On Canada’s Military Involvement in Afghanistan – and Why We Should Stop It
(Version 2 of my English essay; I scrapped version 1 but incorporated parts of it into this one)
For the first time in many, many years, Canada is involved in a military campaign – Afghanistan, the first country to get blown to bits in the name of the ‘War on Terror’.
There are many reasons for which we are in Afghanistan, we are told by our government. The main three reasons are: defending our national interests, ensuring Canadian leadership in world affairs, and helping to rebuild Afghanistan. Of course, there are also the other reasons – fighting ‘terrorism’, supporting our ally America, and, of course, bringing freedom and democracy to Afghanistan. And even more reasons: dealing with the drug trade in Afghanistan (which is responsible for almost half of the world’s cocaine), giving Canadian soldiers some real combat practice, and gaining respect from the rest of the world.
Sounds great, doesn’t it? Except that if we look closely at each of these reasons, if we really analyze them, we’ll find that they’re all flawed. Fatally flawed, even. And by the time we’re finished, we’ll realize just why our military involvement in Afghanistan is doing far more harm to us – and to the Afghans – than good.
The logical way to start is, of course, at the beginning. In this case, it would be why there’s a war in Afghanistan in the first place. Everybody knows that after 9/11 happened, America was mad, and needed to take it out on someone. They turned to Afghanistan, where the alleged mastermind of the 9/11 attacks Usama bin Laden –casually referred to by many as OBL – was said to be hanging out. America, practically frothing at the mouth, declared that the Taliban must hand him over – or else. The Taliban – quite reasonably, in my opinion – asked for evidence of Bin Laden’s crimes. America refused to do so. Then the Taliban offered that they would hand over Bin Laden to a neutral country, where he would be brought to trial in a court of justice. Again, America refused. What happened to democracy and diplomacy then? America threw it out the window, preferring instead to declare war on Afghanistan. Once again, a country ravaged by war for decades, just barely on the brink of recovery, was plunged into death and destruction.
In 2001, then-Canadian-Prime Minister Jean Chretien declared that Canada would join America in its ‘war on terror’, for many of the reasons stated above. And thus began Canada’s military involvement in Afghanistan, which has been the cause of much controversy and heated debate amongst Canadians.
Let us now begin our decomposition of the reasons for which we are in Afghanistan. Number One: fighting terrorism. This is the main reason, one which even most anti-war activists acknowledge, however reluctantly.
The truth is that since the launch of the ‘War on Terror’, terrorism has, in fact, only grown. Attacks in Bali, Britain, Spain, and elsewhere have proven it. The war has given the so-called ‘Jihadists’ more excuses to do what they are doing.
If we truly want to fight terrorism, war is not the way to do it. As everyone should know, when you have a problem, you have to deal with the cause of the problem, not just the symptoms. And with this particular issue, with the ‘war on terror’, it is even more so. These attacks happened. But why? Deal with the root causes, and you’re on your way to eliminating the issue altogether. Many books have been written on this topic, so I shall suffice with just a sentence to quickly summarize it: the root cause of OBL’s ‘brand of terror’ (as some have called it) is not a desire to take over the world, but anger at the plight of Muslims all over the world, who are suffering under cruel dictators and tyrannical regimes (most of which, by the way, are approved of by the West, Egypt’s Husni Mubarak and Pakistan’s General Musharraf being two cases in point) and whose situations have either been instigated by, ignored by, and/or taken advantage of by the West. If the West – specifically America - just stopped once, evaluated their foreign policies and their impact on the Muslim world, they’d realize just why they’re hated by so many people. The next step would be to change their policies so that they’re less self-serving and show more compassion for the people of the countries they’re mucking about it… although maybe that’s just too much wishful thinking.
The point is, the so-called war on terror isn’t working. It is attacking the symptoms, not the cause, and as long as that continues, the war will continue, and people will continue to die needlessly.
National security is another point that the pro-war people bring up in defence of the war. However, studies have shown that the threat of terrorist attacks in Canada has risen since we have entered Afghanistan on a military mission. The alleged plot by the 17 young men in Ontario simply highlights this fact.
Once pretty much ignored by the ‘terrorists’, viewed as a neutral sort of country not really worth noticing, we have now become, in their eyes, on par with America, the ‘Great Satan’. We are now considered their supporters, partners in crime, and as such, a legitimate target – and as a Canadian citizen, I find that very worrying.
A member of the Taliban, Mullah Dadullah, who appeared on al-Jazeera TV, stated: "Our main enemy is the United States. As for Canada and the other countries - we have no historical enmity with them. But if they want to come here as fighting forces, we will view them just as we view the Americans, and will conduct resistance against them. But if they return to where they came from, and withdraw their forces from here, we will not view them like the Americans, but as countries which we have nothing to do with."
