Canada in Afghanistan:
Portrait of a Failing Criminal and Brutal War and Occupation
By Nita Palmer
“We're working closely together to help the people of Afghanistan prosper. We work together to give the people of Afghanistan a chance to raise their children in a hopeful world. And we're working together to defeat those who would try to stop the advance of a free Afghan society.”
These were the wise words of US President George W. Bush when he met with Afghan President Hamid Karzai on August 5th to discuss their ongoing collaboration in the occupation of Afghanistan. The questions that come to my mind at these words are: just who is George Bush thinking of when he claims that the US Government and the 43,000 occupation forces troops in Afghanistan are ‘helping people prosper’? What ‘hopeful world’ are Afghan children (1 in 4 of whom die before their 5th birthday - UNICEF) being raised in?
US, Canada, NATO: Working Together to Destroy Afghanistan
The occupation of Afghanistan by Canada, the US and NATO has stretched on for nearly six years now, since the US led the invasion of the country in October 2001. Without a doubt, these last six years have brought some of the worst destruction of human life Afghans have ever seen. Tens of thousands of Afghans have been killed in this war so far, although no accurate count of just how many deaths there have been exists. Unemployment in Afghanistan sits at 78% (CBC News), while 70% of Afghans live on less than $2 per day. On top of this, recent bombing campaigns by NATO have shown a cold disregard for the lives of human beings – civilians are killed daily by air strikes. According to Human Rights Watch, in a three-month period between April and July, US and NATO forces dropped 407 bombs on Afghanistan – four times more than the number dropped on Iraq during that time.
Canada, NATO, and other occupation forces troops, along with the corrupt, occupation-backed Afghan government, have been facing increasing protest and resistance from Afghans who are sick of seeing the six-year-long destruction of their country. As civilian casualties of NATO bombings rise, NATO’s response has been simply bomb a village, apologize, promise they’ll be more careful – and then turn around and do the same thing the next day. “One point in our new joint strategy [with NATO] is to use smaller and lighter bombs in aerial strikes,” Zahir Azimi, spokesperson for Afghanistan’s occupation-backed Ministry of Defense explained on July 30. Aleem Siddique, a UN spokesperson in Kabul, responded with the sentiment of most Afghans: “We cannot say whether a small bomb or a big bomb is good. Any civilian casualty is unacceptable."
As for the popularity of Hamid Karzai’s supposedly democratically elected government, former Afghan Prime Minister Ahmed Shah Ahmedzai said, “ten percent of people may say he is good and this will only be those people around him getting benefits. Ninety percent of people are unhappy.” This is truly the best reflection of who George Bush is talking about when he says that the occupation of Afghanistan is helping people ‘prosper’ – the only group prospering in Afghanistan is a small group of wealthy elites who have been put in positions of power by the occupation.
The rosy portrait of Afghanistan that Bush and Karzai have tried to paint is stained with blood, and peace-loving people around the world know it. They have failed to establish any of their supposed goals of ‘reconstruction’ or ‘helping the people of Afghanistan’. But Bush and Karzai, driven by their common interest of profit-making and in a desperate attempt to cover the failure of the occupation, continue to deny what the facts so obviously show.
Afghanistan: Imperialists’ Stepping-stone to Iran
In fact, for all their smiles and whitewashing of the destruction of Afghanistan, there was one point that Karzai and Bush disagreed on: Iran’s role in Afghanistan. While Karzai commended Iran for the aid and development projects they have led in Afghanistan, Bush called Iran a “destabilizing influence” there. Karzai, as a member of the ruling class that owns virtually all the wealth in Afghanistan, is trying to protect the interests of the Afghan ruling class in making profit. Bush is protecting the interests of the US ruling class and US corporations in their profit-making and plundering.
Karzai is eyeing Iran, knowing that Iran is the biggest independent economic and political force in the region – and that the Iranian government is capable of making life either very comfortable for the ruling class of Afghanistan, through investment and support, or making life very difficult for them if they don’t cooperate with Iran’s interests.
Bush, too, is eyeing Iran – but not with the interests of the Afghan ruling class in mind. Fundamentally, the war in Afghanistan is not simply about the ‘war on terror’ or even about plundering and exploiting in Afghanistan alone. Afghanistan is one piece of the imperialists’ pie, one country under attack in an era of war and occupation that has spread from Afghanistan to Iraq, Haiti, Sudan and Somalia. Afghanistan’s real advantage is that it is in a perfect strategic economic and military position. The economies of imperialist countries like the US, Canada and the UK are declining. In order to delay a complete economic disaster, they are expanding their control of resources and of trade markets through war and occupation – today focused in the Middle East. The US is leading this game right now, with Canada following closely behind. But in order for the US to be able to establish its complete hegemony and exploitation of the Middle East, it faces a big contender – Iran. Iran is the only country in the Middle East, which, since its revolution in 1979, has stood politically and economically independent from the US. In order for the US to control the Middle East, it must control Iran, which today stands as an example of a pole of resistance to imperialism for people throughout the Middle East. Afghanistan, then, is a stepping stone along the US’ path to capturing Iran. Naturally, the US is none too keen on Karzai establishing a friendly relationship with Iran, the country which the US has its eyes on attacking and plundering.
