Canada in Afghanistan


Emil Bizon: 18 Apr 09

I agree with your comments and those of Sig and Mike. Sig sees a big picture quite clearly and his judgement is sound and compassionate.
The local Branch had a dinner here last week with the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence, one Lawrie Hawn, an ex-fighter pilot, as guest speaker. This is a George Bush wannabee and just  a cheer leader. Of course, he invoked Harper's name after every other sentence. He mentioned that we now have Chinook helicopters, on loan from the US I believe, and that we have some on purchase to be delivered in two years. I asked him what good would they do as we were to be out of there before then and he immediately coughed up all the hoary old tales about helping with the floods in Manitoba and other disasters. i.e. we  will not have any use for them and Boeing winds up with $2.5 billion. Great sense of priorities here.
We should recall that Jean Chrétien took us there to appease the Pentagon and the Republican power brokers after turning down their invitation to play in Iraq.
It is gut-wrenching to keep hearing of another dead Canadian. Our young people should not be dying there.

15 Apr 09: Sig Carlsen

I agree with the sentiments expressed in Pete's letter, as well as with the letters in response by Mike and Bill. That said, I wonder what good America and NATO are doing in Afghanistan? Like all of you I fancy that I have by now heard and read the arguments in favour of the mission, but I remain absolutely unpersuaded by any of them.  One may suppose that it is appropriate to state an obvious disclaimer I am sure that we all subscribe to: firstly, that all of us honour the young man and women, especially our ex cadets, who are sent in harms way and pray that they may return safely,  secondly, absent clear evidence to the contrary, we ought not to suggest that senior policy makers promoting the Afghan venture are in any way malevolent or otherwise bad people. Clearly they are not!  The quarrel therefore is, and I submit must be, restricted to the lack of wisdom inherent in the policies advocated by them.  The sending of our fine young people on an arguably hopeless mission, seems to suggest that senior policy makers would do well to reexamine the consequences of their policy in this matter.
Let us recall the principal reason advanced for NATO (including Canada) and America being in Afghanistan. Our presence there started only because of  9/11 in order to remove a very bad and cruel regime that sheltered some of the chief perpetrators or at least instigators of the terrorist attacks on that fateful and tragic day. And I don't suppose many would quarrel with the American military action to overthrow the Taliban regime and the subsequent efforts to destroy the perpetrators or instigators of the attack. But were we wise to have gone on so much further, and to get into a nation and civilization building of that country; is that not the crucial question to pose?  And the attempted justification to persuade western public opinion that if we did not fight "them" out there, then we would surely reap the consequences of further terror attacks from Toronto to Miami and from London to Athens etc. It is asserted that we must deny terrorists land from which to mount attacks upon us. Apart from the obvious fact that there is no realistic way effectively to police such a vast and forbidding territory as Afghanistan, it is worth noting that the essential planning for 9/11 took place not in Afghanistan but in Germany, and to a lesser extent even in America and carried out principally by Saudis. If and when terrorist training camps and other such facilities are located, surely some pin point aerial or limited in and out ground military attacks are adequate to the task of eliminating such facilities located in areas without effective governmental structures in place.  Furthermore we might also note that with respect to the other subsequent serious terrorist attacks in London, Madrid and Bombay, the planning and "training" originated in Pakistan and not in Afghanistan. The point here is that some sort of "territorial denial" excuse for being in the latter country, or perhaps in any country for that matter, is futile to begin with. Terrorist planning and training can be done and concealed from practically anywhere. It is now generally admitted in America and I think in Europe also, that we are really not in Afghanistan for any greater purpose than to try and impose some sort of stability, whatever that means. And it has also been admitted that if it were not for nuclear weapons and nuclear materiel in Pakistan we would not even be in Afghanistan at this time. Therefore the most that we can say about an Afghan presence is the unbelievable assertion that we are there because we are scared to death of a collapse of the now dysfunctional nuclear state next door. The prospect of terrorists obtaining nuclear weapons from a collapsed Pakistan is absolutely terrifying. But our presence in Afghanistan only aids in and promotes further instability in Pakistan. The evidence for that conclusion is so overwhelming that it need not be further emphasized here. Being in Afghanistan only helps to promote the very worst outcome in Pakistan that we all wish to avoid. In short, the current Afghan policy is illogical and self defeating, it makes absolutely no sense, and it should be abandoned immediately!  This is not to say that we should not have effective contingency plans in place and adequate force structures readily at hand to deal with the possibility of a collapse in Pakistan.

12 Apr 09: WIH

What many people have wondered, did those who made the decision to invade Afghanistan ever really study the history and culture of that country and the region around it? In the USA, especially, where the memory of Viet Nam  is still an open sore, it's surprising that they allowed themselves to blunder into still more unwinable situations.

When you combine Afghanistan, Iraq and our present economy, the Western arrogance that assumes everyone in the world wants to be like us has taken a devastating hit. Our various forms of democracy are simply not suited to many cultures. Many cultures and religions cannot accept the freedoms contained in our various Bills of Rights. To try to impose Western values with military might is absurd: bullets do not change minds. When you really think about it, is our system really all that superior? What do we do with our freedoms? And do we really need our present standard of living to live peaceful, productive lives in harmony with our neighbours?

12 Apr 09: Mike Valiquet

I'd like to add a few words in support of Pete Harrison's comments on the duplicity of our mini military industrial complex. I don't think Pete mentions that this duplicity carries over to sundry prime ministers who have aided and abetted George Bush in his adventures in converting the hearts and minds of the Muslim masses. I, too, like Pete, was at least for a while a Canadian soldier, and I have loathed watching Canadian boys die for some bonehead Texan's pipe dream.  And if Tim Horton's can't win over the Taliban, what's going to happen when the latter have a little time to think: "ah, yes, the Canadians!" 

25 Mar 09: Peter Harrison

As a retired Canadian Army Officer I felt compelled  to attended a Canadian International Council (CIC) presentation last night at the McGill University Faculty Club.  The presentation "The Struggle for Kandahar: Canadian Soldiers Making a Difference in Afghanistan" was given by BGen Denis Thompson, former Commander Task Force Kandahar from May 08 to Feb 09.  The sponsor was SNC-Lavalin a multinational engineering firm, Head Office in Montreal.  BGen Thompson was introduced by a Corporate Executive of SNC-Lavalin, in a very cosy fashion.  I cannot describe it as a  polished, professional presentation, perhaps because the audience was mostly young students.  After a cursory description of the "Mission" and a couple of operations, including a short video of typical army activity ie helicopters creating huge clouds of dust along with armoured vehicles and soldiers running about. Then the presentation was opened for questions.  The first question asked was: "What is the reason for Canadian combat troops in Afghanistan?  Wisely BGen Thompson replied that this was a political question that he was not qualified to speak.  But he did say that a soldier joined the Armed Forces on condition that he obeyed orders, ultimately from the democratically elected Canadian Government.  I left the small, over-crowded, third floor room shortly after, missing the remaining questions and reception following.  A small group of young, well behaved activists were gathered at the entrance, having been denied entry by McGill Security.

As I walked home it suddenly dawned on me that the CIC, whose President is Jim Balsillie (RIM),  is just another piece of the Canadian Mini "Military Industrial Complex"?  SNC-Lavalin has at least one large engineering contract in Afghanistan and of  course there is Tim Horton's which is obviously doing very well with its "patriotic" support of our Troops.

If it wasn't for the dead and permanently wounded young soldiers returning home on a regular basis,  I could ignore this despicable duplicity.  "Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel".