Margolis on Why Afghanistan is a Martyr NationMargolis says that former deputy prime minister Sheila Copps revealed that the white House had phoned and given the Canadian government a choice between Iraq and Afghanistan. This either adds to our knowledge of how Canada ended up in Afghanistan, or it goes beyond the available evidence.
October 29 2008
Q: Do you think we are in a long war with Islam?
No, I don't. The world of Islam and the West are certainly at loggerheads now, but it's not an irreversible trend, it's not inevitable and it can be ended...
Westerners don't realize it, but the West exercises an imperial control over much of the Muslim world.... We rule the Muslim world just the way the British ruled India. That's why my book is called American Raj, raj being the imperial rule.
What we call terrorism is actually the natives fighting back, what the British used to call the 'cost of empire.'
The anger in the Muslim world is not, like Bush said, because they hate what we believe. Freedom. That's bullshit. The anger is directed at what the West has been doing for the last 150 years...and at specific political questions starting with Palestine...
[Q: How did Canada get involved?]
"The U.S. dragooned it allies into the war. [Former Liberal deputy prime minister] Sheila Copps told us on TVO. She said the White House called and said 'Send troops to Afghanistan or Iraq, or don't ship anything across the border.' It was that kind of crude pressure...
Q: You're a military historian. Can the West hold Afghanistan?
"No. One of my maxims is 'never fight a war against people who live in the country you are fighting in.' Eventually they know you're going to go home. The Afghans are very happy to fight for 100 years. They really enjoy fighting.
"We can bomb the crap out of Afghanistan, as we're doing. It's really a terror campaign. Any village that's accused of harbouring Taliban is bombed by the U.S. (link)
My guess is the latter, as Margolis seems to make a habit of going beyond the evidence. For instance, he says that the Taliban "used to be our freedom fighters." This is a repetition of the fallacy that the Taliban are merely mujahidin with a new leader (Mullah Omar). While it is known that some early Taliban were former mujahidin, it is also the case that the Taliban at an early point in their development welcomed into their ranks many Pashtuns who were former communist army officers of the Khalq faction. (See William Maley, Fundamentalism Reborn, pp. 15, 54.) Thus, it's probably just as accurate to say that the Taliban "used to be the Soviet Union's freedom fighters."
Returning to Margolis' claim about the call from the White House, I can't find a transcript or video of Copps' appearance on TVO, but here is how Copps is quoted in Stein and Lang's instant classic, The Unexpected War:
"I was at the [Liberal government's cabinet meeting of Feb 4, 2003] when the decision was made, and there were two theatres playing out. One was in Iraq and the other was in Afghanistan and we deliberately made a decision to go to Afghanistan because we knew very shortly down the road we would be asked to participate in a US-led invasion of Iraq which we did not want to do and this was a neat political way of squaring the problem... of Canada-US relations. (Stein and Lang, pp 67-68.)In the Stein and Lang book, neither Copps nor anyone else claims that the White House called and offered any such choice. Indeed, later revelations indicated that the US preferred not to have Canada in the Iraq war at all.