When a ‘Civilized’ Canadian Journalist Calls for Bloodshed
By Nita Palmer
As an ordinary peace-loving person living in Canada, I am one of those many that find these trying times of Canada’s war in Afghanistan difficult to bear. I find myself both saddened and angered at the recent headlines: “Air strike by NATO kills 25 civilians in Afghanistan”, “7 children killed in coalition airstrike”, “Civilian casualties soaring”. On occasion, however, I find myself not only saddened and angered by the devastating cost of this war on human life, but absolutely disgusted by it. Recently, one of those times was when I read an article by renowned Canadian journalist Rex Murphy in the Globe & Mail: “Afghanistan will define this PM [Prime Minister]”, May 26th 2007. In this article, Mr. Murphy calls for bloodshed in Afghanistan – for the war to be ‘won’, no matter what the human cost. I’m wondering how much I changed from three years ago when I was a high school student sitting with my family in our living room in Comox Valley to watch and listened to Rex Murphy as a ‘civilized’ and respected journalist.
“Our engagement in Afghanistan was never going to be a pure exercise in the largely mythical peacekeeping tradition, beautifully and totally shielded from the exercise of arms,” explains Murphy. Six years of occupation has long since proven that the government of Canada never had any intention of ‘peacekeeping’ in Afghanistan. However, while most ordinary people in Canada would agree that the unnumbered tens of thousands of civilians who have been killed since the invasion of October 7th 2001, is by all counts a tragedy. Mr. Murphy approves it and condones it. Murphy goes on to explain that “…If we wished to do good things in Afghanistan, we would have to do hard things as well. And we would have to do more hard things at first than good,” and that “innocent Afghans will inevitably be killed.” There is little evidence of ‘good things’ being done in Afghanistan by the Canadian military, or the NATO International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), of which Canada is a part. In fact, Murphy’s previous statement that the government of Canada was never intending to ‘peacekeep’ in Afghanistan contradicts his statement that ‘good things’ will ever be done in Afghanistan by Canada.
What disgusted me most about the article, however, was the completely unconcerned tone with which the lives of Afghans were written about – as though Afghan lives are somehow dispensable, and can be taken or spared depending on the interests of the government and the military of Canada.
“Afghanistan,” continues Murphy, “offers only two options. We can clear out altogether, or we can stay to fight and build. There is no middle point.” Given the huge loss of Afghan lives and destruction, not construction, of civil society in Afghanistan, the answer to me, and I think to many people in Canada, is obvious: pull the troops out now. Let Afghans build their own country- clearly the government of Canada and 48,000 foreign troops in Afghanistan aren’t doing it. However, Murphy’s response is to commend Prime Minister of Canada and leader of the Conservative Party, Stephen Harper, for steadfastly committing to continue Canada’s occupation of Afghanistan.
The pretext for Canada’s mission in Afghanistan was supposedly to bring “Canadian civilization” and standards of living to Afghanistan. However, Mr. Murphy’s comments are anything but civilized. Instead, he writes with the blood of the Afghan people flowing from his pen, with his sights set on nothing but the barbarous interest of profit and plunder – the true intent of the government of Canada in their occupation of Afghanistan.
With Rex Murphy’s truly callous disregard for Afghan lives, he is really nothing more than a mouthpiece for the government of Canada and their ruling class interests in Afghanistan. Not only the words, but the actions of the government of Canada in Afghanistan show a complete indifference toward human life. Tens of thousands of Afghans have lost their lives under the brutal Canada/NATO occupation of Afghanistan. In recent months, deadly NATO air strikes of villages and the number of Afghan civilians simply shot by occupation forces has increased dramatically – civilian killings by NATO have doubled since last year, according to Human Rights Watch.
Then there is the recent torture scandal, which exposed that Canadian Forces in Afghanistan, not only handed Afghan prisoners over to the Afghan police and National Directorate of Security (NDS) where they were tortured, but in fact participated in abuse and torture of Afghan prisoners themselves. According to the Lancet Medical Journal, “the Canadian Government has… now admitted that it is unable to locate several detainees already transferred to Afghan jails, including three who are suspected of having being beaten by Canadian interrogators before being transferred.” Although the government of Canada, and in particular Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay, have tried to cover this scandal, they have been utterly unsuccessful. The sickening stories of torture, reminiscent of the Abu Ghraib torture scandal of US forces in Iraq, have revealed the ugly face of the occupation of Afghanistan – a reality that Afghan people must face every day.
Of course, this torture scandal that has appeared in the spring of 2007 is really nothing new – the daily living conditions under occupation in Afghanistan have been torture for the last six years. All of the claims of the government of Canada and of NATO about bringing peace, stability, and prosperity to Afghanistan have categorically been proven false.
Women’s rights? Afghan women are now burning themselves to death at a rate three times higher than before the occupation. Opium addiction is also soaring among women, according to a report by the UN news agency IRIN Films, and at least 60,000 Afghan children are addicted to narcotics. The opium is usually used as a painkiller and remedy for various diseases, as few hospitals exist in Afghanistan, and even fewer actually have medical supplies.
Conditions of poverty? A recent report by the policy group the Senlis Council showed that 80.3% of Afghans in the Kandahar and Helmand provinces “worried about feeding their families”. 80.4% also say that presence of international forces has not improved their personal security or their living standards.
The last six years of the occupation of Afghanistan have proved one thing above all: that the building of a truly democratic and civil society in Afghanistan must be the task of Afghans themselves. Afghans know this quite well. This is why more and more Afghans are supporting the grassroots Taliban resistance. Today it is unfortunately seen as the only leadership fighting against the occupation and the corruption of the Afghan puppet government, led by President Hamid Karzai , which is completely propped up by the occupation forces.
The government of Canada has long claimed that Canada has “strategic national interests” in a “secure, self-sufficient, stable, and democratic Afghanistan” as is claimed by the “Why we are there” page on the Canadian Forces website. Afghanistan, for the average person living there, is none of these things. The “strategic national interests” of Canada in Afghanistan are those of the government of Canada, not of ordinary people in Canada or Afghanistan. These interests are the interests of profit and strategic trade interests in an area that is at the crossroads of the Middle East, Europe, and Asia.
In the face of the destruction that the occupation of Afghanistan has brought, we as people in Canada have a special task. We must call for Canada out of Afghanistan, but we must also call for an independent public inquiry into Canada’s occupation of Afghanistan. All decisions around this war drive in Afghanistan have been carried out without public consultation or debate. However, an independent public inquiry does not simply mean an agreement to continue the mission in Afghanistan by all parties in the Canadian parliament; it means answering the questions of why this war drive was begun and continues to be increased and carried out at the expense of Afghan lives, and without the consultation of ordinary working people in Canada.
For the ruling class of Canada, the mission in Afghanistan is vital to their profit and their position as a strong economic force among other imperialist countries, no matter what the cost in Afghan lives. This is why journalists of the Canadian ruling class like Rex Murphy call for bloodshed in Afghanistan. And this is why, as peace-loving people in Canada and in Afghanistan, we must stand up against this occupation, which is coldly sacrificing the lives of Afghan people. We must stand together and demand:
Canada Out of Afghanistan!
Independent Public Inquiry into the Canadian War Drive in Afghanistan!
Back to Article Listing