Here’s a protest you don’t see every day Vancouver Art Gallery has been a staging ground for countless demonstrations against the evils of Western imperialism, US and Israeli militarism and Canadian participation in the the United Nations’ mission in Afghanistan.

But in all of these protests that I’ve wandered by on Robson Street, the demonstrators and their signs have always been (at best) silent on the issue of political Islam, anti-Western terrorism and the role of certain Middle Eastern states outside of Israel in promoting hatred and conflict. Meanwhile, much of the peace movement seem pretty well set in in its unspoken (well, unholy, anyway) alliance with militant Islamists. To protest our world’s most urgent conflicts in this way is akin to communicating the sound of one hand clapping – at best, nobody really knows what you’re trying to say.

Today’s protest was different.

There were various groups represented outside the VAG: The Worker-Communist Party of Iran, the Third Camp and others. These people are opposed to Western militarism. They’re no Fox News propagandists.

But today, they were protesting Iran’s atrocious human rights record, persecution of women activists and the torture of political prisoners.

They weren’t doing this to argue for some kind of military response – actually, their sign specifically said no to war. But they were protesting the negative and violent consequences of political Islam – overseas, as well as right here in Canada.

Finally, some of the people who take part in Vancouver’s very active peace movement seem to be making the distinction that protesting brutal anti-Western dictatorships doesn’t make you a stooge of George W. Bush – it just means you have a conscience.

That’s something you don’t see every day. But it is something I hope we see more of.

20 Comments so far

  1. sean orr (unregistered) on June 21st, 2007 @ 11:19 pm

    Umm…I’m pretty sure that by demonstrating “against the evils of Western imperialism, US and Israeli militarism and Canadian participation in the the United Nations’ mission in Afghanistan” they are by proxy protesting against the political impetus that fuels Islamic Terrorism.

  2. sean orr (unregistered) on June 21st, 2007 @ 11:27 pm

    Iran is a dictatorship? That’s news to me. Let me guess, you side with Jerry Falwell in thinking Hugo Chavez is a dictator too, right?

  3. Jonathon Narvey (unregistered) on June 22nd, 2007 @ 7:49 am

    Sean, contrary to what Kevin Potvin might tell you, not all Islamic terror is a reaction to Western imperialism. That’s the point: by not explicitly condemning the other side’s bombs and hatred, and indeed by making excuses for their extremism, much of the peace movement has been co-opted by Islamic militants. Most rational, objective people understand this.

    That’s why most anti-war protests at the VAG and similar ones around the world gather a few dozen to at most a hundred people, instead of tens of thousands. No one really wants to stand next to people who make excuses for suicide bombers and state torturers.

    As regards your second point, yes, Iran is a dictatorship. Both their parliament and their president only exist on the approval of Iran’s mullahs. It’s a facade that most casual political observers are able to see through.

    By the way, Hugo Chavez is indeed acting like a demogogic dictator – as in Iran, with the help of a puppet parliament. Whether Jerry Falwell thinks so is quite irrelevant – it’s simply true. Trying to paint me as an intolerant religious zealot by association is simply unfair and a red herring.

    Chavez didn’t start out as a dictator – but like many dictators, he came to power legally (after failing to take over the state in a coup) and has by hook or crook accrued to himself a cult of personality and executive powers far beyond the reasonable requirements of any democrat.

  4. Sean Orr (unregistered) on June 22nd, 2007 @ 1:12 pm

    “Sean, contrary to what Kevin Potvin might tell you, not all Islamic terror is a reaction to Western imperialism”, name one example before Western Influence in the region. Name one time there was a suicide bombing. The only one I can think of is the bombing of the Hotel Daivid by extremist Jews.

  5. Jonathon Narvey (unregistered) on June 22nd, 2007 @ 6:25 pm

    Sean, your response is exactly what I was blogging about. Thanks for making your own position clear to all, in any case.

    Have a great weekend, and say hello to Osama for me.

  6. sean orr (unregistered) on June 23rd, 2007 @ 1:58 am

    “say hello to Osama for me”. Oh I get it, because Israel was founded on terrorism (Stern Gang, Irgun), then I am automatically in favour of a different religion’s terrorism. Logic much?

  7. Jonathon Narvey (unregistered) on June 23rd, 2007 @ 9:05 am

    No, Sean, you don’t “get it”.

    In your next to last comment, you just excused every single instance of Islamic terror – state or freelance – on the log-headed assumption that the mere presence of Westerners and Western institutions (“influence” as you call it) equals militarism.

