The Iran-Israeli War

There is an article in this morning’s Washington Post by Ishaan Tharoor entitled, “Is regime change in Iran part of Trump’s agenda?” The answer offered is an assertive “yes.” The following evidence is offered:

  • Rudy (Rudolph) Giuliani, The Donald’s newly-appointed personal lawyer, just said so in an unexpected speech (both in timing and given his role as Trump’s personal attorney with no role in the White House) on Saturday to the Iran Freedom Convention for Democracy and Human Rights (IFCDHR) a front for the MEK, Mujahidin e-Khalq, stating that Trump was “committed to regime change” in Iran
  • Giuliani also said that, “We have a president who is tough… a president who is as committed to regime change as we are” and that confronting Iran is “more important than an Israeli-Palestinian deal.”
  • Giuliani has been a lobbyist for over a decade for the MEK (see Jonathan Vankin in the INQUISITR)
  • In 2012, Giuliani was widely credited with getting the MEK delisted from its fifteen-year-old U.S. State Department designation as a “terrorist organization” under a court-imposed deadline for a decision (cf. Spencer Ackerman in Share 12/09/2012)
  • The MEK as a proxy for the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq had been held responsible for the deaths of three American military officers and three military contractors
  • The MEK, following a 2004 NYT Magazine report, is widely regarded as a husband-and-wife cult led by Massoud and Maryam Rajavi given its controls over the sex lives and reading of its members, though it now presents itself as a pro-democracy organization and implacable enemy of the Islamic Tehran regime that provides intelligence (usually fake) on Iran’s nuclear program
  • In 2012, the MEK, in spite of the support it had gained among some American politicians and policy buffs, was still largely considered a fringe cult with limited appeal to Iranians
  • However, currently both John Bolton, Trump’s newly-named National Security Adviser, and Mike Pompeo, the newly-minted Secretary of State, are known supporters of the MEK
  • Trump in his campaign to be the Republican nominee, in his presidential campaign and as president, has repeatedly denounced the Iran nuclear deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), as a “bad one,” the “worst deal ever”
  • This week it is widely believed that he will renounce the nuclear deal and re-impose economic sanctions contrary to the dire warnings against such a move by world political leaders such as Emmanuel Macron, President of France, and UN Secretary General António Guterres because of the imminent prospect of war (Boris Johnson, the UK Foreign Secretary, arrived in Washington yesterday to continue Macron’s lobbying campaign)
  • May 12 is the deadline for making a decision about renewing sanctions by the U.S.
  • Trump is highly unlikely to go to war against Tehran given his dedication to pulling troops out of the Middle East and Far East (“We are going to stop spending US$7 trillion abroad and start focusing on infrastructure at home.”) in spite of the propensities and preferences of the hawks among his reborn foreign policy personnel

By all reputable accounts and inspection reports, Iran has kept the terms of the nuclear deal, but it has not curbed, and likely enhanced, its missile program as well as its troubling interventions in Syria, not just to back the Assad regime, but to establish long term military and missile bases in Syria. If the U.S. re-authorizes economic sanctions, thereby renouncing its commitment to the nuclear deal, a deep schism will result between the U.S. and its European allies who are intent on continuing their support for the nuclear deal.

The likely result will be that the U.S. will give, and has already probably committed itself to giving, Israel permission to act as its surrogate in attacking Iranian targets in Syria. Note the following:

  • Retired Israeli military generals and intelligence officers have become very vocal and have openly warned that withdrawal from the nuclear deal will make matters worse
  • In The Guardian on the weekend, Mark Townsend and Julian Borger reported that an Israeli intelligence firm had been employed by the Trump campaign to discredit those in the Obama regime (Kerry, Rhodes, Kahl, Biden) that had been active in forging the deal by means of “dirty ops” thereby helping to discredit the deal
  • Netanyahu in the week before presented an elaborate show-and-tell with an impressive array of detail captured by the Mossad on the well-known pre-deal record of lying and cheating by the Iranian regime on the Iranian nuclear program
  • Netanyahu almost explicitly claimed that Iran was continuing its past practices of lying and cheating in the post 2015 nuclear deal period but provided absolutely no evidence to that effect
  • Most ominously, Netanyahu insisted that Iran had to be stopped and it was better to do that now rather than later
  • Israel insists on continuing its policy of absolute control over the skies concerning any threats emanating from Syria as evidenced when Israel shot down an Iranian drone in February
  • In the past several weeks, Israel has upped the ante in attacking Iranian facilities in Syria; in the most significant action, Israeli F-15 fighter jets destroyed a cache of Iranian missiles and, in the process, reportedly killed dozens of Iranian military personnel
  • On 30 April, the Knesset voted to give Netanyahu authorization, if the Defense Minister agreed, to “declare war under extreme circumstances,” thereby amending the Israel’s Basic Law Clause 40A that states that the “state shall not start a war save by force of a government decision” and that such a decision will be conveyed to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Security Committee ASAP; the revised procedure would sideline the traditional pattern that the IDF, the intelligence institutions and the Foreign Affairs Ministry would all be consulted before such a decision
  • Netanyahu has repeatedly drawn a red line in the sand insisting that Israel will not permit Iran to establish military bases in Syria; in fact, there are three red lines: 1) no Iranian or Iranian proxies (e.g. Hezbollah) on Israeli borders; 2) no Iranian precision-guided missiles in Syria; 3) no expanded Iranian military entrenchment in Syria
  • Putin’s meeting this week with Netanyahu is unlikely to dissuade Israel from any further military action in Lebanon but will seek reassurances and mechanisms that Russian facilities will not be targeted
  • Hawkish Israeli cabinet members have insisted that Israel’s security will remain in dire jeopardy unless Assad is removed, an unlikely prospect, but holding that goal up will make Netanyahu’s military initiative against the Iranian presence in Syria appear as a more modest effort, even if quite disproportionate to the provocation, and will put further pressure on Assad to accede to Israeli demands that Iran be required to remove its military bases from Syria
  • A distraction from the eruptions expected from Palestinian quarters to the imminent U.S. embassy opening in Jerusalem in a week adds fuel to the increased prospect of a much higher military engagement of Israel against Iran in Syria
  • The disproportionate Israeli response to the Hamas efforts against the fence received relatively muted international criticism and Hamas has now been reduced effectively to pleading for a long-term military truce

Iran has become both very circumspect at the same time as it has been more vocal in warning the U.S. not to cancel the nuclear deal. More specifically,

  • Until 12 May, Iran has put further military initiatives in Syria on “pause”
  • On Saturday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani not only threatened the U.S. if it reneged on the nuclear deal, but also announced that, “We have plans to resist any decision by Trump on the nuclear accord…Orders have been issued to our atomic energy organization … and to the economic sector to confront America’s plots against our country”
  • American and/or Israeli diplomatic and/or military initiatives will weaken Rouhani and strengthen his rival hard line Revolutionary Guard Corps leader, Qassem Soleimani and solidify support for him by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
  • Soleimani is almost surely planning a quid pro quo attack on an Israeli military operation after 12 May even though it will almost surely result in a much larger retaliation against the Iranian military presence in Syria
  • In the May 6th elections in Lebanon, Hezbollah has run candidates, even more hawkish than before and in all constituencies for the first time in an effort to extend its control over Lebanese political and military policies and put Lebanon even further into Iran’s back pocket
  • The prospect of war with Israel and the imminent likely cancellation of the nuclear deal has led to a further precipitous decline in the value of the Iranian currency, putting more pressure on the regime to find a distraction and a nationalist rallying cry
  • The radical forces of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, especially the Al Quds division, is highly unlikely to retreat from its efforts to provide the point of attack for Iran to project power in the region even though in the past it moved into vacuums created by others; Soleimani likely views himself at a point of no return or retreat, but this is the critical breaking point on which Israel is forging its new activist agenda against Iran (cf. the recent piece by Jonathan Paris in the Fathom Forum)

I have been a strong supporter of the Iran nuclear deal. I have also warned that the debates over the Iran nuclear were really over differences in how to respond to the increasing threat of a more conventionally militant Iran. Both issues are now merging once again and the most likely prospect is an Israeli enhanced military involvement in Syria targeting Iran and with an implicit backing of the U.S. I believe that such an enhanced response would be more effective if it was de-linked from the Iranian nuclear deal but the Netanyahu government seems to believe otherwise and that now is the time to take action in the interest of long-term as well as immediate strategic goals.

Expect war unless Soleimani backs away temporarily (unlikely) to increase his forces fighting in Yemen and with Turkish forces against the Kurds.

Advertisements

Accepting Refugees: International Law in a Canadian Context in the Twentieth Century

Accepting Refugees: International Law in a Canadian Context in the Twentieth Century

by

Howard Adelman

Keynote Address

24th Annual Canadian International Law Students’ Conference (CILSC)

“International Rules and Standards: A Meeting of Minds”

3 February 2017; revised 22 February 2017

Faculty of Law, University of Toronto.

PART I

Introduction

The dominant discourse in contemporary refugee scholarship re policy and law is based on refugee rights. However, by far, the vast majority of refugees in the world are humanitarian refugees; they flee, not because they are targeted for persecution, but because of war or a natural disaster.[1] Even when the instigation is persecution, they are often accepted for admission as humanitarian rather than Convention refugees.[2] Further, the Convention refugee category offers rights only to those victimized by very specific kinds of persecution. Yet, Convention refugees constitute most of those admitted to Canada as refugees.[3]

Why does the Convention and the issue of refugee rights dominate the intellectual and conceptual landscape? Why is there not far greater attention applied to those who flee because of need? Why, in fact, are rights granted only to those who flee persecution and not to those who flee because of need? This is especially important because a number of states, including Canada, have, at times, been more willing to grant entry to humanitarian refugees rather than respecting the right of Convention refugee claimants to claim refugee status once on Canadian shores. The intake of Indochinese refugees is an example.

In the case of rights refugees, there is a direct clash with the concept of sovereignty. In the case of needs refugees, there is no conceptual conflict – though some would try to make one.

“When a country is no longer able to say who can, and who cannot, come in & out, especially for reasons of safety & security — big trouble!”

Donald Trump tweet, 4 February 2017

This paper will discuss the interweaving of policy in Canada applied to rights refugees and humanitarian refugees since WWII, not to answer the above questions, but to provide an empirical backdrop for wrestling with them.

The timing is propitious, but only with respect to academics and practitioners concerned with refugees, not with refugees themselves. They are doubly victimized, first by the warriors and ideologues that forced them to flee their homelands if they wanted to survive, and then, a second time, when persons in authority like the malignant narcissist and serial liar, Donald Trump, placed an indefinite ban[4] on Syrian refugees coming to the United States, and then a “temporary” 90-day ban on refugees coming to the United States from six other countries – Iraq, Iran,[5] Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen in his notorious executive order issued 27 January 2017, “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States.”

Visas will not be issued to anyone from those countries. Even those traveling with valid visas may be and were turned back or detained. Many others, including, initially, those with Green Cards, were not allowed to take their seats on airplanes on which they had booked travel.

It just happens that these seven dangerous “Muslim” countries are all ones which the U.S. has waged war against and even actually bombed, but does not include Saudi Arabia, the source of the majority of the 9/11 terrorists and a country in which Donald Trump has financial interests, nor Pakistan, the home country of one of the very few Islamicist terrorists who committed heinous crimes within the United States in the last eight years.[6] It also just happens that not one of those seven countries nurtured a single terrorist who committed a terrorist act on American soil.

Of the relatively small number of refugees that the U.S. planned to take in during 2017, 10,000 slots targeted for Syrians were recently increased to approximately 20,000 by the outgoing Obama administration.[7] All 20,000 will probably now go unfilled even though the original executive order on migrants was stopped in its implementation by American courts.

In contrast, in 2015 even under the Harper regime, Syrians constituted the group of refugees with the highest numbers coming to Canada. For ten years, Canada’s average intake of refugees had been about 25,000 annually, about 10% of the overall immigrant intake. In 2015, almost 60% came as asylum seekers with their family members, over 40% as either government or privately sponsored refugees, the latter making up about one-third of that 40%.

In 2016, the Harper government had planned an intake of 10,000 refugees.  When the Liberal Justin Trudeau Government was elected, it immediately announced some ambitious plans for the intake of Syrian refugees. As indicated above, by the end of 2016, Canada took in almost 40,000 refugees under this new initiative, twice that even planned by the Obama government and now literally infinitely more than will be allowed entry by the Trump administration

The breakdown was as follows:

Data as of 2 January 2017

Refugee category                                                              Number of refugees

Government-Assisted Refugee                                                        21,751

Blended Visa Office-Referred Refugee (BVOR)                             3,923

Privately-Sponsored Refugee                                                           13,997

TOTAL                                                                                                  39,671

The number estimated for 2017 is expected to be about 23,500, the reduction coming overwhelmingly from the government-sponsored class. Just after ‘The Donald’ issued his executive order, an initiative was begun almost immediately for Canada to admit 20,000 more Syrian refugees than planned for 2017 on a matching formula whereby the government will take in the same number of government-sponsored Syrian refugees, up to 10,000 in 2017, as the number of Syrian refugees sponsored by the private sector. There need not be any deliberate explicit connection to Trump’s embargo. The day after Donald Trump issued his executive order, Justin Trudeau tweeted, “To those fleeing persecution, terror & war, Canadians will welcome you, regardless of your faith. Diversity is our strength #WelcomeToCanada.” He walked that fine line by praising Canadian values rather than criticizing current American policy. At the same time, an influx of refugees from the United States began arriving on Canadian soil to claim refugee status. For example, some crossed from Minnesota into Manitoba at Emerson after trekking for miles in freezing weather through deep snow drifts.[8] When the weather improves, the numbers are expected to dramatically increase.

The current Canadian Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, Ahmed Hussen, who himself fled war-torn Somalia at the age of 16, under the plain reading of the Trump executive order would not be allowed entry to the United States if he were not traveling on a diplomatic passport. Hussen issued a policy directive in response to the Trump decree that Canada would issue temporary residency permits to those stranded because of Trump’s order, but that would do nothing for Canadian citizens and permanent residents born in those seven countries. Later, the State Department, in apparent direct contravention of the wording of Trump’s executive order, declared that the ban would NOT apply to Canadian citizens with dual passports or to Canadian permanent residents with passports from those countries.

What has happened to the carefully constructed international refugee system developed in the aftermath of World War II that has enabled millions of refugees in every region to find safety in other countries? What has happened to the country that for decades welcomed refugees, that until very recently resettled millions of refugees, from regions in turmoil and led initiatives in inspiring other countries to engage in responsibility-sharing?[9] That country has now fallen into the hands of a president governed by a radical nationalist ideology who builds policy on paranoia and prejudice rather than any analysis of data or of consequences. Make no mistake about it; his policy has as little to do with the threat of terrorism as the connection between drinking Coca-Cola and a healthy lifestyle. Though couched in security concerns, the Trump policy is rooted in cultural identity politics with virtually no reference to either rational economic policy or genuine dangers.

It is not as if Trump is alone. Stephen Harper for almost ten years offered a polite and non-demagogic perspective that was suspicious of Islamic refugees from the Middle East, but is now perceived as an extremely faint shadow of Trump’s position. However, in today’s world, Trump’s blatant extremist position is not rare. Look at Europe. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban as a “defender of Western Christendom” built a wall to keep out the Islamic hordes. Slovakia’s populist Prime Minister, Robert Fico, insisted that Islam had “no place in Slovakia.” And in Western Europe, France and Holland, Marine Le Pen and Geert Wilders, are rising populist stars who have been building support based on their anti-Islamic rhetoric.

Part II

If you think the current wave of negative attitudes towards refugees is a monopoly of nationalist populist extremists, it is not. On 27 January 2017, I participated in an international webinar,[10] “European Union third-country partnerships: Where do we go from here?” The discussion centered on current refugee policy in Europe with participants in Brussels, Berlin, Madrid, Washington, etc. Those who led the discussion moderated by Elizabeth Collett, Director of the Migration Policy Institute Europe, included four very distinguished and knowledgeable, as well as liberal, leaders and academicians very intimately involved in the formulation of those European laws and policies.[11]

I will not even attempt a summary of the discussion. But I do want to communicate its predominant theme. That theme was not refugee asylum policy or issues of integration. This was not simply because of the topic. For the title of the webinar itself had been chosen because the prime approach in Europe these days to refugee issues, from those sympathetic to refugees, is refugee return. The prime issue is how to link return with development in partnership with the states from which the irregular migrants are fleeing. The primary challenge is now re-migration and reintegration, taking into consideration the country of return’s capacities and the skills the returnees bring with them on their return.

This focus was based on the conclusion that there was no solution to the refugee issue if the primary reliance was on law and the individual rights of refugees. As one person put it, “THERE IS NO LEGAL WAY OUT.” Instead, the focus was on knowledge gaps, on evaluations of past practices, on leadership in the face of the humanitarian disaster producing so many millions of refugees and pushing them to seek very unsafe passageways to the West.  Further, the not-so-hidden problem is that humanitarian aid funds are primarily used to hold refugees in place rather than return them, using a more vulgar but colourful language, to warehouse them. But reintegration poses its own set of problems – competition among those who stayed behind, IDPs returning and refugee returnees. The latter may be the ones who are best off given skills acquired in camps and when abroad, and given their better access to aid funding.

Money tells the story. The EU recently pledged $2 billion in development aid to assist refugee return and reintegration.[12] Thus, the policy of an enlightened refugee-receiving country like Denmark now is to focus on linking development aid both to refugee return and to inducing people to stay. Instead of the right to claim asylum, the emphasis is placed on the “right to stay” that, of course, went far beyond issues of governance and transportation. In the webinar, sensible slogans were thrown about, such as a “broad approach,” the linkage between peace and local stability[13], the need for coordination among like-minded countries, the absolute requirement that climate change and climate change policy be integrated into any solution, that there would have to be a primary reliance on civil society rather than government. Thus, humanitarian policies and rights had to be examined within the larger political, social cultural and primarily economic contexts. So why call them rights at all? And what was humanitarian about such a program?

