Canada vs. Afghanistan:
Parliament in Ottawa Votes for Two More Years of Occupation & Bloodshed
By Nita Palmer
On Thursday, March 13th 2008, Government of Canada passed a motion in Parliament to extend Canada’s war in Afghanistan for two more years. The decision was based on a recommendation from the Government of Canada’s so-called Independent Advisory Panel on Afghanistan (a panel hand-picked by right-wing Conservative Party leader and Prime Minister of Canada, Stephen Harper) to extend the mission. After weeks of debate among the political parties in Parliament, the Conservatives and the Liberals (the two biggest parties in Parliament) agreed on the motion to extend the mission. The New Democratic Party (NDP) and the Bloc Quebecois both voted against the motion. Although the decision to extend the mission came with the condition that NATO provide 1,000 more troops to assist in the combat mission in Kandahar, where most Canadian Forces are stationed, it is clear that getting these additional troops won’t be a problem. Already France has agreed to send more troops (though possibly not directly to the south); other countries are looking at doing the same.
Poor and Working People Left Out of Decision
Despite all the debate in parliament, the disagreement between parties is not so much a disagreement on whether or not Canadian troops should be in Afghanistan, but instead in what way the occupation should be continued. In the interest of being able to continue the occupation, the Conservatives and the Liberals put aside their differences on the strategy of the mission to agree that the occupation would continue forward with an increased focus on “reconstruction” and training of Afghan military and police. The Liberals also got an important concession from Prime Minister Harper that they would put a cap on the mission’s date and limit it to the end of 2011. This made both parties’ moves and maneuvering meaningful, giving false hope to working people and creating room for further maneuvering to extend the mission beyond 2011. However, practically this will not change anything about the character of the occupation or how many Afghans Canadian soldiers are killing. The NDP, although they voted against the extension of the mission, support Canadian Forces participating in a UN-mandated “peacekeeping” mission. Again, in practice this would not mean much difference in the lives of Afghan people - occupation is occupation, whether the occupiers’ helmets are green or blue.
Outside of the halls of Parliament, there is a real opposition to Canada’s war drive in Afghanistan. However, poor and working people who oppose Canada’s occupation of Afghanistan have had no input into the decision to carry out and extend Canada’s war drive in Afghanistan. All of the decisions made on this issue have taken place between political parties and behind closed doors, with no opportunity for public consultation or debate.
Two More Years of Destruction and Plunder
So what does the extension of Canada’s occupation really mean for people in Afghanistan? It means two more years of plunder, two more years of destruction, and two more years of fighting back against the Canada/NATO occupation. Canada’s “achievements” in Afghanistan since 2001 include:
-Afghanistan becoming the supplier of 90% of the world’s opium (UN World Drug Report)
-A rapidly expanding epidemic of AIDS, a disease not found in Afghanistan before 2001.
-A 40% increase in physical violence against women in the home since March 2007 alone. (United Nations)
-Over 2,764 air strikes on Afghanistan in 2007 alone. There were 1,140 in Iraq in the same time period. (USA Today, October 21st 2007)
By all counts, conditions of life have deteriorated in Afghanistan. Why would they improve under two more years of occupation? In 2005, when the government of Canada extended the mission in Afghanistan until 2007, they promised that they needed “just two more years” to accomplish their goals in Afghanistan. In 2007, when they extended the mission to 2009, they promised the same thing. The extension of the mission from 2009 to 2011 will be no different.
The Growing Afghan Resistance
"Make no mistake, NATO is not winning in Afghanistan.”
-Atlantic Council of the United States (US-based international affairs think-tank)
Besides the fact that Canada and NATO have done nothing to improve the lives of Afghan people, they have failed to achieve their own goals of gaining control over Afghanistan as well. According to the Senlis Council (a major policy think-tank), “The Taliban are entrenched in the South, running parallel governments in several districts and controlling the majority of secondary roads.” (Afghanistan: Decision Point 2008) As of November 2007, the Senlis council, “concluded that the Taliban has a permanent presence in 54 per cent of Afghanistan”. The Taliban has gained strength in Afghanistan as more and more ordinary Afghans join to fight against the occupation of their country. “…we’re seeing the growth in this insurgency from the local grievances,” said Joanna Nathan, a senior analyst with the International Crisis Group. These local grievances include the massive corruption of the occupation-backed and warlord-run government and the killings of friends and family by occupation forces. With their brutal war and occupation, Canada and NATO failed to win the hearts and minds of Afghan people to their side. Now they are losing against them militarily as well.
Why Extend a Failing Occupation?
The government of Canada is failing in its war drive in Afghanistan, at the expense of the lives and dignity of Afghan people. So why are they continuing with this war drive?
As recent crashes in the stock market show (the most severe seen in decades), the world economy is in crisis. All major economic think-tanks are predicting that this is not a minor recession, but the beginning of one of the biggest economic collapses ever seen. To try and prevent total crisis, imperialist countries must find new resources, new trade markets, and new countries to occupy in order to gain access to them. The US is currently leading imperialist plunder in the Middle East, but Canada is not far behind. Afghanistan, sitting between the major trade markets of Europe, the Middle East, and Asia, is a useful country for imperialists to control. Afghanistan could also be used as a stepping stone to attack neighbouring Iran, the biggest contender to US imperialism in the Middle East.
Unite to Demand: Troops Out Now!
For poor and working people in Canada, this imperialist drive for resources and trade markets will not bring any benefits. It will only mean more cuts to health care, education, and social services as the imperialist government of Canada pours more and more funds into their war drive. $7Billion has been spent on the war in Afghanistan already, with the war running $1Billion over budget in 2007 alone. This brutal war and occupation, this massacre of Afghan people, has already dragged on for seven years too long. Now the government is extending it for another two years. More than likely, the death toll of Canadian soldiers will pass 100 this year, and no one knows how many tens or hundreds of thousands of Afghans have died. As working and poor people in Canada, we have a responsibility to demand and end to this war drive. We must also call for an independent public inquiry into Canada’s war drive in Afghanistan, to ask why this criminal war drive continues to be extended and carried out without public consultation or debate. We must unite, across all ages and backgrounds, to demand:
Canada/NATO Out of Afghanistan NOW!
Independent Public Inquiry NOW!
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