Friday, April 4, 2008

Afghanistan: Has It Now Become Canada's War?

From February 2006, when it formed a minority government, the (Neo)Conservative Party of Canada lead by Stephen J. Harper instantly transformed Canada's official policy with regards to the war in Afghanistan from one of acting as a dutiful N.A.T.O. member to one of pro-active war leader.

This was done not only to please the like-minded Bush administration while allowing it "more time" for its disastrous venture in Iraq, but likewise in order to satisfy a need to be "taken seriously" - a typical immature, chest-beating, faux bravado, need-to-prove-masculinity male adolescent trait of right-wingers, neocons, warhawks and chickenhawks alike.

More than two years later, the war that was started by the U.S. and the British in 2002 has now apparently become Canada's to own - until 2011 and beyond.


First, a little background (including appropriate updates):
It was on 10/07/2001 that American and British forces undertook an aerial bombing campaign targeting Taliban forces and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan - thus marking the beginning of the Afghanistan War. Other U.S. allies, namely Australia and Canada, also joined in this war. By the summer of 2002, the Taliban had been removed from power and its remnants, like those of al-Qaeda, had gone into hiding. By the end of spring 2003, then-still U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld declared major combat operations over. However, the Taliban and al-Qaeda, by then fully allied by necessity, had already regrouped along the Afghani-Pakistani border, recruiting heavily while training in guerrilla warfare tactics - thanks to consistent funding seemingly transiting through Pakistan. Then the Taliban insurgency followed - which has been lasting to this day.

(...) faced with the reality of this war and seeking to salvage the most out of it humanitarian-wise, the United Nations Security Council authorized an International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) for Afghanistan on 12/20/2001, which not only included N.A.T.O. forces but was also to be lead by N.A.T.O. itself. The ISAF's original peacekeeping mandate was for a duration of six months - however, partly because of the Taliban insurgency and partly because the U.S. and the British were "too busy" with the Iraq War since it began in 03/2003, the ISAF's mandate was thereafter extended in 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, and then extended anew until 10/2008 ... with talks already in the works for further twelve month-extensions beyond this date. In between, N.A.T.O. expanded its Afghanistan mission by increasing its forces in 2005 and in 2006 (including Canadian ones) - because its peacekeeping mission had transformed into a counter-insurgency one.
In between, Stephen J. Harper, leader of the "new" Conservative Party of Canada (CPC), was sworn in as Canada’s 22nd Prime Minister on 02/06/2006 to head a conservative minority government. Right off the bat, newly elected Prime Minister Harper showed his true (neocon) colors (emphasis mine):

The Government will work cooperatively with our friends and allies and constructively with the international community to advance common values and interests. In support of this goal, it will build stronger multilateral and bilateral relationships, starting with Canada's relationship with the United States, our best friend and largest trading partner.

More broadly, this Government is committed to supporting Canada's core values of freedom, democracy, the rule of law and human rights around the world. In this regard, the Government will support a more robust diplomatic role for Canada, a stronger military and a more effective use of Canadian aid dollars.

Just as it honours the past efforts of our veterans, the Government stands firmly behind the vital role being played by our troops in Afghanistan today. The dedicated Canadians in Afghanistan deserve all of our support as they risk their lives to defend our national interests, combat global terrorism and help the Afghan people make a new start as a free, democratic and peaceful country
.
Bush talking points, you say? You are quite right. In fact, Harper and his Harpies have ever been sounding like broken records of the U.S. neocons/G.O.P. congressmen, senators/Bush administration officials/G.W. Bush/D.B. Cheney's favored Global War on Terror(TM) litanies and platitudes. A few examples:
"(...) These (fallen soldiers) were working to bring security, democracy, self-sufficiency and prosperity to the Afghan people and to protect Canadians' national and collective security. We will not forget their selfless contribution to Canada (...)" - P.M. S.J. Harper, 04/22/2006;

"(...) (The soldiers) are there to defend our national interests and protect the population of Afghanistan. It is the Taliban who are committing violence against our troops and the Afghan people and this Parliament should be supporting our men and women in uniform." - P.M. S.J. Harper, 04/17/2007;

