In what General Rick Hillier called, “a glimpse of the future”, the military recently released a draft of its new counter-insurgency doctrine that shifts the focus of the military towards the suppression of “insurgencies” – including not only Taliban forces in Afghanistan but also the popular democratic movement in Haiti and First Nations groups in Canada struggling for their land treaty rights.
First Nations leaders reacted with shock and outrage when they learned that the Mohawk Warrior Society was listed as a potential “insurgent group”. According to the manual, this would make its member fair military targets for deception, ambush, and assassination!
“The rise of radical Native American organizations, such as the Mohawk Warrior Society, can be viewed as insurgencies with specific and limited aims,” the manual states. “Although they do not seek complete control of the federal government, they do seek particular political concessions in their relationship with national governments and control (either overt or covert) of political affairs at a local/reserve (‘First Nation’) level, through the threat of, or use of, violence.”
For all the military’s fear mongering about the supposed threat of the Mohawk Warrior Society, Canadians should remember that the violence between the First Nations and the government has been markedly one-sided. Protest actions by First Nations groups such as those at Oka, Kanestake, and Gustafsen Lake during the 1990s, or more recently at Caledonia, Grassy Narrows, and Tyendinega, were only launched after decades (and in some cases centuries) of legal negotiations and government stonewalling. The hyper-aggressive police and military responses have included the use of hundreds of tactical assault troops, helicopters, surveillance planes, armored personnel carriers, land mines, tear gas, tens of thousands of spent rounds of live ammunition, mass arrests, incidents of torture, and the shooting death of unarmed protester Dudley George.
In their quest to dehumanize resistance, the document downplays the critical role that the popular support plays in supporting an insurgency, claiming that “insurgency is not a movement or a people”. Yet the example of Iraq proves otherwise: there are more than 300,000 soldiers and private mercenaries in Iraq today – a country less than half the size of Ontario far more than required to crush a few rogue elements or ‘extremists’. It takes hundreds of thousands of troops to only begin to try to destroy mass movements and peoples. And if history is any guide for the future, we know that armies almost always fail to succeed in crushing united peoples movement.
At the same time, in what it calls the “hearts and minds” campaign, the document emphasizes the psychological aspect of warfare. What this document shows is the degree to which the Canadian government and military manipulates so-called non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to achieve their foreign policy objectives. It stresses the importance of getting to know the culture of the people under occupation and the use of NGOs as a way to create loyalty to the foreign occupiers. That NGOs are willing to be used by occupation forces and puppet governments to achieve military objectives should make Canadians very skeptical of the thousands of NGOs in this country who receive government funding to do their work.
Canadians should understand that the new counter-insurgency doctrine will not be limited to fighting foreign uprisings. It is hard not to notice the increased troop presence in Canadian cities alongside the aggressive recruitment campaigns in Canadian high schools, colleges and universities. Just last year the Canadian military participated in a week-long urban warfare exercise in the city if Winnipeg, training over 500 Canadian reservists alongside 40 American counterparts, in the strategy of urban warfare in Canadian cities.
While the military has been backpedaling on the report and now claims that all references to First Nations groups will be removed in the final version, this does not change the fact that Canadian military is being transformed from a body equipped for fighting inter-state wars into a body more readily able to fight against popular movements. Canadians need to take this document as a very serious expression of the future direction of Canadian foreign and domestic policy. Clearly, the government and the military know something that Canadians are not being told. Canada’s military is supposed to be for defending our country, so why is it developing policies for subjugating popular resistance movements, both at home and abroad?