    By your words, you liken Westerners and Western thought to some kind of lethal contagion that ought to be fought violently – much as racist North Americans about one hundred years ago justified their attacks on Chinatowns or the KKK in the American South justified their own lynching of black people.

    But your sentiments are exactly what the protesters this week outside the VAG were demonstrating against.

  8. sean orr (unregistered) on June 24th, 2007 @ 10:32 pm

    “but like many dictators, he came to power legally (after failing to take over the state in a coup) and has by hook or crook accrued to himself a cult of personality and executive powers far beyond the reasonable requirements of any democrat.”

    Sounds familiar. Can you say Hanging Chads?

  9. sean orr (unregistered) on June 26th, 2007 @ 1:30 am

    “Westerners and Western institutions (“influence” as you call it) equals militarism.”

    1951 – 1953 Iran

    After the election of Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadeq the

    Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (A.I.O.C. – a section of what is now British Petroleum) is nationalised. A joint M.I..6./C.I.A. covert action organises a coup d’etat and establishes a autocracy under the monarch Mohammed Reza Shah Pahlavi. In 1957 his regime establishes a new secret police SAVAK, who are trained by Britain and the United States, as is the Iranian Army. The oil fields are redistributed with some shares returned to A.I.O.C. and others given to different Western companies.
    1954 – 1962 Algeria

    Vicious colonial war as the French state combats the Algerian independence movement.
    1956 Egypt

    Following the nationalisation of the Suez canal (previously owned by French and British investors), coupled with moves toward Arab unity and the promotion of nationalist movements, the Egyptian nationalist military dictatorship headed by Nasser is faced with a joint Anglo-French-Israeli invasion. Economic trouble and lack of American support make this a disaster for British imperialism and something of a swansong.
    1958 Lebanon/Jordan

    American troops land in Lebanon in support of the pro-Western Christian government, after civil disorder was provoked by their rigging of an election. Opposition to Western interests from pro-Nasser Arab nationalists.

    Simultaneously British troops are in Jordan, in support of the traditional monarchy, which faces a similar Pro-Nasser nationalist movement to that in Lebanon.
    1962 – 1967 Aden/Yemen

    Insurgency in the British colony of Aden, in the western corner of the Arabian peninsula, at the gate of the Red Sea. Arab nationalists fight British rule, while their cohorts over the border in Yemen fought a campaign against a British friendly hereditary ruler, who had the support of British mercenaries.
    1962 – 1976 Oman

    Guerrilla uprising against the Sultans of Oman in the southern province of Oman – Dhofar. Oman units commanded by British officers, also a S.A.S. presence and a mercenary presence.
    1975 – 1992 Afghanistan

    Afghan Islamic rebels fight Afghan “Communists” and the U.S.S.R. with training from the S.A.S. and arms from the C.I.A. .
    1980 Mediterranean

    Italian passenger plane shot down over the Mediterranean, with 81 people killed. It is later revealed that it was shot down by a NATO missile. This was possibly a botched attempt to assassinate Libyan military dictator Qaddafi, who was flying in the area at the time.
    1983 -1984 Lebanon

    British, French and American forces land in Lebanon and act in support of Israel and Israeli backed Christian militias in that country’s “Civil War”. They are driven out by Hezbollah suicide bombers.
    1986 Libya

    American bombing of Libya, which in what now appears to be a tradition manages to hit several “targets” including the French embassy.
    1987 – 1988 Persian Gulf

    In the biggest American naval operation since the Second World War, with support from other NATO states, warships are sent to the Persian Gulf against Iran and in support of Iraq during the first Gulf War. Notable incidents include: An accidental Iraqi attack on an American ship, which cost the lives of 37 sailors and was blamed by President Reagan on “Iranian aggression”.

    The damaging of an American warship by a mine, presumed to be Iranian, for which the American government retaliated by ordering the destruction of half of the Iranian navy and much of it’s offshore oil industry.

    The shooting down of a Iranian civilian airliner by an American warship in Iranian waters, with the loss of 290 lives.
    1990 – ? Iraq

    Second Gulf War, with the massive amount of Iraqi deaths from both bombings and sanctions running into millions.
    1993 Somalia

    More blood for oil as American troops arrive in Somalia. A bloody fiasco similar to that in the Lebanon.
    1998 Afghanistan/Sudan

    Cruise missile strikes on supposed “terrorist training camps” in Afghanistan and Sudan. The destruction of a medicines factory in the Sudan, coupled with trade sanctions causes a large secondary death toll as the population is now deprived of medicines.
    2001 Afghanistan

    The “War on Terrorism” begins with air strikes on Afghanistan.