"We believe that we are engaged in a war on terrorism, a war on evil people, just as we were during the First and Second World Wars. We believe that these people have to be brought to justice." - Government Whip (Conservative) J. Hill, 04/20/2007;

"Is that the legacy we want to have for our Afghanistan mission, that we did not get the job done? Setting a deadline for the Canadian Forces to withdraw right now would send a clear and dangerous signal to the Taliban. For the sake of the Afghans, our mission cannot be measured simply by the number of years or months we have invested." - Conservative M.P. R. Hiebert, 04/20/2007;

"(...) Progress is being made [in Afghanistan] (...)." - (then) Public Safety Minister S. Day, 04/24/07.
See? One only need to replace "Afghanistan" with "Iraq" and every quote sounds like anything ever said by neocon pundits, G.O.Pers, Bush administration officials and/or the President and his men themselves. Still not sure? Then let us compare quotes directly:

With regard to "staying the course" (in Afghanistan and/or Iraq) and "not cutting and running" ...
"(...) if the Congress wants to test my will as to whether or not I'll accept the timetable for withdrawal, I won't accept one." - Pres. G.W. Bush;

"(...) We don't make a commitment and then run away at the first sign of trouble. We don't and we will not, as long as I'm leading this country (...)" - P.M. S.J. Harper.
Let's also take a look at the other usual type of argument against setting dates for withdrawal of troops:
"(...) Basically the vote is going to be: Do you tell the enemy the exact day you are going to leave or do you not? (...)" - (then) Public Safety Minister S. Day;

"Don’t you think an enemy is going to wait and adjust based upon an announced timetable of withdrawal?” - Pres. G.W. Bush.
And while I am on a roll, let us compare these other quotes once again:
S.J. Harper (05/17/2006): "We honor those who take risks and make the ultimate sacrifice by making a commitment to staying the course".
G.W. Bush (04/05/2004): "(...) So we've got tough action in Iraq. But we will stay the course".

S.J. Harper (05/24/2007): "We can't set arbitrary deadlines (to get out of Afghanistan) and hope for the best".
G.W. Bush (11/30/2005): "(...) setting a deadline to pull out (of Iraq) is not a plan for victory".

S.J. Harper (05/23/2007): "I don't have to tell you ... the risk that terrorism will come home if we don't confront it here (in Afghanistan)".
G.W. Bush (07/04/2005): "We're taking the fight to the terrorists abroad so we do not have to face them here at home".

S.J. Harper (03/13/2006): "You (the soldiers) have put yourselves on the line to defend our national interests; protect Canada and the world from terror (...) it is in our national interest to see Afghanistan become a free, democratic and peaceful country".
G.W. Bush (11/30/2005): "We will not turn (Iraq) over to the terrorists and put the American people at risk. Iraq will be a free nation (...) and this will add to the security of the American people".

S.J. Harper (03/13/2006): "(...) cutting and running (from Afghanistan) is not your way. It's not my way".
G.W. Bush (04/21/2004): "We're not going to cut and run (from Iraq) if I'm in the Oval Office".
Hence my previous conclusion that if G.W. Bush is Da Leader, then S.J. Harper is Da Mini-Leader.

In any event, what happened since the moment Harper became Prime Minister was a fundamental shift in Canadian policy with regards to Afghanistan, whereby it instantly transformed from one of "performing our turn of duty as a N.A.T.O. member" to one of "Afghanistan is Canada's most important mission abroad".

Indeed - not even one month after being sworn in as Prime Minister, Mini Leader made a "surprise visit" (sounds familiar?) to Afghanistan where he played the warrior poseur and spoke these "Great Leader-like" words (emphasis mine):

"Very quickly after assuming office, looking at all of Canada's interests abroad, we determined that the single most important thing we're doing in terms of our commitments, in terms of the risks were taking, in terms of the leadership we're showing, the most important thing is what we're doing in Afghanistan."
(Btw: it is noteworthy that Bush's very first visit to Afghanistan i) was a "surprise visit" as well, and ii) happened just eleven days prior to Harper's ...)

The. Single. Most. Important. Thing.

This is what the war in Afghanistan had just become for us Canadians.

