Canada in Afghanistan:
A Defeat for the Canadian Ruling Class
By Mike Chimenti
As the genocidal Canada/NATO occupation of Afghanistan continues unabated, all of the quality of life indicators for Afghan civilians continue to reflect what every Afghan already knows – the occupation is destroying any chance of a decent life in Afghanistan.
Daily reports of civilians killed by NATO bombs or shot by occupying forces are continually downplayed by the government and media. Meanwhile, the Canadian ruling class is becoming increasingly trapped between two fronts – the opposition of the majority of Afghans to Canada’s occupation, and the opposition of the majority of people in Canada to the government of Canada’s mission in Afghanistan.
Deterioration of Life
Despite all of the claims of progress in Afghanistan, reports from the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), UNICEF, and the Red Cross show only deteriorating living conditions for Afghans.
On July 5th the FAO reported that more than 6.5 million Afghans continue to face the risk of malnutrition and starvation, and that “3 out of 10 Afghans suffer from chronic food insecurity”. A June 9th UNICEF report showed that there are more than 60,000 children begging on the streets of Kabul alone, an increase of 62% since 2005. A second report a week later stated that 1 in 4 children in Afghanistan are forced to work in order to survive. The occupying forces of Canada/NATO continue to prove that they are incapable of providing any positive impacts for Afghan civilians.
On July 16th Ipsos Reid released its latest opinion poll results which showed that at least 50% of people in Canada are opposed to the occupation of Afghanistan, up from 43% in the fall of 2006. In Quebec, that number rises to 70%. Amid this rising opposition to the government of Canada’s war drive in Afghanistan, Stephen Harper claimed on July 18th that he doesn’t “see a kind of a moral opposition to this mission,” rather he sees “a growing concern of Canadians of the burden that we are carrying and the level of Canadian casualties.” Most people would agree. We are concerned about carrying the burden of fewer schools, hospitals and social programs while military budgets continue to increase, along with the number of deaths in Afghanistan. We are concerned about the deaths of working people in Canada, recruited to the armed forces based on the promise of a steady job and money for post-secondary education, only to die defending the profit interests of the Canadian ruling class.
During the same press statement, Harper went on to say that “if the international community works together we can make progress in that country, to the point where it becomes ... a functioning nation”. Unfortunately, the only progress that NATO and the Canadian ruling class have made in Afghanistan recently is in raising the number of civilian deaths from NATO bombing raids, and the level of anger of Afghan villagers, to progressively higher levels.
Military Killing Machine
"I prefer to join the Taliban forces because Taliban have so far killed only 2 people in my village while the coalition forces killed 63 people in a single day. Now you tell me who is my real enemy, the Taliban or the foreign troops?"
- Haji Nik Mohammad, Oct. 26th 2006, from Panjwaye village of Qandadahar
This was the feeling of many Afghans last fall as NATO carried out its largest bombing campaign in Afghanistan since the invasion and occupation began in October of 2001, dropping more bombs and firing more cannon rounds in 2006 than in the first 3 years of the occupation combined.
Recently, NATO has been heavily relying on air raids against the Afghan population in order to counter resistance attacks. The indiscriminate bombing of Afghan villagers has reached such desperate proportions that even the Western-backed Afghan PM Hamid Karzai told the BBC that NATO’s killings of civilians were “difficult for us to accept or understand”.
Desperately trying to cling to some semblance of legitimacy, NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer claimed on June 15th that civilian deaths resulting from NATO bombs were in a “separate moral category” than civilians killed by resistance attacks. Perhaps de Hoop Scheffer feels the need to differentiate between civilian deaths because the number of civilian deaths in NATO’s “separate moral category” is higher than the number from resistance attacks. On July 2nd the United Nations (UN) reported that more than 600 Afghan civilians had been killed this year, and more than half of those deaths were at the hands of “pro-government” forces.
Is There Any Confusion, Is There Any Release?
Despite the naked oppression and violence of the occupation and the undeniable worsening of living conditions for Afghans, a small section of people in Canada, some of whom consider themselves progressive, remain confused about the government of Canada’s intentions in Afghanistan.
A recent article, “Staying the course,” by journalist Jared Ferrie, in the Canadian THIS magazine March-April 2007 issue, Ferrie argues that Canadians should support the government of Canada’s mission in Afghanistan. I read Mr. Ferrie’s article with interest and am convinced that he is trying to raise a genuine, honest and compassionate concern. His central concern seems to be that Afghanistan will suffer a horrific future if the tens of thousands of foreign soldiers in Afghanistan are pulled out. Mr. Ferrie characterizes the call for the immediate withdrawal of all foreign troops from Afghanistan “an odd position for the left, which has always prided itself on a commitment to social justice, to advocate a policy that could result in the suffering of millions of Afghans.”
