Afstan is about more than assembling “a coherent narrative”
Now I congratulate the efforts of the Canada-Afghanistan Solidarity Committee (disclosure: I am a founding member but not involved in their actual work); I believe they really had an effect. I congratulate those politicians, Bob Rae in particular, who put purpose over partisanship. And I congratulate the government for finally doing the best that could be done given Canadian politics (though I do regret their lying for many months when they said that Canada’s military–not combat–mission must end in 2011 because the 2008 Commons’ motion said so; it did not). Canadian politics are desperately debased all around.
Terry Glavin expresses both passion and reason on how things have developed:
‘If Ye Break Faith With Us Who Die, We Shall Not Sleep.’
The two-year paralysis that so utterly enfeebled Canada in the matter of this country’s post-2011 re-dedication to Afghanistan is now officially over. Ottawa has come out of its coma, and now rejoins the company of the grown-ups in the 43-member International Security Assistance Force. With today’s announcement, we take our place once again as a leader in the international cause of a sovereign and democratic Afghan republic…
We should recall that for two full years the House of Commons Special Committee on Afghanistan refused to discharge its duties, in contempt of the Parliament by which its duties were assigned. Instead, it turned itself into a lurid chamber for the most foul (and groundless) “torture” allegations against members of the Canadian Forces. It had become like some kind of celebrity television show where the contestants were challenged to find ways to put the name of a cabinet minister in the same sentence with the words “war criminal.”
It’s finally over.
The Canada-Afghanistan Solidarity Committee spent much of the past year running a national campaign to try and help break the Parliamentary paralysis with a new vision for Canada’s role in Afghanistan. Our work took us back and forth from Kabul, Ottawa, Toronto, Kabul, Mazar-e-Sharif, Ottawa, Toronto, Halifax, Montreal, Regina, Saskatoon, Calgary, Ottawa, Edmonton, Winnipeg, and Ottawa again. Hundreds of Afghans and Canadians (especially Afghan-Canadians) were directly involved in the effort. Among them were Canadian soldiers and the parents of dead soldiers, Canadian and Afghan journalists, Afghan MPs, women’s rights activists, academics, diplomats, Afghan Opposition leaders and not a few cookie-baking United Church women.
I would like to think we made some small contribution to keeping the debate alive at least, but no matter. All credit goes to Liberal Foreign Affairs Critic Bob Rae, Defence Minister Peter MacKay, House Special Committee on Afghanistan leader Laurie Hawn, Pamela Wallin and Romeo Dellaire of the Senate Committee on National Security and Defence, and not a few other Parliamentarians from all parties who would probably prefer that their names be left unmentioned for the moment…
It is right and proper that Canada’s first “key area” of post-2011 engagement refers to investments in education and health. But it is worrisome in the extreme that Canada’s new 950-trainer contribution has been merely tacked on to what was first articulated as a priority for “advancing the rule of law and human rights.” This is the thing that should be galvanizing our attention now. One purpose cannot be put at the expense of the other. It is not clear whether the “training role” will be funded at least partly by robbing Peter to pay Paul.
It is more than just a good thing that Canada’s military will continue to put its broad shoulders to the wheel of building up the capacity, competence and professionalism of the Afghan National Security Forces. But we must not allow this to come at the cost of the covenant that has been written in the blood of so many Canadian soldiers already. This is the solemn covenant that binds Canada to the Afghan people. It is the heart of the whole bloody, grisly matter…
If you need further proof of why Canadian public debate on Afstan is so debased, see what pathetic pundit Greg Weston has been up to economizing with words and thus the truth (and he’s just got a paid gig at the CBC; go figure, it ain’t that hard). From the invaluable BruceR. at Flit (to whom one should pay close attention on things Afghan; he’s been there with the Army, done that, and knows more about the country and counterinsurgency than all our punditocracy stuffed together inside a television studio):
On the flip side, you have the CBC’s Greg Weston doing a real drive-by on the subject, gutting a key phrase out of a Gen. (retd.) Rick Hillier piece, apparently only to score cheap points.
In a recent interview with Maclean’s magazine, retired general Rick Hillier said: “You can come up with all kinds of schemes to hide away in camp and train people for the Afghan army, but they lack credibility. If you try to help train and develop the Afghan army … you are going to be in combat.”
Nice ellipses, Greg. The full quote, with the piece that makes all the difference:
If you try to help train and develop the Afghan army or police in southern Afghanistan you are going to be in combat.
As a former Afghan army trainer in southern Afghanistan, I would tend to agree. But this simply isn’t what was being floated by the government, which was quite clearly all about exploring an expanded role outside the south. Given that it’s a web piece where length doesn’t matter, there’s no real reason Weston and the CBC couldn’t have been honest with their readers…
And if you think Kabul is some kind of death-ridden combat zone, please, please take a look at these very recent posts and photos by Brian Platt at the Ubyssey–a fellow completely outside any wire. One can only wonder why almost all journalists from our major media have ignored and misrepresented reality for so long. And still do.
Afghanistan is about more than Canadian domestic politics. Really. We do need to grow up.
Update thought: What was most sadly reflective about this country’s chatterers is that on the politics shows on television early this evening there was nothing, rien de tout, nichts, ništa said about the Afghans or developments in the country except in relation to Canada, or about how the Afghan and ISAF military efforts are going. All Canada, all the time. We must have the world’s most capacious bellybutton at which we endlessly gaze; and far too many brains have been stuffed with its lint.
So long as the Canadians fight tribe against tribe, so long will they be a little people, a silly people…