March 14, 2008

[Desperation] A Case for Withdrawal

Recently, a government-mandated commission led by John Manley was asked to prepare a report on Canada's role in Afghanistan and proposals for Canada's future role there. Canada has now effectively been engaged in a war there for six years, and the Manley report has called for an extension of Canada's mission until 2011 (provided NATO kicks in more support for the mission).

As a result, a vote was passed in the House of Commons, in which the Conservatives and the Liberals colluded to extend the mission in Afghanistan, despite the fact that the WAR VIOLATES INTERNATIONAL LAW - as carefully explained by Linda McQuaig in Holding the Bully's Coat.

This war is a travesty, and we Canadians are responsible. We have the death of our own soldiers and 40,000 Afghans on our hands. Since the Canadian mission in Canada plays a huge relief role for the American military, we are implicitly contributing to the Iraq war as well.

The whole idea of our commitment to "international development" there is a total farce. Further, the war is simply being lost, as the Taliban acquires more support against the NATO forces who are seen as foreign invaders.

We have to stop this. I've been meaning to write about Afghanistan, but it takes time to put all the important points together - so I'm still working on it. In the meantime, many others have done an excellent job, so I am posting two good articles on Afghanistan here, below.

I dare anyone to read through this and still claim that Canada has any legitimate purpose there! There's just nothing good about this war, nothing to be gained by it, and all of the arguments in favour of staying there are exposed as pure lies.


by Joel Harden

"Courage, my friends, we can still make a better world"
The above quotation comes from Tommy Douglas, former CCF/NDP leader and
longtime peace activist.

It reminds us why we must march, rally, and educate ourselves about
Canada's mission impossible in Afghanistan.

It reminds us why this Saturday marks an important moment in stopping
this war, and truly helping the people of Afghanistan.

We need courage to challenge the bluster of Canada's warmongers, and the
politicians who support them.

Let's face it: Canada's war in Afghanistan is already over. This war
will end in 2009, but not due to any wisdom from the federal government.
It is already a failure and a majority of Canadians know it.

Western reconstruction operations in Afghanistan are a farce. Following
a time-honoured pattern, most of this money leaves in the briefcases of
foreign contractors.

As an aide to Hamid Karzai recently told a Quebec reporter, "the
international community has injected $19 billion into Afghanistan. About
95% of that leaves the country... non-governmental organizations employ
540 foreigners who earn from $5000 ton $35,000 per month. The last
elections cost $395 million. It was the foreigners who organized them,
and the kept the money for themselves."

The balance of "reconstruction" money goes to drug-running warlords who
call the shots in the current Afghan government. These thugs – many of
whom terrorized Afghans in the early 1990s – build mansions for
themselves and their friends, and get NATO to guard their compounds.

Poverty in Afghanistan is at record levels. As foreign contractors
clinked beers in Kabul, a thousand people froze to death this winter.

A million pounds in bombs were dropped on Afghanistan in 2007, and
40,000 Afghans have died since 2001. Not surprisingly, Afghan resistance
to the occupation is growing. Hamid Karzai, in reality, is the Mayor of
East Kabul. No doctored poll by U.S.-government funded agencies can
honestly say otherwise.

Still, after yesterday's vote on the Afghan mission, Stephen Harper will
likely crow about "staying the course." He'll go to NATO with a fistful
of political nerve, claiming widespread support for Canada's so-called
"war on terror."

No doubt, some will throw up their hands and insist that protest doesn't
matter. Polls indicate 61 percent of Canadians are opposed to extending
Canada's war in Afghanistan, but that wasn't reflected in yesterday's
House of Commons vote.

But a funny thing happened yesterday in Harper's pre-fabricated
democracy. Regular people, like you and me, showed up to serve notice
that we will stop this war. We demonstrated that an ounce of bottom-up
activism can challenge the mightiest of bullies.

The Commons galleries erupted in anti-war chanting. Soon after the
Tories voted, "End it, don't extend it!" was heard throughout the
building. Our chanting could even be heard as we were shepherded into
the halls by security.

Dion and Harper were stunned. They didn't expect this intrusion of
democracy. They didn't think us plebes would storm into their "palace,"
and point out that the Emperor has no clothes.

My friends, this Emperor's been naked for years, and their "palace"
belongs to all of us. Let's get on with the task of telling others. This
Saturday, we'll rally, we'll march, and we'll educate ourselves. We'll
build the support and capacity needed for our message of peace.

