Mr. Speaker, I am very happy to share this time with my hon. colleague, the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley.
As the Leader of the Opposition stated in this House:
There is no more important decision that we make in the House, no more sacred trust for a Prime Minister, than sending young Canadian women and men to fight and risk making the ultimate sacrifice in a foreign war.
As a former member of the Canadian Armed Forces, I believe that the deployment of troops into combat has to be a very last resort, the ultimate decision, when everything else has failed.
Afghanistan took a heavy toll on Canadians as a result of a former Liberal government's decision to send our troops into combat in 2005. There has been a lot of discussion as to why we did this. Some say it was to appease the Americans for our lack of support in Iraq. Others say it was to test equipment and combat readiness. The list goes on.
This mission was prolonged by the current Conservative government, and according to an article in the Vancouver Sun on October 3, the Afghan Islamist insurgency is not defeated and there is no peace. In addition, sadly, our veterans have not received the necessary help they need, not to mention the 160 who lost their lives.
As a result of the western bombing campaign in Libya, there is now a patchwork of warring factions. Many of our allies to topple Gaddafi in 2011 are now fighting for the Islamic state, and North Africa has been destabilized.
The terror unleashed today in Iraq is a direct result of the wrong-headed mission in 2003. According to Tom Engelhardt, in an article entitled “How America Made ISIS” on September 2, 2014:
In the process, the U.S. effectively dismantled and destroyed state power in each of the three main countries in which it intervened, while ensuring the destabilization of neighboring countries and finally the region itself.
Engelhardt goes on to state how the deaths that ran into the hundreds of thousands and the uprooting of millions of people proved to be “jihadist recruitment tools par excellence.”
In other words, the U.S. destroyed the Iraqi state, supported the Shia who suppressed the Sunnis to create a welcome situation for ISIS. As our leader has stated:
...it is literally the same insurgent group that U.S. forces have been battling for over a decade.
The question before us, therefore, is this. Will Canada be stuck in a prolonged war that we wisely avoided in 2003?
We are entering into a bombing mission. Can we be certain that the civilian death toll will not increase?
To date, the U.S. has not provided any information about civilian or combatant casualties and is denying on-the-ground reports that civilians are being killed or wounded.
According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, civilians are dying as a result of the bombing, and Human Rights Watch estimates that, on September 23 alone, 24 civilians were killed in air strikes.
Peter Certo, editor of Foreign Policy In Focus, states in an article entitled “Here’s Everything Wrong with the White House’s War on the Islamic State”:
War planners are predicting that the latest conflict could rage for three years or longer....
...U.S. intelligence agencies have confirmed that IS presently poses no threat to the U.S. homeland.
Further, he states:
This plan won’t work....
...you can’t bomb extremism out of existence.
In Yemen and Pakistan, al Qaeda has not been destroyed and the drone attacks have recruited more terrorists.
Many have said that bombing alone will not win this war. Therefore, some U.S. generals are calling for ground forces. Does this mean that Canada will be drawn into another Afghanistan?
To my knowledge, there is no post-bombing plan. Will the Iraqi army, the Shiite militias, or the Kurds take up the call to consolidate control on the ground? In Syria, which rebel forces should the west co-operate with? Will arms delivered to moderate rebel forces wind up in the hands of ISIS? Will Assad triumph in Syria, thanks to U.S. air power?
This is an extremely complex conflict into which we are being drawn. The more bombs fall, the more enemies we create. We are not even sure who our friends are. Both Qatar and Saudi Arabia have given cash to ISIL, and yet they are supposed to be our allies.
We are rightly outraged by the atrocities committed by ISIL, yet as pointed out by CBC's Neil Macdonald in a post on September 29, the Congo war has left five million dead, and the west has hardly reacted to the atrocities committed by both government and rebel forces.
It gets more confusing. We are reacting to the beheadings committed by ISIL, yet we remain silent when our ally, Saudi Arabia, has so far beheaded 46 people this year, some for sorcery. Can anyone imagine that?
Bernard Trainor, a retired U.S. Marine Corps lieutenant general, stated the following in an article that was published in The Washington Post. It appeared as well in the September 26 edition of the National Post:
The Islamic State presents a problem to be managed, not a war to be won....
The U.S. role should be limited to helping Kurdish forces and the new Baghdad government better organize to keep the pressure on, with U.S. airstrikes contingent on their progress....
The idea of destroying the Islamic State,...is nonsense....
The situation in Mesopotamia is a violent game of mistrust and self-interest. The Saudis despise the Iranians but will cut deals with them if doing so is in their interest. Iran will play any card necessary to achieve regional hegemony, while Turkey is coy about its own quest for pre-eminence. The Gulf states talk out of both sides of their mouths. Syrian dictator Bashar Assad uses the Islamic State to create problems for other rebels. Iraq plays at democracy as long as it can subjugate the Sunnis. Shiites and Sunnis fight each other while carrying on intramural warfare with their kinsmen. The double-dealing is almost endless. It doesn’t make sense to us, but it does to the players.
After more than a decade of frustration and humiliation, the United States should have learned that the Middle East is no place for Wilsonianism on steroids.
I believe it would be very prudent and in everybody's best interests to let the U.S. attempt to resolve this crisis, as General Trainor suggests. After all, it created this situation in the first place.
Our energies and efforts would be much better spent on humanitarian aid. As we have seen in this debate, my party has presented some very concrete and workable suggestions as to how this could be accomplished. In other words, rather than spending something like $40,000 an hour per plane to fly bombing missions, would it not make sense to add this money to the $43 million already committed, justly and rightly, by the government? Thousands, if not millions, of people could receive desperately needed assistance. Since January 14, an estimated 1.8 million people have been displaced, and conditions are worsening every day.
According to Peter Certo, the U.S. also has other options. According to him, the U.S. could freeze the bank accounts of IS funders and negotiate partnerships with villages where oil pipelines run to cut Islamic state oil revenue, work with Europe and Turkey to stem the flow of western fighters, and dramatically increase support for UN humanitarian assistance support to Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey, which have absorbed millions of refugees.
The U.S. must recognize that the Islamic State flourishes because of political breakdown on both sides of the Iraqi-Syrian border. One would think, then, that a priority has to be to build a strong, stable government in Iraq. We could help in this regard.
Certo went on to say that on the diplomatic front, the U.S. could work with Syria to convene rebel groups, the regime, Turkey, Iran, Russia and the Gulf States to restart negotiations for a political solution to the war. It could also link its nuclear negotiations with Iran to the political crisis in Iraq. For example, it could allow Iran to enrich uranium for peaceful nuclear power generation in exchange for support to rein in Iranian-backed militias in Iraq.
It should be clear to all that there are many options to explore. Instead of blindly jumping into war, Canada could be a leader in offering some creative solutions to this tragic conflict. There is no easy way out, but we must try. We owe it to our men and women in uniform and certainly to the millions of innocent victims already affected by this tragedy.