However, the argument really doesn’t stand up to a logical inspection. The common consensus against withdrawing the troops says that if there are no more Canadian, US and NATO soldiers in Afghanistan - women’s rights and quality of life will be “returned” to their previous lows. Children, especially girls, will not be able to go to school, millions of people will face starvation and the fighting between different factions will start anew. The problem with this is that the objective conditions on the ground in Afghanistan concretely show that all of these hypothesized future dangers in Afghanistan are the current daily reality.
Since the occupation began almost 6 years ago, life expectancy in Afghanistan has decreased by 4 years to an abysmal 43 years. And, despite all of the rhetoric about the liberation of women and improvements to the status of women, the lives of women in Afghanistan continue to become more unbearable.
Is it possible to believe that in a country that has been in a state of war for the last 6 years –not to say in the last 30 years- that the living conditions of one of the most oppressed layers of Afghan society would improve? How could it be that in a country that now has the 3rd highest infant mortality rate in the world, where 700 children die from malnutrition everyday that the conditions of women could improve? Add to this that one woman dies every 28 minutes during childbirth, and that 1,900 out of every 100,000 mothers dies from pregnancy related causes.
In Afghanistan, it is estimated that there are 2 million war widows (a number which is increasing daily), the number of these widows who have children to support is unknown. In a country with a minimum of 40% unemployment, with most people working as day labourers, for a widowed mother to find employment is almost impossible. This situation has forced millions of mothers to send their children to work in order to survive. According to a UNICEF report published June 18th almost ¼ of all Afghan children between the ages of 7 and 14 are working, and the majority of these children are girls.
Anti-War Principal and MAWO
The Western media and the spokespersons for imperialist countries constantly claim that Afghan women and girls now have access to education, but according to Saifal Maluk, head of education in Helmand province, 330 mixed schools had been closed in Kandahar, Zabul and Helmand provinces since NATO expanded its presence in the south of Afghanistan in 2006.
Other vain attempts to justify the occupation include building democracy, free elections and representative government. But according to Jarrett LeBlanc, a visiting scholar at the US Institute of Peace at the Council on Foreign Relations, free elections under occupation are impossible.
When asked during an interview with Radio Free Europe –an absolutely pro US, pro imperialist institution- “Is it possible to have free and fair elections in conflict zones like Iraq and Afghanistan?”, he answered, “No. The idea is almost necessarily paradoxical…” Later in the interview he said, “… 70 percent of the votes cast in the parliamentary election went to candidates who didn't win. So only 30 percent of the votes went to winning candidates.”
Part way through making his case for the continuation of the occupation, Mr. Ferrie says that, “the call for withdrawal continues to grow as activists attack Canada’s role in the NATO mission. Mobilization Against War & Occupation (MAWO) is one of Vancouver’s most active groups, having collected more than 12,000 signatures on a petition to withdraw troops. But MAWO appears to oppose Canadian military intervention on principle.”
I agree with Mr. Ferrie’s comment about MAWO. As an anti-war coalition, MAWO opposes imperialist war and occupation on principle, but on the principle of the defence of humanity and the defence of the right of a sovereign people to self-determination. Calling for the continuation of the occupation, for any reason, is calling for the suppression of Afghanistans’ (an oppressed nation) right to self-determination. Nonetheless, I’m wondering how Mr. Ferrie reads all those statistics and negative reports by the UN, FAO, UNICEF, Amnesty International, Human Rights, etc.? Principles aside, don’t the facts speak for themselves?
Afghanistan for Afghans
The country of Afghanistan has a long history. Indeed, Kabul and Kandahar, now in ruins, were once the leading centres of trade and civilization in Central Asia. This history is not unknown to people in Afghanistan. As well, the Taliban was not the first form of government that Afghanistan ever had, and it most certainly would not have been the last, regardless of the US invasion. But with the present occupation of Afghanistan, Afghans are faced with a struggle against occupation and subjugation. Not only must the Afghan struggle for liberation fight against the imperialist soldiers, they must also struggle against the distortions and problems created in Afghanistan by the current and past occupations.
The increasing intensity of NATO’s war drive in Afghanistan is a clear manifestation of Canada and NATO’s criminal intention to completely deny Afghan self-determination in an attempt to stave off the effects of their economic crisis. The increasing resistance to the occupation within Afghanistan is a clear manifestation of the awareness of Afghan people of their history and their desire to defend their land and self-determination at all costs. The rising opposition within Canada to the Canadian government’s war drive in Afghanistan is a clear manifestation that the people of Canada are waking up to the fact that the government of Canada has no intentions, or ability, to improve the lives of Afghans.
As people in Canada suffer increasing cuts to healthcare, education, social programs, women’s services, higher unemployment and poverty, as well as the continuing occupation and suppression of Indigenous people in Canada, they are beginning to understand that the government that is responsible for the denial and suppression of people’s rights in Canada is the same government that is responsible for the denial and suppression of people’s rights in Afghanistan.
Canadian Troops Out of Afghanistan Now!
NATO Out of Afghanistan Now!
Hands Off Afghanistan!
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