About 200 protesters gathered in a park outside an international military conference in Halifax today to demand that Canada withdraw from Afghanistan and from NATO, the trans-Atlantic alliance that is waging war in Afghanistan. One demonstrator carried a sign reading "60 years is 60 years Too Long" referring to Canada's membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the U.S.-led military alliance formed in 1949.
The protesters distributed a leaflet denouncing the Halifax International Security Forum, the conference at which more than 300 politicians, military commanders, business executives, journalists and academics were discussing such topics as the war in Afghanistan; what western leaders should do about Iran and how to combat Third World piracy on the high seas. The conference was organized by an influential Washington think tank called The German Marshall Fund of the United States and supported by the Canadian Department of National Defence as well as a $2.5 million grant from the taxpayer-supported Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency.
"The U.S. and its allies occupied Afghanistan under the banner of women's rights [and] human rights," Malalai Joya, a dissident member of the Afghan Parliament told the protesters. "They pushed us from the frying pan to the fire," Joya said, adding that western occupiers had replaced the Taliban with the equally repressive Northern Alliance fundamentalist warlords.
"They [the U.S. and NATO] installed a corrupt government which is full of enemies of my people and are involved in war crimes, looting and drug dealing," said Joya who has been touring the U.S. and Canada to call for the withdrawal of the foreign military forces occupying Afghanistan as well as to promote her new book A Woman Among Warlords: The Extraordinary Story of an Afghan Who Dared to Raise Her Voice.
"Democracy never comes by war, by fire of guns, by cluster bomb," she said pointing out that thousands of innocent Afghan civilians are being killed on the ground by Taliban terrorists and Northern Alliance warlords, and from the air, by the bombing of western occupying forces.
"Many of the weapons and bombs used in Afghanistan, used against my people, are made in Canada," Joya said to shouts of "shame" from the protesters. "You have dropped two-thousand-pound large, Canadian-made bombs in my hometown which killed over 150 civilians, mainly women and children."
Joya addressed the rally from the foot of a statue erected to honour Edward Cornwallis, the British military commander who founded Halifax in 1749. Cornwallis imposed a bounty on the scalps of the Mi'kmaq in an attempt to exterminate them. Two protesters climbed the statue and covered it in white sheets to call attention to Cornwallis's attempted genocide.
When his turn came to speak, Tony Seed, editor of Shunpiking magazine waved a copy of the Halifax Chronicle-Herald which carried a front-page story on the military conference. The headline read: "Human rights key focus of forum." Seed pointed out that the previous day's headline had proclaimed: "Military giants pursue peace at Halifax event."
"The aim of this conference is to put a human face on NATO," Seed said. He added that it's part of a well-orchestrated disinformation campaign to hide the fact that the U.S. is using NATO to further its own military aims and that Canada is going along with it pretending it's all about peace and human rights.
"Bullshit," shouted a protester angry at the Herald's portrayal of the military conference. And then, there were more cries of "bullshit" from the crowd.