Last Thursday there was news out of Iraq that security forces had killed four protesters and wounded 35 in violent clashes just outside the Green Zone in Baghdad. This incident barely made a ripple in Canadian media, as it was simply the latest in a steady stream of violent clashes in a country that has been awash in violence since the U.S. invasion in 2003.
This most recent wave of unrest began with public protests against government corruption, unemployment and the inability of the current regime to provide basic services and utilities.
The protesters were unarmed but that did not deter Iraqi security forces from using lethal force. To date, more than 260 Iraqi civilians have been killed and thousands injured in the one-sided clashes.
Canada has two separate military missions deployed to Iraq, totaling a maximum of 850 personnel. One of these missions is a contingent of special forces trainers who have the vague mandate of aiding and assisting Iraqi forces in the aftermath of the defeat of Daesh (aka ISIS or ISIL).
The second much more clearly defined role is that of lead nation in the NATO training mission.
Based in Camp Taji just outside Baghdad, these 250 Canadian soldiers are directly involved in training the security forces of the Iraqi regime.
That would be the same Iraqi military personnel that has been mowing down unarmed protesters in the streets of Baghdad and Basra.
Although Canadian media have largely ignored the violence in Iraq, you would think that at least such incidents would be a major concern for the Canadian soldiers on the ground there. Not only is it happening in their own backyard, it is potentially being perpetrated by their very own recruits. Sadly, these concerns don’t seem to have registered.
On Oct. 19, Canadian Armed Forces Operations posted an update on Facebook that read “Ball Hockey Night in Iraq!” alongside a photo of Canadian soldiers in sports gear playing hockey in an air-conditioned gym. The full text reads (and I quote verbatim lest I be accused by some Captain Canada wannabes of disseminating ‘fake news’) “CAF members on OP IMPACT host a weekly ‘Ball Hockey Night’ and face off with coalition partners at Camp Taji, Iraq. Included are players from Sweden, United States, Germany and Poland. Sports play a prominent role in promoting fitness and good health within the military community. It also contributes to improved leadership skills, teamwork, loyalty and commitment.”
All this talk of good health and camaraderie but not a single reference to either Iraqis or what the hell is raging outside the heavily protected walls of the NATO compound.
It would seem that we have learned nothing from our 12-year fiasco in Afghanistan. For the first nine years of that commitment, Canada sent soldiers to battle insurgents and to prop up the most corrupt regime on the planet.
For the final three years in Afghanistan, we trained Afghan security forces to prop up that same corrupt cabal in Kabul.
For some reason, the Canadian military convinced itself that it was "particularly good" at training the Afghan recruits. The truth is that the Afghan security forces trained by Canadians were just as woefully inept and unmotivated as those trained by our NATO allies.
Now we find our soldiers training young Iraqi males to prop up a regime that is hated by the general public for its corruption. Like Camp Taji, Canadians also set up ball hockey tournaments at the airfield in Kandahar. Hockey is something Canadian soldiers do "particularly well." Our track record at propping up hated regimes is not so stellar.
We should get the hell out of Iraq now, because Canada had no stake in this conflict in the first place.