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The return of Liberal imperialism

March 16, 2016

The Canadian media are enamored with the new Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan. He has been variously described as a “badass” and the “best single Canadian intelligence asset” in Afghanistan. He is also lauded because he is responsible for the “kill or capture” of 1,500 Taliban fighters. All this may seem like the profile of a great warrior if it weren’t for the fact that the Afghanistan mission is a tragedy of massive proportions


The Taliban is still entrenched in most of the country, tens of thousands are dead and injured and the country is in worse shape than it was before the invasion in 2001. Opium production reaches new heights each year and the destabilization of the war continues to effect bordering states such as Pakistan which has paid a high price for officially siding with the US in the war.

It is also the case that the many so-called Taliban that were captured were in fact innocent Afghans swept up in a corrupt process. This was outlined in the testimony of former Canadian diplomat Richard Colvin who stated that Canada had, “detained, and handed over for severe torture, a lot of innocent people.” NATO forces wanted to detain as many people as possible to justify the ongoing occupation of that country. They needed to show people that the Western military force was actually doing something.

The issue of the torture of Afghans was such an embarrassment for the Harper conservatives that they prorogued Parliament in 2009 to stop the release of documents related to the detainees. As it turns out, that issue may be back on the agenda. New reports of abuse surfaced just as the Liberals won the federal election. Sajjan, as a senior intelligence office in Afghanistan, would no doubt have known about the methods being employed by the Afghan state. 

That may be why he has been critical of the war. Not the moral question of whether it is right to kill thousands of people in retaliation for an attack none of them had anything to do with. Not because the war remains one of imperial aggression against largely defenceless states, but because it may not have been effective policy.


The Liberals have announced that they will conduct a review of defence policy and Sajjan will be asked to lead. He has said that in the “war on terror” mistakes were made which resulted in corruption and the creation of the ”son of Al-Qaeda”—presumably a reference to ISIS. If the history of the Liberal party is anything to go by, this review will result in a few moments of hand wringing for the mistakes of the past followed by a renewed commitment to war under the banner of "humanitarian missions."

Since becoming Defence Minister Sajjan has been the subject of racist attacks, from a soldier's facebook post in November, to fomer Immigration Minister Jason Kenney asking for "English-to-English translation" of Sajjan's remarks last month. We need to condemn these racist attacks while at the same time challenging perpetual wars justified through racism. 

We need to remember that this the Liberals are the same party that sent thousand of troops to Afghanistan, sought any means they could to join the war in Iraq, sent Canadian special forces to help with the ouster of Haitian president Bertrand Aristide, and recently extended Canada’s role in the war in Iraq ad Syria.

Critical or not, Sajjan is working for a party that has always aligned itself with the warmongers and the profiteers who will make a killing off of this war and the next. It will be important to keep that in mind as they try to rehabilitate foreign interventions in our name.

On March 19 join the anti-war picket in Vancouver and Toronto.

On April 22-23 join the conference Ideas for Real Change: Marxism 2013, including the sessions “Racism, the security state and C-51,” “Refugees, racism and resistance,” and “Why is there endless war.” Register now and join/share on facebook.


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