  10. Jeffery Simpson (unregistered) on June 26th, 2007 @ 2:57 am

    Hey let’s keep things civil, m’kay. Just because you don’t agree with someone doesn’t mean we should equating their point of view with support of terrorism, either state sponsored or otherwise. I’m all for all forms of political expression here but debate with respect.

    As to the specific contents of the post, those protesters are their quite regularly and truthfully I don’t find their point of view any more valid than the Loose Change 9-11 conspiracy types. Truthfully what are they accomplishing protesting Iran’s brutality here in Canada? Even if Canada were a significant power in the middle east, which we are not, I would hope that our position would not be swayed.

    The truth is the only real way we as a Soft Power, or whatever you want to call the Canada’s of the world, should be dealing with Iran is by offering aid and trying to ensure that any UN Sanctions that the USA slaps on them are directed at the government and not the population. Turning Iran into a pauper nation the way we did Iraq and Afghanistan before the wars, will only help ferment more terrorism.

    Of course the USA will ensure that any sanctions against Iran exclude oil, since they’ve cut off their own supply of oil in Iraq.

    As for condemning or condoning terrorism it’s not really our place to do it either way. The fact is one man’s terrorism is another man’s righteous cause. We can point fingers at Islamic terror, and rightly so, for being brutal but let’s not forget that senseless violence is not an invention of either America or Islam. We as a people have been finding brutal ways to kill others we see as different, or as standing in our way, for as long as we’ve had the words to record it. Longer.

    That America is a state founded what the British would have called terrorism at the time, is rarely mentioned in these conversations. That the English that suffered that terrorism used much nastier methods on the Irish, is a fact.

    That’s not me condoning terrorism, but at some point we need to realize that the world needs to deal with terrorists. Just because they use methods that are evil does not mean that their ends are by extension evil.

  11. Jeffery Simpson (unregistered) on June 26th, 2007 @ 3:01 am

    And by “deal with terrorists” I mean negotiate as opposed to shoot them dead. Shooting them dead just makes more of them and continues the cycle.

  12. Jonathon Narvey (unregistered) on June 26th, 2007 @ 7:57 am

    Jeff, with respect…

    “As for condemning or condoning terrorism it’s not really our place to do it either way.”

    Let’s see how that sentence looks in a slightly different version:

    “As for condemning or condoning mass murderers, it’s not really our place to do it either way.”

    How about this one:

    “As for condemning or condoning kidnappers and torturers, it’s not really our place to do it either way.”

    The way I see it, honest, moral people have a duty to condemn such acts, whether those acts are motivated by ideology, or just good old narcissism with a little psychosis thrown into the mix.

  13. Jonathon Narvey (unregistered) on June 26th, 2007 @ 8:12 am

    Sean, what can I say? Copying and posting several pages of text from Wikipedia onto Vancouver MetroBlogging doesn’t really count as a “comment”.

    It’s just poor form – spam, actually.


  14. Jeffery Simpson (unregistered) on June 26th, 2007 @ 10:55 am

    Having said that Jonathon everyone is extremely willing to let their own side off on something like that when it fits their argument. I condemn all murder equally, and if you want to condemn Islamic fundamentalist murders then you have to at least acknowledge that the US and pretty much every other empire in history, has been as soaked in blood. Just because their ideals and what they’re fighting for isn’t Jeffersonian Democracy but instead their God or their beliefs in their interpretation of their holy books doesn’t mean we have to discount them.

    Either side of the argument is incredibly myopic if it refuses to see the other. Yes any form of terrorism is clearly bad, but none of it ever happens in a vacuum. Nobody straps a bomb to their chest and goes off to kill people because they’ve lost at Scatagories. Sometimes like the VT shootings a person is clearly unhinged, but there are lessons to learn in every violent action. If we do not honestly asses the cause of terrorism we can never stop it. Simply assuming they’re fundamentalists with no worthwhile grievances is as useless as assuming the US foreign policy is simply based on them going around the world being evil.

  15. Jonathon Narvey (unregistered) on June 26th, 2007 @ 12:26 pm

    Jeffery, you’re preaching to the choir. Despite Sean Orr’s consistent and dishonest efforts to smear me repeatedly as a George Bush-loving neocon fanatic, I have no problem with criticizing US or US-allied foreign policy.