As veterans from the Vietnam War will attest, peace activism is about
persistence, and appealing to the hearts and minds of Canadians.

Courage my friends: we can, and we will, stop this war.

See you on the streets tomorrow!

There are over 20 cities and towns holding anti-war rallies this weekend
as part of the World Against War days of action. rabbletv will be
bringing you coverage, include a live webcast of the Toronto rally,
right here at from 1:00p.m. to 6:00p.m. EST on Saturday, March

Joel Harden is a member of the Ottawa Peace Assembly.


by Rick Salutin

February 22, 2008
Here are some thoughts for the coming parliamentary debate on
Afghanistan. Consider it the unManley report.

Why are we there? Tom Axworthy, summing up the Manley panel's reasons
for Canada's military mission, says: "The Taliban's return would
threaten regional peace and security; the UN has sanctified the mission;
NATO is committed; and Canada should help failed states." Those are
sentences, not reasons. Here's panel member Derek Burney: "Canada is a
G8 member and, as such, is expected to engage internationally, serving
global organizations to which we belong in a manner befitting our
responsibility ..."

It's sheer pomposity: "sanctified," "befitting." Why are we there? We're
there because we're there. That's it. We went for various reasons. Now
the heavy hitters want us to stay. Because we're already there.

But won't NATO come apart if it doesn't pull this off? So what? Why
shouldn't NATO go back to the North Atlantic, where it's from, and be a
defence alliance, which it was? If that no longer makes sense, let it
disband. Why look for work in places like Kosovo and Afghanistan? What
about saving failed states? This is one of those phrases (like civil
society) that entered public discourse suddenly, and has made mischief
ever since.

All states fail to some degree. Why is it our task to grade this one and
get its marks up? If there's a specific problem, like incubating terror
cells, then take some useful half-measures. Pursue and isolate the
terrorists, cordon off the hot spots and don't think you can solve
everything. There's an arrogance in "nation-building," another dicey
phrase. Send the NATO forces home and let them nation-build there. Life
is mostly half-measures.

"Without security, there can be no development": Wrong, but I know it
sounds right. The problem is, security in this case means occupation by
foreign troops, which doesn't work well anywhere, especially
Afghanistan. First "we" invade and depose their government, which had at
least provided security. Then we impose a government that "invites" us
in (where we already are) and survives only with our support. Our
presence inspires resistance and recruitment to the Taliban or al-Qaeda,
which revive. (Al-Qaeda in Iraq didn't exist till the U.S. invasion; now
it exports to al-Qaeda in Afghanistan.) The more resistance, the more we
the occupiers have to fight, and opposition grows.

This week, bombs killed many civilians in the "Canadian" area. A
district leader said it was the worst day of his life: "What was secure
has now become insecure." This kind of security creates insecurity. Aid,
in turn, is stymied. A recent UN report says general indicators such as
human development and poverty have worsened since 2004.

What about helping women? Isn't that a good idea? Well, the situation
for women was astronomically better under the Soviet-backed government
in the 1980s before "our side" created the mujahedeen, who threw out the
Soviets, assailed women and were, in turn, ousted by the Taliban, who we
then defeated, installing warlords and clerics in their place. No
lasting developmental good has come from foreign occupation; people
there have learned this. They aren't irrational, they're observant.

Can anything be done? Possibly. But it would take a local political
peace, brokered by regional powers such as Pakistan, India and Iran —
not Lithuanians and Canadians. Then the well-meaning Canadians,
including the military, could do their good works, rather than inspire

Those dumb voters: Despite the Harper taunt that Canadians don't cut and
run, and the Manley plea not to shirk our noble international blah blah,
61 per cent still think our troops should leave. Why lecture them about
why they're wrong, instead of assuming they know what they want?
Stéphane Dion says nobody wants an election on Afghanistan. Count me
out. I'd love it.

Originally published in The Globe and Mail, Rick Salutin's column
"The best progressive ideas are those that include a strong enough dose
of provocation to make its supporters feel proud of being original, but
at the same time, altered so many adherents that the risk of being an
isolated exception is immediately averted by the noisy approval of a
triumphant crowd".

1 comment:

  1. And just to add to this database of proof as to how the Afghanistan mission is a failure, check out the recent report by ACBAR (Agency Coordinating Body for Afghan Relief), which points out how virtually none of the industrialized countries are meeting their aid pledges in Afghanistan (except Italy!). Check out the report at ACBAR Press Release