Posts Tagged ‘ISIS’

I attended a panel discussion recently on this topic and noted an appeal for ideas to deal with the issue. I was struck by the universality of inspirational comments, the language of terrorism or enemies, and the almost reflex response of dealing with risk, radicalization or violence from the perspective of “identification and response”, in punitive or treatment approaches, “appeals to behaviour” regarding religious tenants or values, or community obligations. For all the good words, I felt more concern than hope in the room. There is a saying; “you cannot drink the word water.” In this regard, I felt a need for something practical to emerge.

I view language as critical here. In my view there needs to be more awareness of Rosenberg’s theory of Non violent communication. Labelling people as enemies, terrorists or violent extremists is, in a sense, an act of creation that leads us down a path to violence and war, with an implicit licence to invoke lethal force. This means more military, more weapons, more suffering and more collateral damage. That said I do agree that many struggle to find peaceful solutions.   Surely we can do better.

There is another saying; “those who would kill; know that harming others will not bring an end to your suffering.” Perhaps this is an interesting way to view those who choose violence, as also victims of suffering.   It was agreed that causes of such behaviour were everything from numerous, to incredibly complex,  to completely unknown.   However, it can be known that suffering and impermanence exists for us all, the question may become one of how we can all deal with suffering in our lives.

So what is practical in this reality? To start perhaps we need a better balance between controlling wrongdoing and building peace. This means appreciating the difference between positive and negative peace. This means a keen awareness of mimetic structures at play. Mimetic structures are how we pass on cultures of peace or cultures of violence. People have a predisposition to mimic their cultural or family values and beliefs in order to belong or survive.

What is practical in building communities of peace? Perhaps we need an approach of the “whole person” and “whole of community.” Perhaps we need an understanding that one can only build peace, by beginning with “peace within”, before expecting to create “peace between” others in our communities.

This opens many doors. The door to building life practices in people, that seeks to cultivate a “mind of peace”, inner peace, equanimity, mindfulness, presence; and practices and techniques for the understanding of, and dealing with, suffering and trauma in its impermanence and pain, in all the roots of conditions or causes that are not-self.

Also there is the door to building community practices. This may involve training all (children, youth men, women, elders) in the basics of building peace, such as non violent communication, conflict resolution, reconciliation and closure, ethics and ethical decision making, good values, and living well in the company of each other. At a higher level building good governance, human security, economic viability and social needs such as health, education, wellbeing.

Also there is the door to building a group of peace practitioners in the community, especially in the youth. Peace practitioners that lead by example, with capacities around principles of being presence in arising conflict or issues, impartiality, advocating human rights, and have communication or dialogue skills. This may give youth alternatives to conflict through building positive purpose and meaning. Youth with peace building skills, non violent social activism, a voice, and participation in governance can be a powerful contributor to community wellbeing. Training and certifying peace practitioners is easy, and may begin with a “peace within” focus followed by skills education and experience.

So are we in the business of countering violent extremism or building communities of peace, or both? Which has priority? Perhaps the saying “I am one and only one; but will not refuse to do what one can do” has merit. We need small but visionary steps. Good luck to us all.


An open letter to Canadian Politicians

Dear Party leaders and elected members of Parliament;

What I find unusual is that the government cannot find and articulate a clear and compelling way forward for a Canadian contribution to peace and stability in the Mid East once our bombing ceases.

The Trudeau government has pledged to restore constructive Canadian leadership in the world, reenergize Canadian diplomacy and leadership on key international issues and to increase Canada’s support for United Nations peace operations and its mediation, conflict-prevention, and post-conflict reconstruction efforts. From this, viable options for Canada become a matter of common sense and of making choices.

I believe that in the mid east, we need to acknowledge that there is no current military or political solution to the numerous mid east crises underway, in all their unbelievable complexities.   Belligerent states or insurgents will change or stop violence when the readiness and willingness for peace arises. It is tragic that this usually happens when they hurt enough, or when they love their children enough. If we cannot help, we should not make it worse.

However, in the cause of peace, we can and should be present in the crises and with those suffering. We should not refuse to do what we can do. We can demonstrate a strong commitment to the values of peace, non violence, compassion, and respect. Perhaps this is a question of an even handed and consistent response to peace operations.   A new peace strategy could encompass all the possibilities of peace building, peacemaking, peace keeping, in pre-conflict, during conflict and post conflict situations in the world, and embrace principles such as the following in their implementation.

Peace Building

  • We can confront all countries regarding violations of human rights, international law, or the laws of armed conflict, no matter who they are.
  •  We can be a voice for diplomacy, truth, mediation, reconciliation and conflict resolution.   We can be a voice for dialogue and consular activity.
  • We can stop pouring billions of dollars of weapons or arms into the region.
  • We can promote principled non-military economic trade and development that can contribute to international peace and stability. Trade and relationships that benefit people.
  • We provide economic and governance development assistance to build ethics and reduce corruption.
  • We can advocate and support the building of institutions for peace operations and conflict management.

