The massacre of Muslims in Canada at a Quebec City mosque on Sunday, January 29, raises a number of questions about what happened but also raises deep questions of morality and justice since the massacre of Muslims in Canada is rightly condemned but another massacre of Muslims, in Yemen, is shamefully and criminally condoned. In one situation, a suspect faces trial for murder and is condemned by public opinion, while in the other the guilty are treated as heroes and will receive medals. Let’s deal with the Canadian situation first.
Instead of facts we have confusion since first reports are of two figures, wearing ski masks, blasting away with Ak-47’s. Now the two are declared to be one. We have a conversation on a bridge between a “suspect” and the police, after the “suspect” is alleged to have called them “because he feels bad,” to tell them he “was involved.” What that means is not stated but is played in the press as a confession, but there is no confession. At his bail hearing on Monday, the sole accused Alexandre Bissonnette, entered no plea and said not a word.
He is portrayed in the press as a right wing oddball, a loner type. Friends and family never saw it coming. Much is made of his mundane “likes” on his Facebook site as if these indicate his guilt or innocence any more than my “likes” indicate mine. Was he a hidden ideological time bomb and killed with an objective in mind, to make a cruel statement, to create terror for political objectives? If so, and after so brazen a massacre, where were the shouts of defiance, of bragging, from this terrorist madman? Instead, a man shuffled and hung his head and dared not look anyone in the eye, tried to keep a low profile when all eyes were focused on him. Why? Is he one of the shooters? Were there two or just one?
The Toronto Star reported on the Sunday, January 30, that,
“Two attackers carried out a shooting at a Quebec City Mosque…”
Quoting Radio-Canada, the Star stated that,
“One man who was at the mosque told Radio-Canada that there were two attackers wearing ski masks who burst into the building and opened fire. The man, who didn’t want to be identified by name, said they had strong Quebecois accents, but added that he believed them shouting ‘Allahu Akbar’…The man said he narrowly escaped when a bullet whizzed over his head. He said the gunmen took aim at those who were still praying.”
There we have it, a recent direct witness statement that there were two shooters, not one, as the police now claim. The witness talks in the plural all through his statement. There can be no doubt this event is seared in his mind. He was there. There can be no doubt there were two men involved. But now one has disappeared from the official narrative. I am not surprised he feared to give his name because if killers can disappear witnesses can too.
Even the CBC, on Tuesday January 31, in reference to a witness who was arrested as a suspect by mistake, quoted that witness as stating, “I found a victim near the door. I didn’t know if he was alive or dead…when I gave him my jacket to keep warm, I saw the image of someone with a firearm. I didn’t know it was the police. I though it was a shooter who’d returned.”
He refers to “a” shooter not “the” shooter implying there were more than one. He even thought the police officers were the shooters. But clearly he misunderstood why they were there. And the CBC article also cited the witness who saw two attackers and repeated the Radio-Canada story.
The police now state there was only one shooter. Yet the police statement from the Surete de Quebec on January 30 said, “The Surete de Quebec confirms that only one of the individuals arrested yesterday evening is connected with the attack in Quebec and is considered a suspect.” That does not exclude other attackers and does not say that Bissonnette is the only attacker. Now the press are quoting witnesses saying there was one attacker but the police state they have two long guns used in the crime. Witnesses described them as AK 47’s. They also say that a shooter also used a 9 mm pistol after his rifle jammed. The 9mm could hold 15 rounds and since more than 20 people were shot the question of two shooters does not go away.
What is the motive? Not a word on that from anyone though the media is heavy with speculation it is because of alleged right wing views. But many people in Quebec and Canada share these opinions. This is not evidence. If it was Bissonnette, was this a hate attack against Muslims and if so how did this come about? If it wasn’t, is he insane so that now he is arrested we no longer need worry? Very different scenarios cause different reactions and consequences. But we are left with the word “terrorism” as if saying it explains things. Where and how did he or they get the automatic weapons they used? Was CSIS, the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service aware of any of this developing? If not, why not?
Who benefits from this crime? We know that President Trump issued an executive order banning entry of Muslims from certain countries on Friday. The Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau, in reaction to the Trump travel ban, stated on Saturday,
“To those fleeing persecution, terror and war, Canadians will welcome you, regardless of faith. Diversity is our strength.”
One day later, on Sunday, came the message in the form of the attack that Muslims better forget Canada as a safe place to be. So, was there a political objective? If so, was it to damage Trump through the murder of innocents? Was it to slap down Trudeau and damage Canada’s reputation? Will it be another in a long string of such incidents the past few years which have been used to excuse even more draconian security laws and loss of civil rights and freedoms?
The anti-Trump media, political opponents and commentators are using it to link Trump to right wing murderers, while Trump has tried to use it to call for more security and offered Canada the help of American security services.
The Canadian media are in a frenzy putting out stories about Canada as a welcoming country that is horrified by this crime and condemning violence against Muslims. The only thing the public knows is that we do not know the whole story.
But the massacre in Quebec City was not the only massacre that took place on that Sunday. That same day American special forces invaded Yemen and carried out a series of “raids,” in reality a series of invasions of a sovereign country to kill its citizens. One of these raids was against a man they claim was a “suspected Al-Qaeda leader” their code phrase for anyone they want out of the way in the Middle East, since Al-Qaeda does not exist; it is just a label attached to any group in the middle east that resists US hegemony, or in Yemen, is part of the resistance to the US-UK sponsored war conducted by Saudi Arabia against Yemen.
This invasion of Yemen, an act of aggression against a member of the United Nations, was planned by President Obama and approved by President Trump, showing the seamless continuity of American imperialism. It was supposedly to “gather intelligence,” in the form of a computer hard drive. To obtain that hard drive, the Americans slaughtered dozens.
In one version in the US media, the American soldiers descended from their helicopters, surrounded a house, and then killed everyone in it. They then began to meet resistance and more violence ensued as the Yemenis tried to resist the American invaders. A US helicopter was shot down, and as is often the case with them, the Americans fired and bombed indiscriminately and killed, according to local media, 30 people including civilians, 8 women and children among them, and bombed a school, a medical facility and a mosque. It was reported that the Americans killed more people in Yemen in other raids that day.
This is a war crime under international law, a crime against humanity, to invade a country and kill its citizens who have every right to resist the attack. Yet where is the condemnation of President Obama for planning this operation and for President Trump for carrying it out? Where are the arrests of these two men and the soldiers who carried out this atrocity? Are they not as guilty as Alexandre Bissonnette, if indeed he is one of the attackers in Quebec? Why is it insignificant that Muslims are murdered in their homes and mosques in Yemen by a powerful state but a world tragedy when Muslims are murdered in a mosque in Canada?
Yet, as the Surete de Quebec and the other Canadian police forces and intelligence agencies carry out their activities to determine what happened in Quebec City and as the Canadian and world media put out wall to wall coverage of the massacre in Canada, the same media do nothing more than regret the death and wounding of the American murderers who carried out the massacre in Yemen and excuse this mass slaughter while the prosecutor of the ICC sits at her desk and wonders why she and the court she represents have become totally irrelevant to what seems to be a hopeless quest to prevent war crimes and the wars from which they arise and which have led directly to the crimes in Canada and Yemen.
Christopher Black is an international criminal lawyer based in Toronto. He is known for a number of high-profile war crimes cases and recently published his novel “Beneath the Clouds. He writes essays on international law, politics and world events, especially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.”