Posts Tagged ‘IRAQ’

It is time to try something different.  Military forces can be seen as a study in cultural rigidity. In a military conference I attended this year, a session on encountering child soldiers, trauma, PTSD and moral injury, the response alluded to ”mental health briefings” as a solution to what may lead to depression or suicide. In a strong warrior culture with the suicide rates being what they are (20 per day in the US among military veterans) belies the effectiveness of briefings. “Killing is killing” and anyone doing so, for just cause or not, encounters a traumatic event. The only question is – will they then be traumatized? This is part of what I am trying to address as a peace professional in first nations work and in a current peace and reconciliation project in the Tamils and Sinhalese diaspora, who have severe trauma issues and a child soldier problem.

There is a saying regarding all this, “one cannot drink the word water”. One does not create strong soldiers by talking about push-ups. One needs to exercise and go running every day. The same can be said for mental or trauma resiliency. Briefings are insufficient without strong military life practices. This means adding or changing certain military service practices and their acceptance in military culture. This would take courage because such practices in some ways may run counterculture to a warrior ethos that is not well suited to real independent and critical thinking and living values that are necessary for wellbeing, such as compassion, inner peace and equanimity. A rebalancing of military culture that blends mental health and resiliency with military ethics certainly begins with serious thinking about “military meaning and purpose” in war and conflict. If the trauma issue is to be seriously addressed, military culture should evolve to include continuous practices of wellbeing, mindfulness, breath practices, presence, and meditation. Military culture must understand the nature of suffering and trauma from the perspective of impermanence and that there are alternatives to victimization and depression. Mental wellbeing and causing harm or violence have a fundamental incompatibility. This is a significant and maybe an impossible challenge in a military culture. Good luck to us, or the consequences will be just more suicides and trauma.

 

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I am absolutely amazed at the incredible level of conversation that goes on about Canada ending the bombing and the current government plan, and the so called military experts commenting on this. We cannot kill our way out of the ISIS crisis. Obviously no one commenting knows the horror, fear and trauma of living under a bombing campaign, where your town is destroyed, your homes and livelihood shattered and your families killed. We would never in 100 years accept the use of CF18s and massive Paveway bombs, if terrorists were holed up in a mall or apartment building somewhere in a Canadian city, and then just call dead innocent civilians collateral damage. Yet we do this with impunity to others in the mid east.

I am extremely disappointed in the criticism asserting that killing and bombing is what we need to do as an alliance obligation. Where is the media talking about what we are doing to this country, devastating infrastructure and homes, and killing non combatants. This killing although unintended, is 100% foreseeable. Even one child blown to bits, should mean NO bombing. Coalition civilian casualties are acknowledged and mounting.  This number as of Nov 2015 was somewhere around 600 to 700 civilians and children killed. This is totally unacceptable. If you think this is just war, then look at your children and ask yourself what you would think and feel if it was them. We are complicit.

This need to “kill bad guys” mantra is very sad indictment of what we call civilized discourse in this country. We all know full well that there is no current military solution.   Did we learn nothing in Libya and Afghanistan? They wait you out, and return. There are no good possible winners here.  IF THERE IS NO CURRENT MILITARY SOLUTION, THEN WE SHOULD NOT MAKE IT WORSE. I totally agree with Mr Dion and Trudeau. I would go even further. This is a question of how Canada should contribute to peace and stability in the region. I suggest 528 million dollars we spent bombing could save the lives of countless refugees and war victims, build a safe haven for refugees in the region, lead a relentless diplomatic initiative for a ceasefire, and contribute more humanitarian aid.   If we want to do training we should train village level police forces, or the laws of armed conflict and military justice to military forces.. This is who we should be. We should be proud of being peacemakers.

Paul Maillet Colonel retired.