The application of such efforts has some dire consequences on the right to leave. On 3 February 2017, at the same time as this talk, European Union leaders met in Malta to try to extend the initial deal made with Turkey to a contract with the countries in North Africa. The gist of the deal to reduce crossings, primarily to Italy now that the efforts to reach Greece have been largely stopped, entails a deal where the North African countries assume the responsibilities for search-and-rescue, hence avoiding the problem of warehousing the refugees on European soil and giving those refugees access to the refugee asylum system in Europe. On 2 February 2017, Libya signed the first deal, the EU-Libya Framework Agreement, to accept monies in return for assuming these responsibilities. The problem is, given the past record, North African countries may not be as effective in saving people given their capacity limitations and their disincentives to save illegal migrants.[14]

What we also need to keep in mind is that migration has always been used for families to manage risks, as demonstrated in the role that management of that risk played in getting the refugees to different places in the first place.[15] Yet the focus of the discussion was overwhelmingly about individuals.

However, my goal in this paper, issued initially as a series, is not to undertake an analysis of the United States or of Europe. Nor is my focus on contemporary policy, though I hope I will throw some light on the current situation. Rather, I want to use the trajectory of the development of that refugee (and migration) policy in the twentieth century in Canada to provide some understanding of where we find ourselves today with respect to the issue of refugees within Canada and within a global context. Because the material is so vast, I will use my personal involvement with refugees as a totally non-objective selective guide to offer a constructed narrative of what took place.

Further, even using my selective mechanism, it is not possible to cover the whole story of the development of Canada as an outlier country in the West with respect to refugee policy. But by covering three-quarters of the period, I can, I believe, unpack the tensions involved in the development of that policy and the fundamental contradictions that are at the base of the problems. That basic tension exists between rights refugees and needs refugees, between Convention versus humanitarian refugees, and, within Canada, between asylum claimants and refugees admitted under relaxed immigration criteria.

In 1943, two years before I start my tale, Hannah Arendt wrote a seminal essay, “We Refugees.”[16] She began by stating that “we” refugees avoided that designation and preferred to be called newcomers or immigrants. At that time, she defined the term refugee in terms of needs rather than rights. Refugees “are those of us who have been so unfortunate as to arrive in a new country without means and have to be helped by Refugee Committees.” (110) In resettling, “We were told to forget; and we forgot quicker than anybody ever could imagine,” avoiding any allusion to concentration camps (by enemies) or internment camps (by friends). Recall that Emil Fackenheim and Gregory Baum were interned in Canada as “enemy aliens.”

Arendt then went on to discuss PTSD as it is known now, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, suffered by many of the refugees, with some of them to taking their own lives. This was a pattern that began, not in the camps, but with the rise of fascist power accompanied by a massive inversion from optimism to pessimism. Captives and slaves rarely commit suicide. Those about to lose their freedom, those whose freedoms are haunted by memories and traumas, do. Their own sense of personal failure, combined with the lack of recognition of themselves as human beings, not political oppression, does them in.

Most fundamentally, we must recognize that refugees are people who do not want to be refugees, who do not want that as their identifier. At once, they want to be accepted and recognized as one of us while being induced often to forget that they are, behind the mask, one of them. One way to forget, ironically, is to “Never Forget,” to pass forward and help new refugees.

Let me end this section with a story that I have told often. It really took place. It was 1979. We were in what used to be the Cecil Street Synagogue (not its Jewish name) where my older brother had his Bar Mitzvah and was then and remains to this day a Chinese-Canadian community centre. We were greeting and offering some orientation to the first group of ethnic Chinese refugees from Vietnam who had been privately sponsored and arrived in Toronto.

I belonged to a group of people introduced in Chinese as VIPs. We may have been very important people in their eyes, but each one of us lacked the ability to give a speech from the heart. Instead, all four of us, without any coordination whatsoever, gave the same speech – of course using different words and different situations for illustration – but the same speech in terms of the theme. ‘You are us,’ we told them. Except for the indigenous people, all the rest of us Canadians came as immigrants and refugees. We are you and you are us. And, they had lots of time to think about what we said because our words were being translated.

The speeches of Chinese community leaders followed. Those speeches too were all the same – again different words and depictions, but, according to what I heard from the translator beside me, offered a radically different message than the one we had. “You are NOT one of them. You are not yet even one of us. If you are staying in a private sponsor’s home or in a private sponsor’s apartment, do not cook with fish oil. They [mostly Caucasians] hate the smell of cooking with fish oil. Always remember that you are representatives of the Chinese-Canadian community in Toronto. Do not shame us. Do not disgrace us.”

If they were not torn between bewilderment, the need to feel appreciation and the desperate desire to get on with their lives, they might have been able to wonder. “Weren’t those white guys (there was one woman among the four of us) liars? We did not speak their language. We did not look like them. But they told us we are the same because their parents or grandparents or great grandparents came to Canada as immigrants and refugees? What do they personally know about the risks, the death of loved ones? At least 1 in 10 of us died in the flight. Their smiling welcome is obviously a false front.”

Perhaps they were bothered even more by the local ethnic Chinese who said the refugees represented them. “We held their reputations in our hands, or, more accurately, in how we cooked. They were so condescending in letting us know that we had a long way to go before we became hyphenated Canadians. For though they looked like me and spoke my language, they not only were not us, but they made sure that we knew, in their superego instructions to us, that we had a long way to go before we became them.”

While I offer this long historical talk on the development of refugee policy in Canada, a talk that only covers half the period since WWII, let’s not forget those who are at the centre of this story, refugees, refugees who for the most part do not even aspire to be human beings, as Hannah Arendt did. They just once again want to be themselves. And that requires that they be recognized. Hannah Arendt ended her essay, “The community of European peoples went to pieces when, and because, it allowed its weakest members to be excluded and persecuted.” Behind my paper is the question, “How can Canada not go down that path? How can we help reverse the direction of the path on which our American cousins are racing?

An even larger question: why are security concerns linked with the rejection of refugees? Why are refugees increasingly seen as barnacles on the body-politic of the nation-state that show that the human rights commitments of these states are a sham?  And even when those rights are used for protection, they protect so very few and conceptually omit offering any rights to the tens of millions of refugees who simply flee war and may not be individually targeted for persecution? Why are these refugees given no rights but are declared to be humanitarian refugees, refugees only with needs? From another perspective, why does a predominant conception of sovereignty in the end reject refugee claims based on universal right, since the prime right of a sovereign state is to protect its members and determine its new ones? And, in the ultimate end of this madness, why are those least likely to be security threats branded as a prime security threat?

Part III

I Refugee Policy After World War II – 1945 to 1965

  1. 1945-1947

It is often forgotten that Canada’s refugee policy in the immediate aftermath of WWII was pretty dreadful, characterized still by exclusion and xenophobia.[17] Before WWII, it was even worse. Canada had a terrible reputation as a receiving country for refugees. Canada would not admit any of the hundreds of thousands of refugees left in the aftermath of WWI because there was no provision that they could be returned, though, in the 1920s, the government admitted over a million selected immigrants. In contrast to immigrants, refugees might not be able to be sent back home.

In the 1920s, Canada refused to recognize the Nansen passports. A 1923 Order in Council specifically prohibited the entry of “Asiatics.” In the 1930’s, a racist immigration policy was the order of the day and immigration in terms of numbers was also very restrictive.

When the Deputy Minister Frederick Charles Blair, who headed Immigration, Mines and Resources, was asked how many Jewish refugees could be admitted, he replied, “None Is Too Many.”[18] Blair retired in 1943, but even after the war, Canada only admitted 8,000 Jews between 1945 and 1948. When Canada had one of the 11 seats on the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine occupied by Ivan Rand, he supported the position of partition of Palestine between Jews and Arabs, not because of any guilt about the Holocaust[19] – that influenced none of the members in their recommendation – but primarily because 250,000 Jewish refugees were still languishing in European refugee camps and countries, including Canada, would not offer to resettle them. A Jewish state seemed to provide an opportune answer.

Prime Minister Mackenzie King certainly opposed admission of anyone as a fundamental right. Despite previous reservations about admitting refugees even based on Canadian self interest married to humanitarian concerns, this position shifted, in good part motivated by the need for manpower in a rapidly industrializing country and the availability of people from Europe. The shift was not motivated by a concern with rights.

Changes were underway. Parliament in 1946 began to consider the possibility of admitting refugees as immigrants under relaxed admission criteria, though it would be ten years before any large program was implemented. French immigrants were finally treated equally with American and British applicants. And, in 1946, Canada also made provision for Canadians to be citizens and not just British subjects.

In June of 1947, Louis St. Laurent became Prime Minister of Canada (1948-1957). Finally, in that month, Canada opened its doors, a bit and then wider and wider for the admission of Eastern Europeans – Poles, Hungarians, Ukrainians – initially only 5,000 and then only if they were privately sponsored. The arrival of over 1,500, mostly Estonians, in 1948 marked the real beginning of the program.[20] One quarter of a million European “refugees” as well as almost two million immigrants were eventually admitted over the next 14 years.

  1. 1948-1955

The shift in 1948 was quite radical for Canada at the time. In 1950, Leslie Chance, a Canadian, took the role of Chair of a United Nations Ad Hoc Committee on Refugees and Stateless Persons Special Committee to draft a new refugee convention. Up until that time, refugees had been dealt with on a case-by-case basis focused on providing humanitarian aid on a temporary basis until they could return to their homes or be settled in the regions or countries to which they had fled. This was the case with UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, which focused on both Arab and Jewish refugees displaced from the war in Palestine. It was also the case with The United Nations Korean Reconstruction Agency (UNKRA) (1950-1958) established in 1950 to provide relief and rehabilitation on behalf of the United Nations in South Korea.

The minutes of the debates in developing the Refugee and Stateless Persons Report during 1950 make for fascinating reading, if only because the issues sound so familiar 67 years later. For example, the beginning discussions at the Lake Success 13 February 1950 initial meeting largely focused on ending statelessness based on a report of the Israeli delegation. One issue was the nationality of a child born of a refugee claimant on the soil of a country in which the woman was not a national. Based on lex sanguinis, should children born of refugee applicants be denied citizenship because the mother was only in the country temporarily, an issue still alive today? What if the child remained in the country until he or she was an adult? Or should ius soli be applied and such children automatically be granted citizenship? Discussion of granting refugee status based on rights would never prove straightforward, especially since rights, supposedly universal, were interpreted so differently by different countries.

The minutes of the final meetings between 14-25 August in Geneva considering the report and the final recommendations are especially instructive.[21] Canada was represented in the latter meeting by Ross W. Winter and N.F.H. Berlis. (Leslie Chance was unable to attend that meeting.) John Humphrey was also present as a representative of the UN Secretary-General. The report was drafted by the International Refugee Organization (IRO) and amended in response to various government inputs. Since it is 26 pages, let me just quote some germane passages, beginning with the preamble:

PREAMBLE

  1. Consideringthat the Charter of the United Nations and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights establish the principle that human beings shall enjoy fundamental rights and freedoms without discrimination;
  2. Consideringthat the United Nations has, on various occasions, and most recently in General Assembly Resolution 319 A (IV), manifested its profound concern for refugees and endeavored to assure refugees the widest possible exercise of these fundamental rights and freedoms;
  3. Consideringthat, in the light of experience, the adoption of an international convention would appear to be one of the most effective ways of guaranteeing refugees the exercise of such rights[22];
  4. Consideringfurther that it is desirable to revise and consolidate previous international agreements relating to the protection of refugees, to extend the scope of such agreements to additional groups of refugees, and to increase the protection accorded by these instruments;
  5. Considering, however, that the exercise of the right of asylum may place unduly heavy burdens on certain countries, and that a satisfactory solution of a problem of which the United Nations has recognized the international scope and nature cannot therefore be achieved without international co-operation;
  6. Consideringthat the High Commissioner for Refugees will be called upon to supervise the application of this Convention, and that the effective implementation of this Convention depends on the full co-operation of States with the High Commissioner and on a wide measure of international co-operation.
  7. Expressing the hopefinally that this Convention will be regarded as having a value as an example exceeding its contractual scope, and that without prejudice to any recommendations the General Assembly may be led to make in order to invite the High Contracting Parties to extend to other categories of persons the benefits of this Convention, all nations will be guided by it in granting to persons who might come to be present in their territory in the capacity of refugees and who would not be covered by the following provisions, treatment affording the same rights and advantages.”

This was a radical change. Instead of a refugee being regarded as a national outside the borders of his nation, and sometimes even within, as a person with humanitarian needs, the report recognized refugees as members of humanity first and foremost with inalienable rights. The refugee convention was to be designed to both recognize and protect those rights.

But what was that right? Was it to be guaranteed membership in a nation-state that protected all other rights. But if the nation-state was the instrument recognized as the protector of rights, who or what would protect the right to be a member? As it turned out, refugees were not really given rights, only those refugees who could establish that they had been targeted for persecution were given rights. And then, only if they were on the soil of a nation-state that signed the Convention.

Further, and even more telling, there was a caveat inserted because of pressures from some countries – clause 5. If a country determined that a refugee exercising his or her rights placed “unduly heavy burdens” on the country of asylum, the granting of those rights would depend on international cooperation or what later became known as “burden sharing.” However, the report, and then the Convention based on it, allowed a refugee on the territory of a nation that was a signatory to the Convention, to claim those rights as a refugee. (Clause 7)

It is no wonder that in the history of human rights, refugee rights are viewed as ersatz rights when sovereignty and security so easily trump those rights. It should be no surprise that refugee rights are rarely placed among the pantheon of fundamental rights even though no other right can be enjoyed unless one is a member of a nation-state that protects such rights.

Though the refugee convention was initially restricted in both time covered and geographical region, the refugee in section A was defined as a person outside of his country of nationality and unwilling to avail himself or herself of its protection and required to have a “well-founded fear of being the victim of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality or political opinion” to claim refugee status. But could such persons be later expelled if found to be detrimental to the life of that nation – an issue that continually stymied Canada from accepting the Convention for years.

There was also the issue of non-refoulement, that a claimant not be sent back to a country where they would be at risk. But what if they did not satisfy the criteria for being a refugee? One principle would deny their admission. Non-refoulement would prevent expulsion. Claimants could become de facto landed even if they were not granted refugee status.

Does not the following ring familiar?

Mr. ORDONNEAU (France) pointed out that article 24 as originally drafted by the Secretariat had covered both expulsion and non-admittance. The reference to non-admittance at the frontier (refoulement) had been omitted from the new draft, which was thus incomplete.

In reply to a question by Mr. ORDONNEAU (France), Mr. GIRAUD (Secretariat explained that the original draft of article 24 had been based on article 3 of the 1933 Convention. The reference to non-admittance at the frontier (refoulement) in paragraph 1 applied only to refugees who had already been authorized to reside in the territory in question. The practice known as refoulement in French did not exist in the English-speaking countries. In France and Belgium, however, there was a definite distinction between expulsion, which could only be carried out in pursuance of the decision of a judicial authority, and refoulement, which meant either deportation as a police measure or non-admittance at the frontier.

Mr. CUVELIER (Belgium) agreed with that explanation and added that the term “expulsion” was used when the refugee concerned had committed some criminal offence, whereas the term “refoulement” was used in cases when the refugee was deported or refused admittance because his presence in the country was considered undesirable, even though he was a person of good character.

Sir Leslie BRASS (United Kingdom) concluded from the discussion that the notion of “refoulement” could apply to (a) refugees seeking admission, (b) refugees illegally present in a country, and (c) refugees admitted temporarily or conditionally. Referring to the practice followed in his own country, Sir Leslie stated that refugees who had been allowed to enter the United Kingdom could be sent out of the country only by expulsion or deportation.

The effort of Mr. Henkin from the U.S. to speak on behalf of the French but attempt to mediate the debate in the direction of the British also sounds familiar. But the main point is that wherever you probe, the definition of rights expected to be universal, in their application proved to be anything but; they varied from nation to nation.

In the larger picture, we had two different streams for defining refugees, one as persons in need to be admitted to Canada as a humanitarian determination solely at the discretion of the Canadian government, and a rights definition whereby a refugee claimant on Canadian soil could make a claim as a matter of right for Canadian protection.[23] Of course, Canada could also then choose to admit a person determined to be a refugee by UNHCR under the Convention, and, in that case, sovereign choice would be wedded to rights.

In due course, when Canada eventually signed the Convention in 1969, this was the method used initially. Subsequently, Canada developed its own capacity to make such decisions. Within the rights perspective, rights were always presumed to be universal, but, as soon as the process was domesticated, they varied depending on how the state balanced its self-interest, humanitarianism and principles of sovereignty against those rights. The historical process kept hitting the wall of the nation-state which subsumed refugee law within its own national framework.

In the interim, the Canadian Cabinet opted NOT to sign the Refugee Convention, finalized in 1951. Why? The old fear that Canada would be restrained from deporting refugee claimants if, for example, they turned out to be subversive communists. (Canada did not become a signatory to the Convention until 1969.)  Ministers were concerned that the Convention would impede Canada’s ability to deport persons they considered a security risk, especially communists. Further, the cabinet even then recognized that rights were not just abstract under Canadian law, but conferred rights to representation and rights to a hearing where the claimant was present.  Canadian officials were reluctant to grant refugees such rights, including “the right to be represented in the hearing of his appeal against deportation.”

This period of development ended with a unique contribution by Canada that would be one factor that led to Canada being appointed to gavel the refugee talks between Israel and the Palestinians in the 1990s.[24] Major-General (ret’d) Howard Kennedy from Canada had been the first UNRWA Director from 1950-1951. In 1955, in the summer, Canada offered to admit refugees that were not from Europe for the first time, adumbrating a policy change that would take place only a few years later. The Canadian government offered to admit 100 Palestinian refugees and their families who possessed skills that Canada could use. I n addition to acquiring migrants with needed skills, the program was intended to relieve the economic burden of countries in the region who were hosting a population that had grown to almost a million. The effort was also intended to contribute to facilitating peace in the region. That goal faltered as the Arab and Palestinian leadership raised a hue and cry and accused Canada of siding with Israel and, in today’s language, helping Israel ethnically cleanse the Palestinians from the Middle East.[25]

Part IV

  1. 1956-1957

Given my later extensive research on Palestinian refugees[26], one might expect that this last initiative would have been my first real foray into the refugee issue. But it was not. I first became involved with refugees in 1957, sixty years ago. I was then the General Manager of the Campus Cooperative Residences at the University of Toronto. The previous fall, in November, I had been one of the young romantic students who met on campus to join a group who were going to volunteer to go overseas to fight and defend the “democratic” Hungarian regime in its efforts to throw off the yoke of Moscow. With the arrival of Russian tanks, the attempt of Hungary to break away from the Soviet bloc was crushed as were the impossible romantic notions of young students dreaming of recreating the “glory” days of the Front in the war in Spain in the 1930s.

