Canada's Quagmire in Afghanistan
Balance Sheet of a Disastrous Policy
By Nita Palmer
October 7, 2006 marks the 5th anniversary of the invasion of Afghanistan. In October of 2001, the trumpets calling to war declared that Afghanistan would soon be free of the “evil terrorists” that were controlling the country. They promised that the people of Afghanistan would live in freedom and democracy, with the aid of countries like Canada rebuilding Afghanistan.
Afghanistan Five Years On: The Sum Total of Criminal Occupation
Five years have passed since the invasion, and the occupying militaries, including Canada’s, are now facing a quagmire in Afghanistan. The Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) cut all funding to its programs in Southern Afghanistan in April of this year, noting that it is “too dangerous for aid workers to operate in the area around Kandahar” (CBC News, April 16) as fighting between Canadian-led NATO troops and an anti-occupation resistance grows. The only “reconstruction work” that occurs there now the is building of military infrastructure. Afghanistan continues to top the charts for having the “worst education system in the world”, according to the U.N., and 20% of all children die before age five. Since the 2001 invasion, tens of thousands of Afghans have been killed by the occupying militaries. In the first two weeks of September alone, over 1,500 Afghans were killed during the Canadian-led “OPERATION MEDUSA” in southern Afghanistan. Recent months have marked some of the bloodiest since the invasion.
In addition to the suffering inflicted on the people of Afghanistan, the occupation has brought the deaths of 36 Canadian soldiers in some of the biggest direct combat operations Canada has been involved in since World War II. Recent statistics show that a Canadian soldier serving in Kandahar, Afghanistan is six times more likely to die there than a U.S. soldier serving in Iraq.
The increasingly bloody battles between the government of Canada’s occupying forces and ordinary people of Afghanistan are the best proof that the occupation is not the humanitarian mission that the government of Canada began trumpeting five years ago. Afghan people are responding to the tanks that now roll down their streets, to the killing of many innocent civilians at checkpoints, on the roads, and in their homes. In a report by McClatchy Newspapers, a U.S. soldier noted “They [the Taliban] just hide their weapons and become farmers” (Sept 25, 2006). More truthfully, it is ordinary farmers and peasants in Afghanistan picking up weapons and becoming “Taliban” – the label given by Western media to anyone fighting against the occupation.
Crisis of Legitimacy: Canada’s War Drive Fails on the Home Front
“My fear is that Afghanistan is beginning to look like Iraq”
-Richard N. Haass, president of the U.S. Council on Foreign Relations
Afghanistan looks more like a war zone every day. September saw yet another increase in the Canadian war drive there, with the addition of 450 more combat troops and 15 Leopard tanks to bolster Canada’s occupation forces in Afghanistan. As more people in Afghanistan lose their lives, and more Canadian soldiers come home in coffins, the aggressive combat mission faces an increasing opposition among people in Canada. It is clear that the Canadian military hasn’t achieved any of its stated goals in Afghanistan; rather, the situation for people there is becoming more desperate each day. As a result, people in Canada are demanding to know WHY the Canadian military continues to occupy Afghanistan.
The answer to this question of WHY lies in the ruling class of Canada’s goals in occupying Afghanistan. The Afghanistan Investment Support Agency lauds Afghanistan as a “transit link” and “trade hub” which will be an essential area in the world market in the next 10 years. This perspective on Afghanistan is what the Government of Canada has in mind when they repeatedly refer to “defending Canada’s national interests” and “ensuring Canadian leadership in world affairs” (www.canada-afghanistan.gc.ca). The government of Canada is currently engaged in the occupation of Afghanistan not to defend the interests of Afghan people, but to defend the interests of business investment. As we enter an era where imperialist competition for resources and strategic trade locations becomes increasingly intense, Afghanistan is directly in the sights of the Canadian ruling class’ bid for a piece of these interests.
Public Support of War is Fading
Canada’s ruling class is scrambling to bolster public support for their government. They are scrambling to keep the economic foothold that they so desperately need in Afghanistan. The two largest political parties in Canada – the Conservatives and the Liberals – have both taken the pro-war stance of supporting Canada’s continued occupation of Afghanistan. The response of the Conservatives has been to rally support for the mission by driving up racism and inciting fear in people in Canada. "If we leave it to the terrorists to continue to flourish in places like Afghanistan, they'll find us. They'll come here and they'll try to wreak havoc in our lives," (CBC News, September 12) Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay said in a recent interview. The Liberal Party has criticized the Conservatives only for not doing enough in Afghanistan. Liberal foreign affairs critic Keith Martin criticized the Conservative government for “not looking at the conflict in Afghanistan as a regional problem… unless the insurgency is dealt with from Pakistan and other countries then this will be war without end." Meanwhile, at the recent convention of the New Democratic Party (NDP), a resolution for a “safe and immediate” withdrawal of all Canadian troops from Afghanistan received 90% support. The previous position of the NDP was to call for a withdrawal of troops only from the ”counter insurgency mission in Kandahar”. However, while the membership of the NDP has supported this call for a total end to the occupation, the position of NDP leader Jack Layton remains unclear in the wake of the convention. Layton recently condemned the “George Bush-style counter insurgency war” in Kandahar, but voiced his support for so-called reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan. It is clear that the NDP’s change in position is really a reflection of the growing sentiment against the occupation of Afghanistan among working people in Canada.
Call for an Independent Public Inquiry
In addition to a military offensive against people in Afghanistan, attacks on poor and working people through cuts to social services and new racist immigration laws occur in Canada. None of the major political parties have voiced any true opposition to this – least of all the current Conservative Government. New escalations in the Canadian war drive are pushed through again and again without public consultation or debate. The sudden announcement that 2,300 more troops would be sent to Afghanistan last summer, the extension of the mission in Kandahar until 2009, the doubling of the Canadian military budget, and the September budget decision to spend $2 billion on new fighter jets while cutting $2 billion in service programs are just a few examples of military decisions made without public input. Given these factors, it is necessary for people in Canada to take the call for Canada Out of Afghanistan into our own hands. One step on this road is a call for an Independent Public Inquiry into the war drive in Afghanistan, important at a time when millions of people are demanding to know WHY Canada is in Afghanistan. An independent public inquiry is an opportunity for us to discuss what the roots of Canada’s occupation of Afghanistan are, and why decisions to up the ante in an already vicious war drive have been passed through Parliament without public consultation. The opportunity to discuss these things is critical to developing the antiwar consciousness of all poor and working people in Canada.
Canada’s War Drive Five Years on: What Next for Us Against Them
As the fifth anniversary of the criminal invasion of Afghanistan draws nearer, the final balance for the Canadian ruling class is quagmire. They are trapped in a military offensive in a country that is rapidly catching up to Iraq as the centre of struggle of oppressed people versus imperialism. They have failed to win hearts and minds in Afghanistan, and have failed to convince people in Canada that the occupation is doing any good. Afghan people have taken on their struggle for self-determination by any means they have, and will not let the government of Canada win in its war on their sovereignty. The government of Canada is not going to give up its war drive quickly or easily, however. The stakes of competition between imperialist countries necessitate more and more of an expansion of imperialist aggression in competition for economic resources and as much as possible domination over other imperialist rivals. As we approach the fifth anniversary of this occupation, it’s time to confront this war-drive head on. Canada’s growing anti-war movement is a call for all poor and working people in Canada to build a leadership of regular people in building an effective anti-war movement to demand an end to this vicious war drive.
Stop the War Drive in Afghanistan!
Canada Out of Afghanistan!
Bring All Troops Home Now!
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