Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Thinking about Afghanistan

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I sent this in as a reply to a commentary on CBC. I don't believe they read it on air.

Let me preface my reply with the comment that I deeply respect the men and women who, at the request of their government and by proxy their country, are serving in Afghanistan.

That said, I question our government’s justification for the mission.

First, the government justifies the mission using the words spoken by Afghan President Hamid Karzai on his visit to Canada. Access to Information has undeniably shown that President Karai’s speech was drafted by the Department of National Defence. While President Karzai said the words, the Department of National Defence put them in his mouth.

Second, the government regularly tells us of the horrid living conditions in Afghanistan. I do not doubt that this is the case; in fact, it is part of the reason I am working with a group to sponsor a family of Afghan refugees. Still, I question the altruism our government is trying to display when they justify the mission in this manner.

Within Canada, First Nations people live in Third World conditions on reserves. There’s a lack of access to clean drinking water, severely substandard housing, limited access to healthcare, chronic unemployment, limited educational opportunities, and extremely high suicide rates especially among young people. This is clear evidence of severe and systemic poverty.

If the motives for the mission were really altruistic, then surely the government of Canada would send our provincial reconstruction teams to the reserves to help out. Surely the Canadian government would be willing to spend something close to the $7.2 billion that we have already devoted to the military mission in Afghanistan. Even if Canada spent the $3.3 billion of the estimated incremental military cost of the Afghan mission, we would at least start addressing this problem occurring within our own country. In contrast, meeting the Kelowna Accord commitments would have cost about $5 billion and our Federal budget surplus this year will be close to $10 billion.

Unfortunately our government fails to see the hypocrisy in their message. When First Nations people rise up in protest, our government fights back rather than engage in meaningful discussion. We would not accept an occupying force entering Canada to deal with this injustice but our government argues that this is specifically what we must do in Afghanistan in the name of justice.

I, for one, cannot reconcile our position in Afghanistan as being purely altruistic as my government keeps trying to tell me. What then are the real reasons we are in Afghanistan?

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