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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 past.

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 practically.


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 davidorchard@sasktel.net, tel 306-652-7095

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