A question I was asked “…. how does one negotiate with a terrorist? How? I would love to see a practical, responsible reply to that question.” Perhaps the answer is not about a solution to the question, but a response to an intractable question.  Certainly what we are seeking is a response that is reasonable and reflects Canadian values.  I believe that we have to begin with the objective of “peacemaking” and what that means in creating the space for the insurgents to come to the table when they are ready and willing to do so. They will come when they “hurt enough or love enough” or they will fight to the end.  This may be sooner, later or never; but as the adage goes “we may be one and only one but will not refuse to do what one can do.”

What we can do is adopt peacemaking as a response, and change our thinking and approach to conflict zones.  This may mean setting the question of “winning the war” aside for a moment and considering possibilities that surround the question. How can we care for civilians, and alleviate suffering?  How can we reduce or stop the violence?  There are enough people and countries willing to fight, and what is needed is not more fighters, but some level of peacemakers.

Peacemakers that can find ways to communicate to the insurgents where they may be open to dialogue and have interests. To be able to talk with all parties, means adopting a posture of impartiality, being present, having a bias for peace and non violence, and a capacity for dialogue or negotiation.  For example, the issue of creating safe havens, human security, refugee routes, or humanitarian aid for refuges or non combatants, may provide opportunities to talk, if they can trust you to be impartial. The alternative of protecting and caring for victims, rather than that of killing of destroying infrastructure, may have more heart and better reflect who we want to be as Canadians.

Dealing with insurgents is another question.  Experience indicates that bombing will not work. This leaves us with treating them as criminals, cutting off their logistics, eliminating their funding, applying sanctions against those countries supplying them, or those buying their oil.  Apprehend and prosecute.  Serve and protect vice search and destroy.  This means driving them away from hiding within the people, away from cities and villages. This means a long and dangerous, constabulary or policing response like happened during the IRA campaign.

One negotiates when they are ready. We create conditions so that when they are ready, it happens.  Not easy, and a real test of who we are.  Your choice.

http://www.latimes.com/world/middleeast/la-fg-iraq-civilian-casualties-20141006-story.html

7 Oct 2014 Defence News and The LA Times reported today “Iraq news reports say 18 civilians killed in strike aimed at militantsExtract:  Iraqi news outlets reported Monday that at least 18 civilians, mostly women and children, were killed in an airstrike on a town under siege by fighters from the extremist group Islamic State.  The reports said that the U.S.-led coalition conducted the attack that hit at least one building in Hit, a strategic Euphrates River Valley town in Iraq’s Anbar province.  … Hit’s general hospital received 18 bodies, including three women and eight children, all killed in an airstrike, according to Iraqi news accounts.

“It’s possible that the coalition’s air force struck the houses by mistake,” an unidentified source told Erem News, a local network. “Coalition aircraft attempted to target houses containing ISIS elements, but the [projectiles] fell on the houses of citizens,” the report said, using a common acronym for Islamic State. … In addition to the U.S.-led coalition, the Iraqi air force has also bombarded insurgent positions in Iraq, resulting in numerous civilian deaths and drawing severe criticism from human rights groups and residents in the targeted areas. Responding to the outcry, Prime Minister Haider Abadi announced last month that the country’s armed forces had suspended aerial bombardments in areas where civilians are present.”

Our response: I can hear it now: Under investigation. May be true or not. Uncertain. But possible. Regrettable if true. Collateral damage.

In order to save the people of Iraq, it looks like we will have to kill some of you. Sorry.

It may be a crime for ISIS to hide in civilian populations, but a far worse crime to kill civilians to get at these military targets. We will plead collateral damage, unintended consequences, but unintended or not, they are totally foreseeable with the weapons we are using and airstrikes.  This is not acceptable.

Then we express regret for the collateral damage and causalities, but not enough regret to stop. The innocent lives lost over there are not our children.

Taking every precaution to protect civilians means not using bombs, missiles and artillery in residential areas or where civilians could possibly be present. This would never be done in our country. We would never in any circumstances put our civilians at such risks.  This means soldiers taking extreme risks, or the real cost is our humanity.

