Let them send their kids to Afghanistan

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As I began writing this (October 3, 2006), two more Canadian soldiers were reported killed in Afghanistan and five others wounded. Not so coincidentally, perhaps, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (Republican) reportedly stated that the Afghan war against Taliban guerrillas could never be won militarily and called for the Karzai government to bring "people who call themselves Taliban" and their allies into the country’s legitimate political process.

More than a month ago (Sept. 4, 2006), Canada’s New Democratic Party leader Jack Layton was saying what Sen. Frist so recently discovered. Layton said at the time, "This is the wrong mission for Canada," and that his party could not see any prospects for success in Afghanistan.

Just a few days ago, the Canadian Press echoed Layton in reporting on an extensive survey that found "a clear majority of Canadians consider the mission in Afghanistan a lost cause."

About 2,500 Canadian troops are now serving in Afghanistan, but if you think that their lives are of great importance to PM Stephen Harper, his Conservative government, and a number of media writers busy toeing the Conservative line, you’d be sadly mistaken.

If the safety of Canadian lives in Afghanistan were truly a moral and political priority in Ottawa, our government would have initiated an urgent UN peace conference to end the Afghanistan conflict and the ongoing bloodshed on all sides of it.

Instead, it seems clearer every day that the pro-war crowd is willing to sacrifice Canadians in Afghanistan, down to the last soldier left standing.

In fact, our hawkish PM Stephen Harper said as recently as last Thursday (Oct. 5) that the continuing Afghanistan death toll is the price Canada has to pay for being a world leader. Ironically, Harper made this assertion while receiving the Woodrow Wilson Award for public service, claiming that Canadians want a clear, confident and influential role, "a Canada that doesn’t just criticize, but one that can contribute … a Canada that reflects their values and interests …" So our values and interests are now based upon sending our young to die in an American-led war?? Welcome to the new normal!

And Canada’s Foreign Affairs minister, Peter MacKay, is also quick to justify the climbing death toll of Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan, all the while doing nothing to solve the conflict through negotiation; he prefers instead to hide behind a shallow and unproven assumption that the Taliban are not interested in peace (Sept. 4, 2006). For a lawyer, he is shamefully misinforming the Canadian public.

But we who care more about peace with justice than power politics or international one-upmanship, have a simple message for all those armchair hawks: send your own kids to fight in Afghanistan. And if your children are not old enough to carry weapons yet, then show real leadership and courage by sending your adult loved ones –” a spouse, a sibling; any will do.

We are blessed with a number of other pro-war cowards as well. Here are a few who might be advised to walk in the shoes of Canadians whose loved ones are serving in and around Kandahar:

Christie Blatchford of the Globe and Mail blasted NDP leader Jack Layton on the same day her paper reported his party’s policy regarding Afghanistan.

"I saw [Layton] on CBC NewsWorld yesterday afternoon and if I could have, I would have reached into my television set and grabbed him by the throat — anything to shake some sense into him and knock off that pious expression of sorrow," an emotional Blatchford vented.

And just why is Christie so overwrought? Here’s her answer:

"This is all part of the [NDP’s] effort to position itself as being supportive of the troops while also being opposed to the mission," said Blatchford pretentiously. "The time for peacemaking was over, and the war was on: the Canadians are there to provide security such that Afghanistan can rebuild."

But Blatchford shrewdly did not tell readers that in Afghanistan over the past five years, not a single university has been built, nor a single hospital constructed. Even the Afghani army and police are poorly supplied with arms because Canada and the other Western forces in Afghanistan do not trust their loyalty. So much for building up a security infrastructure to protect Afghani men, women and children!

Another Canadian pro-war journalist is Rosie DiManno of the Toronto Star, who commented on Sept. 23 on the visit of Afghanistan’s virtually powerless president, Hamid Karzai.

"President Hamid Karzai, an elegant man who emanates integrity –” someone who lost his own father to assassination, likely at the hands of the Taliban – came here yesterday in part to express his deep gratitude to Canada," said DiManno obsequiously.

"As Karzai reminded [us] yesterday: ‘The cost of ignoring Afghanistan was far higher than the cost of helping Afghanistan’," she continued. But how?

DiManno attempts to explain herself saying, for example, "[Afghani] families are forced from their farms and livelihoods ruined by the eradication of poppy fields – a burning program conducted by Afghan forces, [but] Canadians had better stay well free of it. The volatile politics of the poppy is no place for Western troops. The Afghan mission is complicated enough."

Another pro-war cheerleader is Prof. David Bercuson, director of the Centre for Military and Strategic Studies at the University of Calgary, who wrote on Sept. 20; "Even if the Taliban are expelled from all of Kandahar province … it is not a reason to quit."

It would be instructive to read what any of the above individuals might have to say if their loved ones were in harm’s way in Afghanistan at this very moment. If that were the case, the entire pro-war crowd might well do a 180-degree about face and join the growing number of Canadians calling for a negotiated end to a war that clearly has no successful military outcome.

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