Before Canada goes too far into Iraq, remember Libya, Afghan

Before Canada goes too far into Iraq, remember Libya, Afghan

Postby Oscar » Sun Mar 15, 2015 9:58 am

Before Canada goes too far into Iraq, remember Libya, Afghanistan

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Ottawa was warned, before the Libya mission, that that country would descend into civil war

By Brian Stewart, CBC News Posted: Mar 11, 2015 6:25 PM ET| Last Updated: Mar 13, 2015 9:08 AM ET

One of this country's most experienced journalists and foreign correspondents, Brian Stewart is currently a Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Munk School for Global Affairs at the University of Toronto. He also sits on the advisory board of Human Rights Watch Canada. In almost four decades of reporting, he has covered many of the world's conflicts and reported from 10 war zones, from El Salvador to Beirut and Afghanistan.

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It is sobering to reflect that before our current mission in Iraq, the last two military operations undertaken abroad by Canada have been followed by the violent rise of the black flag of ISIS jihadism in these same conflict zones.

That's in both Libya and now, even, Afghanistan. Not an encouraging record.

It's another sign these days that Canada rarely seems to anticipate the depths of chaos that it's wading into when it unleashes our CF-18s and other combat units on far-flung wars and insurgencies we know very little about.

We plunge in, it seems, even when our own military warns of dire consequences.

Just last week it was revealed by the Ottawa Citizen newspaper that Canada's military intelligence had warned the Harper government in March 2011 that Libya would descend into a lengthy civil war if our planes and other Western bombers helped crush dictator Moammar Gadhafi's regime.

And that was precisely what happened. Following a sage warning that was not made public at the time and was obviously not absorbed by cabinet, the government chose to bomb, and bomb big.

As our government had few diplomatic eyes in Libya back then, and without our own foreign intelligence service, Ottawa depended on the best guesses of British and American intelligence to make its call.

Sometimes, alas, these best bets don't work out.


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Re: Before Canada goes too far into Iraq, remember Libya, Af

Postby Oscar » Thu Mar 19, 2015 11:00 am

From Afghanistan to Iraq, the perils of overconfidence

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Canada was way too ambitious when it came to Afghanistan, and we paid a price for it

By Brian Stewart, CBC News Posted: Mar 19, 2015 5:00 AM ET| Last Updated: Mar 19, 2015 5:41 AM ET

As Ottawa gets set to expand our military mission against ISIS in Iraq — likely with the promise of some aid development to follow — it's probably worth considering such past interventions, particularly given the audit just out on how our Afghan aid really fared.

The internal government audit of what has been the largest aid program in Canadian history concluded the $2.2 billion we spent yielded very mixed results, many of them disappointing in the extreme.

Yes there were some notable achievements, particular in education and health services, but nothing like the long-term impact Ottawa hoped would come from this huge infusion of aid, one that diverted hundreds of millions of dollars away from assistance projects in other very poor countries.

A few years after our exit from Kandahar, the audit finds "there is limited evidence of positive outcomes in terms of more jobs, enhanced income opportunities or better quality of services outside of the health and education sectors.

"In fact, there are some signs of potential negative impacts as a rapidly growing group of unemployed, educated youth, especially in Kandahar City, may be turning to drugs (the number of drug addicts in Kandahar City is reported to be growing rapidly), or to the insurgency."

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One dark irony of this period was that the Conservative government and other ardent supporters of the war often criticized the media for being too pessimistic in its Afghan coverage.

The reality is most media were far too pliant and unquestioning of a military-civilian mission that, with rare exceptions, hid behind the false-confidence curtain dictated by Ottawa.

Understandably, many Canadians want to put that far-off war behind us and forget. But we simply can't ignore the lessons learned about the cost of our simplistic over-optimism if we're to avoid similar mistakes in Iraq or other campaigns to come.

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Canada should have handled Afghan aid program differently, audit concludes

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Decade-long program, which cost $2.2 billion, depended on U.S. to carry it forward

By Stephanie Levitz, The Canadian Press Posted: Mar 16, 2015 10:18 AM ET Last Updated: Mar 16, 2015 11:06 AM ET

Canada walked away from a decade-long $2.2 billion aid program in Afghanistan hoping the U.S. would just carry on with its plan, an internal government audit has found.

Instead, Canada's vision was left in the dust, officials told auditors looking into the largest aid program in government history, one of the three pillars of the effort to stabilize the war-torn country after the fall of the Taliban in 2001.

The massive aid program was supposed to bolster the military's work in securing the country and diplomatic efforts to shore up its governance, a whole-of-government approach that in some ways should serve as a model for approaching similar conflicts in the future, the evaluation found.

The Conservative government appears to be considering such a model in its approach to the conflict in Iraq as it prepares to debate the extension of the military mission there.

