Archive for the ‘Afghanistan’ Category

Three months before Canada announced it would remain in Afghanistan to train troops, the Afghan National Army announced “it reached the benchmark strength of 134,000 soldiers two months ahead of schedule.”  (Big hat tip to Dr. Dawg and Prof. Amir Attaran) Another NATO document reports great strides in training and operational capability. With most, if not all of the heavy lifting in the training department accomplished, what will our Canadian troops have to do? It turns out, we’ve been buying Afghan real estate. Really expensive real estate.

According to the National Post, Foreign Affairs Canada has been on a real estate spending spree,with a “410% increase in its spending on real estate and capital works since Prime Minister Stephen Harper came to power.”

Afghan real estate has been a high priority. Last year, Foreign Affairs spent $24.5 million on real estate or renovations in Afghanistan; the year before, Afghan real estate cost us $23.6 million. According to the National Post,

“Much of the money is being spent on Canada’s chancery in Kabul. Public accounts reports show an estimated $18.5 million of the spending over the past two years is related to the chancery, including architectural work, construction-site development, mine clearing, a seismic upgrade and installation of an elevator. Another $14.3 million was spent on buying staff quarters and additional chancery spaces in Kabul. Canada paid Afghanistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs $11.7 million for land in Kabul. And $1.7 million went to Canada’s Defence Department to buy additional offices and accommodations in Kandahar in 2008-09.”
With investments like these, do you think they ever intend to leave?

This, just in, from the Canadian Peace Alliance . . .

On November 18, Call your MP and the Party Leaders and demand…. Don’t Extend It. End It.

The Conservative government, with the support of the Liberals are about to extend Canada’s war in Afghanistan. The Prime Minster says there is no need to debate the issue. Evidently he believes that keeping 1000 Canadian troops in Afghanistan, at a cost of $3 billion and against the will of 80 per cent of Canadians is an issue that needs no further discussion.

Stephen Harper is expected to announce the details of the extension of the Canadian deployment at the this week. He needs to hear from you!

Let the Prime Minister and the Party Leaders know that Canadians are against any extension of the war in Afghanistan and want the troops brought home now.

What can you do?

1- Join the virtual march on Ottawa this Thursday November 18. Phone, E-mail, fax and write your your MP and the Party leaders and call on them to end the war.

Step 1
Just cut and paste the following e-mails into the address line: ,,,

Step 2
Find the e-mail for your MP at:

Step 3
Send your e-mail. Please let us know about your efforts by cc’ing

Step 4
Call the party leaders and cabinet ministers.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper:
Telephone: (613) 992-4211

Foreign Minister, Lawrence Cannon:
Telephone: (819) 441-2510

Gilles Duceppe:
Telephone: (613) 992-6779

Michael Ignatieff:
Telephone: (613) 995-9364

Jack Layton:
Telephone: (613) 995-7224

2- Organize emergency actions in your town. There are a number of groups planning emergency rallies and pickets. In Toronto there will be mass leafleting on November 20 at 1 pm at Dundas Square. In Ottawa there will be a picket at Stephen Harper’s office at 1 pm on the 20th. In many other cities, people are hitting the streets with Don’t Extend It. postcards and petitions.

3- Write letters to the editor of your local newspaper. Please keep in mind that letters to the editor should be less than 200 words and must be accompanied by your contact information.

Points to consider in your letters and calls:

– Civilian and military casualties are at record levels in Afghanistan. Even with 150,000 troops, the resistance has a heavy presence in most of the country. There is no indication that this will get better with the new extension. In fact, all indicators point to a deteriorating situation that is not being helped with more troops.

– Women’s rights are still being eroded by the NATO backed government and the majority of reconstruction funds disappear into the pockets of Afghan officials and western development agencies.

– The government that Canada supports in Afghanistan is a corrupt warlord led government that hangs onto power through fraudulent “elections”.

– The extension of the war is expected to cost Canadians at least $3 billion according to Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page.

– The notion that Canada can stay in a non-combat role is not true. If our soldiers are training Afghan troops they will still be in harm’s way.