This clearly shows that they wish no ill against us, have no grudge against us, and would gladly leave us alone if we just left them alone. Wouldn’t it be so much better for us if we stopped military activity and resumed the role of peacekeeping, humanitarian aid givers? The lives of our soldiers would be spared, and more could be done to help the Afghan people – which is supposed to be our main goal anyway – if we stopped spending so much money on military ventures and focused more on the humanitarian aid we should be providing.
Not only that, but as NDP leader Jack Layton said in his statement to the Canadian public on August 31st of this year, our defence dollars are going towards the war in Afghanistan instead – leaving us, the Canadian public, less secure. So much for national security!
Now, let’s move onto the issue of our ‘national interests’ in Afghanistan. If we look closely, we’ll see that we don’t have national interests in Afghanistan. We do not share borders with them, we do have any disputes with them, nothing. The only ‘national interest’ we have in Afghanistan is that of colonizing it – not in the traditional sense, perhaps, of sending Canadians to live there and establish it as ‘Canadian land’ – but in the imperialist sense of making it a base of power for ourselves, of making sure that our personal interests are catered to, rather than doing what’s best for the Afghanis, of controlling the affairs of others.
This thought is extremely troubling, and we as Canadians – as human beings! – ought to be concerned and yes, even alarmed. Imperialism is something that benefits only some and harms many, and in this case especially, if the Canadian government continues in its attempt to be more like America to the point that its willing to adopt even its ideology – an ideology which, by the way, can be considered to be the reason behind widespread anger and hatred towards America around the world – be sure that there will be serious consequences. Nobody likes an imperialist – especially the victims of imperialism, who have a tendency to rise up against the imperialist forces and harm them severely. And if the Canadian government tries to follow in America’s footsteps and impose Canadian imperialism over Afghanistan, then what we can expect is for our country, at some time in the future, to suffer.
People do not take kindly to having their affairs managed by those who care nothing about the people and everything about the power and wealth that they have, and when the people get sick and tired of being taken advantage of, they will fight back, and few revolutions have shown much mercy to the imperialist oppressors being removed. Is this what we want for Canada, now or in the future? Certainly not!
Therefore, for our government to use the ‘national interests of Canada’ as an excuse to impose Canadian imperialism in Afghanistan is highly irresponsible and furthermore, in no way beneficial to our national interests – which is first and foremost to keep our country and our citizens safe from all harm – but is indeed contrary to that very goal.
A slogan popularly trumpeted in the marketing of the war in Afghanistan is that of “Bringing freedom and democracy to a failed state!”
Well, if you call a puppet government made up of warlords and drug lords, who have almost zero power outside of the capital city, and who cannot leave their own houses with an entourage of bodyguards, a democracy – pat yourself on the back for a job well done.
But if you, like me, disagree with that definition of ‘freedom and democracy’, then by looking at the state of Afghanistan today we can swiftly conclude that our military involvement in Afghanistan has done far more harm than good. Afghanistan today is ten times worse than it ever was under the Taliban. Contrary to what everyone says, life for the average Afghani has NOT improved.
Outside of Kabul, women and girls still do not go to school, or walk around freely, as RAWA (Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan) reports. If anything, they are in even more danger, of being kidnapped and raped by the lawless militias that roam the countryside. Men still cannot find work, are still unable to provide even the basic necessities of life for their families. Reports by Amnesty International’s Children’s Rights Section say that children are regularly kidnapped, held for ransom, and killed if their demands are not fulfilled swiftly.
That’s not all. The drug trade – yet another reason for which the Canadian government says we’re in Afghanistan, to try and destroy the drug trade – is blooming. Opium crops have doubled since the war, and there are alarming statistics that link America’s presence – and that of its allies – with the increasing success of the drug trade. Some suspect that the CIA, or at the very least American soldiers, are involved in smuggling cocaine back into the States; others point out the relationship between the Americans and the drug lords of Afghanistan, who have grown in power and wealth and are exploiting it disgustingly at the expense of the average Afghani.
However, what little action being taken against the drug trade is not being done in a proper manner. The Senlis Council, an international policy think tank that works in the fields of foreign policy, security, and counter-narcotics, the current counter-narcotics policies being implemented by the ‘international community’ are doing more to harm Afghanis – for whom poppy cultivation is one of the few sources of income – and not doing much damage to the actual drug trade. As a result, there continues to be a terrible poverty crisis in Afghanistan – a crisis that Canada could be doing more to solve.
The one thing that most Canadians support, or approve of, as a reason for our presence in Afghanistan is that of helping to rebuild Afghanistan. But as we have seen, Afghanistan today is worse than it was under the Taliban.
And I ask you: do the construction of homes, schools, hospitals, and so on require soldiers? What does making life better for the Afghanis, by helping supply them with basic necessities, have to do with violence? We could be doing a lot more to help the Afghanis if we stopped spending so much money on the military and more on humanitarian aid. Instead, we are spending money on military ventures that are simply creating more enemies against us – something very important to remember in this respect is the fact that many of the so-called ‘terrorists’, the ‘rebels’, are simply civilians who don’t take kindly to having a zillion trigger-happy soldiers riding in big tanks trampling the countryside and shooting at them.