My chance to play a part arose the following spring when the Canadian government was searching for temporary housing for the Hungarian refugees arriving in Canada. Of the over 200,000 Hungarians who fled following the crushing of the revolt, under the leadership of the unstoppable Jack Pickersgill (Liberal – Bonavista-Twillingate, Newfoundland), Minister for Citizenship and Immigration 1954-1957, Canada ended up taking in just over 37,000 Hungarian refugees under the humanitarian provisions of relaxed immigration criteria[27], an initiative even supported by John Diefenbaker, leader of the Progressive Conservative Party that won the election in 1957. Jack personally flew overseas to organize the processing of the applicants.[28]

That does not mean there was not opposition to the intake, even from within the Liberal cabinet. Worries were expressed that the refugees would be infiltrated with communist spies and hence the movement represented a security threat to Canada. After all, the Igor Gouzenko security crisis had taken place after the end of WWII, just 12 years earlier.[29] But Pickersgill was such a powerful personality. Further, he was backed by a tremendous upsurge of vocal support from civil society. He was unstoppable. And so was the Canadian initiative.

Though the movement was considered one of the great triumphs of Canadian humanitarian initiative, it was not without its problems. Among the brilliant businessmen, scientists, academic, artists, theatre directors and filmmakers who came to Canada were a significant criminal element, for the prisons were opened to allow inmates to flee with the refugees. I know of no estimate of how large that group was – some estimate as high as 10% of the intake – but I was personally acquainted with one group who operated a Hungarian restaurant on the north side of Bloor just west of Spadina. They were colourful racketeers who also melded into Canadian society without any significant incident.

Though “Jumping Jack,” as he was often called, was widely recognized as getting Prime Minister St. Laurent in 1956 to agree to waiving the requirement that the refugees take out loans to fly to Canada – 200 air flights had been chartered – what is less known is that he discovered an old nineteenth century provision in Canadian law that allowed the Prime Minister to, in effect, print script and thereby spend money without Parliamentary or even Cabinet approval. Jack directed the processing of refugee applicants before monies had been allocated for the task which, provided he worked fast enough, would allow him to take into Canada in the end one-sixth of the refugees before a lid was placed on the numbers we accepted. The only country that took more, and it had ten times the population of Canada, was the United States, and it only took about a thousand extra. Suddenly, Canada had leapt to the head of the line in resettling humanitarian refugees, but still showed no indication that it was willing to sign the Convention and recognize refugee rights. I am proud that I played a very minor role in helping a small group of them with temporary housing.[30]

  1. 1958 – 1965

Canada continued to apply its race-based immigration policies even when applied to refugees accepted only through humanitarian programs. In the United States, the 1965 Immigration Act made major changes in immigration policy by amending the McCarran-Walter Act of 1952. Quota systems were abolished as were preference system and labour clearances for certain classes of immigrants. These changes immediately affected the country of origin of migrants. Southern European, Asian and Caribbean immigrants made up increasingly larger proportions of migrants. There were also increased volumes.[31]

In Canada, a 1962 Order-in-Council accomplished most of the same goals by substituting skill criteria and eliminating overt racial discrimination through the designation of only specific countries of origin from Canadian immigration policy. All Canadian citizens and permanent residents could sponsor relatives. Racism, however, still left its residue. Only Canadian immigrants from preferred nations in Europe, the Americas and select countries in the Middle East could sponsor children over the age of 21, married children and other members of their extended family. Canadians with respect to immigrant sponsorship were divided into two types of citizens in the first effort to get around the racism built into Canadian immigration and refugee policy up until that time.

 1966-1968

What a difference new thinking on migrants and refugees makes! It began with the 1962 Order-in-Council and culminated in the 1966 White Paper on Immigration originally commissioned by Mike Pearson’s Liberal government to recommend restructuring the whole immigration process. The big change – choose immigrants based on their skills and potential contribution to the Canadian economy and not based on the source country. The other big change was on refugees. The White paper insisted that the time had come to sign the Convention. Secondly, finally specific legislation should be introduced to deal with refugees.

These changes are widely known. Less known, and of much greater relevance to the present, were the security provisions. Enhanced protections against the admissions of criminals and homosexuals or, indeed, chronic alcoholics, labeled security risks, were deleted from the Immigration Act. No longer would these types of people be rejected because they were defined as presenting a danger to the country. Whether a potential immigrant (or refugee) was a security threat would be determined on a case-by-case basis. Until Trump, that had also been the modus operandi in the U.S. for over fifty years.

You might believe that these more impartial and fairer provisions would have been broadly welcomed. Instead, they stirred up a hornet’s nest of complaints from labour unions and from immigrants who arrived recently and wanted preference to be given to their family members, both immediate and more distant. Churches and synagogues wanted to continue the process of sponsorship that left more decisions in their hands, but would, in effect, reinforce a preference for immigrants who were reflections of who they were.[32]

Nevertheless, the 1967 regulations that followed in launching the point system to replace country of origin criteria, leveled the playing field for family sponsorship with the introduction of both the Sponsored and the Nominated Categories. Universality had become the order of the day. The basic premise of the new immigration system was to be based on the premise of treating everyone as an economic actor and assessing the degree that individual who applied to Canada would be useful to the Canadian nation-state in advancing its economic prospects.

Internationally, universality had also been applied to refugees as the 1967 Protocol to the Refugee Convention removed the geographic restrictions in defining refugees. When Canada signed both the Convention and the Protocol two years later in 1969, refugees became, initially only formally, a problem of rights as well as needs. If needs, they were to be given humanitarian aid overseas and were not issues of Canadian self-interest unless the refugees were viewed as benefiting the Canadian economy, in which case they could be admitted under relaxed immigration criteria. In terms of rights, there was a conflict between the sovereignty of the nation-state to determine its own members and the right of the refugee to belong to a nation-state which could and would protect his/her rights.

But human rights law was about the obligation of the nation-state to guarantee those rights, so how could that obligation be internationalized to become a responsibility of the whole world community? Only with the introduction of the Convention. In that Convention, nation-states surrendered part of their sovereignty to allow certain individuals, those who could establish that they were in fear of persecution on grounds considered to be abuses of human rights, to come (and, later, stay) in Canada and claim membership as a matter of right. There were fundamental contradictions among three different poles: a) between the conception of a nation-state and its sovereignty; b) the conception of the nation-state as the instrument for protecting the rights of its own citizens; and c) the new notion that the sovereignty must be qualified and the obligation of the state to serve and protect was to be extended to those who were not citizens.

Hannah Arendt had pointed out the real core flaw in the international system in her seminal paper on persons who do not have membership in a state that protects their rights, either because they are stateless or because the state to which they belong is an abuser rather than a protector of their rights. Michael Walzer had pointed out that the most important decision a state makes is who to accept as a member and that is the essence and core of sovereignty.[29] A White paper premised on serving self-interests fairly with respect to the intake of immigrant was not the best place to adjudicate how refugees would be protected. The first statutory provision for protecting refugees only took place in 1973 with an amendment to the Immigration Act about allowing refugees to remain in Canada if they claimed to be refugees.

In the meanwhile, Canada introduced practices and procedures to make this principle of universality, initially only with respect to immigrants, operational. Area Offices were created staffed by Canadian officials – subsequently called visa officers. Within a year, they were interviewing people in one hundred countries and territories. This would turn into the operational foundation for selecting humanitarian refugees under relaxed criteria.

  1. d) 1968-1975

The basic premise of the new system was to be based on the premise of treating everyone as an economic actor and assessing the degree that individual who applied to Canada would be useful to the Canadian nation-state in advancing its economic prospects. But refugees were either a problem of needs or of rights. If needs, they were to be given humanitarian aid overseas and were not issues of Canadian self-interest unless the refugees were viewed as benefitting the Canadian economy. In terms of rights, there was a conflict between the sovereignty of the nation-state to determine its own members and the right of the refugee to belong to a nation-state which could and would protect his/her rights.

But human rights law was about the obligation of the nation-state to guarantee those rights, so how could that obligation be internationalized to become a responsibility of the whole world community? Only with the introduction of the Convention. In that Convention, nation-states surrendered part of their sovereignty to allow certain individuals, those who could establish that they were in fear of persecution on grounds considered to be abuses of human rights, to come (and, later, stay) in Canada and claim membership as a matter of right.

There were fundamental contradictions among three different poles: a) between the conception of a nation-state and its sovereignty; b) the conception of the nation-state as the instrument for protecting the rights of its own citizens; and c) the new notion that the sovereignty must be qualified and the obligation of the state to serve and protect was to be extended to those who were not citizens.

Canada was now on a roll, not vis-à-vis refugees with rights, but with refugees with needs, with humanitarian refugees. For another fifteen years, the issue of rights refugees would sit as a shadow in the background. The issue of rights refugees would grow slowly and emerge out of the darkness to become the predominant issue in refugee policy in the 1980s.

In the meanwhile, Canada admitted almost 11,000 refugees from Czechoslovakia between 20 August 1968 and 28 February 1969 when once again Russian-led Warsaw pact troops crushed a thrust for independence by one of its most western satellites. However, if public support from civil society proved telling in backing the government initiative, in the initiative in fostering the intake of the largest refugee intake into Canada, civil society was in the lead to allow entry of American draft dodgers and, later, deserters into this country.

Of course, Americans were not called refugees. The use of that term would have insulted both them and the American government, our big bully partner to the south. The Americans came as immigrants and were quickly processed for admission. Some were genuine immigrants who came because they did not want their children to fight in Vietnam. However, the clear majority, perhaps up to 180,000,[33] came to escape participating in the Vietnam War. If they had come from any other country, they would have been labeled refugees. That was evident in the lobbying that we had to do to facilitate quick entry approval, easy initially for draft dodgers, much more difficult but eventually successful for deserters.

On the path of rights refugees as distinct from humanitarian ones, after the signing of the Convention and Protocol, problems of principle and subsequently operations would also arise. On 27 July 1970, the Federal Cabinet noted that, “while Canada’s immigration policy was placed on a universal basis with the introduction of the new immigration regulations in 1967, the selection of refugees continued to favour persons of European origin.” How could the principle of universality be applied to refugees? Only if the European geographical bias was removed.

Canada dropped the Euro-centred refugee definition and adopted the Convention universal one. At the same time, in terms of needs refugees, discretion could be applied to selection. As a result, a number of humanitarian classes of refugees would be created, including the oppressed minority policy that allowed entry to Canada for persons who had not fled their country of origin., a measure that would subsequently benefit refugees from Russia, Uganda, Chile and other Central American countries.

The foundations began to be constructed also of a refugee rights regime. An Immigration Department Operations Memorandum on 17 January 1971 led to the creation of an “Interdepartmental Refugee Eligibility Committee. This was the precursor to the independent stream of refugee adjudicators eventually developed. Tibetan refugees constituted the next group of needs refugees permitted entry under relaxed immigration criteria. However, their numbers were small.

The first large group of non-European sourced refugees were the Ugandan Asians who came in 1972. When Idi Amin decreed that Ugandan Asians were no longer wanted in that country, Canada, with only the slightest pressure from Britain because they were British subjects, stepped up to the plate and allowed the entry of 20% of those expelled, just over 7,000 by the end of 1973. It helped, of course, that these were largely prosperous professionals and business people. The principle of accepting humanitarian refugees as immigrants under relaxed criteria designated for that class seemed to be working very well. That should have set a precedent for the Canadian response to a refugee crisis originating in Latin America when Pinochet overthrew the Allende government in Chile in a coup, but this proved more difficult. Our department of philosophy at Atkinson College (I was the chair at that time) was successful in getting Claudio Durán, his wife and children into Canada by offering Claudio a faculty position in the department, but for many others without job offers, the gates were closed. I regard it as a disgrace that by February 1975, less than 1,200 Chilean refugees had managed to escape to Canada. 3,000 Chileans “disappeared” in the ruthless Pinochet coup.[34]

However, the foundations were in place for a much larger group of humanitarian refugees. The experiences above, as well as with people fleeing the Soviet Union, bequeathed to the department an enormous experiential treasure that was used in writing the 1976 Immigration Act and its promulgation in 1978 as well as dealing with the first wave of Indochinese refugees. It is through these experiences that the designated classes and the idea of private sponsorship emerged that would be so influential in the intake of subsequent waves of refugees.

These initiatives also took place with respect to rights refugees. The Immigration Department not only developed specialized units focused on refugees, but cooperated with External Affairs and CIDA by assigning specialists to the Permanent Mission to the UN in Geneva to connect with UNHCR, ICEM (IOM), the Red Cross organization, the World Council of Churches and an ever-increasing number of international refugee-centred NGOs. With this foundation in place, the Canadian regime with respect to both needs refugees and rights refugees was ready to expand and develop, initially primarily in dealing with humanitarian refugees and the creative response to the Indochinese refugee crisis.

Part V

 1976 – 1982

The largest recognized[35] movement of refugees into Canada began in the same year the Chilean movement ended. But one would not have known this from the start. When Americans left Vietnam in such a humiliating way, Canada was asked by the State Department to take some of the refugees. The Canadian government at the time was reluctant. These refugees were perceived as America’s problem. For the vast majority of Canadians, the Americans should not have been involved in the Indochinese wars at all.  Further, some once again expressed fears that the refugee stream would be used as a route into Canada of communist spies from Southeast Asia. To mollify its American partner to the south, Canada did agree to take in the three years after the conquest of the south by the north a total of 8,000 persons, a relatively token number given the demand and the size of the movement.

That attitude changed in 1978. Canadian diplomats concluded that the increasing numbers of refugees fleeing Vietnam, though also Laos and Cambodia, were not the result of the war because the refugees had been allied with the Americans. They were fleeing repression and ethnic cleansing of Chinese in Vietnam at the same time as the ethnic Vietnamese were being cleansed in Cambodia. The issue came to a head in 1978 with the Hai Hang, a large and ancient freighter packed with over 2,500 refugees from Vietnam. Local countries were unwilling to admit them fearing they would be followed by a flood which they were reluctant to absorb. The Canadian government stepped forward and instead of the usual international implicit norm of Canada taking 10% of a refugee movement, Canada offered to take 25% of those on board to induce the Hong Kong government to allow the boat to dock and other countries to rally and join with Canada to resettle the refugees. The situation was repeated with a second boatload.

By the beginning of 1979, Bud Cullen, the then Minister of Immigration in the Liberal government, had convinced the Prime Minister and his cabinet colleagues to establish a special program for Indochinese refugees to be admitted under relaxed immigration criteria and set a target of 5,000 for that year.[36] When the Joe Clark Conservatives won the election in the Spring and when Ron Atkey, who had been named as the new Minister of Immigration, sat down and had a talk with Bud, Bud convinced Ron that the most important issue on his desk would be the movement of Indochinese refugees and that Ron should be prepared to take a lead in increasing the numbers of refugees.

One of the first initiatives the Joe Clark government took, after the fiasco over moving the Canadian embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem[37], was to increase the intake of Indochinese refugees into Canada, 8,000 to be government-sponsored refugees and 4,000 to be privately sponsored. Private sponsorship was a novelty. A little-known clause had been introduced into the new 1976 Immigration Act that had been promulgated in 1978. The change was made to accommodate the Jewish community that wanted small groups of Canadian Jews to sponsor Jews from the Soviet Union. Only 200-300 refugees were expected to come via this route.

The provision allowed a group of five or more sponsors, or a church, synagogue or other organization involved with refugees, to initiate the sponsorship of humanitarian refugees from designated classes determined by the Minister by means of regulations. In 1979, there were three designated classes: the Indochinese, the Latin American Political Prisoners and Oppressed Persons and the East European Self-Exiled Persons. The first would become by far the source of the largest intake.

By the time the government of Joe Clark took office in June and the refugee crisis in the South China seas had reached dramatic proportions, senior government civil servants had only been able to convince two groups, the Mennonite Central Committee and the Dutch (Christian) Reformed Church to sign an umbrella agreement that would permit small groups of its members to initiate sponsorships under the guarantee of the larger church body. There is a myth that the government was forced by public pressure to increase the Indochinese intake. Evidence supports the interpretation that the opposite was the case. In this instance, the government was always the lead player.

The situation changed dramatically in June of 1979. Part of the reason was that a new government had taken over and wanted to demonstrate it was in charge and initiating policy, but it was policy that had support from all sides of Parliament. A second major reason was the dedication of senior policy staff in the Immigration Department; they worked assiduously to get the government to take a lead in dealing with this problem. A third instigator was the media that provided non-stop coverage of the issue as front page news that was critical in arousing the compassion of Canadians. In contrast to the incident of the Hai Hong, where there was much speculation about the gold bars the refugees had used to pay their way out and questions about whether we were helping refugees in need or just wealthy families to escape, that whole concern had been shoved overboard and disappeared into the choppy ocean waves.

A fourth element now entered the equation – the involvement of secular civil society at large rather than just special religious groups with a record of commitment to assisting refugees. Operation Lifeline was part of that upsurge. Though it turned out to be the name of the major initiative that spread across Canada, there were other worthy local initiatives, the most noteworthy being the initiative of Mayor Marion Dewar in Ottawa with Project 4,000.

Operation Lifeline in some form was inevitable, but it developed from a serendipitous combination of factors.[39] Let me speak of my role first. I had been up north working on my book on Hegel and the Problem of Recognition. I was on an island cut off from the media. I had been up there for six weeks and only returned to Toronto because I had a prior commitment to running a workshop for the Canadian Friends (the Quakers) on the island they owned; the topic was the Israeli-Arab conflict. The group consisted of supporters of each position, but each group was required to take up and defend the position of the other side. It also happened to be the case that I had written a review essay on a spate of books and articles that had recently been published, each having been written about the way various nation-states had turned their backs on Jewish refugees in the 1930s. As I was inundated with the media coverage that everyone had been reading for weeks, I became determined that this should not happen again.

