Jerry West / Rabble.ca – 2006-03-11 09:49:10
CANADA (March 10, 2006) — What are we doing in Afghanistan? That is a question that many Canadians don’t have a good answer for. Recent polls have shown that the country is almost evenly divided on the question of whether or not we should have troops in Afghanistan.
The government, of course, thinks that we should, and is resisting any attempt by Members of Parliament to have a debate on our Afghanistan policy. What are they afraid of? You would think in a democracy debate on important issues would be a good thing.
Some people say that we are in Afghanistan as part of our commitment to the so called war on terror, others say it is to appease the Americans for ducking out on the Iraq war. If you listen to some of our military leaders we are there to kill “scumbags,” and we will be there for 20 years.
For whatever reason we are there it is costing us big bucks, not to mention the lives of our soldiers, and we must be asking ourselves if the adventure is worth the price, particularly when we have many problems at home that could better use the resources we are pouring down the drain in support of the world’s leading producer of opium.
In recent news articles military leaders have indicated that troops returning from Afghanistan will be used for public relations stunts to convince the public of the importance of the mission. Their rhetoric sounds more appropriate for a pep rally prior to a sporting event than for something as important as war. They don’t want the mission debated because they say it will be bad for the troops. Such statements are an insult to people of a democracy.
And, what is worse for the troops, society debating whether a policy is worth pursuing or not, or society just docilely standing by as they are led off into what may well be a quagmire?
One wonders if our leaders ever bother to study history. Afghanistan has been a meat grinder for foreign meddlers for centuries. The British lost two out of three wars there during the time of Empire, and the Russians spent about ten years there before they tired of bleeding and pulled out.
To date the Americans and their subordinates have spent almost five years in the country, still dying with the annual death rate increasing, and we are told to expect 20 years more. Twenty years for what is a question that needs to be seriously debated. How much should the Canadian people be expected to sacrifice, and what are the reasons? These are answers that we should have and agree upon before this commitment is continued.
It is simple to look on the adventure in Afghanistan as merely a response to the terrorist attacks of 9/11, or a noble mission to rid the country of religious radicals, but nothing is ever that simple in reality. Today’s villains in Afghanistan are yesterday’s heroes, at least for the United States. And, yesterday’s villains, whose demise was financed by the US, were modernizing the country and expanding human rights, something that we now list as a reason for being involved there.
Perhaps if the Americans had not opposed the Russians who were helping the pre- Taliban government fight off the religious fruitcakes and warlords we would not have such a mess there now. Unfortunately human rights is only an issue of convenience for countries like the US, to use when it fits their bigger purpose, or to ignore when it does not.
Afghanistan today is certainly no shining example of human rights. To claim protecting human rights as a policy of the occupation of Afghanistan is certainly a joke. Sources report that for women outside of Kabul things may be worse now than under the Taliban. Religious laws still receive official sanction in some areas, and blasphemy is still a crime.
Add to this the fact that the US has been accused of torturing prisoners, accused even by its own troops, and maintains secret concentration camps. It is no wonder that the US refuses to join the international community in its stand against war crimes and war criminals by signing onto the International Criminal Court. Another question that should be debated is how can Canada in good conscience, as a signatory to the court, cooperate with a rogue state like the US which is not a signatory.
Nations pursue foreign policies for wealth and power, either to get more of it or to protect it from somebody else who is trying to take it. The bottom line in Afghanistan, as in Iraq and any other place that armies clash, is all about who gets what. To find the answers as to why countries do things, follow the money. The invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq are about control of resources on one hand, and about the business of war on the other.
Military expenditures and even foreign aid are tools to transfer money from a country’s citizens to the international providers of arms and services like Halliburton and others. It would be interesting to compare the supporters of the adventure in Afghanistan with those who stand to profit from it, and the politicians that they bankroll. That is certainly a comparison that should be examined publicly by Parliament, but don’t hold your breath.
Jerry West is the editor of The Record, an independent, progressive newspaper published every other Wednesday in Gold River, British Columbia. His columns regularly appear in rabble.ca.
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