Friday, June 22, 2007

25 more civilians killed; war debate heats up in Quebec

More of the same from Afghanistan: News is in that another NATO bombing killed 25 civilians. The attack occurred in the Helmand province. A NATO spokesman blamed the Taliban for provoking the strike. The International Herald Tribue article on these latest civilian casualties of the war in Afghanistan also reported on criticism of NATO made by a number of humanitarian groups working in the country:

"Earlier this week, Acbar - a coalition of Afghan and international relief agencies such as CARE, Save the Children and Mercy Corps - criticized the United States and its allies, saying that hasty military action led to a minimum of 230 civilian deaths in 2007."

Meanwhile, on the home front of this war...

The battle for "hearts and minds" heated up in Quebec, as anti-war groups prepared to stage a protest to coincide with a military parade through Quebec City. A spokesperson for the anti-war activists stated, "When we found out there was a military parade, we decided it would be a good opportunity to show the population, the military and politicians the opposition to this mission."

Earlier this month, activists mailed 3000 letters to military families urging soldiers to refuse to take part in the Afghan war. The letters read in part:

For several months you’ve been preparing for your mission to Afghanistan, and you will be leaving shortly for Kandahar. During your training, you’ve been told again and again that your mission is to stabilize Afghanistan, to win the hearts and minds of Afghans, to liberate women, and to establish democracy. We are writing this letter to offer you a dissenting point-of-view about your deployment that we hope will prompt you to reconsider your participation.

The Afghan people have never attacked Canada or Qu├ębec, and had nothing to do with the attacks of September 11, 2001. Still, Defence Minister Gordon O’Connor -- who used to work as a lobbyist for corporations and public relations firms who profit from war – recently stated that your presence in Afghanistan is “retribution” for 9-11. [Edmonton Journal, January 21, 2007]

The Canadian government defends its involvement in Afghanistan in the name of women’s liberation. However, the Afghani government that you are defending is comprised of warlords who are just as brutal in their treatment of women as the former Taliban regime. In the words of the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA):

“The corrupt and mafia government of Mr. Karzai and its international guardians, are playing shamelessly with the intolerable suffering of Afghan women and misuse it as their propaganda tool for deceiving the people of the world. They have placed some women into official posts in the government who are favored by the warlords and then proclaim it as symbol of "women's liberation" in the country.” [RAWA Statement on International Women’s Day, March 8, 2007,]

Your deployment in Afghanistan means complicity with the civilian deaths and other activities – like the transfer of prisoners to potential torture and death – that are tantamount to war crimes; here are some examples:

- this past April, US airstrikes killed at least 57 civilians in Herat Province, more than half of who were women and children [International Herald Tribune, May 12 2007];
- earlier, in Nangarhar Province, another 19 civilians, including an infant, were killed indiscriminately by US troops, who forced journalists to erase their videotapes of the incident [CBC News, March 4, 2007].

To read the full letter visit the Valcartier 2007 website.

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