Saskatoon StarPhoenix (ed. version), and
Ensign Thursday, May 18, 2006
We are wrong in Afghanistan
By David Orchard
Canadians are fighting and dying in an undeclared war
in Afghanistan. Prime Minister Harper has stated that
Canada will not "cut and run" in the face of increasing
casualties. Foreign Affairs Minister MacKay says Canada
will "finish the job." Chief of Defence Staff, Rick
Hillier, is quoted as saying "Canada needs to be in
Afghanistan for the long haul... at least a decade – and
probably a lot longer."
But why is Canada in Afghanistan?
We've been told that Afghanistan was a haven for
terrorists and therefore its government needed to be
overthrown to protect the rest of the world.
However, in international law, labelling a country a
haven for terrorists is not sufficient grounds to
justify an invasion of, or an attack on, that country. A
long list could be compiled of nations that have
harboured, willingly or otherwise, those who could be
called terrorists. International law allows the use of
military force only if one's nation is under direct and
ongoing attack itself or if it is authorized by the
Security Council of the United Nations.
Canada has not experienced an attack by Afghanistan.
As for the Security Council, the U.N. resolutions on
Afghanistan prior to the U.S. invasion in October 2001,
contained not even an implied authorization of military
force. Today Canada is not in Afghanistan under UN
command. Our soldiers are not wearing blue helmets. We
are operating in Afghanistan under U.S. command, as part
of U.S. "Operation Enduring Freedom."
Ah, but at least we are there to do good things, our
government replies. To help a war-torn nation stabilize
itself, to bring democracy to a country badly in need of
such and to help liberate women and girls who suffered
under the iron heel of the Taliban.
Yet history shows that "democracy" is rarely imposed
on a country by the barrel of a gun. Nations that
attempt to force their system of government on others
invariably create resistance. Many colonial wars can be
cited as examples, including those in Afghanistan's own
As for the west's influence on Afghan society, a
report by the Revolutionary Association of the Women of
Afghanistan (RAWA) stated shortly after the invasion
that conditions in Afghanistan for women were worse
under the control of our allies, the Northern Alliance,
than previously under the Taliban. According to the RAWA,
"These [the Northern Alliance] are the very people who
immediately upon usurping power... proclaimed – amongst
other sordid restrictions – the compulsory veiling of
all women. The people of the world need to know that in
terms of widespread raping of girls and women from ages
7 to 70, the track record of the Taliban can in no way
stand up against that of these very same 'Northern
Alliance' associates..." It should be noted that these
are women who opposed the Taliban and were lauded in the
U.S. media prior to the invasion for having done so.
Canada is now in Afghanistan as part of a foreign
occupation and a very real, hot war that took, by
conservative estimates, 20,000 Afghan lives within the
first six months alone.
With its 1991 war on Iraq the U.S., for the first
time in history, began using depleted uranium munitions.
It has since used large amounts of DU weaponry in the
former Yugoslavia, Iraq and Afghanistan. The
contamination from depleted uranium remains deadly for
hundreds of thousands of years. Dr. Rosalie Bertell
states in her Update on Depleted Uranium and Gulf War
Syndrome, the use of DU in war is a "a clear
violation of the Geneva Protocol on the Use of Gas in
War." She writes: "DU generates a poison gas, known
commonly as a metal fume, which is highly toxic when
inhaled. It can also be classed as a radiological weapon
of indiscriminate destruction which does not respect
national boundaries, and which persists long after a
conflict is over." The effect of DU on both Afghan
citizens and returning Canadian and American soldiers
has been almost completely ignored.
Perhaps it's worth looking beyond the official
reasons given for this war. Prominent American writer
Gore Vidal in his book Perpetual War for Perpetual
Peace writes: "We need Afghanistan because it is the
gateway to Central Asia, which is full of oil and
natural gas... That's what it's all about. We are
establishing our control over Central Asia."
It's time for some serious questions about Canada's
deepening Afghan involvement. If Canada wished to
undertake a role in Afghanistan as a peace keeper, the
U.S. would first have to pull out. Then Canada could, if
asked by the U.N., perhaps consider a role in
stabilizing the country. Being part of a U.S. military
operation to subdue the country is by definition the
opposite of peacekeeping.
The ongoing threats by the U.S. to attack Iran speak
clearly of an escalating scenario ahead – one in which
Canada may well be drawn further into a vortex of events
which cannot be justified legally, morally or
David Orchard is the author of The Fight for Canada --
Four Centuries of American Expansionism and farms in
Borden, SK. He ran twice for the leadership of the
former Progressive Conservative Party of Canada and is
now a member of the Liberal Party. He can be reached at
firstname.lastname@example.org, tel 306-652-7095