Sunday, September 13, 2015

Why Stephen Harper and Thomas Mulcair Have Got it so Wrong on ISIS

Recently the Toronto Star posted a piece on Thomas Mulcair and the fight against ISIS:  Mulcair Would Pull Canada From U.S. Led Mission in Mid-East if Elected.

This is a big mistake, not only politically, but from a humanitarian angle.  There is no argument that George Bush's ill-conceived war in Iraq, or in fact the decades of invasions in the region, gave rise to ISIS; but abandonment is not the answer.

As part of his reasoning, Mulcair claims that this is neither a NATO nor a UN mission, but he is wrong. Nato is involved and were involved in most, if not all, engagements in the Middle East.  The United Nations has resolved to stop the flow of money and arms going to ISIS, but many of the arms they are using, are those left by the Americans

And the NATO missions that Mulcair is promoting, have destabilized
 regions, making them ripe for terrorist takeover.  You can be a pacifist and oppose war, but if you support any war, you are no longer a pacifist. His stand is a bit confusing.

As to stopping the flow of money going to ISIS that too will be difficult.  The west has been bombing oil refineries, one source of revenue, and some nations are refusing to pay ransoms, and yet the organization is still able to pay their bills, as well as provide money to run, according to the Economist, "services across the areas it controls, paying schoolteachers and providing for the poor and widowed."

We run the risk of further alienating the occupied, if ISIS can blame the west for not being able to take care of the people.  We need to stop bombing, but we can't just leave.  Humanitarian aid and training is still necessary.

Radicalization and NDP Naivete

When Stephen Harper announced that he would stop Canadians from travelling to countries engaged in "terrorist" activities, Mulcair said he would support the initiative, but questioned whether it would help in the fight against "terrorism".  He went on to say that C-51 did not do enough to combat the "radicalization of youth".

This was actually a topic for debate in the Commons, as the NDP tried to push through an amendment to C-51, reading in part, that the Bill "...does not include the type of concrete, effective measures that have been proven to work, such as providing support to communities that are struggling to counter radicalization.

What communities do they mean?

I rarely agree with anything Peter Van Loan says, but he did raise the issue that it was "ill defined".  Do they mean Muslim communities?  Peter Julian had this to say:
The mosque that is in my riding in Burnaby—New Westminster was the mosque the man who murdered Cpl. Nathan Cirillo attended. I travelled to that mosque within a couple of days of what happened on October 22 here on the Hill. What the mosque members told me was quite stark. They said that they knew he had profound mental illness. They knew that he had a drug addiction. They tried to seek help, and there was nothing available. This is something we have heard from communities right across the country.
It sounds like the issue is more about mental illness and drug addiction, issues that are discussed in many places, and not confined to Mosques.  It would appear that the NDP believe, like the Conservatives, that terrorism is associated with Islam.  This is not only Xenophobic but incorrect.  While the Islamic State is using the religious angle, their motives are not religious, but political.

According to Huffington Post, Yusuf Sarwar and Mohammed Ahmed, the two Brits who went to Syria to join the rebels, first purchased off Amazon, two books:  Islam for Dummies and The Koran for Dummies  They were not devout Muslims.  Nor were the 9/11 hijackers who reportedly used cocaine, drank alcohol, slept with prostitutes and attended strip clubs, but never belonged to a mosque. 

A 2008 report published in the Guardian, dispelled the stereotypes of those who become involved in terrorism:   " They are mostly British nationals, not illegal immigrants and, far from being Islamist fundamentalists, most are religious novices. Nor, the analysis says, are they "mad and bad". and "Far from being religious zealots, a large number of those involved in terrorism do not practise their faith regularly."