Not surprisingly, with this extraordinarily simplistic, mind-boggling, war-embracing assessment came the onslaught of Bush-like rhetoric (see again above) in support for it - and then some (emphasis mine):
Like most Canadians, I have a vivid memory of that (September 11, 2001) morning.

As my wife, Laureen, and I watched the second tower collapse on television, as the enormity of the events began to sink in, I turned to her and said: "This will change the course of history."

And so it has.

In the years that followed, terror struck Bali in Indonesia, Madrid in Spain, London in Great Britain. And security forces in many countries -- including Canada -- have foiled alleged terrorist plots before they could be executed.

The targets and tactics were different in every case, but the objective is always the same. To kill, maim and terrify as many people as possible. Not in the name of any idealistic cause, but because of an ideology of hatred.

And while this war of terror has displayed some of the worst of which humanity is capable, so too has it revealed the greatness and generosity that lie at the core of so many ordinary people.

Something which was on display for all to see when Canadians opened their arms and homes to thousands of travellers whose flights were diverted on 9-11.

And because of this war of terror, people around the world have come together to offer a better vision of the future for all humanity.

For this vision to take hold, the menace of terror must be confronted.

And that is why the countries of the United Nations, with unprecedented unity and determination, launched their mission to Afghanistan to deal with the source of the 9-11 terror and to end, once and for all, the brutal regime that horribly mistreated its own people while coddling terrorists
.

(...) And as the events of Sept. 11 so clearly illustrate, the horrors of the world will not go away if we turn a blind eye to them, no matter how far off they may be.

And these horrors cannot be stopped unless some among us are willing to accept enormous sacrifice and risk to themselves.


(...) I would ask as well, that you keep in your thoughts and prayers the personnel and families of the extraordinary people in Afghanistan and elsewhere who have put themselves on the line so that the world is a better and safer place for all of us."
But Canadians were not lulled by such Bush-like rhetoric for long. From being split on the subject, a majority of us quickly grew to oppose our continued military presence in Afghanistan.

Nonetheless, a despite Harper's minority, Canada's mission in Afghanistan was extended to 2008 by a narrow vote margin in the House of Commons, keeping in line with the ISAF's mandate extension over there.

More than ever, a majority of Canadians then believed that our soldiers were dying in a hopeless cause. And with good reason.

But bolstered by the mission extension, Mini Leader felt compelled to lecture the country by telling us that the mounting death toll of Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan is the price Canada must pay to be a world leader.

And boy, was our self-discovered Warrior Leader then on a roll, fully seizing the Afghanistan War and wielding it as his instrument of glory-to-be-achieved. Indeed, in his very first speech to the United Nations, Mini Leader asked for increased troop help in Afghanistan, displaying much toughness and manliness by bluntly saying that the Taliban insurgency and continued conflict there constitute nothing short of a test of the U.N.'s relevance (something else which sounds awfully familiar, eh?). Not long after, Mini Leader and his Harpies began their public campaign of calling on N.A.T.O. to send in more troops (see for example here, here and here).

And through it all, the Bush-like rhetoric and talking points kept on being dished out by Mini Leader and his Harpies. Here is a small sample:
S.J. Harper: "I would like to see more support in the House of Commons from all sides for Canadian men and women in uniform. I think Canadians expect that from parliamentarians in every party. They have not been getting it, and they deserve it."

S.J. Harper: "The people and the government of Afghanistan want us here. The Canadian men and women in uniform and people who work in various government agencies believe in this mission. So I am not here because of the polls. I am here because it is the right thing to do."

P. McKay: "Let's not forget that on 9/11, terrorism came to our shores (from Afghanistan). So we have to be vigilant and very responsible in continuing to play a role in Afghanistan (...) When the Afghanistan government can take care of its own interests, then we can come home (...) Canada's military involvement in Afghanistan has enhanced its international reputation as a defender of freeedom and democracy. It's a volatile world and we have a very important role to play, as we have in previous conflicts."
Thus went bravely Da Mini Leader and his Harpies, proudly rattling their sabers, pounding their chests and showing their toughness and determination in the Global War on Terror(TM) for all the world to see - all the while pining for the occasional nod of approval from the Bush administration which they've also proven ever eager to emulate and please (heck - Harper even once said that Canada's decision to stay out of Iraq was a serious mistake!).

