Over the past few weeks, Canadian TV networks have showed — almost daily – the sad pictures of families mourning the return of their deceased loved ones, our Canadian soldiers killed while on combat missions in Afghanistan. As I write, the news headlines announce yet another death; regrettably, it will not be the last.
Amid these mounting losses, however, the Conservative government in Ottawa still maintains that Canada is not officially at war. Really??
Everything else indicates that Canada is indeed at war, regardless of what the PM’s office calls it. And, as in all other wars, the Conservatives (and some Liberals) are working to keep Canadians’ morale high and maintain their support of our military involvements in Afghanistan at all costs. Thus we hear – along with the almost daily reports of more lives lost — that our "war" or "mission" (take your choice of words) must be carried through to a "successful conclusion."
Again, as in all other wars, both official and unofficial propaganda is being used to influence public opinion in favor of it. After all, wars stop the moment popular passion cools below fever heat. But when the public and its government share the disease of "war fever," any hope of a peaceful resolution to the conflict is usually rejected.
Wars, every single one of them, have been fought for the noble cause of "saving liberty and civilization," regardless of which side or faction you choose. And this war for Afghanistan is no different. In all wars, the "enemy" is universally portrayed as evil, barbaric, uncivilized, and alien — Not Like Us. If an enemy cannot be proven to have committed the most heinous atrocities imaginable, the opposition assumes its foe is definitely capable of doing them anyway. Amid the fever-heat of war, it no longer matters – truth has always been the first casualty of conflict.
In wars, every single one of them, the "enemy must be defeated." Hence, every proposal for ending the hostilities is considered premature, even cowardly, and is rejected.
In the case of Afghanistan, as with any other war involving the Canadian military, the Prime Minister is responsible for the conduct of our overall mission. Stephen Harper has been telling Canadians that this war must fought to its finish, while at the same time keeping us in the dark about who we are actually fighting. Who is Canada’s enemy there? And why were all possible diplomatic solutions not exhausted before we sent our young men and women overseas to be killed?
If Canada is truly interested in the well-being of the Afghan people, why has our country – with its long and acclaimed record in diplomacy and peace-making — not acted as a strong UN-endorsed mediator between Afghanistan’s struggling government and the Taliban? Why this approach followed in war-torn Sudan, but not in Afghanistan?
Outside of those editorial cartoons that newspapers run from time to time showing menacing turbaned and bearded characters, what do we really know about the Taliban? What is their political agenda? Why they are worse for their country than the average Afghani? Why are they seemingly so popular? (Or are they?) Has anyone even considered the option of inviting a Taliban leader here to talk to Canadians in person?
The fact is, not a single Afghani has posed a threat to Canada; not now, not ever. So I ask again; why are we in Afghanistan? It seems that Canada is reflecting what American statesman John Adams observed back in 1776: "Argument has little chance after war has once got under full way. A torrent is not to be impeded by reasoning, nor a storm by ridicule. That is the worse of war; it ostracizes, demoralizes, brutalizes Reason and hate takes root as a tradition and lasts."
Perhaps the "Adams effect" has become so pervasive that few, if any, Canadian media have bothered to interview in depth some of the retuning Canadian soldiers who survived their six-month Afghanistan postings. Would it not be instructive to know how they see the termination of Canada’s role? Or to know how they feel about being re- posted there? Are they willing to risk their lives again? And did they personally come to know any Afghanis (Taliban or not) in a meaningful way? These are important and very human questions, but no one seems to be asking them!
In a recent meeting with the Canadian Islamic Congress, Canada’s Minister of Defense, Gordon O’Connor, justified our "mission" in Afghanistan by saying that much work is needed to train Afghani government police to fight "terrorists" who are "alive and kicking still." In that meeting Mr. O’Connor kept repeating, "we would have no reason to be in Afghanistan had the terrorists not come over in 2001 to bomb us."
Like any blanket statement, this one skirted the truth by a country mile. Fact: no Afghani came in September 2001 (or at any other time) to bomb "us" or anyone else. And training the Afghani police does not need a combat mission of the size of the Canadian armed forces presence there.
But this is all about how a war, any war, is fought on the home front; the weapons are not physical, but psychological. And lies – or calculated "disinformation" — are often more potent for victory than bullets and soon become "a military necessity." Without them no war could be sustained, and no citizenry could be induced to persist, either in inflicting or enduring the senseless slaughter of battle.
It is thus the very nature of any war — including Canada’s war in Afghanistan — that it not only kills the bodies of men, women and children, but also destroys all that is good in the human soul. That is why our troops must come home. Now.