Global Research.ca, Sunday, February 23, 2008, The Hill Times,
Monday, February 25, 2008 and
CounterPunch.org, Tuesday, February 26, 2008
Canada in Afghanistan: The New Conquistadores
by David Orchard
The Harper government is seeking to prolong Canada's
military involvement in Afghanistan. So far, Canada has
spent six years, billions of dollars, 78 young lives
(many more wounded) and inflicted unknown casualties on
The terms used to describe our occupation and ongoing
war are remarkably similar to those used over a century
ago by colonial powers to justify their ruthless wars of
colonization. Then, it was the white man's burden to
"civilize" the non-whites of the Americas, Africa and
Asia. As boy scouts we were taught Kipling's
unforgettable prose about the "lesser breeds," but
nothing about the real people who paid horrendous costs
in death, suffering, destruction and theft of their land
Today, we are involved in a "mission" in Afghanistan
to "improve" the lives of women and children, to install
"democracy," to root out corruption and the drug trade.
Waging war with bombs and guns is not helping women
or installing democracy. It is, however, strengthening
the Afghan resistance — hence our increasingly shrill
cries for more help from NATO.
The U.S. is involved in a similar "mission" in Iraq.
So far, over a million Iraqis — many of them children —
have died, some two million have fled the country,
another two million are "internally displaced," untold
hundreds of thousands wounded in an endless war waged by
the world's most advanced military almost entirely
The toll of dead, wounded and displaced for
Afghanistan is not being published.
The deadly effects of radioactive, depleted uranium
(DU) ammunition being inflicted on both countries (some
originally from Saskatchewan) haven't begun to be
tabulated or understood, let alone reported back to us.
The idea that bombing the population will improve the
lives of women and children could only come from those
who have never experienced war.
As for narcotics, in 2001, when the West's attack on
Afghanistan began, its opium trade was approaching
eradication. Today, Afghanistan produces over 90% of the
world's heroin and the U.S. is proposing mass aerial
spraying of pesticides.
Those of the writer's generation and older will
remember the U.S. onslaught against little Vietnam — the
long unspeakable war — which left six million
Vietnamese, Laotians and Cambodians dead, wounded or
In that extraordinary country one sees miles upon
miles of neat graves in the cemeteries, thousands of
acres — aerial sprayed with horrific chemicals — still
lying waste, craters left from ten million tons of bombs
dropped, hand excavated underground tunnels in which the
people were forced to live for years on end. An ancient
African saying goes, "the axe forgets, but not the
tree." Today, over four million Vietnamese still suffer,
many indescribably so, the effects of Agent Orange and
other chemicals, and genetic damage is continuing from
generation to generation.
In the case of Vietnam, Canada kept its troops out.
Over the past decade, however, Canada has bombed
Yugoslavia, helped overthrow Jean Bertrand Aristide's
democratically elected government in Haiti, is occupying
Afghanistan and now, we learn, is getting involved more
deeply in the U.S. devastation of Iraq. (Something
Stephen Harper and Stockwell Day openly advocated from
the beginning of the U.S. "Shock and Awe" assault on
that defenceless nation.)
What gives the rich, powerful, white West the right
to wage unending, merciless wars against small, largely
non-white, Third World countries? (Yugoslavia, where the
west invented "humanitarian" bombing was not a Third
World country, but according to President Bill Clinton,
it needed to accept the benefits of "globalism.") The
torment of civilians being subjected to the impact of
modern weaponry is rarely reported in the West.
Canadians, as a matter of policy, are not informed of
the number or types of casualties we have inflicted.
The modern concepts of "humanitarian intervention"
and the "duty to protect" which seek to override
international law and national sovereignty are, in this
writer's view, simply 21st century terminology for
Military assaults against the poverty stricken
farmers of Afghanistan and Haiti, and an Iraqi
population struggling for its very survival, are part of
a long, barbarous tradition going back to slave ships
and colonial resource wars and will some day, I believe,
be seen in that context. In the meantime, the agony of
millions does not reach our ears or eyes, and Prime
Minister Harper is busy working the phones to shore up
the U.S.-led war, seeking more troops and helicopters to
"finish the job."
When Canada assisted the British Empire in the Boer
War over a century ago, it was Québec that led the
opposition. It was again Québec's vocal resistance — and
former Prime Minister Chrétien's attention to it — that
helped keep Canada's troops out of Iraq. Today, it is up
to Canadians who can feel the anguish of the Third World
to speak for the voiceless against Canada's new
government of would-be conquistadores.
David Orchard is the author of The Fight for Canada:
Four Centuries of Resistance to American Expansionism.
He farms at Borden and Choiceland, Saskatchewan and can
be reached at el 306-652-7095, firstname.lastname@example.org