Didier François, a French journalist who was held by Isis in Syria for ten months before being released in April 2014, has provided some insight into the life of those fighting for ISIS, in a CNN interview.
“There was never really discussion about texts.  It was not a religious discussion. It was a political discussion.  It was more hammering what they were believing than teaching us about the Quran. Because it has nothing to do with the Quran. We didn’t even have the Quran. They didn’t want even to give us a Quran.”
This is a political movement, not a Jihad one.  President Obama has been trying to stress that, but his words are falling on deaf ears. I often learn a lot by reading the comments section of media reports, and in one, there is a debate between two readers.  One was trying to stress that all terrorists are Muslim but their opponent fired back by saying: "Christians are also terrorists.  They just call it 'shock and awe'".

It is not religion that is fuelling this war, it's war itself.

The Radicalization of Youth Has Little to do With Communities

Al Jazeera also published the results of a study, defining the risk factors for  violent radicalization:  Youth, wealth and academia appear to predispose individuals to sympathizing with acts of terrorism.

Perhaps surprisingly, religious practice, mental health, social inequality and political engagement were not significant factors.
“We’re offering a new paradigm for sympathies as an early phase of radicalization that can be measured,” Kamaldeep Bhui, the study's lead author and a cultural psychology professor at the university, told Al Jazeera. 
While just 2.4 percent of people expressed some sympathy for violence overall, researchers found that those under the age 20, those in full-time education rather than employment, and those with annual incomes above $125,000 were more prone to express sympathy for violent protests and "terrorism."
The attack on Parliament Hill was perpetrated by a mentally ill, homeless man, but mental illness is a separate issue, just as drug addiction and homelessness are.
“One explanation for homegrown terrorism in high-income countries is that it’s about inequality-related grievances," Bhui said in a phone interview. "We were surprised that [the] inequality paradigm seems not to be supported. The study essentially seemed to show that those born in the U.K. consistent with the radicalization paradigm are actually more affluent or well off.” 
Two other findings stood in conflict with prevailing stereotypes about so-called homegrown terrorism in the West: Immigrants and those who speak a non-English language at home, as well as those who reported suffering from anxiety or depression, were less likely to express sympathy for terrorist acts.
If we really want to "stop the flow", we need to stop invading countries, and taking part in "regime changes", simply because they are not willing to conduct business on our terms. Many of the sympathizers are well educated, and intelligent enough to know that there have been grave injustices committed, while society at large blames the victims.  Who are the "terrorists"?

I agree with supporting "at risk" communities, dealing with poverty and youth unemployment, but that will not stop terrorists.  As studies have found, they are not poor, uneducated or unemployed and rarely religious.  In fact, the stereotypical description of radicalized youth, are often the ones who believe that all terrorists are Muslims.

That's where we have to "stop the flow".  Misinformation.


  1. Sadly, your obvious intelligence is wasted. So much good work and arguably the most partisan blog on Progressive Bloggers. I despise Mulcair's position on the Middle-East, but to imagine that it is any worse (or much different for that matter) than the Liberals are (or have been) is just plain partisanship. You really revealed your ignorance when you starting talking about 911.

    1. I put my reply in the wrong place but it's there.

    2. I should also say that I am progressive, in that I have fought for years to try and keep the right-wing out of government. This included Chretien and Martin, who I never voted for. I voted NDP in 2006 until I learned of Jack Layton's 2004 coalition which woulr have given us Harper in 2004. You might want to look up "progressive".

  2. The issue is religion and terrorism The NDP at one time would have shared my views and the first to cry foul at suggesting that all terrorists are Muslim. This campaign was partisan from day one, when the NDP played politics with C-51. There is very little difference between Harper and Mulcair. Both are autocratic and both are right wing. Mulcair may be a bit more enlightened on social issues but when in the QC legislature he was always considered to be from on the right flank of the already conservative Quebec Liberals. I can't remember, before Mulcair, anyone in the NDP that supported NATO. Or NAFTA, that Mulcair helped to draft.. I'm fighting just as hard to keep him out as I did Stephen Harper. The difference is that most Canadians are aware of Harper's failings, but few know the real Thomas Mulcair.