When I finished the retreat, I decided to stay in Toronto a few days longer to write Ron Atkey, my member of Parliament and a former colleague at York University where he previously taught at the Osgoode Faculty of Law. I wanted to exert pressure on him to enlarge his initiative. I organized a meeting at my house on a Sunday, 26 June 1979, after church was out at 1:00 p.m. Representatives of the Catholic church up the street, an Anglican minister whom I knew from the area, rabbis from Holy Blossom Temple and Beth Tzedec Synagogue as well as the local alderman and some friends were invited to draft a letter to Ron asking the government to take a larger initiative. Not one who was invited failed to come or send a representative.

Just after 1:00 when the meeting was just beginning, there was a knock on the door. I went to answer presuming it was just some late comers who I had not been expecting. It was, but from a source I would never have guessed. The Director of Settlement for Ontario in the Immigration Department as well as the head of public relations for that department, André Pilon and Bob Parkes, were at the front door. They said that they had heard about the meeting and wondered if I would mind if they were permitted to attend and listen in.

I had to overcome being flabbergasted that senior civil servants had heard about the meeting, that they took time on a Sunday to come to a private home of someone they did not know. They did not even know if they would be welcome. I invited them in to join the group. We wrangled over the wording of the proposed letter for perhaps half an hour when our visitors from that strange land, the government, intervened. They asked if they could offer a suggestion. We easily acquiesced, if only to get relief from fifteen or so people trying to write a letter together. They informed us of this small provision in the Immigration Act. They asked if, perhaps in addition to writing a letter, we might want to make use of that provision and initiate some sponsorships as a form of witnessing.

Within a few minutes, we agreed to abandon our letter drafting and took up the idea of private sponsorship. We quickly determined that among the religious institutions in the riding as well as local community groups, we could organize at least 50 sponsorships. We divided up responsibilities with each of us agreeing to contact others to arrange for sponsorships. Within two weeks, we had overshot our target. We could never arrive at an accurate figure, but we certainly organized over 150 sponsorships in our riding.

Serendipity, once again, entered. It so happened that I had invited one of my graduate students to attend the meeting, on the assumption he might be interested, as well as to save time so we could work on his thesis immediately after the meeting was over and before I headed north again. He had never told me that he was a stringer for our national newspaper, The Globe and Mail. The next morning, when I was sitting at my desk, at 5:45 the phone rang. It was a lady from Marystown, Newfoundland. She had read about Operation Lifeline in the Globe and wanted to know how she could help. Startled, I asked her what Operation Lifeline was? She then read me Dick Beddoes’ page length column in the newspaper that has described myself as abandoning my book on Haekel (sic!) to return to Toronto to save the Boat People and to organize Operation Lifeline. At the bottom of the page, he had printed my name and number and suggested that if others wanted to help, they could contact me.

I laughed at the enormous lie, but then responded that she should organize a chapter of Operation Lifeline in her riding. I appointed her chair of the Marystown Chapter of Operation Lifeline. She protested, insisted that she was only a housewife and did not know how to go about this. I told her to contact her friends, her local clergy of any denomination, local politicians to form a local chapter of Operation Lifeline in her federal riding. I said I would send her an express package describing in detail how to go about sponsoring, even though at the time I had no clue. Reluctantly she agreed, and she performed admirably as she promised to keep me notified of her success.

Delighted, I hung up the phone and no sooner had I done so, it rang again. By the end of two weeks, 66 chapters of Operation Lifeline had been organized across Canada. By the end of the week, my house was overrun with volunteers – it was great that the family were now up at the island and that school was over. Also by the end of the week, the target of 50 sponsorships had been reached in our riding and would soon be greatly exceeded. In that morning, people began showing up at the door to volunteer since they were unable to reach me on the phone. One of these was Wendy Schelew, an expert in hospital administration who was between jobs and volunteered her services. She became the managing head of Operation Lifeline. Another was Dr. Joseph Wong who had organized a similar initiative among his friends who had immigrated from Hong Kong and he merged his organization with ours and became a stalwart. A third was Elaine Slater who brought us a pile of office supplies; she would become chair of the Board.

Another was a former fellow graduate student in philosophy who was then a practicing lawyer. He had gathered an enormous body of material on private sponsorship when he had tried – unsuccessfully – to get his United Church in April to initiate a sponsorship group. By Tuesday morning, after the two of us worked all night, we had a manual on private sponsorship that we could send out to chapters of Operation Lifeline that were mushrooming up all over.

There are many stories to tell about the exhilarating days that followed, how, for example, Flora MacDonald, Foreign Minister, got her cabinet to raise the target from 12,000 to 50,000, with 21,000 to be sponsored by the private sector. (The private sector by the end of the period of 18 months had almost doubled that target.) But I will end this story of the beginning of the Indochinese private sponsorship movement with one tale, that of Operation Intellectual Kneecapping. (It turned out to be a stupid name, but that is what we called it.) The National Citizens Coalition (NCC), then headed by Colin Brown, though subsequently by Stephen Harper, published within weeks of each other in August and September full page ads in Canadian newspapers. The first said that each refugee brought in would eventually bring in another 16 family members on average. The result: according to the NCC, almost a million Indochinese would be allowed to enter Canada.

Setting aside whether that would be a problem in the first place, setting aside that the numbers projected were based on early forms of family sponsorship practices no longer possible under the 1976 Immigration Act, the ads stank of racism and the fears of the “Yellow Peril.” Sometimes the bogeymen are communists. At other times, they are Islamic terrorists.[40] That time, race was the spectre.

That initial ad was followed by a second based on a survey the NCC had taken. Based on that survey, most Canadians were opposed to the intake of 50,000 Indochinese refugees. Only about a third of the population supported the expanded initiative. At the time, we denounced the way the survey had been carried out and the leading questions asked. But we later learned that secret surveys of public attitudes had been undertaken about the same time, but based on more scientifically stringent questions and methods. The results were not significantly different. Though virtually every professional organization, business association, business leaders, along with the parties in parliament, had endorsed the initiative, the NCC was tapping into a racist vein that ran through the heart of Canada. Quite aside from its effects on the sponsorship movement and on the political process, an NCC anti-refugee campaign would be very detrimental to the process of resettling refugees. They already had more than enough insecurities. We would be welcoming refugees against a background noise that said that they were not welcome.

Dr. Joseph Wong and I huddled together and he came up with an idea to contact one of the financial supporters of the NCC whom he knew to be a very good guy, though a fiscal and financial conservative. Joseph contacted him and he agreed to meet with us for breakfast at 7:00 a.m. the next day at what was then called the Prince Hotel on University Avenue. We told him the problem. He said he understood and sympathized. The breakfast ended before 8:00 a.m. Before noon, he phoned Joseph and told him that we could set our concerns aside. The NCC would not be publishing anything more on the issue.

He had phoned seventeen of his friends and acquaintances who were donors to the NCC and received permission to speak on their behalf. He phoned Colin Brown and told him to stick to financial issues and abandon the campaign against the sponsorship of the Indochinese refugees otherwise not only would he and his friends withdraw their support, but he would personally phone people he knew across Canada, who were supporters and contributors to the NCC, to withdraw their support unless he received an immediate commitment to stick to financial issues.

We never heard another peep from the NCC. The danger of organizing a racist backlash had been diverted. However, when the President of the United States holds such views rooted in invented fears of terrorists slipping into the U.S. through the refugee door, when he is ostensibly a billionaire in his own right, the problem is raised to a totally different dimension.

Reflections and Adumbration

In the 1980s, the mouse that eventually roared was that sleepy issue of rights refugees. At the beginning of the Indochinese refugee movement that would eventually bring 160,000 Indochinese refugees into Canada, rights refugees were a sliver in the refugee movement. In 1982, there were approximately 300 files that were reviewed by the Minister to determine whether a refugee claimant should be allowed to stay or whether a refugee referred to by UNHCR for protection status could be approved for admission by the Canadian government. But the signs were becoming ominous. The number of files had doubled from the year before. By the end of the decade, refugee claimants on Canadian soil had reached over 50,000 applicants per year with a backlog of over one hundred thousand. The story of rights refugee claimants had moved from the back burner to a front firestorm.

“Unprecedented in the history of Canadian immigration legislation, the Immigration Act, 1976 attempted to codify the procedures dealing with the entrance of individual refugees to Canada. “That coding would undergo many revisions over the years,”[41] initially in the eighties to give “the benefit of the doubt” to refugee claimants on Canadian soil, but over the longer term in practice, to set in motion procedures which would make it increasingly difficult to arrive in Canada to make a refugee asylum claim in the first place. Other scholars concentrate on the glass half full argument in tracing the application of refugee law in general in procedures and practices to make that law more precise.[42]

However, refugee rights regimes never escaped the net of the primacy of sovereignty[43] – we will accept refugee rights but only so long as the sovereign right to select members is only incidentally compromised. Refugee rights are inevitably caught up in security issue, often as indicated at the very beginning, to put in place a nativist agenda that had nothing to do with either refugees or security, except insofar as the former offer a convenient target and the latter offer a convenient even if irrelevant excuse. The security issue is often about cultural security and effects, not simply on the nation-state, but in a federal system like Canada’s, on the policies of provinces, such as those of Quebec.[44]

Politics has always been at the centre of refugee issues and rarely at the periphery. And that is completely understandable. As I have said above, the principle of the sovereign to decide for itself and its own interests is sacrosanct, even as it takes into consideration the rights, interests and needs of others. Those considerations can be shaped to serve the interests of the nation-state.[45]

In a subsequent article, I will try to describe the impact of human rights refugee law and its development on humanitarian refugee policy and the boomerang effect the former had on limiting the latter. At the same time, I will try to clarify several historical questions, all of which have an impact on the debate of whether it is preferable to view refugees primarily through a needs window or whether refugee policy should be subsumed under human rights law.

How did the crisis in El Salvador and the creation of special measures for admitting Salvadorans into Canada in 1981, including those who were already in the U.S., impact on this question? When the Solidarity movement in Poland was repressed, why did we add Poland to the countries included in the Political Prisoners and Oppressed Person Class, a direct and clear case of people targeted for persecution and presumably eligible to be taken in as Convention refugees, but, in fact, allowed entry without having to prove they had a well-established fear of persecution? In 1983, how and why did the government expand the intake of Tamil refugees from Sri Lanka from those simply affected by the riots in Colombo to include all Tamils throughout Sri Lanka affected by the war in the north. And what did this tell us about the rivalry between the primacy of rights versus needs, Convention versus humanitarian refugees?

The big shift took place in 1985 with the Singh decision. If you recall, at the very beginning of the development of the Convention, there had been a debate. If refugees were defined in terms of rights, then, as a concomitant of those rights, there would have to be other rights – rights to be heard, that is, to have an oral hearing and the application not simply processed by the Minister and/or her appointees, but the asylum claimant to be present at the hearing, to be assessed by persons of independent judgment, to have the right of counsel and to have the right of appeal. The Supreme Court of Canada in the Singh case in 1985 ruled that these connections anticipated in 1950 had to be implemented in Canadian refugee law.

Just after the Canadian people were awarded the Nansen medal in 1986 – an event commemorated by all of the Indochinese ethnic groups in Canada in Ottawa last year – for the tremendous leadership and work on behalf of humanitarian refugees performed by Canadian citizens on behalf of refugees, specifically the Indochinese, what followed was that the movement of humanitarian refugees in Canada shifted back into the shadow of an overwhelming focus on rights refugees and the creating of large institutionalized systems for hearing and adjudicating claims, for arranging counsel, for educating supposedly independent assessors. An administrative review system was initiated for refugees who had arrived before 21 May 1986, at the same time as Bill C-55 was passed to provide an adjudication system based on a combination of recommendations from the Robinson Report (1981), the Ratushny Report (1984) and mostly the Plaut Report (1985).

No sooner had rights refugees come to the fore than the reaction and pushback started. In 1987, refugees from the U.S. were forced to turn back and await a hearing date in the U.S. For only the second time in its history, parliament was recalled out of its summer recess in 1987 when a group of Sikhs arrived off the shores of Nova Scotia and, upon landing, requested refugee status. Very quickly, the government tabled Bill-84, the Refugee Deterrents and Detention Bill that was finally passed in 1988.

These steps to undermine the possibility of landing in Canada to claim refugee status were compounded by carrier sanctions, by expanding the number of countries where its citizens were required to obtain visas before they came to Canada as well as other deterrent measures. By 1988, where there had once been 150 and then 300 applications, the backlog alone of refugee claimants was over 100,000. By the end of the 1980s, the cost of the whole system just in Canada was estimated at over one billion dollars, equivalent to the entire budget then of UNHCR to deal with 35 million refugees.

The humanitarian designated class system, now relegated to a back seat, continued to function and was applied to overstayers from China following the Tiananmen massacre in Beijing in 1989 and, following the disintegration of the iron curtain that same year, to a European self-exiled class. By 1992, the accumulated methods for deterring the arrival of refugee claimants were expanded even more and given legislative authority in Bill C-86, including more scientific methods of identification – fingerprints originally – and expanding the detention system, though never as broadly or as cruelly as in Australia. Further, refugee claimants who traveled to Canada had to have the proper documents, in total contradiction to both reality and to the principle that the persecuted had rights independent of their membership in a state.

At the very same time, Canada opened the definition to include those persecuted because of gender. But the key shift took place even before the United States when immigration responsibilities were transferred to the Department of Public Security. The message was very clear – much harder to get in and much quicker to be kicked out. The newly elected Chretien government simply reversed that step and shortly after that, modified the requirements on documentation.

By 1987, initiatives were taken to bring the humanitarian process and the asylum or rights process into closer alignment with the creation of a Humanitarian Designated Class applied to applications from those persecuted who were still in their home countries – the Source Country Class. A Country of Asylum Class for Convention refugees from overseas who would be sponsored was created.

The dialectic between humanitarian and rights refugees continued into the twenty-first century, leaving the tensions between sovereignty and rights, between security and humanitarianism, between prejudice and generosity, unresolved and leaving the field open for a demagogue to play on fears and ignorance, lies and misrepresentation to advance a populist lowest denominator appeal that would transform an open polity into a closed and paranoid one.

To rephrase Judge Rosalie Abella, with the doctrine of civil liberties we gained the universal right to be equally free from an intrusive state regardless of group identity; with the doctrine of human rights, we gained the universal right to be equally free from discrimination based on group identity. But what about refugee rights? What about the right to belong to a state that protects your rights? For only if we are members of a state can we have both civil and human rights.

This brief historical sketch points to a claim that rights language cannot produce the transcendental conditions that are the preconditions of any rights in the first place. The existence of a sovereign nation-state is a precondition of both civil and human rights and membership in a state that protects such rights in the first place. A nation-state that goes beyond its sovereign and democratic responsibilities to guarantee rights to non-members has a problem. Further, it stimulates a fear that globalizing rights will take away a nation’s primary interest in self-preservation and open the way for exploitation by populist demagogues. In any case, refugee rights are redundant. Once a foreigner is on the soil of such a sovereign state, they too must be guaranteed both civil and human rights. There are no separate refugee rights. Further, I suggest much more can be done for refugees and more will be granted membership in a democratic nation-state when the threat to sovereignty is removed.

But this argument requires a full essay on its own.

 

[1] Of almost 64 million refugees and persons of concern to UNHCR in 2015, only 3,219,941 were asylum seekers and many if not most did not qualify as Convention refugees. In contrast, there were over 16 million humanitarian refugees, though IDPs were more than double that number. (http://popstats.unhcr.org/en/overview)

[2] For example, government assisted refugees (GARs) and Blended Visa Office-referred Refugees (BVORs) are Convention refugees referred to Canada for resettlement by UNHCR, while privately sponsored refugees (PSRs) may be Convention refugees or Country of Asylum refugees, that is, refugees seriously and personally affected by civil war or armed conflict.

[3] Thus, of 40,081 Syrian refugees who arrived since 4 November 2015 to the end of 2016, GAR and BVORs made up over 25,000 of the total while under 15,000 were PSRs. Some of these were Convention refugees referred to Canada and private sponsors by UNHCR. (http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/refugees/welcome/milestones.asp) In addition, within Canada over 16,000 individuals claimed Convention refugee status in 2015. If even only 40% of those end up being accepted as Convention refugees, and even if all PSRs were non-Convention refugees, Convention refugees would outnumber humanitarian refugees admitted to Canada by approximately a 2:1 ratio.

[4] Though Trump and members of his administration repeatedly used the word “ban,” they subsequently blamed the media for calling what they were doing a ban. It was only a “pause,” they asserted. How can a pause be “indefinite”?

[5] Shargh, the Reformist Iranian newspaper on 26 January 2017 wrote, “Donald Trump … has taken a hold of a pen, and is fulfilling every one of his electoral promises, and is scaring thousands of people across the world by every decision he is making. The United States of America, the country which is founded on immigration and racial diversity, is now witnessing one of its most anti-immigrant presidents of its history in the White House.” The prominent Iranian actress Taraneh Alidoosti, who stars in Asghar Farhadi’s film, The Salesman, decided to boycott the 2017 Academy Awards ceremony in protest.”http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2017/01/trump-executive-order-iran-iranian-visa-ban-alidoosti.html#ixzz4WzPYCYRt

[6] Not one of the perpetrators of terror attacks on U.S. soil in the twenty-first century came from any one of these countries. Most perpetrators of terrorism are home-grown. Though three of the major terrorist attacks during the Obama regime were perpetrated ostensibly by Muslim terrorists, all three were cases of psychological disturbance. Only two of the sixteen major terrorist cases were clearly ideological, based on Islamicism. In the San Bernardino terrorist attack in which 14 were killed, one perpetrator was born in the U.S. of Pakistani descent while the other was a legal resident of the U.S. of Pakistani descent. Any reasonably objective study would conclude that there is virtually no linkage between domestic terrorism and refugees.  Trump’s whole policy was based on a lie, and, unlike the fraud of weapons of mass destruction that took the Americans into Iraq, this is a case of a blatant lie, not simply one of questionable evidence but of no evidence.

[7] The U.S. under the Obama administration admitted about 10,000 Syrian refugees in 2016. For 2017, it planned to increase the overall target of admitted refugees to 110,000 for 2017, a 30% increase over 2016. The single largest increase, by an additional 10,000, was expected to go to Syrian refugees.

