Open Letter to Harper on War

An open letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper on War

By Elizabeth Whitmore, Ottawa, Canada

Cc: Paul Dewar <>,,,

Dear Prime Minister,

How is it that yet again, we get caught up in the hysteria of the moment, grab our guns and think that bombing is going to somehow get the bad guys. It was not so long ago that Saddam Hussein was the bad guy, and fortunately Canada did not “ bite” (in spite of your advocacy for us to enter that disaster). We know that what is happening now is a direct result of the 2003 American invasion of Iraq. Talk about blowback!

Why is ISIL videotaping their gruesome acts of violence? Because they WANT the “west” to bomb, which will get them more recruits, as civilians, homes and livelihoods are destroyed. The “west” becomes a major tool for their recruitment of indignant Arab/Muslim young men (and women, according to the Guardian).

And we are ready to fall into this trap! How can otherwise intelligent people be so naive? (Many asked that same question in 2003, when the U.S. Congress overwhelmingly voted in favour of invading Iraq).

I am old enough to remember the Vietnam war. The rationale then was to stop the spread of communism. We know what happened there, at a horrible cost in human lives on all sides. Now the rationale is to stop the spread of ISIL. We don’t learn from the past, sadly.

This situation is far more complicated than any of us really understand. Turkey, Syria, the Saudis, Qatar and Israel, to name a few (with the active, if behind the scenes engagement, of Western governments) are all in this for their own reasons. The Iraqi Kurds are the good guys at the moment — note that they control significant oil fields. The Kurds in Turkey don’t have oil, and are quite different politically. The Turks are happy to stand by as they get slaughtered. Israel is using non-Israeli fighters (with links to Al Qaeda?) now occupying a large percentage of the “no war zone” between Syria and Israel) to keep ISIL fighters out of northern Israel. The Saudis have been major funders of ISIL. And on and on.

 I believe strongly that Canada should not be entering the war in Iraq, and sending six CF-18s and 600 personnel. We have been asked for humanitarian aid only, which we should supply.

We need to address root causes of terrorism and not think that aerial bombardment will solve those root causes.  It will not.  We need to take preventative steps.  We need to sign the Arms Trade Treaty which will reduce the supply of weapons.  We need to take active steps to build peace together with community initiatives in regions vulnerable to ISIL.  We need to work with women peacebuilders.

Elizabeth Whitmore
Ottawa, Ontario K1S 2H4

Thank you,

(Elizabeth Whitmore would like to acknowledge the contribution of the Voice of Women, who sent out an email about this issue, with suggested wording, some of which is included in this letter.)