When writing in disagreement with our old friend Colin Kenny on June 26, there was little to really argue because he gave no logical support to his stand in a Toronto Star article on Canada/U.S. border needs. In writing today (Sept. 21) on Afghanistan, he uses better support for his position but he is wide of the mark in his reasons to withdraw our troops. He believes the cause for our troops to be there no longer makes sense. What he fails to note is that our troops should never have been there in the first place.
Senator Kenny says that Canadian troops went to Afghanistan to confront radical Islam. That is just about the silliest idea since the Children’s Crusade of the early 13th Century. The only people potentially capable of defeating radical Islam are fellow Muslims who want to bring peace and prosperity to their countries through effective political reform and industrialization. You would have thought that some people in the U.S. government would have been smart enough to tell that to George W. Bush before he started Gulf War II.
What are Canadians doing in Afghanistan? We are there to support our U.S. allies. That is our only excuse. It is a sorry excuse. We were committed to it by a foolish Paul Martin when Prime Minister and by his replacement an even more foolish Stephen Harper. Thanks to former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, we refused the American invitation to send troops to Iraq.
And when we got to Afghanistan, we found we had the dirty end of the stick in troubled Kandahar Province. Not only were we faced with an embedded enemy but we had the wrong equipment for troops who were untrained for counter-insurgency operations. While we might have learned a bit since the British first marched up the Khyber Pass almost 200 years ago, we were no better prepared.
Maybe the Afghan tribes are fed up with being constantly rescued from oppression by foreign troops. The British exploited them, the Russians killed them, Americans used them and now they are trying to figure out NATO troops from countries such as Canada. The sharia law of their Taliban is far easier to understand.
We need to realize that the Pashtun tribesmen we call Taliban are from both sides of the Afghan/Pakistan border. They are recruited and trained at Pakistani religious madrasahs (colleges) and funded by the thriving opium poppy trade out of Afghanistan. The Taliban use the same safe routes across the border that the CIA used to travel to provide the Taliban with missiles to destroy Russian helicopters. And we are there propping up a corrupt group of tribal warlords as a government who want the opium poppy trade for themselves.
And we should not forget oil. The West does nothing in that part of the world unless there is oil involved. We should bear in mind the persistent claims that Hamid Karsai, the erstwhile president of that country is bought and paid for by American oil interests. His previous employer, if that was the case, had him arranging for an oil pipeline through Afghan and Pakistani territory to bring oil from former Soviet republics.
Nobody can claim intimate knowledge of that part of the world without years of study and involvement. We are all dilettantes, casting our limited knowledge before a confused public. Colin tells us he has been to Afghanistan three times. That hardly means he is more knowledgeable than someone who has been there twice.
In writing about the failure of Canada’s mission in Afghanistan, he must have sent a chill up people’s spines by putting the cost in lives and dollars in the same sentence. The lives lost to the insurgents in Afghanistan can never be replaced nor forgotten. We are above staying there for revenge.
Canadian troops have proved in world wars and in police actions that they are among the bravest and most disciplined soldiers of any country. We do not need to prove it again in a country that so desperately needs to choose its own destiny.
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