Thursday, March 16, 2006

Here's where I stand so far

So I have spent the last few days letting the various arguments about Afghanistan percolate ... I'll share with you where I'm at, but if you have any persuasive arguments that may sway me in another direction, please let me know.

Reasons why the Canadian mission is a bad, bad idea:

1. No politician has made it clear why we're really there. Are we there to help the country re-build? To "restore democracy?" To fight terrorism? To keep the peace? As others have pointed out, the reasons keep changing as Canadians express doubts about this deployment. And if Canadian soldiers are going to be involved in a long-term military occupation (or war for that matter), we should at least understand why we're there in the first place.

2. This is not a UN peace mission. This part of Bush's "War on Terror," exacerbated after 9/11. One of Bush's first actions after 9/11 was to bomb the shit out of Afghanistan. Has this stopped terrorism from growing, or has it (and the occupation of Iraq) just made the U.S. more of a target? Hmm ... I wonder. We should learn from the experience of the Canadian hostage who was just freed by Palestinian militants. They let him go when they realized he was Canadian. They were prepared to harm him when they thought he was American. So is Bush winning the War on Terror? I think not.

3. The "new and improved" Afghan government is no Western-style democracy. It's not any kind of democracy for that matter. Recent reports indicate that the government is unwilling to build schools for girls. Period. Gay people are routinely stoned to death (legally) in Afghanistan, and women have few legal rights. Just who are we propping up by supporting this mission? Will this really help improve people's lives in Afghanistan?

4. Where are the Afghan voices of peaceful resistance? So far, the only people I've heard from are the occupiers (Canada and the U.S.), and the new Afghan government. Is there any room for self-determination in this "rebuilding" scheme? Shortly after the U.S. bombed Afghanistan in 2001, military planes dropped food "aid" packages onto the masses of displaced people. At the time, reports said the supposed "food" included in the packages included Pop Tarts. I am not joking. This seems to be the perfect metaphor for the Western "rebuilding" of another culture.

5. We should be suspicious when politicians tell us to shut up. The suggestion that it is somehow inappropriate to discuss the merits of this mission for fear of "not supporting the troops" is absurd. Canadians want to understand why we're in Afghanistan, so they can make an informed decision about whether or not they support the deployment. This debate is important precisely because we care about our troops. We want to know if this mission is worth risking Canadian lives. We want to know if our country is doing more harm than good by being over there. Some of the strongest anti-war voices in the U.S. are the parents of soldiers who were killed in Iraq. Will it take a Canadian Cindy Sheehan to get our politicians to listen?

Here's what I would say to Stephen Harper: if this is truly a humanitarian mission, explain to me why it is one. And then explain to me why this mission (as opposed to other humanitarian crises in countries like Darfur) is the one Canada should be involved in.

Unilateral action is just sooooooo un-Canadian.

1 comment:

Queer As Moi said...

Once piece of interesting perspective I've heard, totally aside from the question of whether we actually should be in Afghanistan, is the attitude of our soldiers towards being there. I met a guy in Victoria who served in the reserves for several years. He told me that Afghanistan was an assigment people really wanted, and there was intense competition for people to be sent out there. We still only draw on our reserves in an official "time of war" and Canada hasn't been in that situation in decades. So as much as this stuff is raising questions, at the very least we are dealing with willing Canadians who aren't being forced to stay there - I imagine there's still a good supply of voluntary replacements.