[8] The Globe and Mail on 12 February 2017 (“Quebec and Manitoba see influx of asylum seekers crossing U.S. border”) reported that on the previous weekend, 42 people crossed illegally into Quebec and 21 into Manitoba. Most were Somalis. Thus far in 2016 into 2017, 400 had crossed, an increase from 68 in the previous 2014-2015 fiscal year.

[9] For a historical comparison of the development of refugee policy in the two countries, Canada and the U.S., see Howard Adelman (ed.) (1991) Refugee Policy: Canada and the United States, Toronto: York Lanes Press Ltd.

[10]  https://migrationpolicy.webex.com/migrationpolicy/onstage/g.php?MTID=e4cfca0049867a54019aea1d8961fab86

[11] Jean-Louis de Brouwer, Director, Humanitarian and Civil Protection Operations, DG ECHO, European Commission; Laura Hammond, Reader, Development Studies, and Team Leader, Research and Evidence Facility, EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa, SOAS University of London; Nassim Majidi, Co-Founder and Co-Director of Samuel Hall and the Migration Pillar Lead; Affiliate Researcher, Sciences Po Paris / CERI, France; and Affiliate Researcher, Wits University / ACMS, South Africa; Mia Steninge,
Chief Advisor, Migration and Development, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Denmark.

[12] See, for example, the following: Charlotte Alfred (2016) “How the EU Is Trying To Stop Africans Boarding Boats To Europe,” Worldpost, 9 June; James Traub (2016) “Europe Wishes to Inform You That the Refugee Crisis is Over,” Foreign Affairs, 18 October; Patryk Kugiel (2016) “Can Development Assistance Solve the Refugee Crisis?” The Polish Institute for International Affairs, 87 (937), 14 December. The effort is attacked as far more expensive to implement than estimated, far more difficult to get cooperation on the ground in real terms, while incurring political and moral costs. The Turkish agreement is an example where the EU said it would continue to consider asylum claims from within countries of first asylum, but, with the pressure off, is, in fact, doing very little to process claimants.

[13] To understand how refugee return can be a destabilizing factor and contribute to a renewal of war, cf. Howard Adelman (2002), “Repatriation of Refugees Following the Signing of Peace Agreements: A Comparative Study of the Aftermath of Peace in Fourteen Civil Wars,” in Stephen Stedman et al Thematic Issues in Peace Agreements Following Civil Wars. Boulder: Lynne Rienner Publishers.

[14] Cf. Elizabeth Collett (2017) “New EU Partnerships in North Africa: Potential to Backfire?”, Migration Policy Institute, 2 February http://www.migrationpolicy.org/news/new-eu-partnerships-north-africa-potential-backfire

[15] The pioneer work to underpin migration movements, not in individual choice, but in family survival strategies, was initially put forth by Oded Stark (with D. Bloom) (1985) “The new economics of labor migration.” American Economic Review75, 173–178. The family, not the individual is the crucial agent in the vast majority of cases of migration. This applies to integration as well as emigration. In both, the family constitutes a crucial actor in the process of human mobility. Given this family risk management framework, it is often the case that family reunification may not be the ideal goal in dealing with migrants. Cf. Laura Zanfrini (2012) “Family Migration: Fulfilling the Gap between Law and Social Processes,” Societies 2:3, 63-74.

[16] The essay was published in, Altogether Elsewhere: Writers on Exile, edited by Marc Robinson, London: Faber and Faber, 110-119.

[17] Cf. Howard Adelman (1991) “Canadian Refugee Policy in the Postwar Period: An Analysis,” Refugee Policy: Canada and the United States, ed. by Howard Adelman, Toronto: York Lanes Press, 173-223.

[18] See Irving Abella and Harold Troper (1982; 2012), None is Too Many: Canada and the Jews of Europe, 1933-1948. Toronto: Lester & Orpen Dennys and revised edition, University of Toronto Press.

[19] For a more general argument about this thesis and its influence on the development of human rights laws in general, cf. Mark Mazower (2004) “The Strange Triumph of Human Rights, 1933–1950,” The Historical Journal 47:2, June, 379-398.

[20] The documents on their arrival can be found in the archives of Tartu College at 310 Bloor St. W. in Toronto.

[21] http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae68c1a10.html

[22] This supposed “international constitutional moment” (Anne-Marie Slaughter and William Burke-White, (2002) “An International Constitutional Moment,” 43:1), in which refugee law was built into human rights law, is under dispute from many directions. Some argue that the moment existed, but not at birth, but only when these rights were first really institutionalized – in human rights law in the 1970s and in refugee law in the 1980s. Others argue that all three types of rights, general human rights born with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (along with the subsequent International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR)), Refugee Rights in the Convention and the rights of a group not be attacked for their culture, beliefs and way of life in the Genocide Convention, are triplets, born at about the same time out of the same seed, even if one of the triplets, human rights law, emerged first from the womb. Still others argue that the legacy is much older than the aftermath of WWII. Human rights and refugee rights are as old as Methuselah. And primogeniture belongs to refugee rights expressed deeply in all three major religions that arose in the Middle East and possibly Far East religions as well. Cf. Jill I. Goldenziel (2016) “The Curse of the Nation-State: Refugees, Migration, and Security in International Law,” Arizona State Law Journal 48: 579-636, 581-2. Goldenziel argues that, in the contemporary world, refugee rights not only emerged from a very much older tradition, but coalesced in the 1940’s because of national interests as well as abstract principles. (There is a sense in which each of these positions is correct, but that is for another discussion. The real debate is whether refugee law should be primarily understood in terms of human rights law as my colleagues Guy Goodwin-Gill and James Hathaway have argued. (For the latter, see his 1991 article, “Reconceiving Refugee Law as Human Rights Protection,” Journal of Refugee Studies 113: 113-131 and the many other articles and books he has published to advance that argument.) The argument proceeds by concentrating on the Convention and its aftermath and largely ignores humanitarian law applied to refugees. Or, for that matter, to actual genocides. Cf. Howard Adelman and Astri Suhrke (1996) Early Warning and Conflict Management, Volume 2 of The International Response to Conflict and Genocide: Lessons from the Rwanda Experience, Copenhagen: DANIDA; Howard Adelman and Astri Suhrke (eds.) (1999) The Path of a Genocide: The Rwanda Crisis from Uganda to Zaire, New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction Books; Howard Adelman, with Frank Chalk, Alexandre Kiss, William A. Schabas and Dinah L. Shelton (co-eds.) (2004) Encyclopedia of Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity, 3 volumes, New York: Macmillan USA.  The interaction between the issue of genocide and refugee flows is discussed in Howard Adelman (2005) “Rwanda and Refugees,” Matthew J. Gibney and Randall Hansen (eds.) Immigration and Asylum: From 1900 to the Present, Oxford: ABC Clio 2, 542-547.

[23] Cf.. Goldenziel, Jill I., (2016) “The Curse of the Nation-State: Refugees, Migration, and Security in International Law (July 10). Arizona State Law Journal, 48. SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2684903; see also , François Créepeau and Michael Barutciski (1995) ““Refugee Rights in Canada and the 1951 Geneva Convention,” Journal of Refugee Studies, 7, 239-248.

[24] A major concern was the right of refugee return, not discussed in this article. For an extensive analysis, cf. Howard Adelman and Elazar Barkan (2011) No Return, No Refuge. New York: Columbia University Press. For an analysis, most germane to the thesis of this essay, cf.  Howard Adelman (1994) “Refugees: The Right of Return” in Group Rights, ed. Judith Baker, University of Toronto Press, 164-185, and Howard Adelman (1987) Palestinian Refugees and Durable Solutions, Oxford: Refugee Studies Programme. When applied to refugees in the Far East, cf. Howard Adelman (ed) (2008) Protracted Displacement in Asia: No Place to Call Home, London: Ashgate, and, more generally, Howard Adelman, (2013) “The Law of Return and the Right of Return,” in M Rafiqul Islam, Azizur Rahman Chowdhury and Jahid Hossain Bhuiyan (eds.) An Introduction to International Refugee Law, Leiden: BRILL, Netherlands, 291-318, and Howard Adelman (2010) “Refugee Return: By Right and By Law,” in Dan Avnon and Yotam Benziman (eds.) Plurality and Citizenship in Israel: Moving Beyond the Jewish/Palestinian Civil Divide, London: Routledge, 31-52.

[25] Cf. Jan Raska  (2015) “Forgotten Experiment: Canada’s Resettlement of Palestinian Refugees, 1955-1956,” Histoire sociale/Social History, November, 48:97

[26] See, for example, Howard Adelman (1986), Guest Editor, Palestinian Refugees, Middle East Focus, 9:2.

[27] For an overview of these developments, cf. Howard Adelman, editor-in-chief (2002) Immigration Policy and Practice in Canada. Ottawa: Metropolis Institute.

[28] Howard Adelman (ed.) (1994) Hungarian Refugees, Toronto: York Lanes Press and “Genesis,” in The Genesis of a Domestic Refugee Regime: The Case of Hungary, Toronto: York Lanes Press.

[29] The Gouzenko Affair marked not only the beginning of the Cold War, but an unprecedented abuse of human rights in the name of national security by the Federal Government of Canada with the suspension of Habeas Corpus, the arrest and trial of many, and with the reputations of many others ruined in the process.

[30] For a more thorough discussion, cf. Howard Adelman (1991) “”Humanitarianism and Self-Interest: Canadian Refugee Policy and the Hungarian Refugees,” Studie- en Informatiecentrum Mensenrechten Special 11 Netherlands Institute of Human Rights, 98-108.

[31] Charles B. Keely (1971) “Effects of the immigration act of 1965 on selected population characteristics of immigrants to the United States,” Demography 8:2, 157-169.

 

[32] Cf. Harold Troper (1993) “Canada’s Immigration Policy since 1945,” International Journal 48:2, Spring; Ninette Kelley and Michael Trebilcock (1998) The Making of the Mosaic: A History of Canadian Immigration Policy, Toronto: University of Toronto Press; Valerie Knowles (2000) Forging our Legacy: Canadian Citizenship and Immigration, 1900-1977, Ottawa: Public Works and Government Services Canada.

 

[33] Precise figures are not available because Canada diplomatically never announced a special program for American refugees. We did not have to go overseas to get them. They arrived in Canada on their own, often with the help of Canadians in what was termed the Vietnam underground railroad. I then lived in Rosedale and cannot count the number of draft dodgers and deserters who came to the terminus of that railroad to sleep in our third floor.

[34] Steve J. Stern (2004) Remembering Pinochet’s Chile, Duke University Press.

[35] Only the American refugee movement during the Vietnam War was larger, but it was not recognized as a distinct movement.

[36] For a more detailed discussion and depiction of these developments, cf. Howard Adelman (ed.) (1980) The Indochinese Refugee Movement into Canada, Toronto: Copp Clark, and Howard Adelman (1982) Canada and the Indochinese Refugees, Regina: Weigl Educational Publishers.

[37] Howard Adelman (1980) “Clark, and the Canadian Embassy in Israel,” Middle East Focus, March 2:6, p. 6-18.

[38] The source of this false news is not only the media, which has a propensity to view government initiatives as only passive responses to the voice and will of the people. One source of this misleading information is the otherwise extremely reliable Canadian Council for Refugees. On its website summarizing the history and development of refugee policy in Canada, it is written that, “Popular pressure forced the government to adjust upwards its initial commitment to resettling the refugees.” http://ccrweb.ca/en/hundred-years-immigration-canada-part-2 This is just incorrect.

[39] For a journalist’s account, see Peter Goodspeed (2014) “Can Canada duplicate its boat people rescue with Syrian refugees?” Toronto Star, 26 September.

[40] For a discussion of the interaction between terrorist threats and Canadian refugee policy, cf. Howard Adelman (2008) “Canada’s Balancing Act: Protecting Human Rights and Countering Terrorist Threats”, in Alison Brysk and Gershon Shafir (eds.) National Insecurity and Human Rights: Democracies Debate Counterterrorism, Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 137-156.

[41] Cf. Christopher J. Wydrzynski (1979) “Refugees and the Immigration Act,” Montreal: McGill Law Journal, 154-190. This article outlines “the immigration system established to process refugee claims, and will comment on the legislative steps Parliament has taken to ensure that Canada meets her international obligations and provides a system whereby the individual refugee applicant is treated with procedural and substantive fairness.”

[42] Cf. Alexander Betts (2009) Protection by Persuasion: International Cooperation in the Refugee Regime; Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, and Alexander Betts, Gil Loescher and James Milner (eds.) (2012) UNHCR: The Politics and Practice of Refugee Protection, London: Routledge.

[43] Howard Adelman (2008) “Sovereignty in the Twenty-First Century: Security, Immigration and Refugees,” Ch. 8 in Trudy Jacobsen, Charles Sampford and Ramesh Thakur (eds.) Re-envisioning Sovereignty: The End of Westphalia? Aldershot: Ashgate, 129-150. See also Jack Donnelly (2014) “State Sovereignty and International Human Rights,” Ethics and International Affairs, 225.

[44] Cf. Howard Adelman (1995) “Canada, Quebec and Refugee Claimants,” in Is Quebec Nationalism Just: Perspectives from Anglophone Canada, ed. Joseph Carens, McGill-Queens University Press, 82-96.

[45] Thus, the effort to get nations to intervene in other states where there were gross abuses of human rights – Government of Canada and U.N. Secretary-General, Responsibility to Protect: Timely and Decisive Response, 1, U.N. Doc. A/66/874-S/2012/578 (July 25, 2012). For the more ambitious issue of humanitarian intervention, cf. Canadian Government Responsibility to Protect and a critique in terms of practice, Howard Adelman and Govind C. Rao (eds.) (2003) War and Peace in Zaire/Congo: Analyzing and Evaluating Intervention 1996-1997, Lawrenceville, N.J.: Africa World Press as well as a more extensive effort to salvage the disasters in application, see U.N. Secretary-General (2012) Responsibility to Protect: Timely and Decisive Response, U.N. Doc. A/66/874-S/2012/578, 25 July. Refugee movements are also used as a propaganda tool and an instrument of war. Cf. Howard Adelman (2003) “The Use and Abuse of Refugees in Zaire,” Chapter 4, Stephen John Stedman and Fred Tanner (eds.) Refugee Manipulation: War, Politics, and the Abuse of Human Suffering. Washington, D.C.: The Brookings Institute, 95-134. For a more theoretical examination that preceded the publication of the Responsibility to Protect, cf. Howard Adelman (2001) “Theory and Humanitarian Intervention,” Chapter 1, Michael Keren and Donald A. Sylvan (eds.) International Intervention: Sovereignty versus Responsibility. London: Frank Cass & Co., 3-24.

 

With the help of Alex Zisman

Terrorism and Migration: Part I                                                                      29 January 2017

by

Howard Adelman

Donald Trump is at it again. Why doesn’t he leave me alone? Why doesn’t he leave you alone? On Friday, 27 January 2017, the Office of the Press Secretary released Donald Trump’s executive order on migration, formally called, “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States.” Before we go to the text itself, look at all the worry and consternation Trump has already caused simply by the preliminary leaks. His own bombast on the subject on television set off verbal brush fires all over the place. The full text can be found of numerous sites around the world; s:https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/27/us/politics/refugee-muslim-executive-order-trump.html)

Many businesses with skilled workers from overseas employed by American companies are affected. Would the companies have to meet abroad so that these employees can attend? Would all international academic conferences have to be relocated outside the United States? What about students and faculty traveling back and forth? And consider all the private universities in the U.S. dependent on income from foreign students. There are over a million foreign students; though few come from the countries specifically boycotted, all would have to go through a rigid check system.

Look at the letter the Dean of Faculty of Princeton University felt impelled to send her colleagues this past Friday even before she could access  the full text of the new executive order. Simply based on the pre-publication media reports and the consternation they were already causing, she sent out the following letter to try to quiet the fears raging though her segment of academia.

We have received many messages from members of our community concerned about the impact of possible changes in immigration policies under the new administration in Washington. According to media reports, President Trump signed an executive order today. It has been reported that the order includes stricter immigration vetting measures and may include provisions that could impact non-immigrant visa holders as well as lawful U.S. permanent residents from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. At this stage, we do not know the content of the executive order or its impact.

We do, however, want to be prepared to support and advise our students, scholars, and others who might be affected by any changes, and to express our deep concern about any potential impact on the ability of this and other American universities to engage in teaching and research of the highest quality.

We have strongly advised students and scholars who might be affected and who have travel plans in the coming days to defer travel outside of the United States until there is some clarity and legal analysis of the situation or, if they must travel, to seek legal counsel before they do. We have also shared with potentially affected students and scholars the information we are receiving from a law firm that follows these matters closely and has advised members of our community in the past. More from Fragomen Worldwide Immigration Law Firm Alert January 25, 2017.

We wanted to share this information more broadly with all of you because many of your students or peers may be reaching out to you for information or support, and we are all affected when members of our community feel at risk. We take very seriously anything that could affect the ability of our students and scholars to engage in their scholarship. International students and scholars who have immigration questions or specific questions about their current situation should contact the Davis International Center (puvisa@princeton.edu), which is following the situation extremely closely and in the best position to provide advice or resources.

We will continue to keep you posted as we know more and we will work closely with our Princeton colleagues, peer institutions and the immigration law community to understand this and other immigration issues as they arise and to support members of our community who make essential contributions to research and teaching on this campus.

Does the new executive order include “stricter vetting procedures,” what Trump thunders as “extreme vetting”? Would the new policy impact on non-immigrant visa holders, such as individuals on student visas or teaching in the United States at universities on temporary work permits? Would the policy affect lawful U.S. permanent residents from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen who already hold permanent residence visas? Would the executive order affect teaching and research of the highest quality, or any quality for that matter? Though intended to express a concern about research in general, the effect of this quickly drafted open letter to the members of her community in the wording unintentionally suggested that Princeton was only concerned about the highest quality research? The fallout from the irrationality exuding from Washington even frazzles the minds of brilliant academics so they too misspeak.

Even more fundamentally, how does the executive order conform with existing law that in designating countries for exclusion, there must be an evaluation of the effects of such a designation “on the law enforcement and security interests in the United States (including the interest in enforcement of the immigration laws of the United States and the existence and effectiveness of its agreements and procedures for extraditing to the United States individuals, including its own nationals, who commit crimes that violate U.S. law.)” In other words, if countries are designated – as Syria as well as Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen are – without any evaluation on U.S. capacity for law enforcement or on U.S. security interests domestically and internationally and on extradition procedures, is the executive order illegal? It is noteworthy that the law firm commenting on the presidential executive order did not comment on the legality of some of its sections.

