Afghanistan: Operation Enduring Shame

Posted: November 27, 2006 in Afghanistan, War
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Two more Canadian soldiers were reported killed in a suicide bombing today in Afghanistan, bringing our death toll to 44.

Ever the optimist, Brig.-Gen. Timothy Grant, commander of Canadian Forces in Afghanistan, was quoted as saying that “It (the suicide attack) drives home the point that Canadian troops here have been very successful and that the Taliban cannot defeat us militarily in the field.”

Actually, General Grant, it brings home the fact that people are dying to kick us out of Afghanistan. Whether or not “Operation Enduring Freedom” (the name applied by the United States at the outset of its invasion in 2001) succeeds, Canadian participation cannot be justified.

Why is Canada in Afghanistan? Why have we been the third largest contributor to the invasion (surpassed by Britain, and of course the United States). The Canadian government says Canadian troops are there to “defend our national interests, combat global terrorism and help the Afghan people make a new start as a free, democratic and peaceful country.”

Whose national interests?

What national interests might we have there? Could it be that various Canadian companies are involved in the Trans Afghan Pipeline and projects to develop natural gas in Turkmenistan that would move along that pipeline?

Canada ranks among the top ten arms exporters in the world. Could it be our defense industry is benefiting? It is difficult to know. Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada publishes an annual report entitled “Export of Military Goods from Canada” but excludes statistics on military exports to the United States. Further, the most recent report available is for 2006. Let’s see now, it’s 2006. Maybe someone’s dog ate the missing ones.

Certainly the Americans appear grateful. As US Ambassador David Wilkins put it in his Oct. 31, 2006 speech to the National Defense Industrial Association in Ottawa: “The technology and the equipment you provide our military leaders and troops on the front lines of freedom are changing the course of history.”

Which terrorists?

And how, pray tell, is our presence in Afghanistan “combating terrorism?” Are the “terrorists” the ones who insist on killing Canadian troops? Forgive my naiveté, but wouldn’t it be simpler to leave the country so they wouldn’t want to kill us?

Canada’s continuing aggression in Afghanistan is more likely to inspire “terrorism” than it is to end it. It is not difficult to understand why. The invasion itself may have caused more than 20,000 deaths. (See Forgotten Victims; The Guardian Unlimited; May 20, 2002) Perhaps 3,700 people have been killed this year. (BBC News, Nov. 13, 2006)

Canada and Afghanistan have similar population statistics (approximately 33 million and 31 million respectively). Imagine how Canadians might feel and respond if someone invaded Canada and killed 20,000 to 30,000 Canadians.

Fighting for democracy?

According to our government, Canadian men and women are fighting to bring democracy to Afghanistan. How well are we doing? Not too well, it seems.

According to Human Rights Watch: “The (Sept. 15, 2005) election of a parliament completed the process initiated by the Bonn Agreement in 2001. Election day was free of serious violence or technical problems, but during the campaign period Human Rights Watch documented pervasive intimidation of voters and candidates, in particular women. Over half the members of the new parliament are linked to armed groups or have records of past human rights abuses.”

In the same report, Human Rights Watch also observes: “Despite the insurgency’s growing strength, the majority of Afghans cited the numerous regional warlords as the greatest source of insecurity. In some remote areas, there are still no real governmental structures or activity, only abuse and criminal enterprises by warlords, many of whom were brought to power with the assistance of the United States after the Taliban’s defeat. Armed clashes between rival factions decreased in 2005, but in many areas warlords and their troops continue to engage in arbitrary arrests, illegal detentions, kidnapping, extortion, torture, murder, extra judicial killings of criminal suspects, forced displacement, and rape of women, girls, and boys.”

This is not to suggest that Afghanistan was a democratic paradise prior to the 2001 invasion. It wasn’t. However, to suggest that you can export democracy on the tip of a bayonet, is naive – almost as naive as the belief that we are there for that purpose.

Canada’s reputation as a constructive, peace-loving nation is undone by our war making in Afghanistan. Sending our soldiers to kill and die for Western petroleum companies and Afghani warlords is a betrayal of our men and women in uniform and an assault on the lives and future of the Afghani people.

Let’s call it what it is – Operation Enduring Shame – and end it.

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