More blood is shed, more lives ended, more hearts broken, more widows made, in a country that has seen too much of blood, death, broken hearts and widows.
By killing their fathers, brothers, and sons, we are not helping the Afghanis. We are only turning more of them against us. It is time for us to put down our guns, and focus solely on providing humanitarian aid. Let us give the Afghanis what they really need – the basic necessities of life, and the tools for a better future – and stop this senseless killing.
No matter what people may say – that we are defending freedom, that we are fighting the enemies of freedom, that we are spreading democracy, that we are a people who stand by their allies and do not ‘cut and run’ – the blunt truth is that for Canada to be involved militarily in Afghanistan does little good and much harm. People are dying for no reason but that they dare to fight back against an invading army that showed utter disrespect for diplomacy; even if they surrender, they can expect torture, and even death (numerous reports have proven that American-run prisons torture inmates on a regular basis, and 800 Taliban soldiers who had surrendered were mercilessly killed by the Americans in November 2001).
The Americans have a very, very bad track record, in both Afghanistan and Iraq, and even though they may be our allies, we as Canadians cannot support them when they do things contrary to our beliefs and international law. Organizations like the Human Rights Watch have proven that America has been using cluster bombs in Afghanistan, which pose a serious danger to innocents more than to any ‘terrorists’; whole villages have been bombed, only for the American army to say later on that it was a ‘mistake’, the result of ‘misinformation’; and other such examples. Can we, in our right minds, support this kind of thing?! Absolutely not! It goes against everything that we believe in as Canadians, as human beings! Nothing, absolutely nothing, justifies such crimes against humanity. And this is something that we must remember, lest we fall prey to war supporters who loudly cry that we have to fight the ‘terrorists’ by any means necessary. The end does not justify the means!
In another desperate bid to gather support for the war, the Prime Minister and other proponents of the war claim that Canada must be involved in Afghanistan, to show the world that Canada is not content to watch from the sidelines.
Yet to establish Canadian leadership in world affairs, we did not have to follow a country well-known for its brashness and disrespect for others and embroil ourselves in a very sticky situation out of which there is no getting out of easily. Canadians have always been proud of the fact that we are a country that hates war and loves peace, that does whatever it can in the political arena to try and resolve disagreements between angry countries. And now? Now we’re starting to be known as “America’s shadow”. Our reputation, once one that was greatly respected all around the world, is now sneered at, looked down upon, viewed with derision. People are disappointed in us. We are disappointed in ourselves.
If we really want to be good leaders in world affairs, we should not be giving into peer pressure from the U.S. and doing whatever they tell us to. We should stand up, make our own decisions, choose our own course, and be an example to the rest of the world by showing that good leaders don’t have to show their power by the force of their military, but by daring to lay down weapons and start actively, peacefully, working towards peace. Words, not weapons! That is what our motto ought to be.
Lastly, there are those people crass enough to say that a benefit of our military involvement in Afghanistan is that our soldiers are getting ‘real’ combat practice. To me – and no doubt to anyone with a conscience – that is absolutely disgusting. Keep in mind that ‘real’ combat practice involves hurting and killing people – many of whom, we have seen from reports, are actually civilians and not the ‘terrorists’ they claim that they’re fighting. Real people, innocent men, women, and children, who did nothing wrong but were unfortunate enough to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
The logical thing to do, the moral thing to do, is to stop fighting and start helping. It is time for us to put down our guns, and focus solely on providing humanitarian aid. Let us give the Afghanis what they really need – the basic necessities of life, and the tools for a better future – and stop this senseless killing.
By pursuing military activity, we are only hurting ourselves – our national interests are not being defended or served; the excuse of establishing Canadian leadership in world affairs is ridiculous, and if we really wanted to be good leaders in world affairs, we’d stop fighting and start negotiating; and as long as we keep fighting and killing Afghanis – because the Taliban are Afghanis, and although they certainly weren’t perfect, they rescued the country while it was on the brink of destruction after the Soviet war, which was better than what America and other Western countries did – we will not be helping rebuild Afghanistan to the best of our ability.
As a Muslim and as a Canadian, I believe that the right thing to do is for Canada to withdraw from all military activity and concentrate its efforts on humanitarian aid. Canada cannot be a participant in an unjust war, and to continue involvement only compromises our national security and does more harm than good. Furthermore, there are many Canadians who think the way I do – and as Canadians, whose fellow citizens are being sent off to fight and die in a country and a war that isn’t ours, we ought to have the right to pull our army out of there.
In short, our military involvement in Afghanistan is counterproductive to our goals and interests.
Tuesday, September 19, 2006
On Canada’s Military Involvement in Afghanistan – and Why We Should Stop It
Posted by AnonyMouse at 3:39 PM