Editorial: Afghanistan for Afghans
As Canada’s involvement in the Afghanistan war nears its seventh year, serious questions about what exactly Canada is doing in the country are long overdue. But the Manley commission’s report, released last week, doesn’t address them. In fact, nothing but an endorsement of the mission could have been expected from the Commission, stacked as it was with Liberal and Conservative hawks more attuned to Washington’s needs than those of the Afghan people.
Manley’s commission essentially offers a seal of approval to continued counter-insurgency beyond 2009, on the condition that Stephen Harper demand NATO pony up 1,000 more troops. This is empty posturing on Manley’s part, since the US has already promised 3,200 extra Marines for Afghanistan, and could manage 1,000 more. But pitching more troops into battle will not change anything – with the insurgency gathering strength throughout the south, the war will not be winnable, as previous occupiers of Afghanistan know well.
Many Canadians remain confused about the goals of the mission. Some may think Canada is fighting so Afghan boys can fly kites and women go without burqas. Others think we’re doing our part in the “war against terror.” But the deployment of massive amounts of violence in foreign countries, against the will of their people, has only generated massive increases in global terrorism. Then there’s the reassuring popular distinction between the current Middle East wars: Afghanistan, good; Iraq, bad. In truth, both wars are part of the same disastrous and immoral U.S.-led mission to reshape the region to suit its geo-strategic interests. Canada is playing the role of junior partner, with Canadian troop presence in Afghanistian freeing up American troops to fight in Iraq.
The mainstream media’s uncritical coverage – limited to discussion about military tactics and minimal criticism about the conduct of the occupation – has been a huge disservice to Canadians. There has been little discussion of perhaps the most serious aspect of the war: that it was an illegal invasion, not sanctioned by the United Nations. For those who think international law should hold the U.S.’s awesome military power in check, the Afghanistan war has entrenched a dangerous precedent.
The Karzai government and members of the Taliban insurgency have been conducting informal negotiations for some time, despite the Canadian government rejection’s of the idea. The negotiations shouldn’t surprise anyone: going by their attitudes toward women, democracy, and human rights, there is not a great deal of difference between the Karzai regime – whose membership includes drug lords and war lords who rule with a Constitution informed by Sharia law – and the Taliban. Canadians should be listening to courageous voices like Malai Joya’s, the 29-year-old former Afghan parliamentarian who has narrowly escaped assassination attempts and was suspended from the Afghan parliament for condemning the Northern Alliance war criminals empowered by the NATO occupation. She has appealed to Canadians to stop propping up an undemocratic government, and to instead support genuine democratic movements in the country.
Even if we took the Canadian government’s word that the aim of the Afghanistan mission is to help Afghans, the achievements are paltry indeed. Reconstruction has been an abysmal failure. Aid money, miniscule in any case compared to military spending, has enriched Western companies that spend it on corporate overhead, shoddy construction, and out-sourcing, or it has been siphoned off by the corrupt Afghan government.
It’s true there have been some improvements in infrastructure, children’s access to education, and women’s rights, mainly in areas with NATO troops. But the same could have been said of the Soviet occupation that preceded NATO’s – and no one in the West justified the Soviet invasion and its brutal occupation, which cost thousands of lives, much like NATO’s has. There are many ways that Canadian could genuinely assist developing countries – and without going to war to do so.
Though the needs of ordinary Afghans never entered the calculations of Western countries when they first invaded, these countries could entertain them now: by negotiating a permanent ceasefire and a troop withdrawal, under U.N. or regional auspices. (link)