And the occasional nod of approval they got from Bush and his administration, all too happy that their Canadian proxy/patsy kept the torch burning for Afghanistan, all the while buying the U.S.A. precious time in trying to salvage the disastrous venture in Iraq (which is another story all in itself).

That is also when it really began ... when the War in Afghanistan slowly became Canada's to own.

Indeed, praises for Canada's "decisive role" and "leadership" in Afghanistan began coming in from N.A.T.O. (and members), as well as, of course, from Kabul Mayor Afghan President Hamid Karzai (see examples here, here, here, here, here and here).

This all the more excited the Mini Leader, who then began hinting at the possibility of extending Canada's mission to 2009, if not beyond. Interestingly, other voices from abroad began to chime the same song (examples here, here, and here).

Unfortunately for our Warrior Leader, things were not going so well in Afghanistan (despite his, and his Harpies', most ardent wishes) - consequently, Canadians wanted our troops out.

So the Mini Leader pulled another Bush: in Ocotber 2007, he appointed an "independent, non-partisan" panel (i.e. all members support greater integration with the U.S.) to review Canada's mission and future role in Afghanistan. Not surprisingly, the panel's report (released in January 2008) recommended that Canada's military should remain in Afghanistan beyond February 2009, but on two conditions:
1) An additional battle group of about 1000 soldiers be assigned to Kandahar by N.A.T.O. and/or other allies before February 2009;

2) The government secure new, medium-lift helicopters and high-performance unmanned aerial vehicles for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance before that date.
The panel having fulfilled its role, the House of Commons passed a motion in March 2008 to extend Canada's mission in Afghanistan to 2011 - again, despite Harper and his party being in minority.

In between, the Bush administration joined Harper and his Harpies in calling for more N.A.T.O. troops in Afghanistan (examples here, here and here).

Which, in turn, set the stage for the recent end-March/early-April 2008 N.A.T.O. summit in Bucharest, whereby N.A.T.O. provided exactly what Canada required in order to stay in Afghanistan until 2011 - namely: some 700 additional troops from France and some additional 3500 U.S. marines (for now), as well as deals in progress in getting helicopters and unmanned aerial drones to support Canadian troops.

Needless to say that the Mini Leader's inner Warrior Leader was all peachy, declaring happily that Canada will indeed stay in Afghanistan until 2011 and even going as far as to hint already that Canadian troops might even stay beyond 2011!

Further beating his chest with pride, he once again spoke in a "Great Leader-like" fashion (emphasis mine):
"The main accomplishment of this year's summit from Canada's perspective has been a rallying of N.A.T.O. resolve in Afghanistan," Mr. Harper said, adding he had "no doubt" N.A.T.O. allies would come through.

The Prime Minister said Canada played a "constructive role" at the summit and that "Canada's voice has been taken very seriously here." He noted that N.A.T.O. allies recognize Canada has made a "disproportionate sacrifice" in Afghanistan and that Canadian Forces have earned "boundless admiration" from their military counterparts in N.A.T.O.
Canada is taken seriously now - got that, chumps?

And thus it was on this note typical of immature, chest-beating, faux bravado, need-to-prove-masculinity male adolescent trait of right-wingers, neocons, warhawks and chickenhawks alike, that the Afghanistan War became Canada's War.

With the rest of those N.A.T.O. members who keep slacking off hiding their chuckles well, knowing all too well the hopeless clusterfuck veritable quagmire that Afghanistan is - just like Iraq.

On a last, related note: some two years ago, senior British military officers estimated that it would require 15 to 20 years to fully achieve success in Afghanistan. Last year, they revised somewhat their assessment, speaking instead of a 30-year "marathon mission" against the Taliban.

Thank you, Prime Minister Harper, your minority government, and the chickenshit opposition parties. You done me, and all my fellow Canadians, proud:
January 16 2008

(...) A poll released last night suggests strong public unease with the current combat mission.