Our Prime Minister continues to promote the fiction that the 9/11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington justified the illegal invasion of Afghanistan and that Canada’s participation in the occupation is about preventing terrorists from harming Canadians.

Gov. Gen. Michaëlle Jean says she is saddened that there is any debate at all over whether Canada should be helping the country’s less fortunate. (Memo to MJ:  Canada is still a democracy, eh. We do debate these things – war and such – from time to time!)

Canadian entertainer Bruce Cockburn was part of a group of entertainers who performed at a forward operating base in the Panjwaii district of Afghanistan on Thursday, Sept. 10, 2009. After Cockburn sung If I Had a Rocket Launcher Gen. Jonathan Vance jokingly presented him with a rocket launcher of his own.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Bill Graveland

And Bruce Cockburn, arguably one of Canada’s most talented and radical singer-songwriters, was presented (briefly) with a rocket launcher the other day following his performance for Canadian troops.

Of the three stories, the last one was the least expected and the most heart-breaking. For Cockburn, the humanitarian, to lend his name and talent to this occupation, was a huge disappointment. He’s always struck me as an intelligent, well-informed, no-bullshit kinda guy.

Contrast his joshing around with the Canadian general who loaned him the rocket launcher with the man who wrote “Call it Democracy.”

Call it Democracy

by Bruce Cockburn

Padded with power here they come
International loan sharks backed by the guns
Of market hungry military profiteers
Whose word is a swamp and whose brow is smeared
With the blood of the poor

Who rob life of its quality
Who render rage a necessity
By turning countries into labour camps
Modern slavers in drag as champions of freedom

Sinister cynical instrument
Who makes the gun into a sacrament —
The only response to the deification
Of tyranny by so-called “developed” nations’
Idolatry of ideology

North South East West
Kill the best and buy the rest
It’s just spend a buck to make a buck
You don’t really give a flying fuck
About the people in misery

IMF dirty MF
Takes away everything it can get
Always making certain that there’s one thing left
Keep them on the hook with insupportable debt

See the paid-off local bottom feeders
Passing themselves off as leaders
Kiss the ladies shake hands with the fellows
Open for business like a cheap bordello

And they call it democracy
And they call it democracy
And they call it democracy
And they call it democracy

See the loaded eyes of the children too
Trying to make the best of it the way kids do
One day you’re going to rise from your habitual feast
To find yourself staring down the throat of the beast
They call the revolution

IMF dirty MF
Takes away everything it can get
Always making certain that there’s one thing left
Keep them on the hook with insupportable debt

Has Cockburn switched sides? Does he now practise the “idolatry of ideology” peddled by the Harpers and Jeans in our country whose actions and words make all Canadians complicit in murder?

Has he joined the “International loan sharks backed by the guns/ Of market hungry military profiteers/ Whose word is a swamp and whose brow is smeared/ With the blood of the poor”?

Has he forgotten why he wrote “If I had a rocket launcher“? Did he appreciate the irony of performing it to part of an invading army whose airstrikes are precisely the kind of outrage that inspired his song?

If I had a rocket launcher

by Bruce Cockburn

Here comes the helicopter — second time today
Everybody scatters and hopes it goes away
How many kids they’ve murdered only God can say
If I had a rocket launcher…I’d make somebody pay

I don’t believe in guarded borders and I don’t believe in hate
I don’t believe in generals or their stinking torture states
And when I talk with the survivors of things too sickening to relate
If I had a rocket launcher…I would retaliate

On the Rio Lacantun, one hundred thousand wait
To fall down from starvation — or some less humane fate
Cry for guatemala, with a corpse in every gate
If I had a rocket launcher…I would not hesitate

I want to raise every voice — at least I’ve got to try
Every time I think about it water rises to my eyes.
Situation desperate, echoes of the victims cry
If I had a rocket launcher…Some son of a bitch would die

Which side are you on, Bruce? What were you thinking?

In the meantime, let’s lighten up a bit with another guy’s 9/11 musings. Deek Jackson is not as polished, musically, as Bruce Cockburn, but you’ll want to sing along. (Warning: This video contains lots of vulgar language and gallows humour – which is part of its charm.)

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.