ISIS is now disbursed and embedded in civilian populations and if we respond with heavy weapons we will kill civilians. We kill people and destroy their country to save them.  This is insane.  THIS DOES NOT WORK. This makes things worse. Look at Libya, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Gaza today.

We will blame ISIS for being there.   The person responsible for killing of women and children is the person pulling the trigger, no one else.  One does not kill civilians to get at combatants NO MATTER HOW IMPORTANT.  This is morally wrong and a war crime.  The argument that it is someone else’s fault when we kill civilians is beyond reason.  It is a false argument to blame us killing innocents on others.  You kill and you are responsible.

Someone once said the definition of insanity is to do things over and over again and expect a different result. That about says it all here.

I realize that we claim a right to self defence here in Canada against such a threat, but that right is limited by the rights of others. You cannot choose to sacrifice the lives of innocent others in the exercise of your rights, or even to save oneself.   In this case, it is either  time to take extreme risks with soldiers, or to find another way.  Soldiers are trained and equipped to defend themselves, civilians are not.  There is always a choice.  In the name of a just cause, we ask soldiers to sacrifice their lives if need be, and the government is claiming just cause and last resort.  History is full of examples of people doing the right thing in such circumstances.

What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans, and the homeless, whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or the holy name of liberty and democracy? Mahatma Gandhi

Where are our values and humanity in all this?

The question is one of choosing war fighting or peacemaking? If peace making you need to be able to talk to all parties, in order to be effective in terms of providing safe havens, protecting refugees, and working towards a ceasefire.

If the objective is peacemaking and the care for the people of Iraq, this means “serve and protect”, a defensive and constabulary operation supported b y military.   This means peacemaking.   This means an approach that seeks to establish safe havens, refugee routes, humanitarian aid, with a constabulary operation, only backed by military as needed.  This means impartiality, being present with these people, prioritizing human rights and non violence, and establishing lines of communication with all parties.  Perhaps the inevitable diplomatic solutions will come sooner than later, if we start now.  With a UN mandate, this we can make a contribution consistent with our values and in concert with the global community.

If the objective is war fighting, or destroying ISIS, this, militarily, means “search and destroy” and going on the offence.  This, in all likelihood will cause a significant destruction of property, and the killing of more civilians than insurgents.  That is the nature of war when heavy weapons and bombs, are used against an insurgency embedded in the civilian population.  We have been there before.

Search and destroy or serve and protect?  Peacemaking requires impartiality for the sake of civilian lives.  How can one negotiate with ISIS, when the readiness and willingness emerges, or war fatigue, when one is bombing them?

Again we find ourselves reaching for a response to war, this time a war waged by ISIS. Again we blindly “go along to get along” with those who prioritize a military response.

First, the reflex to use the language of violence; defining an enemy as intractably evil, and an imminent  threat to ourselves, whether true or significant or not.  Then to claim that there is no alternative; no matter that we have not put any serious thought or debate into finding any alternatives, or any effort to creating any alternatives, or to creating any institutions that can provide alternatives and capacities.

It is time that Canadians stand up to their values of peace making and rethink this slide into war fighting and confrontation as a bedrock of foreign policy and international affairs.

So what alternatives are possible? The first is setting aside the one track thinking we tend to engage in.  In this crisis we only need ask ourselves what is really important, what values are important to us, and do we have the courage to stand by our convictions and respond accordingly.   Simply put, is it more important to destroy ISIS (which may not be possible)  or is it more important to care for the victims  and people of Iraq and Syria, (to build security, to stop the violence, to build peace)?  How do we balance the ethic of justice with the ethic of care?

If the objective is war fighting, or destroying ISIS, this, militarily, means “search and destroy” and going on the offence.  In all likelihood causing a significant destruction of property, and the killing of more civilians than insurgents.  That is the nature of war when heavy weapons and bombs, are used against an insurgency embedded in the civilian population.  We have been there before.  Israel has been there before.

