The militarization of Canadian Culture
The Hill Times, April 9, 2007
by Murray Dobbin
Harper government is trying to make 'mission' in Afghanistan defining characteristic of who Canadians are. With no public debate, we now have a war-fighting military taking up more and more political space in Canada's constellation of defining institutions.
It is stunning how quickly the Canadian military can be recast as a key part of Canadian culture, especially now that we have abandoned our historic peacekeeping role. With no public debate, we now have a war-fighting military taking up more and more political space in Canada's constellation of defining institutions. The military and the Harper government are trying to make "the mission" in Afghanistan a defining characteristic of who we are.
Militarization of Canadian Culture
The militarization of Canadian culture reflects the spread of "deep integration"-the Bay Street initiative whose aim is to see Canada effectively assimilated into its behemoth neighbour. Harper and others on the right know that in order for Canada to adopt policies similar to those of the United States, we have to make the cultural changes that will provide the ideological base for those policies.
When we first sent some 2,000 troops to Afghanistan, it was a major assignment-not strictly peace-keeping, but not war-fighting either-and yet it rarely made the news. But ever since we took on the war-fighting role in Southern Afghanistan, our mission has become a major part of our daily cultural consumption. And our approach in the country apes the Americans'-witness our government's cavalier attitude toward the routine torture of Taliban prisoners seized by Canada and turned over to the Afghan government.
Which brings us to a crucial point-this deliberate attempt to shift our cultural landscape could not be happening without the complicity of the media, who have become willing partners in this remaking of Canada. Regarding the prisoner scandal, the Canadian media might never have dealt with the issue at all were it not for Amir Attaran, a University of Ottawa law professor, who exposed the issue of Canadian abuse of detainees in a letter of complaint he sent to the Military Police Complaints Commission.
Professor Attaran obtained information about three detainees via a freedom of information request. (Shouldn't it be the media who chase down these stories?) When the commission tried to find the detainees in question, they had disappeared.
Media Misinforming Canadians
The media rarely expose what goes on in Afghan detention centres. One story in a major daily newspaper dared to talk about what torture and human rights abuses actually entail by referring to a U.S. State Department assessment.
That report stated: "Security and factional forces committed extrajudicial killings and torture ... [including] pulling out fingernails and toenails, burning with hot oil, beatings, sexual humiliation, and sodomy."
Why is it there is no comparable Canadian report? Because the Canadian government knows that if it acknowledged the crisis in governance in Afghanistan, Canadians would realize that the whole effort in that country is doomed to failure and built on a foundation of lies.
The media are virtually silent on the issue-and worse. In late fall of 2006, the CBC began implementing what seemed to be an explicit policy shift to build up the image of the military and downplay any negative aspects of the war. Peter Mansbridge hosted several newscasts directly from military bases in Canada that were nothing more than public relations boosts for "our troops."
And although the CBC has dedicated considerable resources to covering Afghanistan, it rarely acknowledges that its reporters are "embedded" with the Canadian military, and that what they report, in my opinion, seems largely spoon-fed by military public relations officers.
What happened to the CBC mandate to provide Canadians with genuine debate about critical national issues? Where are the stories about corrupt and brutal Afghan police? About internal refugee camps with no facilities or medical care? About foreign aid disappearing into the pockets of officials? About the fact that we can no longer fund other foreign aid projects because Afghanistan absorbs it all so we can support U.S. foreign policy?
This situation reveals how naive we are as a nation. That old adage-the first casualty of war is truth-applies here in spades because this war is based on lies, including:
1. This has nothing to do with oil and gas pipelines.
Corruption Haunting Canada
What we are doing in Afghanistan is unsupportable. But what we are doing to ourselves is not so obvious. We are corrupting Canada's own institutions, including our military, our foreign service, our foreign aide program, and our public broadcaster. Worst of all, as long as we stay in Afghanistan, we are corrupting our political culture.
Note: For many years the United States has always viewed Canada as an integral part of its territory. The ruthless control Americans are exercising over Canada is revealed in how they managed to make the Canadian government becoming an integral part of US belligerent policies. All of this is being done behind the back of the entire Canadian population. The Canadian press has increasingly become a tool of propaganda through the promotion of deceit and deception as carefully demonstrated toward the end of this enlightened write-up.
Besides, the Canadian press, following the footsteps of the American press, is hiding from the people the atrocities that their soldiers in both Afghanistan and Iraq have been performing against innocent civilians. Canadians should demand from their government to bring all Canadian troops from Afghanistan and Iraq home right now. All government officials who continue to support war venture policies with the USA should be ousted from their office in the next elections. Canada should focus only on becoming an island of peace in North America same way as Costa Rica became an island of peace in Central America.
To this end, Canada should sever all military relations with the United States and concentrate instead on the development of the civilian economy. It should not allow any US bases on its territory under no circumstance whatsoever and finally Canada should take the initiative to develop an international program of disarmament and arms control, of the dismantling of all nuclear weapons and of the abolition of all landmines. This way Canada would prove to be a blessing not only to the Canadian people but also to the entire world.
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