Imperialist Canada and Afghanistan
By Nita Palmer
On April 8th 2007, the Canadian Forces marked their deadliest day since the Korean War in 1953 when six Canadian soldiers were killed when a roadside bomb exploded near Kandahar, Afghanistan. The deaths of two more soldiers on April 11th in Afghanistan made it the deadliest week for Canadian forces since 2001. Then, just seven days later, on April 18th, a Special Forces officer with the Canadian Forces was killed in a fall from a communications tower.
"[The troops] 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,” Canada’s Prime Minister, Stephen Harper claimed on April 17th.
But really, the recent deaths of these Canadian soldiers make only one thing clear: Canada is not “protecting” the people of Afghanistan. Canada is waging war against the people of Afghanistan. For every Canadian or NATO soldier that dies in Afghanistan, countless hundreds more Afghans are killed. 55 Canadian soldiers and one diplomat have been killed so far in the 5-year-long occupation, but the estimates of the number of Afghan deaths range in the tens of thousands.
A CRISIS OF HUMAN SUFFERING
The website of the Kandahar Provincial Reconstruction Team proclaims that, “Five years after the fall of the Taliban, the progress in Afghanistan is remarkable by any standards.” Just what progress has Afghanistan made, exactly? While the government of Canada touts its claims of “rebuilding Afghanistan” and bringing to the people the “civil society” of the West, the facts on the ground tell a different story. One in six women now dies during childbirth in Afghanistan – as compared to one in 8,700 in Canada. The infant mortality rate in Afghanistan is 165 per 1000 live births – 33 times higher than Canada’s. The occupation has also brought with it a more threatening epidemic – AIDS. Virtually non-existent before 2001, there are now 31 confirmed cases of HIV/AIDS in Afghanistan – although UN AIDS estimates it to be many times higher.
"…31 cases have been confirmed through blood screening countrywide, however, we are estimating between 600 to 7000 cases in the country," Dr. Naqibullah Safi, the national program manager for HIV/AIDS in Afghanistan’s Ministry of Public Health, noted earlier this month. UN AIDS notes that the groups identified as being at highest risk for HIV/AIDS are women, internally displaced persons, and intravenous drug users. Since the occupation began, hundreds of thousands of Afghans have been forced to flee their homes, becoming known as “internally displaced persons”, this is happening particularly in the Kandahar province in which Canadian troops are currently operating,. Increasing numbers of women are being forced into prostitution by the poverty created by the occupation. Intravenous drugs, unheard of in Afghanistan before the 2001 invasion, are now increasingly prevalent in urban areas like Kabul. The blame for this epidemic of HIV/AIDS in Afghanistan can only rest squarely on the shoulders of the devastating NATO occupation.
THE IMPERIALIST DILEMMA
"Don't mix up Iraq with Afghanistan. Afghanistan is a success story. Afghanistan is improving.”
- Gordon O’Connor, Canada Defence Minister, April 4th 2007
Actions speak louder than words, as the saying goes, and it only takes one look at Canada and NATO’s actions in Afghanistan to see that their words of helping people in Afghanistan are nothing but lies. Furthermore, Canada, NATO, and the rest of Afghanistan’s imperialist occupiers face a crisis in Afghanistan. Despite the occupiers’ weapons, despite a military budget in Canada alone worth $25.8Billion, despite their Apache helicopters, their Leopard tanks and their special forces, the Afghan resistance is getting stronger every day.
While Gordon O’Connor tries desperately to claim that Afghanistan is not like Iraq, the reality is that the occupation forces there are sinking deeper into a quagmire every day. Even their “democratically elected” puppet government with Afghan President Hamid Karzai is failing. The low wages paid to police and other government workers – usually about $40/month – have caused protest against corruption in the lower levels, which often includes extortion of money from the desperately poor majority in Afghanistan. Support is daily turning away from the Karzai government, as recently indicated by protests against a raid on Afghanistan’s most popular television provider which was ordered by Afghan Attorney General, Abdul Jabar Sabet, allegedly because the station “misrepresented” comments he had made. Every day, the imperialists’ puppet is losing its legitimacy.
Given the deepening quagmire, why don’t the occupying countries pull out before they face an even greater crisis? Precisely because there own falling economy and their own “war on terror” have trapped them. In an era marked by a world economy increasingly in crisis, countries like Canada have no choice but to make their bid to control strategically important areas like Afghanistan. Afghanistan is a pivot point between the resource-rich areas of the Middle East and Africa that imperialist countries would like to exploit and the trade markets of Europe and East Asia. Contrary to their claims, Canada and NATO do not want to “liberate” Afghanistan – simply control this important area.
Now Afghanistan is also becoming more important for imperialist countries vying for control of the Middle East – this time, as a base to establish in their campaign to attack and control Iran. "Over, say, the last year or so there have been increasing concerns raised over Iran's behaviour in Afghanistan," US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia noted. Increasingly, imperialist countries are claiming that Iran is aiding the Taliban. This is simply another part of the ongoing campaign by imperialist countries to attack Iran – a crucial move to control the Middle East.
LOSING HEARTS & MINDS ON THE HOME FRONT
The growing resistance in Afghanistan is a testament to the fact that Canada and its NATO occupiers are not winning the support of people in Afghanistan. However, they are not winning support in Canada either. In Vancouver, more than 12,000 people have already signed Mobilization Against War & Occupation’s petition demanding an end to the occupation of Afghanistan – and opposition is growing every day. Meanwhile, the government of Canada is preparing for a long war in Afghanistan – a testament to this is the 100 Leopard tanks that they bought last week, and the increasing drive for military recruitment that can be seen at bus stops, in high schools, and in newspapers. "We see Afghanistan is the future. Afghanistan and these type of engagements are the future for 10, 15 years," Gordon O’Connor stated while announcing the purchase of the tanks.
Ten to fifteen years of occupation? After just five years, the government of Canada has proved that it is not “liberating” Afghanistan. Plus the occupation isn’t in the interests of people in Canada either, as money is pinched, pulled, and chopped from health care, education, and welfare to fund the military budget. It’s time for us – people in Canada – to organize against the occupation, alongside people fighting the Canada and NATO occupying troops in Afghanistan. We must call for an independent public inquiry into the Canadian war drive in Afghanistan which is increasing every day, without the consultation of people in Canada. We must call for an immediate withdrawal of all troops from Afghanistan, to put an end to this suffering created by the occupation.
CANADA/NATO OUT OF AFGHANISTAN!
INDEPENDENT PUBLIC INQUIRY INTO THE CANADIAN WAR DRIVE!
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