Sunday, October 7, 2012

photo essay: "Don't attack Iran"

On October 6, 800 people marched through the streets of Toronto to oppose the looming war on Iran, organized by the Toronto Coalition to Stop the War and the Iranian-Canadian Community Council. There were a half dozen events across Canada, organized by the Canadian Peace Alliance and local peace groups, as part of an international day of action. Coinciding with the 11th anniversary of the the war on Afghanistan, a member of Afghans for Peace reminded the crowd in Toronto that the brutality of the Taliban was cynically used as a pretext for NATO's war for oil. Sold as a war for women's liberation, the war has only brought more misery to the people of Afghanistan. Now there's a new movement--combining previous anti-war movements with a new generation--growing against the next war.

As people chanted on the march, "They lied about Afghanistan, they lied about Iraq. They're lying again about Iran, so we say don't attack." In 2003 Stephen Harper supported the war on Iraq based on claims of weapons of mass destruction. But the only WMDs were US sanctions and war, which each killed a million people. The Iraq War was supposed to be a stepping stone to Iran, but the Iraqi resistance and the global anti-war movement stopped the US from advancing. So the US has resorted to proxy wars that Harper has also supported: Israel's attacks on Lebanon in 2006 and Gaza in 2009. The economic crisis has increased inter-imperial rivalry and the Arab Spring has shaken US control of the region, so it might gamble on another proxy war through Israel to reassert its dominance. Threats against Iran are based on a series of myths--like unfounded claims Iran is building a nuclear weapon, and that sanctions and war are necessary to promote peace. But sanctions have bolstered the Iranian regime's domestic control while increasing the suffering of ordinary Iranians--including Iranian-Canadians. Similarly a war would allow the Iranian regime to present itself as the protector of the nation, while undermining resistance movements and killing countless. As the Arab Spring shows, real regime change can only be accomplished by people in the region themselves. The best way people in the West can support them is by stopping our own governments from bombing them, which requires a broad and inclusive anti-war movement.  

Harper's war drive against Iran--supporting sanctions, declaring Iran and "Islamicism" the greatest threats, severing diplomatic relations, and pinkwashing the war--is part of a broader agenda of militarism including spending $490 billion on war instead of jobs, social programs and the environment. The war abroad is part of a war at home--including cutting healthcare for refugees, a campaign against US Iraq War resisters, and attacking a woman's right to chose. Queers for Social Justice mobilized for the Toronto demonstration to expose the pinkwashing and join with others in chanting "Drop Harper, not bombs."

At the start of 2003 Parliament consisted of a majority Liberal government supporting war, the Opposition Tories who supported war, and a small NDP that opposed the war. But people across the country built a mass anti-war movement in the streets, campuses, workplaces and neighbourhoods. Uniting under the simple slogan "Don't attack Iraq," the movement identified US war as the greatest threat, stopping the war as the greatest way to support the Iraqi people against their own regime, and a broad and inclusive movement as the method to do so. The NDP provided a megaphone for the movement, with Jack Layton speaking out against war and calling on people to join the demonstrations. Together, we stopped Canada from officially participating in the Iraq War, and if we remember the lessons of the Iraq anti-war movement we can stop Harper from joining the looming Iran War. For anti-war resources--including fact sheets, petitions, sample letters and resolutions, window signs and stickers, go here.