Afghanistan: “A mark of shame”
Date: Thursday, September 27 2007
Canada’s Minister of Defence Peter MacKay (previously Minister of Foreign Affairs) was recently dispatched by US Secretary of Defence Robert Gates to conscript stubborn NATO members into sending more combat troops for the war in Afghanistan.
From the outset the majority of NATO members have been less than willing to put their troops in combat roles and the all too obvious reason-dare we mention-is the rape and pillage of Iraq. When NATO countries look at what has happened to that country they must realize it would be utterly fool hardy(and immoral) to get involved in Afghanistan in any serious way when the mistakes of Iraq are being repeated in Afghanistan. The mission is seriously undermanned, there is a wanton disregard for civilian casualties and air power is being used indiscriminately. We can only wonder if Afghanistan is being hosed down with depleted uranium munitions as was Iraq.
If the stated goal is to bring democracy to these countries it is time to get out our dictionaries as Iraq is a country ravaged and it is going to take decades for it to recover, if ever. The reality is that Iraqi’s have become the new Palestinians with over two million refugees pressing themselves into neighbouring countries and the UN expects the number could go as high as seven million. Their country has been taken from them. Though the US has always claimed they would leave once the country stabilized it is now emerging-as we always suspected- there will only be a nominal draw down of troops. The US has already built permanent bases in the country. Baghdad’s Green Zone becomes a Mid-East outpost of the Pentagon. Where Israel has often been a convenient surrogate for America’s interests in the region head office will now be taking direct control with Iraq as its operating base. Iraq’s “democracy” will be artfully circumscribed by a formidable US military presence.
US Secretary of Defence Robert Gates recently stated :
“It will be a mark of shame on all of us if an alliance built on the foundation of democratic values were to falter at the very moment that it tries to lay that foundation for democracy elsewhere-especially in a mission that is crucial to our own security.”
It would be wonderful if we could take secretary Gates at his word but there is the persistent reality the US has ulterior motives. Gates’ statement becomes duplicitous when we consider the US interest in both these countries and the primary reasons for both these wars is strategic. The US is drawing an offensive perimeter around both Russia and China. Both Iraq and Afghanistan provide strategic operating bases for the US military to dominate Asia.
When Gates refers to “all of us” he is referring to the NATO member countries. He conveniently ignores that NATO was conceived as a Cold War defence alliance to thwart any Soviet attack on Europe. In the past few years it has become an instrument of US foreign policy and America’s neo-imperialist ambitions. Much of the hesitation for getting more involved in the Aghanistan conflict is that member nations might just feel NATO’s original purpose is being corrupted.
The word “democracy” as used in Washington these days is doublespeak for establishing corrupt and whipped puppet regimes- the new Iraq being a stunning example.
The US quickly squandered any sympathy the global community had for it after 9/11 in its unrelenting desire for vengeance and its refusal to accept any responsibility for its own aggressions. Its moral authority has been squandered as it bloodies Iraq, a country already devastated by the Gulf War continuous bombing and a decade of brutal UN sanctions. Now the likes of Gates has the audacity to speak of building on democratic foundations as he wants to accelerate the Afghanistan war, and as his country contemplates a nuclear attack on Iran.
Gates refers to the conflict in Afghanistan as being “crucial to our own security.” Here again I have to quibble with Mr. Gates.
I challenge the notion that defeating the Taliban in Afghanistan is crucial to our own security. Gates is no doubt referring to the odious notion frequently repeated by any number of Western leaders that we must beat terrorists on their shores before they bring the battle to our home shores. Canada’s prime minister Harper was so kind as to remind us of this on this recent trip to Australia.
The problem with this notion is that we have a long history of slaughtering Muslims and we seem to think we can do so with impunity. Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair refuses to make any connection between bombings in London and atrocities committed in Iraq by the “coalition of the willing”( more accurately “the coalition of the all too willing”) in which Britain has been a leading participant. Mr. Blair, in his religious fervor, might want to read the Old Testament which talks about such things as an eye for an eye; you bloody me and I’ll bloody you, etc, etc.
What the likes of Blair, Gates et al forget is that as we profess our zeal to win the war on terror we are, in our over-reactive ham-fisted approach fomenting it, making it worse. It never seems to occur to the wizards of the West that in the long term we might be better to settle the contested issues on more amicable terms, but then there is a monstrous military industrial complex to be maintained and arms sales quotas to be met. Any limits imposed here would require a marked return to sanity and the end of a grand binge of obscene war profiteering.
Gates invokes the word “security” which along with “defence” becomes more doublespeak for what is really being practiced -offence. When the wizards speak of “Missile Defence” the reality is Missile Offence. While the US professes an irrational concern for its own national security it is developing a whole new generation of weapons that are obviously meant for more than defence. As it does so it is making Russia and China increasingly nervous and even now we are at the beginning of a new arms race.
Gates also invokes the “mark of shame” and there is a pandemic of shame for which we have yet to find an antidote. He refers to it as a potential condition where as it is a chronic existing condition to which we remain largely indifferent. More truthfully he might have stated: “In view of our continuous state of shameless behavior….”
It is shameful that the likes of Defence Minister MacKay uses his Washington visit to take cheap shots at the Liberal opposition regarding Afghanistan when his party is in government and must assume full responsibility for present policies.
It is also shameful MacKay as foreign minister did not undertake to look at more creative and peaceful alternatives to settling the Afghan conflict. Former Liberal prime minister Lester Pearson as minister of foreign affairs inserted himself into the Suez crisis of 1956 and won the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts. The Nobel committee though does not give prizes to errand boys.
It is also a shame the Canadian military’s Chief of Staff Rick Hillier cannot be reigned in. If he had differences of opinion and showed a wanton disregard for the chain of command with previous defence minister Gordon O’Connor, he will have MacKay for lunch. Hillier is Canada’s uniformed and equally treacherous equivalent to Donald Rumsfeld.
It is shameful Afghan President Hamid Karzai is captive to his allies. While he pleads for fewer civilian casualties, a less aggressive military approach and a negotiated settlement his allies are hell-bent on escalating the conflict. This comes amidst reports the US is in secret negotiations with the Taliban, that B-52s are once again bombing the hell out of Tora Bora and that American Special Forces are conducting their own little war from which the media has been barred.
Neither the Taliban or Karzai have any good reason to trust the Americans given what has happened in Iraq. Karzai might want to compare notes with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani on the emergent state of democracy in his country; how 9 billion dollars of seized Iraqi money marked for Iraqi redevelopment has disappeared into the pockets of American contractors(see the October issue Vanity Fair magazine, Billions over Baghdad) and how his country can’t seem to rid itself of thousands of trigger happy Blackwater Inc. mercenaries.
The shame is only compounded if European NATO countries allow themselves to be coerced into sending more combat troops into the hopelessly mismanaged war in Afghanistan at the very time a negotiated settlement is emerging as by far the best alternative. Nor should NATO allow itself to be duped into contributing to the escalating momentum toward a renewed arms race and Cold War II. Afghanistan is but another chapter in this ominous escalation.
If secretary Gates wants to speak of the “mark of shame” it is a past and present condition, indelibly so. What the future holds we don’t know but if the wizards of the West hold to their present course of transparent deceits and grandiose conceits outcomes become deplorably predictable.
Robert Billyard ©