Thursday, January 24, 2008

Again Afghanistan

Today we hear of yet another Canadian soldier killed in Afghanistan. Our thoughts are extended to both this soldier's at home family and military family, and to the many that grieve such a loss.

I have been told of a person in the area who at one point in his career found himself in Afghanistan teaching the freedom fighters from Afghanistan how to build IEDs in order to fight back the Russian army. Seems a little ironic. I hope to interview him one day soon.

Harper's hand-picked Afghanistan panel (led by the hawkish Manley who was the Liberal Deputy Prime Minister in Jean Chretien's government) has criticized the Canadian role in Afghanistan yet also called for an open-ended military committment to the effort.

It is the wrong war, led by people who, in my opinion, have a misguided sense of Canada. Indeed the men and women on the ground are doing their best to help a damaged and broken people, but our efforts are misplaced. While critics pan the idea of leaving Afghanistan, the real issue in my mind is should we have gone there in the first place? In my opinion, our motives for moving into Afghanistan were misguided (or largely guided by Bush and Cheney's policy - which is the same thing) so leaving is the responsible thing to do. Then we can refocus and ask some real questions. How should we deal with Afghanistan? Should we be expending our efforts in the Darfur region?

While Harper's government has generally done a poor job on the Afghanistan file (but a pretty good job at spinning the mission) there has been one small success. Today we find out that even Harper has to agree that Canadian-held Afghan detainees handed over to Afghani forces are subject to torture. Apparently a decision has finally been made to halt the transfer of Afghan detainees to local forces. This change in orders was made almost a month ago, but did not come to light until just recently as two human rights groups prepared to take Harper's government to court. I wonder how much money (some of it from taxpayers) was wasted on lawyers and filings when Harper could have made an announcement weeks ago?

Finally, I applaud the ethical stance of the many engineers who have quit their jobs because of the potential sale of MDA makers of the Canadarm (an uncle of mine worked on the original) to US-owned ATK. We are told that among the many military products ATK makes are cluster bombs, depleted uranium rounds, nuclear weapons, and land mines. I hope that Harper's government see's the light on this issue, but I worry that they may try to hide behind NAFTA or some other ruling to accomplish their ideological ends.

Now that I think of it, maybe we should start referring to Harper as "w" or "lil' dubya"!

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