If the objective is peacemaking and the care for the people of Iraq, this means “serve and protect”, a defensive and constabulary operation supported b y military.   This means peacemaking.   This means an approach that seeks to establish safe havens, refugee routes, humanitarian aid, with a constabulary operation, only backed by military as needed.  This means impartiality, being present with these people, prioritizing human rights and non violence, and establishing lines of communication with all parties.  Perhaps the inevitable diplomatic solutions will come sooner than later, if we start now.  With a UN mandate, this we can make a contribution consistent with our values and in concert with the global community.

The war against ISIS should now be a counterinsurgency or constabulary operation and to be successful, will be long and dangerous. The UK would not tolerate the use of 1000 lb bombs in Belfast to fight the IRA; nor would we in our country if we identified a terrorist cell in an apartment building in Toronto.  If so, then how in the name of God can we do this to others?  Is this because they are not our children?

Counterinsurgency is what the UK did in Ireland and Burma, and they understood that risking troops and police is essential to protecting and winning over civilian populations.  The Iraq army or the UN must do this.  Soldiers are trained and equipped to accept risk, children are not.  We cannot prioritize the protection of Canadians by launching bombs 20 kms away, and at the expense of innocent civilians.  This not who we are.  We will bomb for 6 months, do a lot of damage, kill more civilians than insurgents, feel righteous, and come home.  ISIS will still be there when we come back.  Perhaps we will express regret for any harm we did.  We cannot whitewash our conscience by saying it was unintended, if it is totally foreseeable.  CF18s and bombs, in what is now a counterinsurgency operation in built up areas, is just plain irresponsible.

Search and destroy or serve and protect? Peacemaking or war fighting?  Which resonates with Canadian values? We have two Nobel peace prizes to reclaim.

I completely support the need for the global community to act against these people.  Where I differ with many is in how we do this.  One has to think critically here. Remember this: we did not like Hussein, or the Taliban in Afghanistan, or Kaddafi in Libya.  We entered into air and ground wars and proceeded to set in motion a train of events that destroyed economies, infrastructure and led to hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths.  In the last 14 years, we have enabled others, and ourselves, to kill more people directly or indirectly than ISIS ever can.   ISIS would probably not exist in this form, if we had not gone to war in Iraq, or not gone to war to oust  the Taliban in Afghanistan to get at El Qaeda; or to war in Libya and its ensuing destabilization and destruction. We supported people in Libya who are now in ISIS.  ISIS is fighting with our weapons. We kill people and destroy their countries to save them.  This is insane.  THIS DID NOT WORK.  ISIS is now embedded in civilian populations and if we respond with heavy weapons we will kill civilians.  I understand that the Israelis killed more children than HAMAS combatants.  Now we are going down the road to do the same things. Do we never learn? Do we condone the way Israel prosecuted their war in Gaza?  Is it because  these are not our children that we are not sensitive to the suffering we cause. When we attack refineries in Iraq, do we think there are no civilians there?

The war against ISIS should be a counterinsurgency or constabulary operation and to be successful, will be long and dangerous.  The UK would not tolerate the use of 1000 lb bombs in Belfast to fight the IRA; nor would we in our country if we identified a terrorist cell in an apartment building in Toronto.  Then how in the name of God can we do this to others.  They are our children; or is it because they are not our children.

Counterinsurgency is what the UK did in Ireland and Burma, and they understood that  risking  troops and police is essential to protecting and winning over civilian populations.  The Iraq army or us must do this.  Soldiers are trained and equipped  to accept risk, children are not.  We cannot prioritize the protection of Canadians by launching bombs 20 kms away, at the expense of innocent civilians.  This not who we are!  We will bomb for 6 months, do a lot of damage, kill more civilians than insurgents, feel righteous, and come home.  ISIS will still be there when we come back.  Perhaps we will express regret for any harm we did.  We cannot alleviate our conscience by saying harming civilians was unintended , if it is totally foreseeable.  CF18s and high capacity bombs in counterinsurgency operations in built up areas are irresponsible.

If we think ISIS kills, we will show them what killing is all about.  Beheading is terrible, but so is blowing up people into little bits.  Unintended or not.