    The problem I identified in my initial post is the reluctance of many people in the peace movement to condem terrorists and aggression coming from political Islam (or worse, to make excuses for them). Actually, this seemed to be the disappointed view of the people at the protest.

    As I alluded to before, would your first reaction to a Ku Klux Klan lynching of a black man be to look for root causes, or to condemn the atrocity? The silence of some people in regard to violence emanating from non-US sources is telling.

  16. Jeffery Simpson (unregistered) on June 26th, 2007 @ 2:36 pm

    Okay but I’m going to have to take exemption with the example of the KKK. While clearly the KKK had their own motivation for their actions let’s not forget that the African Americans were enslaved, brought to America and were generally following the post-Civil War Constitutional Amendments when the KKK began to target them. They were nowhere near as proactive in causing the KKK to hate them as America has been in angering fanatics in the middle east.

  17. sean orr (unregistered) on June 26th, 2007 @ 6:08 pm

    The reason I posted all that was because you set yourself up for it with the highly ignorant comment that I held “the log-headed assumption that the mere presence of Westerners and Western institutions (“influence” as you call it) equals militarism.Westerners and Western institutions (“influence” as you call it) equals militarism.”

    So I listed such acts of militarism to refute your point. Then you cry spam. Poor form indeed.

  18. Jeffery Simpson (unregistered) on June 26th, 2007 @ 8:15 pm

    Honestly it would be stretching the definition of spam to include Sean’s post as spam. I am sure there is a joke about the canned meat in there somewhere, but I have not the energy for it.

    Just play nice, both of you. It’s okay to disagree just be civil about it.

  19. Jonathon Narvey (unregistered) on June 26th, 2007 @ 9:55 pm


    I appreciate your intent and of course have the utmost respect for you as Co-Captain of the MetroBlogging Vancouver site, but I would refer you to the following definition of Internet spam:

    “There is some debate about the source of the term, but the generally accepted version is that it comes from the Monty Python song, “Spam spam spam spam, spam spam spam spam, lovely spam, wonderful spam…” Like the song, spam is an endless repetition of worthless text.”

    Yup. That pretty much describes Sean’s list.

    However, since you believe that such a comment constitutes a viable comment on our premier forum, I’ve decided to follow suit and submit some copied and pasted text from the Third Camp protesters’ website below my actual comments. It’s approximately the same length as Orr’s. The text I’m pasting at least has the added benefit of being relevant to the original post, as well as containing citation.


    And here lies the heart of the matter. Not on one demonstration under the Stop-the-War banner have I heard criticism of the atrocities that are committed by Political Islamists.

    Up to 50000 Iraqis have died at the hand of US and UK troops AND political Islamists. The only criticism one hears are about the crimes of the invaders. The thousands of people who died and are still dying every day at the hands of political Islamists are casually overlooked in the name of fighting the imperialists.

    I wonder how much of humanity is left in a person who ‘overlooks’ the criminal character of these killings with the justification that they were done in the fight against the imperialists? Can one seriously blame every single murdered individual in Iraq on the invading troops?

    I absolutely condemn the invasion but how can you absolve murderers from their guilt by justifying their actions, arguing that they are a reaction to something equally wrong?

    On what kind of justice system, what kind of morality and what kind of sense of humanity are you basing your judgement? Not 50 000 UK and US soldiers have died at the hands of the ‘resistance’. No, thousands of men, women and children trying to lead some kind of life, are being bombed to bits, shot and stabbed.

    And let’s not forget about the new kind of violence that the ‘resistance’ fighters are committing: pulling men out of cars and shooting them because they are wearing shorts. Harassing and beating women for being improperly dressed i.e. not veiled and not veiled enough. And this is just the beginning.


    So nice to not have to actually write my own comment. Perhaps all of the Metroblogging authors should adopt the practice, now that it has been endorsed by management.

    Indeed, I would encourage any MetroBlogging authors visiting the BeyondRobson site to pay homage to Orr’s innovative style with a few lengthy batches of pasted text in the comments box. Relevance to the original post or subsequent comments is optional.


  20. Jeffery Simpson (unregistered) on June 27th, 2007 @ 12:14 am

    Oi, vey.

    As long as people quote things and don’t try to pass it off as their own stuff, I’m not going to freak out about it. If someone were to post something irrelevant to the topic at hand, or try to use this as an ad forum then it’s a bigger issue.

    If anyone wants to talk to me about the site’s spam policy we can, you’ve got my email address. It’s a forum for debate and discussion. I’d rather not have to regulate it, and have not had to up until this point.

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