Further, though the President and the members of his cabinet are given wide discretion under existing legislation, they are all required to follow certain very clearly defined procedures in applying such a designation. And there is no evidence, and likely there is none given the very short period the Trump government has been in power, that those procedures have been followed. The issue is not only whether the ban is “inappropriate and ineffective in the fight against terror,” as the American Iranian Council has argued, but the executive order may also be illegal since there has been no effort to gather evidence to measure either the appropriateness or effectiveness in fighting terror.

What initial advice was offered? If you might be affected, do not travel. That is, you risk not being re-admitted to the United States. If you must travel and are in a situation that might be affected, get some legal advice. Immigration lawyers are about to do a booming business in the United States and around the world. Such are the affects of the blather coming out of the mouth of the most powerful individual in the world. America’s best and brightest, not any prospective terrorist, are discombobulated. This is the first paragraph of the legal advisory a top immigration law firm sent out:

President Donald J. Trump is expected to sign an executive order that will suspend the entry of foreign nationals from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen to the United States for a period of 30 days, according to a published draft of the order. {A report in the 26 January 2017 New York Times was cited.] The executive order is also expected to suspend a worldwide program that exempted certain visa renewal applicants from consular interviews. [See Section 8 (a)]

The focus of the panic attack was on foreign nationals from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen or on those who hold dual citizenship for the birth place may determine whether or not the person is deemed to be a national of one of those countries. Thus, even if the person is an American citizen, if a country such as Iran insists that the person is an Iranian national, under this presidential executive order, the person can be treated as an Iranian national.

Will residents in America who have strong ties to those countries be affected, since it is the foreign country’s laws that determine whether the United States deems the individual to be a member of that foreign nation? Does the ban apply to temporary visa holders (B-1, H1B and L-1) who are currently lawful permanent residents of the United States? If so, then you should be concerned about travelling back “home” if one of your parents becomes ill. The letter from this legal firm warned about long delays in processing visa applications as a result of the executive order, since the waiver for personal interviews was removed. All applicants would have to have a personal interview.

For a government determined to whittle down bureaucracy, this perhaps illegal cancellation of existing law under section 217 2/A (8 U.S.C. 1187) applicable to countries with very low non-immigrant refusal rates will just mean many more personnel required to deal with visa applications.

Now not one of these words of the law firm or the Princeton Dean of Faculty mentions refugees, the ostensible prime target of the executive order. The momentum of this America-First inspired policy almost forced institutions and professionals to attend first to self-centred needs, those of their own community members. Those most affected and those most in need of assistance, refugees, were ignored in both the letters of the law firm and the dean. This may be the most pernicious effect of the new regime.

Certainly, there is a danger of this in Canada where officials appear primarily focused on possible negative (and positive in the case of pipelines) effects on Canada of the new Trump regime. The Minister of Immigration, who was himself born in Somalia, if not carrying a Diplomatic passport, could possibly be barred from entry into the U.S. However, contrary to the ordinary meaning of Trump’s executive order, on Saturday, the U.S. State Department “clarified” that Canadians with dual citizenship from any of the seven nations would be denied entry for the next three months. Minister Ahmed Hussen evidently got an agreement from Washington reversing this decision and that not only Canadian citizens with dual citizenship from one of the seven countries designated in the ban, but also those with citizenship from one of the countries but only permanent residence in Canada, would NOT be barred from entry into the U.S. However, an Alberta biomedical engineer, Haji Reza, born in Iran with a Canadian permanent residence card, was banned from entry into the U.S.

Further, the Minister announced that Canada would step in to invite those refused entry into the U.S. to come to Canada on temporary permits. However, though Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had tweeted: “To those fleeing persecution, terror & war, Canadians will welcome you, regardless of your faith. Diversity is our strength #WelcomeToCanada,” However, Canada has not yet increased its targeted intake to make up, at least in part, for those refugees denied entry into the U.S.

There is anther side, however, a more tragic side. In Quebec especially, there has been a rise of Islamophobia, inspired in part by the French government ban on wearing items which communicate religious messages – kippas, large crosses but especially hijabs. A 2015 Quebec Human Rights Commission survey “found that 43 percent of Quebecers believe we should be suspicious of anyone who openly expresses their religion, with 49 per cent expressing some uneasiness around the sight of Muslim veils.” After a note had been posted the year before on the Centre Culturel Islamique de Québec reading: “Islam hors de chez moi,” (Islam out of my country), this past year during Ramadan, a pig’s head wrapped in cellophane and tied with a bow was left on the doorstep of the centre.

Yesterday evening events became much worse. A gunman opened fire on the 40 or so congregants at that Centre. There are at least six deaths and many injured. Will Trump put a ban on travel to the United States against right wing Islamophobic terrorists?

The reality is that Trump policy measures targeting Muslims, while insisting he does not target Muslims, is contagious. Trump’s linkage between terrorism and Muslim migrants and refugees is not only dangerous to the fundamental values of the United States, not to speak of its efficient functioning, but to other countries around the world.

To be continued

Global Consequences of UNSC Resolution 2344

The Global Consequences of UNSC Resolution 2344

by

Howard Adelman

UNSC Resolution 2334 did not pass by a vote of 14-0 with the American’s abstaining in a vacuum. Context is crucial. So are military troops on the ground. The Resolution may have endorsed once again the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by force, but as I have shown with respect to other areas – Russia in Crimea and eastern Ukraine, Turkey in Cyprus, Morocco in the Western Sahara, North Vietnam in South Vietnam – the list is long with respect to the non-application of the principle. There were some exceptions – Kuwait and East Timor – but the general disposition has been to look the other way or pay only superficial and short-term attention when territory is acquired by force. In most cases, and contrary to the Israeli position, the conqueror had little justification for any territorial claims.

In Iraq and Syria, satraps were used to acquire control over the territory. In Iraq, the Obama doctrine entailed following the path forged by Henry Kissinger in Vietnam – declare victory while withdrawing from the field. But the Obama administration never managed to pull it off. It was too half-hearted. America did not pursue that goal with persistence and clarity. Declarations may require equivocation. Actions may demand a feint. But intent must be unfailing. Barack Obama, with his many great virtues, was too often a fence-sitter. Not counting “military contractors” involved in the privatization and transference of military responsibilities to mercenaries, the U.S. still has over 10,000 troops and personnel in Iraq.

It is not as if the U.S. did not want to get out of Iraq. America clearly did. But the U.S. also wanted to protect its vision of a multi-ethnic and multi-religious state (really, a multi-Islamic religious state). When the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) launched its offensive in mid-2014 in Iraq, it made quick gains that are only now being completely nullified. Barack Obama sent in American troops and supplied the Kurdish Peshmerga with both military and humanitarian aid when the Kurds were directly attacked by ISIL. By 2015, the direction of the war was reversed and the final steps to clean out ISIL forces are well underway. With the end of open warfare imminent, will the U.S. leave in the face of greater need when ISIL reverts to insurgency warfare?

At the same time, Russia accomplished the same feat in Syria, only this also entailed defeating anti-Assad rebels who had been supported by the Americans. Further, the war was fought at a far greater cost in lives, a vastly greater destruction of property and an unprecedented number of refugees and internally displaced that even made the Indochinese exodus in the late 1970s and 1980s look relatively small. Yet the Americans still have 500 mainly special operations forces in Syria serving as advisers and explosive ordinance disposal experts. With the U.S. as a silent partner to Russia, a partnership which Donald Trump wants to declare openly, where once Syria had been under French tutelage, it has now become a Russian protectorate. Where once Iraq was under British protection, a century later it has become a protectorate of the U.S.

General James (Mad Dog) Mattis, Trump’s new Defense Secretary, is thoroughly familiar with these two theatres of war, and Afghanistan as well, where large numbers of American troops are also deployed. But he left the theatre and retired in 2013 before the geography of war in the region changed. He understands the principle of holding and controlling territory by force. However, Mattis is completely unsympathetic to the Zionist enterprise. After his retirement, he said, “I paid a military security price every day as the commander of CentCom because the Americans were seen as biased in support of Israel, and that meant all the moderate Arabs who want to be with us…they can’t come out publicly in support of people who don’t show respect for the Arab Palestinians.” Like John Kerry, he has argued that the Israeli settlements will lead to apartheid, not exactly the message coming from Donald Trump.

On the other hand, Mattis shares Israel’s belief that not only is Iran a mortal and existential threat to Israel, but is the main destabilizing force in the Middle East. But he also shares the traditional view of both the old State Department and a good part of the military establishment that America’s main allies in the region are Arab and they must be appeased. That includes, most specifically, Saudi Arabia. Mattis supports America’s backing of the Saudis with military equipment as that government continues its ruthless assault on the Houthi population of Yemen. Whether in Yemen or in Iraq, Mattis insists on clear policy objectives and a military fully resourced to achieve those objectives. He believes in being ruthless in the will to sustain the battle based on a sound strategy. He is totally dismissive of half measures.

The real question is how the American imperium will deport itself in the Middle East. Though superficially like Trump in his bluntness, Mattis is unlike The Donald in so many other ways. He is consistent and a hard-nosed realist who recognizes the value of allies. Mattis steeps his strategy in hard data rather than in the subconscious outflows of rhetoric of an unstable mind. Mattis reads books; Trump reads twitter feeds. Mattis believes in “continuing American engagement” in the world. Trump wants to complete Obama’s half-measures of withdrawal and press ahead at full speed – but with exceptions. The question is on what side of those exceptions will Israel fall?

That is the central question – where will Israel stand in the revised American imperium? UN Resolution 2334 would relegate Israel to a pariah status as long as it not only continues its settlement activities, but even as long as it maintains those settlements. Resolution 2334 raised the stakes by making the armistice lines of 1949 the reference border as well as declaring that all lands on the other side of the Green Line were Palestinian. It was as if Jews never lived in Hebron or the Old City. The UN was now competing with other regimes in the Middle East to eradicate ancient cultures and ethnic groups and their rights. The statement did not say “residents of Palestine,” for Jews had once been Palestinian in that sense. The reference was to Palestinians as a political group.

However, the innovations have not only been in principles but in practices to realize those principles. Lawfare has been raised to a central ingredient of international diplomacy. With the passage of Res. 2334, recourse to the The Hague Court will become de rigueur. Any Israeli – civilian, politician, military officer or settler – is now subject to being charged under the Geneva Convention – a long term goal of those opposed to any Israeli settlements. Fatou Bensouda, the The Hague prosecutor, has finally been given a license to correlate settlement activity of any kind with war crimes.

In spite of his antipathy to Israel as a threat to American-Arab relations, General Mattis is the last to uphold the Geneva Convention. In the Bush II Iraq War that toppled Saddam Husseini, Mattis, as commander of the First Marine Division, engaged in mass slaughter, arbitrary arrests and rough treatment of civilians to extract information he needed in the prosecution of a war he later labeled a major mistake. He would deny access to humanitarian aid – in flagrant violation of the Geneva Convention – to the civilian population to make them comply with his fulfilling his strategic objectives. Just look at his leadership in the battle for Fallujah in 2003. His modus operandi in Iraq makes the Israeli military look like gentleman soldiers, especially since they are so constrained by Israeli law itself.

For Mattis, in global strategic terms, Israel is an outlier and an unnecessary burden. If Israel is torn between an adherence to the rule of law, including international law, and its own security needs, Mattis has no similar compunctions or restraints. Further, he agrees with Israel about Iran. Like the Republican hawks and unlike The Donald, he has no use for Putin. One can predict Mattis and Trump will be at loggerheads, but it will be difficult to see how Israel will emerge from the battle. Given that both Trump and Mattis far outflank Netanyahu and his right-wing government’s disdain for international law and sometimes even domestic law governing war and humanitarianism, Israel can count on the new Trump administration, when it engages in war against the UN, to undermine the use of international humanitarian law and the efforts to use courts to reinforce one side of a political struggle.

Resolution 2334 not only greatly enhances the role of lawfare in the field of international conflict, but the long arm of international law will creep into such relatively esoteric areas as sports and culture. Res. 2334 provides FIFA, the international governing body for soccer (THE major international sport), authority to intervene in a dispute with six Israeli soccer clubs. If the territories on the other side of the 1949 Armistice Line are designated as Palestinian territory by the UNSC, Israeli teams as part of the Israeli soccer league playing at the settlement clubs now become likely violators of international law. The monitoring team on this spat, led by Tokyo Sexwale of South Africa, which had been dithering on the issue, is now in motion, guided by a directive along these lines from Wilfried Lemke, the special advisor on sport to the UN Secretary-General.

Culture is another field that will be affected by the new level of lawfare. Ownership of the Dead Sea Scrolls is set to become another issue that will be tested given UN Res. 2334. For the scrolls were found on Palestinian territory, at least according to the UNSC authoritative pronouncement and the change from Res. 242 and 338. The scrolls were found in caves near Qumram in the West Bank. Even if purchased from Bedouin, the question was whether the Bedouin had any legal right to even sell the documents. You can count on a suit coming from the Palestinians on this issue, perhaps using a European country as its front to protect the PA from economic reprisals from Israel.

The major internationalization of the conflict will take place on the economic level. BDS, which had been battling and losing in the trenches, just won a major victory in the UNSC. The UN has been given a clear sanction to develop the administrative mechanisms for an organized boycott of Israeli goods and services. Those boycotts may not significantly undermine Israel as a modern economic miracle, but they will cause some distress and even broader annoyances. What they will not do is bring Israel kicking and screaming to the negotiating table. For Israel has expressed a continuing willingness to do so without any pressures, but also without any preconditions. Israel will no longer freeze settlement activity as a precondition of peace talks.

Many are predicting an increase in violence as a result of Resolution 2334. I doubt it – at least on any significant level. Based on this enormous diplomatic coup by Abbas with both the passage of Resolution 2334 and even the Paris Summit, and, further and perhaps even more importantly based on the current weakness of Hamas under threat from the population of Gaza dissatisfied with Hamas rule, Abbas (Abu Mazen) was able to forge a unified government with Hamas. Abbas will boast that he can now exercise with even greater authority restrictions to the resort to violence of Hamas. However, at the same time, the Palestinians will continue to celebrate their “martyrs” who are killed in violent attacks against Israelis. The week before the Paris Peace talks, 4 Israelis were killed and many more wounded, a few quite seriously. Abbas refused to even condemn the terror attack. The PA government, subsidized to a great extent by Europe, will pay the “martyr’s wife 2900 NIS per month (about $CAN1,000) for the rest of her life.

On the diplomatic front, positions are hardening on both sides, though for very different reasons. The passage of the Resolution may have made it very self-satisfying for those who support the Palestinian cause without qualification, but it will not advance that cause one iota. The conflict will only become more contentious, spread into more international arenas, but highly unlikely to bring both parties to the negotiating table.

What about initiatives by Donald Trump who stands unequivocally against Resolution 2334? Trump’s son-in-law, 34-year-old Jared Kushner, has been named the point person on this effort? According to the Donald, “You know what? Jared is such a good lad, he will secure an Israel deal which no one else has managed to get. You know, he’s a natural talent, he is the top, he is a natural talent. You know what I’m talking about – a natural talent. He has an innate ability to make deals, everyone likes him.” Ignoring Jared’s lack of diplomatic experience, given such an endorsement, would you have any optimism about the possibilities of negotiations?

In fact, based on either the European initiatives or the Trump initiatives from a radically different angle, would you expect any successes on either front? When Saeb Erekat after the Paris Peace Summit issued the following statement urging France to, “immediately recognize the State of Palestine on the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital,” and when Netanyahu’s increasingly defiant government, at the other extreme, promotes the expansion of settlements, attempts in its “formalization law” to retroactively legalize over 100 outposts built on privately-owned Palestinian land and deemed illegal according to Israeli law, and when his government even flirts with the idea that the two-State solution has had its day, neither international diplomacy, nor lawfare nor economic pressure are going to bring the disputants to the negotiating table.

The Palestinians grow bolder. The right in Israel grows more recalcitrant and more inclined to ignore the international community. And some believe that the results of Resolution 2334 are beneficial as a move towards peace!

With the help of Alex Zisman

The Second Clinton-Trump “Debate”

The Second Clinton-Trump “Debate”

by

Howard Adelman

Of course, it was not a debate. It was more of a cock fight. And the town hall format only provided window dressing for the moderators to field question (mostly vetted by organizations) to the two candidates, while allowing a half dozen or so questions, usually mundane though one incisive one on jobs and energy, from the audience. Anderson Cooper and Martha Raddatz perhaps did their best to reign in Donald Trump, but they largely failed and, instead, Trump trumpeted his charges that the debate was a three-to-one proposition. What the format did was to remove the lectern as a barrier between the candidates and the audience and, most importantly, from each other. While Trump spoke, Hillary Clinton tended to sit impassively on her stool, though occasionally smiling at another Trump whopper. Donald Trump used the time, when Hillary was speaking and when he was not interrupting and talking over her, to strut and cower as a hovering and glowering menace behind her as he paced and grimaced, snorted and sniffed, in belligerent displeasure.

So body language was even a greater part of this debate than the first. Prior to the debate, commentators pondered how Donald Trump would handle the audience questions and engage with them as individuals when they asked questions. Even though the opportunity was lost for most questions to come from the audience, Donald Trump simply used the queries to engage stridently as he did at his rallies to talk at the audience in general and never really address an individual let alone try to answer a question. Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, did talk to the individuals trying to answer the question directed to her rather than at the audience in general. But she has never mastered the art of talking with rather than to the person.

