-emptive (and often brutal, often bloody, often murderous) subversion of foreign governments whom we deem unfavourable to our interests?

And, given the newer data points such as 1) the arrival of Russia’s military in Syria and 2) Canada’s deployment of military trainers to the Ukraine, another good question could be
•Would you mind very much if we got into a shooting war with Russia?

•Given Canada’s complicity in this mess, both under Conservatives and Liberal regimes, should either of those parties be taken seriously in their earnest looking hand wringing?

The major parties are happy to serve up easily digestible over-simplified “solutions” to these election issues.

It takes a Libertarian to ask the truly relevant, albeit uncomfortable questions like “what was our part in it?” and to face the unpleasant facts that our society, our country isn’t an ubermoral saviour to these “Arab savages” rending their own societies apart, but that we are were actually complicit in implementing and profiting from policies and actions that helped cause it and we are collectively happier to be ignorant of that.

Now you can wonder how many of these refugees we should take in.

* * *

Mark Jeftovic is the Libertarian Party candidate for Parkdale / High-Park in the upcoming federal election.