The Reasons for Canada’s War Drive
So where do the 2,600 Canadian troops that are occupying Afghanistan fit into this picture? Canada has been a leading participant in the destruction of Afghanistan since 2001. News of Canada’s occupation, scarce six years ago, can now be seen daily on every major Canadian news channel. 66 Canadian soldiers and one diplomat have been killed in Afghanistan to date. But a common misconception regarding Canada’s occupation is that Canada is just following the policies of the US, or that Prime Minister Stephen Harper is being bullied into sending troops to Afghanistan by George Bush. One look at the words of the Canadian ruling class shows that this is false. Canada’s “white paper on defense” says that Canada needs to break through the “glass ceiling of its middle-power status” and compete economically in “a world of rising giants”. Pretty solid evidence that the Canadian ruling class has its own interests, not the interests of the US, in mind in the occupation of Afghanistan.
As the destruction of Afghanistan continues, as more and more young Canadian soldiers come home in body bags, opposition to the war has been growing among people in Canada. The government of Canada has realized that they cannot maintain their occupation as it is today without having to contend with widespread opposition to the bloodthirsty war drive. They are increasingly trapped between the growing opposition to the war by people in Canada and the rising resistance in Afghanistan. Their profit-making needs mean that it is essential for them to establish their control over Afghanistan, and yet they have not managed to establish their control due to the growing Afghan resistance. Canada’s current mission as part of the NATO International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in southern Afghanistan is scheduled to end in 2009. Much talk has been going back and forth between the major political parties in Canada as to what will happen to the mission after this. Prime Minister Stephen Harper, leader of the Conservative party, has stated that his government will not continue the mission without the consensus of all parties in the government. But it is the consensus of the parties, not ordinary working people in Canada, that Stephen Harper is looking for. And none of the parties are fundamentally against the occupation of Afghanistan. The New Democratic Party (NDP) calls for a withdrawal of troops from the “counter-insurgency mission”, not from the mission altogether. The Liberal party calls for an end to the “current combat mission in Southern Afghanistan” by 2009.
While a withdrawal from the unpopular combat mission may save face for the government of Canada, it is by no means calling for an end to the occupation. Occupation is occupation no matter who is at the forefront of carrying it out, and the government of Canada will still have blood on its hands, whether Canadian Forces soldiers are regularly participating in direct combat or not. From the Conservatives, talk is growing of training the Afghan police and military to do the job that Canadian Forces soldiers are doing now. Let’s be clear on this - a change in the mission to focus on training Afghan forces to do the bidding of the Canadian government will not change the nature of the repression and bloodshed in Afghanistan – only the face of it.
Our Responsibility to Build the Anti-War Movement
As ordinary working and oppressed people in Canada, we must be clear that the maneuverings of the government and political parties in Canada do not mean an end to the suffering of our brothers and sisters in Afghanistan. We must also be clear on our demands: for an immediate withdrawal of ALL occupation forces from Afghanistan, and for self-determination of the Afghan people. Afghans have a long and proud tradition of fighting for their rights, fighting against occupation, and fighting to build a better society for themselves. The factor that is truly stopping the development of civil society in Afghanistan is not the growing grassroots Taliban resistance, which has emerged as unfortunately the only leadership fighting the occupation. The factor that is truly stopping the development of civil society in Afghanistan is the occupation itself.
As working and poor people in Canada, our interests don’t lie with the government and the ruling class of Canada, which is destroying Afghanistan while cutting our social services, attacking our unions, and building up a racist and anti-immigrant fear campaign here. As the government continues to avoid public consultation or debate on the mission in Afghanistan, we must call for an independent public inquiry into Canada’s war drive in Afghanistan - to ask why the government has spent over $4 Billion in taxpayer dollars and sent over 2,600 soldiers to Afghanistan to carry out a bloody and senseless war drive without the consultation of people in Canada. We must also unite with people in Afghanistan and peace-loving people around the world to demand:
Canadian Troops Out of Afghanistan NOW!
NATO Out of Afghanistan NOW!
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