An excellent opportunity was offered to both of them when a Muslim woman in the audience stood up and asked how each of their policies would make her feel as a Muslim American citizen. Donald Trump was asked to respond first. He approached the woman and, though his back was turned to us, there was no indication in his body language – leaning forward, facing her directly – that he made any effort whatsoever to speak to her. What he in effect said was that he did not have a prejudicial bone in his body, but Muslims had to understand that terrorists were Muslims and that he was not afraid to say it, that Muslims had a special responsibility to look for terrorists among them and not abrogate their responsibilities to America as he claimed had occurred in a specific case of terrorism where they allegedly failed to report the explosives and arms the terrorist was assembling. He would not make the error of being politically correct and would call them radical Muslim terrorists. Though he did not state that he had revised his policy of keeping out all Muslims from America until they could properly be vetted, he did exhibit the new version of that policy called extreme vetting to be applied to a number of countries that he claimed nurtured and harboured Muslim radical terrorists. Clinton, on the other hand, he claimed would admit them by the tens of thousands allowing Muslims to come in freely and did not have the courage to call them what they were, radical Muslim terrorists.

Hillary Clinton called them radical jihadists and insisted that Donald Trump’s nomenclature fed to the false notion that America was at war with Muslims and raised the spectre of Islamophobia. Further, those same terrorists used Donald Trump as their recruiting tool. Hillary Clinton directly addressed the woman and insisted that she was as equal a citizen as any other American, that there have been Muslims in America going back to the days of George Washington, and that America was at war with terrorist extremists who were trying to hijack Islam for their own nefarious purposes. She never addressed the issue of whether there was or was not any connection between their Islamic faith and their extremist ideology. At the same time, she never drew the questioner closer into her confidence by asking her if she had suffered any discrimination herself because she was a Muslim given the current international situation and the fear of terrorism focused on Muslims.

If victory was to be awarded based on posture, and if the pose of a bully matters more in a cockfight, then the much more self-assured strutting and conventionally belligerent Donald Trump would be awarded the badge. In other words, Trump’s deplorable and irredeemable supporters would remain his supporters and would continue to be unredeemed. But if civility counted, if scoring points on policy and strategy counted, if getting credit for answering and not evading questions are to be valued, then Hillary once again doubtlessly won, but not as clear a victory as when Donald failed even his most ardent followers in the first debate. Except for the independents and wavering Republicans! For them the debate was another perpetrated by Trump on himself.

Since I really want to write about the terribly debased state of American politics much more than the debate between Clinton and Trump, I will use this analysis of the debate to set up my next blog on that subject. Let me begin, not with the lowest points in the debate when Trump denounced his own Vice-President’s suggested policy vis-a vis Russia and Assad in Syria and his prophecy or promise that Hillary would go to jail if he becomes president, but with his reiteration of his only apology which came at the very beginning of the “town hall debate.”

This is the week between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur when Jews ponder and seek forgiveness for their sins. That search for redemption is called tshuva. Jews are expected to recognize, acknowledge and ask forgiveness for their sins before God for their sins against Him and to their fellow humans for their sins against them. Now there are many iterations of the meaning of tshuva, but it is generally thought of as consisting of at least the following qualities:
• Identification or recognition of the sin
• Identification of who was hurt by the sin
• Acknowledgement of responsibility for committing the sin
• Requesting forgiveness from those hurt by the sin
• Accepting the consequences for having committed the sin
• Determining with conviction never again to recommit the offence.

All of these must be conveyed with the most profound and deepest sincerity. What did we hear from Donald Trump in this third reiteration of his “apology”? He was dismissive rather than sincere. And he as quickly as possible pivoted away from the issue to discuss fighting ISIS, a much more serious issue he claimed. That is, his offence, if it was an offence, was trivial. In any case, both Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton had allegedly committed much worse offences because they did terrible things to women. He had only talked about women, admittedly in a way he now regretted and he now considered wrong, but it was only locker room talk.

Did he recognize what he had done, a requirement for the very beginning of tshuva? Most certainly not. For what he had done was not even just locker room talk. I would argue, purely on personal anecdotal evidence, that it was not locker room talk at all. In my days swimming, playing basketball and playing football (yes, I once did all of these), I can recall male teenagers, much to my self-righteous disgust, discussing penis sizes and the size and quality of women’s breasts – my teenage associates at the time had a laser-beam approach in locker rooms in focusing on the female chest at the expense of the butt, the legs, the ankles and most times even the face and certainly never personality. But I never once heard boys or men discussing forcing themselves on women and grabbing their “pussies”. Perhaps they did not discuss it because they were not famous and did not, like Donald, think they could get away with it. But I dare say that they never even considered it, not simply because such acts are unequivocally illegal and constitute assault, but because such harsh moves on women were well beyond even their imaginations.

Donald Trump, after persistent questioning from Anderson Cooper, did finally assert that he had only talked that way and never acted that way – contrary to the claims of many of his staff members on The Apprentice – but even if no further solid evidence comes out that he did actually assault women in this way, he did so in his mind and to a media host – who was fired by his news organization as a result of the revelations. Does this constitute a conspiracy to commit assault on women? I doubt it, but I know too little of criminal law to offer an opinion. But one need not go into the legal issues. One can simply recognize that Trump never once acknowledged the seriousness of what he said and its character as he tried to reduce what he had uttered to the level of his usual trash-talk in discussing women.

He certainly never acknowledged that he had hurt all women and asked for their forgiveness. Further, as my wife Nancy pointed out, he never acknowledged that he had defamed American men who engage in locker room talk across the country, but I daresay very rarely if ever would discuss grabbing women by their pussies, let alone without their consent. An apology that diminishes and dilutes the sin committed, that fails to come to the first level of recognizing what the sin was, that is not addressed to all those, female and male, hurt by Donald Trump’s boasts about locker room talk and his supposed very recent claims of contrition, does not even make the grade of 10% of what is required by a true apology.

Did Donald Trump take responsibility for what he had done? Well you cannot if you do not know, recognize and then acknowledge what you had done wrong. When he said, “I was wrong. I apologize,” he was not even taking responsibility for what he had done even at the level of his failure of recognition, for his error in his mind may have been that he had been indiscreet in talking that way in front of an open mike. He never requested forgiveness from those hurt by the sin, a willingness to accept that consequences should follow for having committed the sin, never mind expressing a determination never again to re-offend. Even Newt Gingrich, a stalwart supporter, had said, Trump would have to realize that he had to reach deep within himself and indicate that he was capable of so doing and would have to live with what he had done and live as a reformed character. There is absolutely not a whiff of evidence of Trump’s willingness or capability of doing any such thing.

The problem of ISIS is a crucial policy issue. But the character and personality of the president is even more important because it is his character, whereas policy is a collective enterprise, even though Trump as president would have a disproportionate influence on such policy, though not as disproportionate as he believes he would have. His grandiose belief in the powers he would wield as president unlimited by a system of laws, checks and balances was articulated when he fell to the bottom of the pit of politicking and promised not only to appoint a special prosecutor, which a president does not have the power to do, but to jail Hillary Clinton when he becomes president, a power usually assumed by tin pot dictators when they succeed someone they overthrow and never by an elected president of the United States. To threaten to do so was a repetition at his rallies to “lock her up,” and, in my mind, the single-most important indicator that Donald Trump is totally unfit to be president. And when his surrogates insisted he was joking – when he was so clearly not – they proved they are as deplorable and irredeemable as they continue to demonstrate that they are.

But Donald Trump proved that he was certainly not a politically correct person and definitely not a politically correct politician when, instead of simply pivoting, he trounced his vice-presidential candidate, Mike Pence and threw him under the bus for having said that the Trump administration would not only create a no-fly zone as Hillary promised (she is much more of a hawk than Obama), but would bomb the Assad military positions. Trump took an opposite tack. Aleppo was already lost. He would seek an alliance with both Russia and Syria (and, therefore, with Iran) in fighting ISIS. It is mindboggling. The whole international strategic thinking establishment of the United States must be shivering in their boots. Trump is simply politically stupid to the nth degree, but particularly in foreign policy. That was well in evidence in all the issues raised in that area last evening. And the result – the moral bankruptcy of much of the Republican Party was on full display when Mike Pence continued to back Trump in spite of what Trump had said, in spite of the ignorance of the Republican presidential candidate and in spite of the way he himself was treated.

What we saw and heard last night went well beyond Trump’s usual extreme mendacity, like his usual claim that the Iran deal was bad because America had to pay Iran $150 billion to sign the deal and his ignoring Clinton’s claim that the deal had reduced Iran’s capacity to make nuclear weapons without firing a single shot. The money at stake was at most $100 billion and probably more like $52 billion, but the money was Iran’s in the first place that had merely been embargoed. The money released from the embargo did not include monies embargoed because of Iran’s human rights record, its support for terrorism, etc. Further, deductions had to be made even from these funds to repay China. One big lie simply tumbled out and followed another.

Take one last point, his admission that he had not paid federal personal income taxes. Instead he claimed that Warren Buffet and George Soros, “Hillary’s friends,” had made similar deductions, not that they paid no taxes. Further, he lied when he said that it was really Hillary serving her rich friends when these very two friends had long advocated that America introduce a system that closed income tax loopholes for the rich and institute a much fairer tax regime. As Hillary insisted, Trump’s policies would reward the rich even more than they are currently rewarded while ratcheting up the deficit and creating large levels of unemployment by cancelling NAFTA.j

While admitting that the Canadian health insurance system is plagued with inordinate delays, it is far superior to the reformed American system under Obamacare and stratospherically superior to the previous American medical system. I will ignore his ignorance of and insults to Canada. After all, just last year he praised the single-payer system of Canada. If Trump is elected president, the whole American system – economic with respect to employment, finances, national debt, taxation; political; judicial, as well as foreign policy around the globe and domestic policies on education and especially health, would be, in one of Trump’s favourite words, a disaster.

Thnks to Alex Zisman for helingiling opponents,

Weaponizing Refugees Part II

Corporealism XIX: Body Politics in the Middle East

Weaponizing Refugees Part II

by

Howard Adelman

Yesterday I set forth General Breedlove’s thesis that Russia deliberately instigated the flow of hundreds of thousands of refugees into Europe to destabilize the EU and weaken its resolve in countering Russia’s expansionist aims.

What are the facts? First, as of about six months ago (September 2015), approximately 4 million refugees were produced by Syria in addition to another 7-8 million internally displaced, about half the population in the country. This was before the significant. Russian intervention that began at the end of September last year. Can the main cause of the displacement of about half a million more Syrians since September, and expectations that in 2016 we will see even more Syrians flooding Europe than the record number of about one million seen in 2015, be traced to that Russian intervention? And even if it can be, can that result be connected to a deliberate attempt by Russia to use the refugees to destabilize Europe?

There is a correlation between military attacks and displacement. In March of 2012 when we witnessed the first really large waves of refugees since the civil war began a year earlier, 2,000 fled to Lebanon after the attacks on Homs. Up to 20,000 arrived in Turkey and, in anticipation of tens of thousands more, Turkey built refugee camps in Hatay, Kilis, Gaziantep and Sanlurfa. Already 80,000 had arrived in Jordan. With the April 2012 offensive by the Syrian army before the first of many UN-sponsored peace plans went into effect, 25,000 Syrian refugees arrived in Turkey in just over a week. The total number of refugees in Jordan increased by a whopping 50,000, from 80,000 to 130,000.

The refugees then were mostly women and children as the younger men mostly stayed behind as volunteers to fight Assad. As the numbers mounted by ten thousand a month, by August we recorded the first refugees getting on boats to reach the EU. Between August and December, the number of refugees quadrupled so the numbers were beginning to approach a million.

Russia was nowhere in the picture then, other than as a contractual supplier of weapons to the Syrian government. Russia’s exports of arms to Syria – roughly 1.5 billion dollars per year, including MI-25 helicopter gunships, the Buk-M2 air defense system, Yak-130 jet trainers – represented 10% of Russia’s military export trade. Amnesty International charged Russia with being complicit in crimes against humanity. Does anyone believe Assad had forced a million people into exile to undercut the unity of the EU?

In 2013, 2,000-3,000 refugees left Syria every day so that, by the end of the year, there were a million more refugees escaping violence and chaos, searching for shelter, food, water and medical supplies. Double that number simply went to other safer parts of the country, at the time, relatively untouched by the war. America, not Russia, began its meagre military contribution to the Syrian rebels. During that year, almost 5,000 refugees crossed to Italy.

Sweden offered 8,000 Syrian refugees permanent residence and family reunification for asylum seekers. However, the EU and state governments largely ignored warnings that such moves would both create a pull factor and lead to the creation of smuggling operations by organized criminal units. As is typical in countries of first asylum, each in turn developed compassion fatigue and tensions arise in each of the countries as the intake was not matched by any even modest orderly departure and resettlement programs by the West or even in any reasonable sharing of the humanitarian burden.

At the very same time, in September of 2013, Russia in a diplomatic initiative, perhaps more to prevent an American air intervention than for any humanitarian considerations, initiated the diplomatic move to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons. At the same time, The New York Times published Vladimir Putin’s op-ed (12 September 2013) urging the U.S. not to intervene unilaterally in Syria and to seek a negotiated settlement. Russia argued all along that any effort to promote domestic reforms in foreign states based on ideological preferences (whether communist or liberal revolution) usually resulted in disaster rather than progress.

But the crisis only grew as a million more refugees were produced in 2014, now coming primarily from areas captured by ISIS, which suddenly emerged as a potent force in mid-year. Can anyone rationally claim that Russia was really the invisible hand behind the rise of ISIS? The number of Syrian refugees totalled about three million.

During 2015, another million refugees fled largely to Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. Turkey opened its exit gates and, by the end of the summer, over 303,000 asylum seekers had flooded Europe; almost 90,000 arrived in Germany alone. By the end of the year, the number of refugees reached 4 million and at least one million had fled to Europe, most after the Russians intervened at the end of September. Did Russia intervene to instigate a greater flight to Europe with the purpose of undermining the EU? Or did the milquetoast support of the rebels by the West over the previous few years influence the rapid exodus over the last two years? Did Western weak support reach an apex when 60 U.S. trained Free Syrian army fighters entered Syria from Jordan and were quickly decimated by the al-Qaeda affiliate, the al-Nusra Front?.

Compare that to the robust intervention by the Russians, approved unanimously by the Federation Council (Russia’s equivalent to the American Senate) – 12 Su-25 ground attack aircraft, 12 Su-24 interdictor aircraft, 6 Sukhoi Su-34 bombers, 4 Su-30 combat aircraft, 15 attack and rescue helicopters, surface-to-air antiaircraft systems, BM-30 missile launchers, surveillance drones, 6 T-90 tanks, 15 large pieces of artillery, 35 armoured personnel carriers and an initial instalment of boots on the ground in the form of 200 marines, all serving to help revive Assad’s prospects. That alone made many Syrians give up on the idea of ever returning home. The lesson: if you are going to intervene militarily, don’t simply stick a pinkie in the cauldron.

If Russia all along had a secret plan to destabilize Europe by producing millions of refugees, why did it lead the world in efforts to end the Syrian civil war in 2012 and put pressure on Assad to agree to reform the constitution and the electoral process?  Why in April 2012 did Russia agree to a UN draft resolution to provide UN observers to monitor the cease-fire with Assad agreeing to return his troops and heavy artillery to their bases? Russia’s bottom line throughout the war was that Assad had to stay in power, presumably under a reformed system, otherwise a vacuum would be created for an extremist Islamist takeover of Syria, an outcome absolutely antithetical to Russian interests.

Since there is no evidence whatsoever of Russia intending to produce more refugees or intending that those refugees head for Europe, or even envisioning that 1 million refugees among a population of 350,000,000 could break the back of Europe, why would anyone even entertain a hypothesis of the “weaponization of refugees” when there are much easier explanations, all much more compatible with the facts? Unless the charge is really not intended to explain the movement but distract attention away from the West’s role. With the exception of Sweden and Germany, there is virtually no significant evidence of Western states engaging in any responsible large scale burden sharing.

Without widespread political leadership championing a humanitarian approach, again with German Chancellor Angela Merkel being the exception to show most leaders up, there is no one to combat the usual widespread populist insecurities that accompany wide scale immigration into a country, especially when it is uncontrolled migration. So right- wing parties thrive and states, beginning with the right-wing government in Hungary, close their gates to refugees. The backlash was in full swing. That cannot be blamed on Russia, even though Russia played a significant role in perpetuating the war and exacerbating the fears.

At the end of February 2016, there were almost 2.7 million Syrian refugees in Turkey, 1.2 million in Lebanon, 630,000 in Jordan, a quarter million in Iraq and absolutely zero in any of the Gulf Arab states. It cost Turkey alone $8 billion a year in humanitarian assistance, with only 60% of that amount promised to be offered for distribution among all the first asylum countries in 2016. As ruthless and self-serving as Russia has been throughout the crisis, while offering zero opportunities for resettlement (though some Circassians managed to get back to their original homes almost a century earlier in the Caucasus), how is it possible to ascribe the blame for this crisis to a deliberate plan of Russia? Frankly, it is a preposterous thesis!

Given the extensive bombing, strafing and counter-attacks by the newly-equipped Assad forces on the ground and air strikes from the sky, it should be no surprise that an additional half a million refugees were the result. But was that the prime goal of the bombing? Was the increased record flows from Turkey into Europe, at a pace exceeding even last year’s, a result of this increased intensity in the fighting? Or had the refugees concluded that the civil war had been lost, a by-product of a conviction that Assad, with Russian backing, would not fall, and that territory controlled by the “moderate rebels” now would be re-captured? This belief was reinforced when the Americans would not even introduce a no-fly zone to protect the moderate rebels. Besides civilians getting out of the way of the battle, most had finally lost all hope of a succession by a more liberal regime. The rise of ISIS had not helped, but in various interviews it has not been hard to detect that the refugees had given up on Syria as their home and that they merely wanted to live somewhere else in relative peace and security.

Yet the “weaponization of forced migrants” thesis has received some high level support. Senator John McCain, a former Republican candidate for president in the U.S., has adopted Greenhill’s position. He claimed that President Vladimir Putin “wants to exacerbate the refugee crisis and use it as a weapon to divide the transatlantic alliance and undermine the European project.” That Russia wants to expand its presence and influence in the Middle East is, I believe, incontrovertible. That Russia rejoiced at the disarray currently in Europe over a humanitarian approach to the Syrian refugees is likely. But that Russia intended precisely such a result, that long preceded its own large ramped-up involvement almost six months ago, is barely credible even when endorsed by an American air force general charged with the responsibility for the military defence of Europe. Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoĝlu joined the chorus. Russia is “behaving like a terrorist organization and forcing civilians to flee” by carrying out air strikes “without any discrimination between civilians and soldiers, or children and the elderly.”