Peace Making

  • We can create and protect safe havens. We can protect civilian populations and refugees.
  • We can increase the provision of humanitarian aid.
  • We can assert that we do not contribute to the killing. We can believe that policing “serve and protect” and “apprehend and prosecute”   is better than military “search and destroy”.
  • We can welcome and provide for refugees.
  • We enable the provision of safe spaces, ongoing contact and communication for negotiated peace processes.   We can be impartial and talk to all sides. We can have a commitment to relentless peace diplomacy.


  • We can negotiate or monitor cease fire agreements.
  • We can train constabulary police forces to enforce the rule of law.
  • Eventually and given readiness and willingness, we work to enable truth, justice and reconciliation activity.

No matter how intractable, there is always something positive we can do. The over 500 million dollars we have spent on bombing, could have gone a very long way to saving countless lives with this approach. I believe that it is time we rebuild institutions for peace operations in Canada.   I believe it is time to earn the two Nobel peace prizes we have for peacekeeping. We can become a leader in next generation evolution of peacekeeping and peacemaking and peace building operations and practices. We can regain our place in the world as a country for peace.   This is only a question of courage and values.

In the cause of peace


Paul Maillet Colonel (retired)

I listened to CBC “power and politics” recently about Canada and ISIS and am somewhat concerned about the underlying consensus and untouchable assumptions, by all parties and the moderator Terry, that Canada should and must be in the fight in the first place, and that Canada must not have diplomatic relations with Iran.    There were some mild caveats that this be subject to avoiding collateral damage and killing civilians.  Otherwise, it seemed that parties were only determined to criticize each other’s articulation of this to appeal to what they think voters want.

To me, the debate was ill informed and shamelessly political.  This region has been in conflict before the birth of Christ. The Mideast has over two million men under arms, and trillions of dollars of weapons surrounding ISIS, and we think six Canadian jets are important here and makes a difference.  The mid east is on a somewhat chaotic road to  sorting ISIS out and will probably lay the seeds for further Sunni Shiite conflict in the process. Whatever the outcome, this will remain a problem for the world.   Perhaps the question for us is not about fighting wars here, but how can we contribute to peace making in the region.  We have to remember that military action under international law must have a reasonable prospect of success, which is just not there in this case, and well acknowledged by the US president and military professionals.    Yes, we need boots, but peacekeeper boots that protect people and protect aid.  Also boots that talk to all sides and prepare for peace talks.    So I throw my lot into protecting people, caring for victims, humanitarian aid, non-violence and sponsoring peace talks when the readiness and willingness is there.  There is the notion that “when they hurt enough, or love their children enough”, we will have peace.

Regarding the reinstatement of diplomatic relations with Iran, I find the debate incredulous.  It has to be more important to talk to those with which we have differences than just our friends.  Miscommunication and misunderstanding is how wars start, and no communication leads to missed opportunities to end wars or advance chances for peace.  The more we know each other the better the chances for change and peace,   Iran will do what Iran will do with regard to nuclear weapons and we better think about plan B if they choose to do go down the road to such weapons.  This is a debate we must also have.  How do we live in peace with another nuclear state for which we have differences?

So whither Canada in all this?  How can Canada assert what we claim are our true and cherished values for peace, in the face of a world always bent on military intervention as a response  to conflict?  It takes courage.  We can do much much better.

Why do we find it so difficult to debate the use of military intervention as Canada’s contribution to international peace and stability?  Now the mission creep begins.  Did we not learn anything from the mess we left in Libya?  Is killing our only response?

The expansion of attacks into Syria begs a few questions.  Are we willing to accept casualties?  We are now flying in another country with possible sophisticated Russian surface to air missile capabilities and a Russian equipped air force. We cannot be certain what missiles or air defence capacities ISIS has captured and operates  in this regard.  We may or may not have air superiority as in Iraq.  We will need allied help to suppress enemy air defences, and fighter cover support.  I assume we will operate as part of allied strike packages.  However, we may run into, or clash with, hostile Syrian air force fighters or air defence systems.

All this begs the question of what 6 CF18s are doing in a theatre of some 20,000 ISIS fighters facing surrounding national armies  with over 2 million  men under arms and massive modern air forces that makes 6 CF18s absolutely  insignificant to any possible outcome.  All we can do is kill a few people.  We are better than this.

Maybe the real contribution of Canada is to look to the two Nobel peace prizes we have shared for peacekeeping, and look to a role of impartiality, diplomacy,  peace operations and humanitarian activities.  Eventually the readiness and willingness to sit down and talk, and  need for political negotiation will arise, and we can be prepared for that day, and maybe such readiness may be in time to save lives.   The number of lives we could save with the money we are spending is surely the best of who we think we are.  Why are we not a nation of peace vice a nation of war?  When did we lose our way?

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.

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?