Monday, February 18, 2008

The road to peace

Readers may recall that in December, the government of Afghanistan kicked out two diplomats with extensive experience in that country. Michael Semple, a UN employee, was one of them. Recently he spoke with the Guardian:

We can persuade Taliban to be peaceful - expelled UN man

Henry McDonald
Saturday February 16 2008

Two-thirds of the Taliban-led insurgents in Afghanistan can be persuaded to abandon violence, according to a British aid worker expelled from the country for opening talks with some of those allied to the militant group.

... Semple defended his role in talking to elements linked to the Taliban. Until 2003 he had been a senior political adviser to the British embassy in Kabul.

... "There are many people who served with the Taliban regime who are now well-placed inside the Karzai regime or else are pillars of Afghan society. They are now living at peace with [it] even if they are critical of it, which is their right," he said.

"Our mandate was to support the government's reconciliation process - that's what we were doing in Helmand before Christmas. There is no purely military solution to the current insurgency. There isn't a serious actor in Afghanistan who says the only way forward is to fight your way out." (link)
Meanwhile, Archbishop V. James Weisgerber, President of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, has issued a statement on the war in Afghanistan. Excerpts:
Message from CCCB President: Call for a True Peace Process in Afghanistan

... One thing is certain, and that is the conviction expressed by Pope Benedict XVI "that war is the worst solution for all sides. It brings no good to anyone, not even to the apparent victors."

The people of Afghanistan want peace. We hope this conviction will be central to the deliberations by the Parliament of Canada. ...

Over the centuries, the Catholic Church has developed a rich and wise social teaching that can help inform the present discussion. I wish to suggest three points that flow from this teaching:

1. "It is hardly possible to imagine that in an atomic era, war could be used as an instrument of justice." Peace negotiations, carried out in good faith and involving all the parties concerned - this approach needs special consideration.

2. A clear distinction must be made between military operations and humanitarian aid. In particular, "humanitarian aid must reach the civilian population and must never be used to influence those receiving it." Otherwise, one endangers the lives of numerous civilians as well as those humanitarian workers who become targets for the insurgents.

3. The human dignity of Canadian soldiers must be safeguarded. Their moral integrity is brought into question when international law is not respected, especially when the troubling issue is the torture of enemy combatants. Furthermore, the personal well-being of Canadian soldiers and their families must be ensured. ... (link)
The statement comes after pointed calls for church officials to weigh in on the matter:
Bishops’ silence on Afghan war ‘a scandal’

TORONTO - Canada’s Catholic bishops are failing to lead as the nation’s troops are drawn ever deeper into a civil war in Afghanistan, KAIROS board chair Fr. Paul Hansen told The Catholic Register. “The Catholic Church has abdicated its responsibility to speak about Canada’s largest military endeavour since the Korean War,” Hansen wrote in an e-mail to The Register. ...

Hansen called the bishops’ slow deliberations on Afghanistan “a scandal.” ... (link)
One wonders how long it will take warmongers such as the Globe and Mail's Christie Blatchford to start insulting Church officials. Recall how Blatchford gloated over the "Taliban Jack" moniker placed on NDP leader Jack Layton when he had the audacity to call for negotiations to end the war. Perhaps Bishop Weisgerber could be "Taliban James", while the expelled diplomat (above) could be "Taliban Michael". A rather more difficult mouthful would be "Taliban Canadian Council of Catholic Bishops."

Of course, the absurdity (and plain ignorance of Blatchford, et al.) is obvious when one considers that Afghan President Hamid Karzai has repeatedly called for negotiations with elements of the Taliban. I don't recall Blatchford dubbing Karzai "Taliban Hamid".

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