Fabrice Balanche, from the University of Lyon, argued that Russia’s and Assad’s forces have together devised a “conscious strategy of ethnic cleansing” against Sunni Arab tribes and other groups who oppose the Syrian regime. Sunnis have been a specific target of the Assad regime. In what has been by and large a sectarian conflict between the ruling minority Alawites, a Shiite offshoot supported by Iran, and the Sunni majority, the exile of one group or the other, depending on who was winning, was to be expected. But why have so many other minorities fled, minorities that had not been persecuted by the Assad regime, but, in fact, often enjoyed the protection of that regime? Why have Armenians, Assyrians, Yazidis and other Christians, Druze, Ismailis, Palestinians and Mandaeans fled, and Circassians even returned to the North Caucasus of Russia? Were Assad and his Russian backers simply indifferent to producing refugees since they seemed to readily attack and bomb even hospitals? Balanche argues that hospitals have been deliberately targeted to force people to move.

I cannot believe that scholars, political and military leaders have bought into such a flimsy thesis! But, after all, the leading Republican candidates for president in the U.S. have spouted such extreme nonsense as to make Breedlove’s claim even seem sensible. Senator Cruz, the only remaining candidate who has even a slight chance of beating Trump in the race for a majority of delegates for the Republican Convention, at the end of last year tabled the Terrorist Refugee Infiltration Prevention Act barring any refugees coming from countries where territories are controlled by terrorists, Ted Cruz claims that 77% of the refugees “pouring into Europe right now” are young males. 63% are, not 77%. Further, single males frequently precede their families to mitigate risk and prepare a place for resettlement.

Donald Trump (17 November 2015) is far more outlandish, blaming not Russia but the Obama administration for planning to take in 100,000 to 250,0000 Syrian refugees (instead of the meagre 10,000 approved for 2016, though Trump’s imagined number would be a more responsible figure) and deliberately resettling Syrian refugees in states with Republican governors so as not to destabilize Democratic-governed states and to destabilize Republican ones, as well, presumably, to produce a constituency that will vote for the Democrats. Facts: 31 of 50 states have Republican governors and they have received two-thirds of a tiny number of just under 2,000 refugees, 41 refugees on average for Republican states compared to 36 for Democratic states. All refugees were distributed among states by NGOs, not political bodies. The intake of refugees is often a tribute to the generosity of small town America with no political role in the decision whatsoever.

Such are the extremes that the projection of illusionary and phantasmagorical intentions can reach.

 

With the help of Alex Zisman

Fighting ISIL or ISIL or Daesh – to what end?

Corporealism XVIII: Body Politics in the Middle East

Fighting ISIL or ISIL or Daesh – to what end?

by

Howard Adelman

If I have characterized Daesh with reasonable accuracy, how should the West best fight this menace? Daesh is ensconced in eastern Syria and in western Iraq separated from the Turkish and Iranian borders by Kurdistan, the northern part of Iraq controlled by Iraqi Kurds and its Peshmerga forces. Daesh also has a presence in an oil rich small area of Libya. Daesh first captured Rojava after the Syrian army retreated in 2012. The great victory was the capture of Mosul that allowed ISIL to declare a caliphate established in the summer 2014.  This key victory included the defeat of the Iraqi army which literally turned tail.

Since then, ISIS has suffered setback after setback and the number of militants identified with its cause and fighting on the ground in Iraq and Syria is now estimated to have fallen from 31,500 to 25,000 altogether. (“The latest assessment about the number of fighters who are fighting on behalf of ISIL in Iraq and in Syria – based on an earlier assessment – was up to 31,500 fighters in that region of the world.  There’s a new assessment from our intelligence community that indicates that that number is now up to about 25,000 fighters.”  U.S. White House Press Secretary John Earnest 2 February 2016)

The key force that has limited the expansion of Daesh and that has itself expanded to fill the vacuum has been that of the Kurds of Northern Iraq and Syria who have won back Sinjar, Ramadi and Tikrit. Within Iraq, the Kurds now control disputed Kirkuk completely. In northern Syria, the Kurds much more than ISIS are being attacked by Turkish jets.

ISIS has been pushed back. The question is not its defeat but when and how and what part Canada and other countries in the West should play in its defeat. For the dilemma is a matter of “boots on the ground.” The West has relied on the Kurds with 120,000 experienced, battle-trained and determined fighters, largely equipped by the U.S. The other force countering Daesh has been a reconstituted Iraqi army, also trained and equipped by the U.S. and its allies. In the meanwhile, Russia and Iran are supporting Assad and his re-equipped army with Russian air support. Those forces have captured large swaths of territory from the American-supported Syrian rebels who lacked any air support or significant amounts of updated equipment.

In this multi-faceted war with multiple sides with some parties on the same side really engaged in supporting opposite strategies on the ground – the Turks and the Americans. The point is that the defeat of Daesh must be seen within a much larger context. The thirty million Kurds have been seeking an independent state since the end of World War I where, in the divvying up of the Middle East among the Great Powers, they were left divided between Turkey, Syria, Iraq and to a small extent, Iran. They now have de facto independence in northern Iraq and in parts of Syria. They are also the major boots on the ground responsible for the pushback of Daesh. But what is in it for them to combat Daesh in Mosul? It is not a Kurdish city. So the Allies are buying time to retrain and strengthen the Iraqi army. But a strengthened Iraqi army to the south of the Kurds endangers their quasi-independence. So if ISIL totally loses, they are likely to lose the strategic advantage they enjoy currently.

The other major concern is Turkey, which views the rise of the Kurds as the greatest threat they face, not Daesh. Turkey is involved in widescale bombing of Turkish Kurdish territories as well as Kurdish-controlled area in Syria under the guise of the war against ISIL. This is the paradox. The boots on the ground best able to defeat Daesh supplied by the Kurds and those supported by the Turks respectively, each for very opposite reasons, has no reason to destroy Daesh. At the same time, the Kurds in Syria have consistently ignored Turkey’s threats – such as when Turkey insisted that the red line of the Euphrates was not to be crossed by Kurdish People’s Protection Units in Syria. The Kurds, like the Russians subsequently, ignored Erdoğan’s bluster, even when they were attacked by Turkish jets. In fact, in the battle over the Menagh airbase, the Syrian Kurds defeated the al-Nusra Front, an al-Qaeda affiliate that has been a proxy on the ground for Turkey.

The problem is not the defeat of Daesh, but the political order that the allies want to emerge out of the wreck in Iraq and now the even much worse wreck in Syria. In Iraq, the Kurds are at their peak now. If the allies build up the Iraqi army now to defeat ISIL, then what will almost certainly follow eventually will be a war between the central government in Iraq and the Kurds. And the Kurds fear being abandoned once again by the West after they have done the main dirty work in stopping and pushing back Daesh.

If the Iraq situation were not complicated enough, the issue of the conflict between Turkey and the Kurds exponentially increases the problem. When the revolution in Syria broke out in 2011, Turkey envisioned extending its influence southward. But Turkey has been thwarted at every turn – the rise of the Kurds in power in key parts of Syria along half of the border between Turkey and Syria, the increasing weakness of the rebels against Assad, the Russian support for Assad that has brought the two powers close to war with Turkey effectively now breaching Turkish air space almost with impunity.

More on the Kurds. They are not natural allies of the West; they have been allies of convenience. Abdullah Ocalan, the head of the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK), may have been in jail since 1999, but he not only remains the titular head of the PKK in Turkey but the de facto head of the Democratic Union Party (PYD) based in Rojava, Syria and in Kobani, Syria where the Kurds delivered a resounding defeat to Daesh. The Kurds even captured Tal Abyad on the Turkish border and sent chills up the spine of President Erdoğan. Turkey may be an ally of the U.S. and a member of NATO, but the Kurdish boots on the ground fighting ISIS, whatever their skills, courage and determination, have been helped enormously by American air cover, the very air cover the Canadian CF-18s have now backed away from providing. Further, the main spotters have not been the aircraft that Canada and other coalition partners have left in the air – they mainly confirm reports from the ground that come virtually exclusively from the Kurds who then mop up after the fighter jets have destroyed the identified targets.

The Tories have been dead right. The air strikes against ISIS have been highly effective. It is estimated that in the battle for Kobani, air strikes, leaving aside injuries inflicted, killed over 10% of ISIL militants on the ground in the months of fighting for Kobani. But that does not mean that Canada should continue participating in the air strikes. Or, for that matter, even advising and training troops on the ground. It depends on what Canada envisions as the outcome it favours and whether there is a realistic prospect of bringing about its preferred outcome.

The key factor is the de facto new quasi alliance between Russia and the U.S., two world powers that seem to once again dividing up the Middle East as spheres of influence by either side. Will the cease fire they have organized bring peace to Syria and on what terms? Shades of the end of WWI and WWII! The situation will become even more destablized when, as I anticipate, Turkey implodes under all the competing pressures and the series of failures in Turkish foreign policy under Erdoğan, matched by even greater political and economic crises at home. Kurdistan, with its apparent stability, is also seething underneath in a general context of a recession instigated in good part by the dramatic decline in oil prices compounded by corruption and nepotism.

I could go on. But my purpose here is not to lay out a political-economic and military analysis of that part of the Middle East, but merely to point to three main themes:

  1. The defeat of Daesh is not the main problem – that will come; it is just a matter of when, where and how.
  2. The defeat is not a matter of destroying an insurgency in a battle for hearts and minds, but destroying the army of a quasi-state.
  3. The main problem is regional stability; right now it is a balagan, in Hebrew, an absolute and total mess.

Begin with the immediate problem, the coming battle over Mosul and even perhaps Raqqa, the presumptive capital of the Caliphate. It is no secret that the coalition forces will be attacking Mosul, likely in the spring and certainly by summer. Will Daesh stand and fight to the last man and woman? Hardly likely. They have not done so thus far. And their sending out signals that they will is but the first rule of warfare – deceive your enemies. When claiming that you will stand to the last militant, plan a careful retreat, first of the political leadership and then of the military leadership, and finally, whatever militants can be saved while leaving enough to sacrifice as many civilians as possible in Mosul. Evidently, the political leadership has already relocated to Libya in anticipation of the next defeat. For the second rule of warfare is, when you know you have a significantly inferior force, evade direct conflict with the enemy.

Whatever Daesh suffers on the moral front, they clearly understand the basic laws for conducting war. The fact that they are ethically challenged is not only revealed in their cutting off of heads and the severe repression they practice about dress and social behaviour, but also in the moral deterioration already underway as the leadership deserts and the militants resort to corruption and smuggling civilians out of Mosul for US$500 a person. Daesh will leave behind sleeper cells to work behind enemy lines. For they realize they are at the mercy of fighter jets in the air and have to avoid open battles lest their backs be broken by the jet-fueled falcons and hawks patrolling the skies that will break their backs if they appear openly. Hence the rapid decline in missions and the ability of the coalition to release Canada from its commitment to supply six CF-18s.

In the battle against Mosul, the coalition partners have much to learn from the Israeli battles in Gaza with roughly the same population. However, the coalition has one major advantage. It can conduct a pincer movement as Kagame did in 1994 in Rwanda and allow the enemy to escape. I am convinced the allies will follow this pattern otherwise the costs to civilian lives in Mosul will be too high. A third law of warfare is that the best victories are based on building a golden bridge to allow your enemy to retreat. When they cross that bridge, attack them from the air on the other side.

The problem, to repeat once again, will not be to defeat ISIS in battle, but to win the war. And I have not read anywhere what a victory at that level will look like.  Further, unless victory in the war is envisaged, the battle may be won, but the losses will be much greater as has been the pattern in so many American wars from Vietnam on. The key problem is not victory in the battle over Mosul, but victory in the war in the Middle East. And the wars fought there, whether under a Democratic or a Republican commander-in-chief, have been disastrous because battles are being fought, not wars.

Sometimes, as in the case of the Israelis, it may be impossible to fight a real war because of diplomatic and other considerations. But that does not seem to be the case with the Americans. Except they no longer recognize what war they are fighting and what they are fighting for. Stopping ISIL is the least of their worries. The problem is that the lack of clear direction from the Obama administration is certainly far better than the mass hysteria, currently being whipped up by the Republican Party front runner. And it is not just The Donald that is the problem. He is just the loudest barker by far in the current American political circus on the Republican side. After all, it was overwhelmingly Republican state governors who announced that they would not permit Muslim Syrian refugees to enter their states. It was these Governors who initially completely ignored the laws of the United States and the Constitution.

I wrote on Friday that a core of politics is not inflaming emotions and passions. On shabat, on the day dedicated to peace, the real purpose of fighting any war has been determined. Further, the precedent must be set for skill, understanding and judgment to rule the roost. Instead, all three appear to be totally invisible on the Republican side and just barely on the horizon in the case of the current American administration in spite of its enormous efforts to reign in the war hawks.

So the coalition lacks strong and wise leadership that allows us to discern the overall goals and strategy. The U.S. was correct to release Canada from its responsibilities to continue contributing CF-18s from the war in Iraq and Syria because those jets were, in fact, no longer what was really needed. But why train Iraqi soldiers unless we want Kurdistan in Iraq eventually to be significantly reduced in size and even eliminated, and, if the course as set continues to be followed, eventually ending the dream of an independent Kurdistan. The chance to redeem just one of the major errors from WWI will be lost.

Should Canada back the Kurds, not just opportunistically as the Americans currently appear to be doing, but long term? I do not know. I am, however, convinced that unless we answer that key question, we cannot have a judicious and intelligent foreign policy in the area backed up by the limited military forces we are able to contribute. What about Turkey? Should we continue backing our formal ally Turkey which, under Erdoğan has been practicing a vicious anti-democratic policy over the last few years and one even far more dictated by a combination of whim and hysteria than even the U.S. Republicans are promising.

ISIS may be a much bigger threat than either al-Nusra and al-Qaeda because it is driven by a war strategy and not an insurgency, and it has brought sabotage and not just terror to the home fronts of its enemies. So ISIS as an organization needs to be extinguished. But let us not exaggerate the threat as U.S. Air Force General Phillip M. Breedlove, the supreme allied commander in Europe who dubbed ISIS an existential threat. The real threat is that America may be in the process of blowing up whatever degree of sobriety there is left in America and setting off a really-out-of-control wildfire. Do not light matches at home on shabat if your eventual goal is peace.

On the other hand, ISIL terrorists are not just out-of-control testosterone driven thrill-seeking teenagers. Their average age is 26. They are dedicated and sober, even if truly psychopathic martyrs for their cause. But the West in warfare can take advantage of that wish to die a martyr by making it convenient for them, without sacrificing a sense of security and swaths of civilians in exchange. They have largely been nihilistic mass killers alienated from institutions of order and cool rational judgment who use Islam as justification for their heated madness and cold compassion.

What about the NDP’s proposals to concentrate on cutting off the financing of ISIS and acquiring more intelligence on the movements of volunteers for ISIS? The latter is declining anyway. On gathering intelligence overseas, Canada lacks and in-depth capacity. As for cutting off financing that has already been underway led by the Americans and Canada is a bit player in that game.

What about the push to increase humanitarian and development aid even further? The reality is that Canada under the Liberals by ratio to population already contributes roughly the highest amount in both categories compared to the $5.1 billion in total dollars committed by the U.S. to emergency aid, the $3.3 billion EU, $3.6 billion from Germany, $1.75 billlion from the U.K., etc. As my opening paragraph indicated, the replenishment of fighters has largely been effectively staunched and ISIL which is no longer able to replenish its losses. I think these NDP suggestions look more like panic in search of a policy and a strategy, though the NDP is the only party calling for a consistent policy within an overall plan.

The real larger issue is how to contain the enormous ambitions of Iran and Russia, which has already checked Turkey. Obama has been counting on diplomacy since he is unwilling to contribute more American troops on the ground to the fight. In the meanwhile, Assad’s forces, reinforced by Iranians and Hezbollah volunteers and resupplied by Russia and provided air cover by the Russian air force, has been able to recover control of a great deal of territory and even totally encircle Aleppo, which had been under the control of America’s Syrian allies according to a study by the Institute for the Study of War in its 5 February Report. In addition, the military pressure on Kuweires Airbase has been relieved and the threat along the Mediterranean coast to the Russian fleet has virtually been eliminated, at great cost to the Turkish strategic aim of bringing down the Assad regime. Russia has emerged as a “hero” against Turkish military intervention in Iraq. Thus, Turkey’s ambitions in Iraq have been set back considerably.

The Russians and their allies conducted a very strategic operation to suck the rebels and other militants from urban areas into the open and to destroy them there, indicating that the rebels were more committed to saving civilian lives at the cost of strategic advantage, especially in comparison to Daesh. The biggest winners over the past year have been Assad, the Russians and the Iranians, though the losses on the ground for both the Iranians (143 officers alone from the rank of captain up) and their cannon fodder from Hezbollah volunteers has been huge in addition to the huge cost in dollars, which Iran could ill afford at this time, estimated at $6-12 billion per year, after having lost $450-500 billion since the sanctions took effect and while costs rise for its support of the Houthis in Yemen as Saudi Arabia directly supports the other side.

In my estimation, the current “peace” efforts offer an opportunity for the Syrian regime and its Russian ally to recuperate and regroup from the recent strenuous efforts and unrestrained attacks on civilian populations, a justifiable concern that handicaps the West in the type of warfare being fought in Syria. There is clearly no comparable effort by the Western coalition to counter the Syrian-Iranian-Russian partnership and that coalition, not Daesh, has been the major victor over the last year of the war. The peace talks look to me more like a front to confer de facto victory to Assad and his backers.

So where does this put the various parties in the Canadian parliament, ignoring the separatist party in this assessment. The Tories appear to want to fight last year’s battles. The NDP seems determined to be irrelevant. And the Liberal policy may be the most delusionary since this is not a war for hearts and minds, but a typical power play by regional and international actors. If this assessment is anywhere near correct, how does it affect the development of an overall Canadian defence strategy and our deployment of troops in the Middle East? In the next blog, I will deal with the need for a revitalized defence policy and intervention policy for Syria and Iraq. Clearly it will be a sketch only since I have merely provided a caricature of what has been going on in Iraq and Syria rather than a detailed area by area analysis of this multi-sided competition for power and control in the region.

 

With the help of Alex Zisman