Monday, February 25, 2008

What are we doing in Afghanistan?

If you've had the chance to listen to various Conservatives on the floor on Monday speaking to their government's motion to extend the mission until 2011, you would assume that Canada wields a tremendous amount of power over the future of that country and that, as the Veterans Affair minister, Greg Thompson, stated (vilely) that those who oppose the extension are friends of the Taliban and enemies of our Canadian troops. Yes, he even repeated the smear (in the guise of hearing it from soldiers who live in his riding) that the NDP leader, Jack Layton, has been nicknamed "Taliban Jack". Speaking not long after that, Peter MacKay backed up Thompson's insults, feigning outrage to the point where he almost needed a fainting couch and a cold compress for his forehead. MacKay continued to hurl his insults at Alexa McDonough as she had the floor to the extent that she had to ask the chair to call for order.

This, from a government that vowed to restore dignity to the house.

But that's not my main point.

Last week, the British government admitted its part in torture flights at the behest of the US government. Today, a former member of the SAS revealed that:

Hundreds of Iraqis and Afghans captured by British and American special forces were rendered to prisons where they faced torture...
Ben Griffin said individuals detained by SAS troops in a joint UK-US special forces taskforce had ended up in interrogation centres in Iraq, including the notorious Abu Ghraib prison, and in Afghanistan, as well as Guantánamo Bay.

As we know, the US SecDef Robert Gates has been on a tour to guilt EU countries into sending more combat troops to Afghanistan. His repeated insults haven't worked. Nor should they.

The Bush administration and the Pentagon have undermined the Afghanistan mission for years by not providing enough troops, through the use of useless contractors like DynCorp who failed to train Afghanistan's police, by its unbalanced focus on military rather than reconstruction spending and by continuing to fund Musharraf to the tune of $10 billion while he has done nothing to stop the flow of fighters from Waziristan - not to mention the horrendous human rights abuses it continues to foist on the Afghan people, as noted above. Our Veterans Affairs minister stated very clearly on the floor today that Canada "will continue to support Pakistan" unconditionally despite concerns about its massive failures. And, as this government's record shows, it prefers to cover up allegations of torture and corruption rather than dealing with it head on.

So, as much as some Canadians might want to think that our troops can actually make a difference in Afghanistan, the larger picture shows that we are being hoodwinked, indeed sabotaged, every step of the way by the US government which only recently has taken a renewed interest in this forgotten war by resorting to the tactics it knows best: bullying and intimidation. Sound familiar?

The Conservatives, however, will have none of that talk. They prefer to push the idea that we are there in a peacekeeping role; that we have to stay there or else the scary terrorists will attack us here even though the longer we're there the more we place our country at risk. They proclaim from their moral pulpit that we owe it to the Afghan people to stay there until they are safe (which, apparently, will automagically happen in 2011 according to their motion). They certainly refuse to talk about their military spending increases because that's supposed to be seen as being patriotic. They rehash numbers about how things are going in Afghanistan that are the same ones they've been using since they first came into power. They believe that only foreign intervention can save the Afghan people while they spend massive amounts of money on military hardware. How insulting. They insist that Canada is such a great country that it can make all the difference there. What they fail to explain is how that's possible when our allies are detaining, torturing and killing innocent people.

That's the question that needs to be asked in all of this. The rest is just moot, empty rhetoric.


Since the Conservatives like to talk about how far Afghan women have supposedly come, I thought I'd provide this link to The Plight of the Afghan Woman for a realistic look at what they still face despite the fact that foreign forces have been in Afghanistan to "help" them for more than 6 years now.

No comments:

Post a Comment