Canada: At war with terror?
by Meagan Hazlewood
The modern views and concepts of war have changed dramatically since the attack on the World Trade Centre, September 11, 2001. The Webster’s Dictionary defines war as: “ a state of open and declared armed hostile conflict between states or nations,” but this definition no longer holds true.
Today the world is engaged in war against terrorism; a hostile conflict not against a nation, but against the ideological beliefs of small groups of radical peoples scattered across the globe.
The complex questions that surround the idea of a war against terrorism have brought underlying differences in the values of sovereign nations and their peoples, to the surface.
As Leah McDonald, an English major at the University of Regina, points out, the battle against terrorism has, “made us more aware of the difference between Canadian and American popular thought and foreign policy.”
Canadians wish to deal with global concerns through the United Nations in order to insure that international law is upheld. While some countries view the United States as a world authority due to their position of power, Canadians are not willing to give such authority to leaders that do not posses an international perspective.
The prominence of global concern over terrorism has effected even the youngest generation of Canadians. University students who spend time volunteering in elementary classrooms have noticed how young kids react when the issue of terrorism is addressed.
McDonald adds, “While I was aware of the Gulf War as a kid, I never learned about it until high school.”
Education students have observed projects about Afghanistan and Iraq during their practicums in elementary, junior high and high school settings. Perhaps our close proximity to New York is what has made children seem more aware of just how real violence can be.
Following the address to the United Nations by George W. Bush that took place two weeks ago, the Canadian government retained a low profile on its position about how aid should be provided to the Iraqi people.
While Canadians have proved their willingness to be peace keepers and re-builders through their many contributions to war-torn countries in the 20th and 21st centuries, they seemed eager to assist the US quietly, perhaps pointing to the strain that Canadian-American relations have undergone over a wide variety of issues in the past year.
When asked about the effects of the September 11, attacks most Canadians are quick to point out the inconveniences of increased airport security and increased border security between Canada and the United States.
Comments on the increase of travel costs due to security taxes, are also common; yet, most Canadians seem reluctant to comment on the idea of the war against terrorism and the affects it will have on society in the future.
The reluctance to comment may be because a war without a clearly defined enemy, has the potential to allow the most powerful leaders to direct conflicts into whatever area they wish to attack. These attacks could therefore be used to further certain countries private agendas or increase a country’s area of influence.
The American attack on Iraq has been widely criticized. The common complaints against attacks accuse President Bush of using the war against terrorism to further his private agenda.
Dan de Viger, guest lecturer for Howard Leeson at the U of R, points out, “No one can prove what Bush’s private agenda is.”
He followed up by stating, “[September 11] defiantly gave [Bush] more opportunity to invade Iraq.” Bush’s new emphasis on how a liberated Iraq will help the war against terrorism, combined with the fact that no weapons of mass destruction have been discovered in the region, leaves the world questioning American intervention.
Canada must walk a fine line when responding to comments on Iraq and the war against terrorism.
Bryan Klatt, a U of R graduate student, points out that the American platform against terrorism, “has affected [Canadians] more strongly than other industrialized countries because of [their] dependant economic relationship with [the Americans].”
Klatt, who is specializing in international relations, goes on to state that, “The situation has increased Canadian sovereignty because Canadians have stood up for themselves.” The citizens of Canada are no longer willing to simply follow American bidding.
Justine Gilbert, a U of R undergrad, echoes Klatt’s belief that the impact of the war against terrorism has been different for Canadians than for other world citizens.
Gilbert has spent the majority of the past three years working in England, and she states that, “[The war against terrorism] has put a big divide down [Britain].”
Following the vandalism of mosques that occurred on September 11, retaliation took place when property of citizens with British backgrounds was damaged.
Gilbert claims that this has caused, “rampant racism in Britain.” While the Canadian government has, in some ways, been wary of fully embracing a conflict with so many undefined barriers, Gilbert states that the idea of fighting terror seems to have “brought Canadians closer.”
The racism and destruction that the war against terrorism has caused may be one of the reasons that a lot of Canadians question just how deeply they want to be involved in the new conflict. Will the war against terrorism leave the world fighting an enemy recognized and defined only when it best suits global powers, or is there a way for nation-states to prevent political based attacks that kill many innocent people each year?
While many things that surround the issue of the war against terrorism are unclear, there is no doubt that the attack on the World Trade Centre was a tragedy. The falling of the World Trade Centre and the reactions it generated will change the course of history forever.
If you tally the loss of life caused by the terrorist attacks, it is very small when compared to other substantial historical events.
It was of such importance that Bernard Goldberg states in his book Bias, based on how media distorts the news, that reporters were, “fair and accurate” on September 11; something he believes has only happened a handful of times in American history. This alone speaks of the magnitude of American thought put behind the events of 9/11.
On September 11, 2001, the world witnessed a country that is viewed as the largest military and economic powerhouse in the world fall victim to violence. This new vulnerability shocked American officials, the American public and citizens of the world.
Following the shock of September 11, George W. Bush stated in a televised joint session of Congress that, “[The American government] will direct every resource at [its] command, every means of diplomacy, every tool of intelligence, every instrument of law enforcement, every financial influence and every necessary weapon of war, to the disruption and defeat of the global terror network.”
Such a commitment by the United States is guaranteed to leave its mark in history.
As Ryan Pyne, a student at Mount Allison in Sackville, New Brunswick states, “September 11, 2001 has become the Pearl Harbour of today. The horrific attacks on America forces western society to realize their vulnerability, which continues to exist.”
“Politically, this forces future generations of Canadians to continue developing a unique identity which welcomes individuals from various countries.” As the future government leaders of Canada, we must answer terrorists in a way that upholds the highest Canadian ideals.