But there were major flaws in the Afghan aid program's conception and its delivery, the evaluation concluded, including a failure to ever completely understand what was driving the conflict in Afghanistan and in turn be able to really help solve it.

"Canada is recognized as a consistent and reliable donor with a clear results orientation, but there is insufficient evidence to provide a definitive answer to the overall evaluation question related to Canada’s contribution to long-term stability and sustainable development in Afghanistan," the report said.

The ongoing and eventually worsening violence in Afghanistan has been largely blamed for keeping development programs from doing what they were ostensibly designed to do — help secure the peace won by the military.

"In Afghanistan, saving lives and alleviating suffering has been a short-term activity that was threatened by on-going political and military violence," the report said

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While the politics of the Afghan mission may be a thing of the past for Canadian parliamentarians, they reared their head for the evaluation team, who reported feeling some pressure to emphasize the positive results of the aid program in their report.

In the end, they drew nine conclusions from their study and provided five recommendations. In its response to the report, the government acknowledged the program's shortcomings and agreed with many of the evaluation's conclusions.

Canada has committed to spending $227 million in Afghanistan between 2014 and 2017 but the report suggests Afghans are left wanting.

"There are still positive developments at the community level as a result of improved physical infrastructure and strengthened community organizations, but there are also clear signs of frustration and anger, despite the fact that some development activities are continuing," the report said.

The report was published online by the Foreign Affairs department on Friday.

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Be cautious with taking Afghan approach to Iraqi conflict, experts say

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Stephanie Levitz / The Canadian Press March 16, 2015 01:25 AM

OTTAWA - The Conservative government would be wise to heed the lessons of its evaluation of the Afghan aid program as it contemplates how to handle the mission in Iraq, say former diplomats in the wake of a report that found $2.2 billion in aid money for Afghanistan yielded few long-term results.

Two former senior bureaucrats involved in Canada's Afghan aid program say the underlying message of the evaluation is very pertinent today: Canada compromised its efforts at lasting change because it got involved in a conflict without really understanding what was going on, and then just walked away.

To this day, it's not clear why Canada handled the Afghan mission precisely the way it did but at the very least the experience needs to be thoughtfully considered, said David Mulroney, who was deputy minister responsible for the Afghanistan Task Force, overseeing the mission.

"Failing to look squarely at the last campaign can undermine your chances of success in the next one," he said.

As the government prepares to ask Parliament for a mandate to extend Canada's participation in ongoing air strikes against Islamic rebels in Iraq, Foreign Affairs Minister Rob Nicholson wants those efforts to be undertaken in concert with humanitarian aid, saying the process ought to be like what was followed in Afghanistan.


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Re: Before Canada goes too far into Iraq, remember Libya, Af

Postby Oscar » Mon Jul 06, 2015 10:48 am

"Against All Odds": Raising Iraqi Voices of Grassroots Resistance

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Sunday, 05 July 2015 00:00 By Michael Reagan, Truthout | Book Review

Against All Odds: Voices of Popular Struggle in Iraq, Ali Issa, Tadween Publishing and War Resisters League
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The closest anyone in the Bush administration has come to being held accountable for the crime of the invasion of Iraq came in December 2008, when Iraqi journalist and activist Muntazar al-Zaidi threw his two shoes at President Bush during a press conference in Baghdad. Bush narrowly dodged the shoes, smirking as he popped up from behind the podium.

Al-Zaidi would go on to serve several years in prison for his crime. His message, a "final kiss" from the "widows and orphans" of Iraq, was carried on by the people of Iraq. Three years later, as Iraq experienced its own "Arab Spring," people by the thousands threw their shoes at US military helicopters and vehicles, then on their way out, forced by the actions of the Iraqi people themselves. Al-Zaidi's shoes helped dislodge the mask of imperial impunity.

It should be no surprise that it was an Iraqi that brought this limited form of retributive justice to Bush for what has become the supreme crime of the 21st century, a crime for which we continue to feel the consequences - some more than others. Indeed, it is Iraqis themselves who have made much of the recent history possible, a point routinely ignored in the West.

Ali Issa's new book Against All Odds: Voices of Popular Struggle in Iraq, published jointly by Tadween Publishing and War Resisters League, seeks to correct Western ignorance about resistance movements in Iraq. The major events of the last decade - from the Iraqi oil law that was never passed, to the Status of Forces Agreement at the end of Bush's term, to the eventual "withdrawal" under President Obama, to the current resistance to ISIS and building of Iraqi secular society - were made possible through the work of regular Iraqis. Issa's book brings these stories to life. Through interviews with key Iraqi organizers and his own writings as events unfolded during 2011, Issa's work is a needed corrective to the absence of Iraqi voices in Western media.


[ ... resistance ]
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