Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Canadian soldiers dying for Karzai and Mullah Omar

Using our soldiers as pawns in new Afghan game

Thomas Walkom at the Toronto Star

Karzai is playing a carrot and stick game. The carrot is a place for the Taliban in the Afghan government. The stick is using Canadians and others to kill them (and be killed by them) if they don't go along with it.

The carrot Karzai is offering his adversaries, including Taliban leader Mullah Omar, is a major role in the country's government. Canada and other NATO countries willing to have their soldiers die for the Afghan regime constitute the stick.

Somehow, Canadians dying for the Afghan regime doesn't really have a very good ring to it, does it?

...His problem, however, is that Canadians – even those who now support the war – may not be willing to have their soldiers used as pawns in this new great game.

I never was, and I'm not now.

We have been given many reasons for going to war.

Sometimes, the federal government says we want to ensure that Afghan girls can go to school. Sometimes, it says the aim is to defeat the Taliban so as to prevent Afghanistan from becoming a terrorist base. At yet other times, we are told we are fighting to avenge the 9/11 attacks.
They use whatever they think might work at the time.

Chief of defence staff Gen. Rick Hillier says the aim is to kill the "scumbags."
Always a classy guy, Hillier. Nice to know he's the face of the Canadian military around the world. Makes me proud. (Sarcasm dripping from every word.)

All of these reasons are simple and powerful.
And powerful to the simple. Unfortunately, they're lies.

The argument that we are fighting the Taliban abroad so that we don't have to fight them in downtown Toronto may be wrong. But it has resonance.

However, when the rationale for war is simply to buttress the negotiating position of an obscure foreign leader, will Canadians be as amenable?

...I applaud Karzai for his attempts to end Afghanistan's nightmare through negotiation. Ultimately, a political solution is the only way out.

But at the same time, I wonder how the parents and husbands and wives and girlfriends and boyfriends of Canadian soldiers killed in Afghanistan will feel if he succeeds – if Mullah Omar becomes Karzai's prime minister; if, as part of a coalition deal, more severe forms of sharia law are imposed on women; if the very few gains Afghanistan has made in the field of human rights are reversed.

Won't they wonder if the whole thing was a waste of time? Won't they suspect their lovers and sons and daughters died for nothing?

And they'd be right.

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