Forty-seven per cent of Canadians want our troops brought back from Afghanistan as soon as possible, according to a Strategic Counsel poll done for CTV News and The Globe and Mail (...) The poll showed that only 17 per cent of Canadians want troops to continue in their combat role and 31 per cent said Canadians should remain in Kandahar but turn over the combat role to another NATO country
.
Yes indeed - you've given us our very own war, the "single most important" endeavor we could ever commit ourselves to.

Now - could someone please explain to me why I'm suddenly feeling "American" in a sinking, discouraged kinda way?


(Cross-posted at DKos and at Progressive Historians)

12 comments:

  1. Doesn't the US have something like ten times the number of troops in Afg? Isn't canada like third or fourth in terms of troop numbers?

    Maybe you posted the numbers... I don't know. Your post is impossible to read. Try using less links or more footnotes.

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  2. Bush doesn't mind outsourcing his many wars as long as people are killed, and he profits from the entire debacle.

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  3. see video: See Body of War, Hear Body of War
    Help Phil Donahue promote this important movie, directed by Phil Donahue and Ellen Spiro, send this video link to others to make people aware of Tomas Young's story. Buy Tomas Young's double album and help the cause:
    http://representativepress.googlepages.com/bodyofwar

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  4. Anon @ 7:51

    This is not about the number of troops but who is "carrying the torch" for this war.

    As for links - my apologies for being thorough in my fact-checking and appropriate linking for full information-providing and for reader-independent verification of said sources.

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  5. Larry: its all about incompetence and being a slave to expediency.

    Tom: thanks for the link!

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  6. Mentarch, our UberFuhrer left your UnterFuhrer holding the bag on this one.

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  7. TC: my humble wish is that the next president be a democrat and that he (or she) puts an end to all this nonesense fighting-wise in order to crank up the applications of political/diplomatic solutions.

    Again - just a humble wish ...

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  8. Mentarch, I agree. While I do see a need for the containment of Al Qaeda, that will be much easier to achieve within a diplomatic solution with the rest of the nation.

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  9. Greetings:

    Canada has been fighting what amounts to a holding action in Afghanistan while what has passed for US leadership (President Shrub and VP Shady) have been feeding the corporate interests of the US military-industrial complex via an illegal and immoral war in Iraq and a subversion of American constitutional law at home.

    PM Stephen Harper, along with many Canadian politicians, has been a willing and even enthusiastic supporter of this wicked incursion into a country that will never accept the concept that it was done "for their own good" (i.e., to bring freedom & democracy).

    Now Obama is not only sending in 17,000 more US troops, but wants more "boots on the ground" from NATO countries, including more Canadians. He wants this to happen in spite of the fact that he has not stated any kind of plan, neither has he defined any kind of endpoint, achievable or not. He, as did his his predecessor, says "Trust me".

    I suppose we are irrevocably committed to being there until 2011, but should Harper, or any other Canadian leader, agree to an increased or extended military presence without the US defining a clear plan or objective, they should be publicly pilloried and horse-whipped in front of the Peace Tower in Ottawa.

    Frankly, as far as the "war on terror" goes it is obvious to everyone with eyes and a couple of neurons (and now even the US mainstream media) that the problems are in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, the primary US "allies" in the region. Let the Afghan people throw out the Taliban if they want to (although it seems they don't) and start applying effective economic, diplomatic and political pressure on the nuclear-armed Pakistani militant theocracy that passes for their government. How the US (and Canada) can claim to be fighting for "freedom and democracy" in Afghanistan while buddying up to these truly terrifying feudal theocracies is beyond comprehension.

    D.Noel

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  10. i dont think canada should have been in volved in any thing the damn u s a starts and can not finish.
    daddy bush and son bush started it all and they should be the ones who pays for it all. the u s a bush family seems to like to have a war under their belts and noted in history.

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  11. Butbutbut ... dontcha know that Harper, his Harpies and today's CPC cdonstitute nothing more than ... a canadian franchise of the republican party?

    Sadly enough ...

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Please feel free to comment on APOV. However, remember to keep in check your tone and respect for all here. Let rational, reasoning, enthousiastic and passionate conversations and discussions rule first and foremost in our participatory democracy, so as to facilitate the free exchange of reality-based facts and ideas. In between, do not forget to have fun and enjoy yourselves ... in other words: keep on rockin'! - Mentarch