The Russian government’s intervention in Ukraine has spurred denunciations and boycotts from across the Canadian establishment. The apologists for the invasion of Afghanistan, Saudi atrocities in Yemen, and Israeli war crimes have been especially vocal. These hypocrites have absolutely no right and no authority to say anything on Ukraine.
Not all invasions are the same
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau condemned the Russian government’s “violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity” and imposed new sanctions against Russia. The Prime Minister further pledged to ramp up military equipment exports to Ukraine and prepare a force of 3,400 troops, as needed. Canada’s Global Affairs Minister further called for the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate Russia’s “attack on a sovereign country” as a possible war crime.
Former prime minister Stephen Harper likewise insisted: “Putin and his gang must be treated like the full global pariahs they have chosen to become. They must be sanctioned, excluded and punished at every turn.”
The conflict in Ukraine has, and will continue to have, grave human consequences. But these denunciations are dripping with hypocrisy.
The same Trudeau now denouncing the Russian intervention has spent years helping Saudi Arabia violate Yemen’s “sovereignty.” The 2020 Group of Eminent International and Regional Experts in Yemen named Canada as one of the top arms exporters “helping to perpetuate” the Saudi invasion which, since 2015, has killed more than 230,000 people.
When Israel’s government was threatened with an ICC case—specifically for the “willful killing” of civilians in Gaza in 2014—the Trudeau government appeared far less concerned about penalizing brutal invasions. Canada’s government even wrote to The Hague to block the case and affirm “Canada’s long-standing position” that the “stateless” Palestinians do not qualify for ICC protection.
In 1999, Canada itself joined NATO to pound Kosovo and Serbia with munitions—including cluster bombs—leveling civilian infrastructure and whole villages, in violation of the state’s “sovereignty.” Afterwards, Canada worked with NATO to violate Afghanistan’s “sovereignty.” From 2001 to 2014, the invasion killed thousands of civilians and displaced tens of thousands more. Yet no federal Liberal politician from the period has been denounced by Trudeau.
Thereafter, Canada and NATO launched coordinated airstrikes in Libya, attacking military and civilian infrastructure. Even in the face of ample evidence that the intervention cleared the way for a brutal civil war, those responsible have faced no comparable penalty.
While Canada did not join the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Harper was one of its most vocal supporters, plagiarizing a speech to support the unlawful invasion in Parliament and speaking at the pro-war “Rally For America.”
This difference in attitude towards the conflict in Ukraine has not gone unnoticed in the news media. But rather than question the hypocrisy, the trend has been to justify it with blatant racism.
British columnist Daniel Hannan wrote in The Telegraph, “They seem so like us. That is what makes it so shocking. Ukraine is a European country. Its people watch Netflix and have Instagram accounts [?], vote in free elections [?] and read uncensored newspapers [?!]. War is no longer something visited upon impoverished and remote populations. It can happen to anyone.” CBS foreign correspondent Charlie D’Agata said on air, “This isn’t Iraq or Afghanistan…This is a relatively civilized, relatively European city.” Indeed, Ukraine is not Iraq or Afghanistan. Iraq and Afghanistan were decimated by our own governments. When Western governments bomb and invade, this is apparently in the natural order of things, nothing more than people without Netflix accounts can expect. We are supposed to be reassured that Western powers would never commit the far greater crime of bombing Europeans—the NATO bombing of the Balkans in the 1990s is conveniently forgotten.
Russophobic cancel culture
Beyond politicians, sports and alcohol have been recruited into an anti-Russia culture war.
On Feb. 28, Canada Soccer, the Canadian division of FIFA, announced it would refuse to play “at any level against Russia until sovereignty and territorial integrity are restored.” FIFA, the “world soccer governing body” and European football federation UEFA announced that Russia’s national and club teams will be banned from all competitions. FIFA further expressed its “condemnation of the use of force by Russia.”
Russia, however, is hardly the only imperialist country to use “force” against another.
The aforementioned Saudi Arabia retains a FIFA team and it is free to participate—albeit, only in the men’s league—despite its ongoing war in Yemen. FIFA’s lesser teams from the United States, Canada,and other NATO powers have also been spared any sanction for their flagrant use of “force” internationally.
FIFA’s own rules, furthermore, explicitly ban national associations from playing on another country’s territory without permission. Yet even though the Israel Football Association includes teams which are headquartered and train in the occupied territories, no FIFA sanctions have been applied. Instead, back in 2016, Celtic fans were threatened with fines by FIFA’s European division for waving “illicit” banners—Palestinian flags.
In Canada, the Toronto Star—which defended Canada’s inventions in Libya and Afghanistan—called for Ilya Mikheyev and Ilya Lyubushkin’s suspension from the Toronto Maple Leafs, as a means of “punishing Moscow for the brutal invasion of Ukraine.”
More recent boycotts of Russian vodka have been embraced by the Ontario Liberal Party, in a statement co-signing federal sanctions and insisting: “Any and all means of cutting off Russia’s economy should be considered. Both provincially and federally.” The Liquor Control Board of Ontario, the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation, the Manitoba Liquor Mart, the BC Liquor Distribution Branch, and other sellers have joined the boycott.
These boycotts will do absolutely nothing to stop the war in Ukraine, and next to nothing to the economy of Russia. They are merely a form of Western imperialist virtue signaling that will only inflame prejudice against people with Russian heritage. The fact that the cancelling of Russia is being promoted by the same right wingers who denounce “cancel culture” just exacerbates the hypocrisy.
Previously, Prime Minister Trudeau had a different position on boycotts. He condemned pro-Palestinian boycotts as “intimidation.” In 2016, the federal Liberal caucus voted with the Conservatives overwhelmingly to condemn boycott efforts that engage in the “delegitimization of the State of Israel.” In Ontario, the Liberals also voted with the Tories to condemn the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement. Yet, the same politicians are in favour of an anti-Russia boycott.
No to Liberal crocodile tears, no to anti-Russian xenophobia
None of these efforts will stop people from dying in Ukraine. We must, furthermore, absolutely reject any suggestion that all Russian people are responsible for the Russian government’s intervention. The Russian working class has a long and proud tradition of fighting imperialist bloodshed at home, independent of dishonest liberals and xenophobic boycotts.
In the case of Trudeau and the federal politicians who have supported no shortage of brutal wars and invasions themselves, their hypocrisy is self-evident. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has been no more disastrous than the war in Afghanistan, the bombing of Libya and Kosovo, the Saudi invasion of Yemen, and the like.
These efforts and condemnations, supported by the same corporate media which has repeatedly rallied behind Canada’s use of force abroad, have nothing to do with opposing military interventions in general. They’re about demonizing Russia and covering for NATO’s interventions. For us in the West, the enemy is at home. Rather than uniting behind a belligerent and hypocritical home imperialism that has much blood on its hands in Ukraine and elsewhere, we oppose them at every turn. We unite with our comrades in Russia who are also fighting their home imperialism. Workers’ unity against imperialism is the way to end war. We say no to class collaboration with warmongers. We say no to xenophobia. We say no to Western hypocrisy.