Thursday, June 21, 2007

Afghanistan On the Map and Elsewhere

On Thursday night, Afghanistan was the focus of CBC's new pilot, On the Map with Avi Lewis. All previously aired episodes are viewable in their (commercial-free) entirety. Check the archives. One of the segments focussed on the evolving counter-narcotics strategy in Afghanistan, where the U.S. is trying to fashion a 'Plan Afghanistan' drug war akin to Plan Colombia. Lewis takes a hawkish former assistant secretary of defense, Andre Hollis to task. Lewis also made NATO's Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer squirm. He was in Canada to speak at a meeting of political and economic elites during the Conference of Montreal, and to promote the Afghanistan Adventure. One of several high- level speakers, de Hoop Scheffer - who George W. Bush called "a strong advocate of fighting terror" when they met in Crawford, Texas last month - used the occasion to plant the seed for Canada's extending its mandate beyond the February 2009 date that was narrowly approved by Parliament last year. Said de Hoop Scheffer:

"Given the facts, I think more time is necessary to create those conditions for reconstruction and development to go on and proceed ... that will not be the end of it...That is a message to Canadians, as much as to the Dutch, or to the Danes or to the Norwegians. It's a message I have for all my allied friends in the alliance and for the partners alike."
With Parliament now recessed for the Summer, de Hoop Scheffer has left us with a cliffhanger: will the Harper government attempt to extend the mission when the next 'season' returns?

- As part of the grassroots element of the military's latest PR offensive, the Quebec-based Vandoos, set to ship of to Afghanistan soon, took part in a pro-war rally in Quebec City on Thursday. It would seem, now that the hockey playoffs are over, the Canadian Forces public relations team has transitioned to the CFL as a propaganda tool, as CTV explains:
More than 2,000 soldiers from Quebec's CFB Valcartier gathered in Montreal on Thursday night, to hold a tailgate party and watch the local CFL team play against the Toronto Argonauts...The event was meant to drum up flagging support for Canada's mission in Afghanistan...
- The "decal debacle" as it has been dubbed, ended in Toronto Mayor David Miller's 'about-face,' resulting in a unanimous 39-0 vote (with significant abstentions) to keep the "yellow ribbons" on Toronto's emergency vehicles. The Toronto Star reported:

"The biggest single thing for me was the deaths of the three members of the military this morning,'' Miller told reporters yesterday, adding he had "reflected'' on that before changing his mind.
The views of one abstainer were reported, with the now-obligatory, 'but I support the troops' qualifier:
Councillor Janet Davis, who said Tuesday she doesn't believe city vehicles should be used to "promote political messages,'' was present for the first vote but absented herself for the second. She later said she supports Canadian soldiers, but not extending the ribbon campaign.
- 'Support the troops' hysteria spilled over into Quebec politics when "Anti-war sentiment spilled on to the floor of the Quebec National Assembly Wednesday." The Globe & Mail reported:
when a group of officers from the Royal 22nd Regiment, known as the Vandoos, stood to be greeted in the public gallery, a handful of Parti Québécois MNAs refused to stand and applaud, sparking anger and a heated debate in the National Assembly.
- Since the media ignored it the other day when the National Defence Committee tabled their report, the NDP separately issued their 12-page "dissenting opinion," which they have dubbed a new "action plan for Afghanistan ."

We'll have a look at the Committee report, as well as the NDP and other dissenting reports, over the weekend...

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