Rough waters for Canada’s war in Afghanistan
By Roger Annis
Aug 12, 2007, 01:29
On August 19-21, demonstrators across Canada will protest the conference of prime minister Stephen Harper, U.S. president George Bush, and Mexican president Felipe Calderon in Montebello, Quebec. The conference aims to promote the three countries’ integration in a world-wide drive for profiteering, repression, and war, in which Canada’s special assignment is to wage war on the people of Afghanistan. For information on the protests, contact the Canadian Peace Alliance at www.acp-cpa.ca.
Canada’s political and military rulers are scrambling to salvage their part in the NATO-led war in Afghanistan. The stated goal of NATO and Canada — to destroy the resistance of Afghan fighters to foreign occupation — is proving very difficult to achieve. Popular support in Afghanistan for the resistance is on the rise, and the resistance is proving capable of shifting its battle tactics while remaining an effective fighting force.
Meanwhile, unease is growing at home as more and more media reports detail terrible suffering of the Afghan people under the regime of foreign occupation, and as the number of dead Canadian soldiers rises.
A slim but stubborn majority of Canadians refuses to support the war. Opposition is even higher in Quebec. There is mounting pressure on the federal government to stick to the previous government’s vague promise to ”end the mission” by February 2009.
On June 22 hundreds of protesters marched in Quebec City to the site of a public sendoff of a new contingent of 2,500 Canadian soldiers to the war theatre. Protesters appealed to soldiers to refuse to serve. One brother of a female soldier went public with his appeals to her.
News all bad
Sixty-six Canadian soldiers have died in Afghanistan since 2002; 22 since the beginning of 2007. Contrary to repeated boasts that Afghan resistance fighters are being killed in large numbers and driven out of action, resistance attacks are on the rise. Canadian troops are increasingly restricted to fortified compounds, able to travel only in heavily-armed convoys.
Even convoys are at risk. On July 26, the vehicle of the head of the Canadian armed forces in Afghanistan, Brigadier-General Tim Grant, narrowly missed being hit by a roadside bomb only a short distance from the main Canadian base in Kandahar city. The vehicle in front of him was blown off the road.
In most of Panjwai, a region where Canadian forces claimed an overwhelming military victory last year, resistance forces are again operating freely. A July 6 article in the Globe and Mail was headlined, “How Panjwai slipped out of control.”
The most stalwart ally in the region of the foreign occupation of Afghanistan is the military dictatorship that rules Pakistan. But that regime is facing widespread and growing internal opposition, and it has proven utterly incapable of suppressing the use of Pakistan territory by Afghan resistance forces. In fact, to the embarrassment of NATO forces that refuse any and all negotiations, it signed a truce agreement with the “Taliban” earlier this year.
Torture and abuse
In late 2005, at the outset of its offensive in Kandahar, Canada announced that, like its U.S. ally, it does not consider itself bound to the Geneva Conventions governing the treatment of prisoners of war.
In April of this year, revelations of torture and abuse of Afghans detained by Canadian soldiers appeared once again in news reports across Canada. But this time the reports did not go away — they ignited several months of public debate on the issue. Canadian policy is to turn detained Afghans over to “Afghan authorities” when torture is required to extract information.
The government’s first claimed that it had arranged with the International Red Cross to guarantee the proper treatment of prisoners. “Not true”, said the Red Cross in an extraordinary statement denying the Canadian claim.
Then the government said it had received new guarantees from “Afghan authorities” for proper treatment in the future. That, too, was a lie. News reports quickly showed that few facilities and resources exist to verify such guarantees. Abuse of prisoners continues.
Finally the government and military authorities resorted to the tried and true method of occupation forces in a foreign land — they cut off the supply of information. Journalists no longer have access to the reports of prisoner treatment that the government and military receive.
Canadian soldiers themselves are targets of abuse by their own military. For example, the family of killed soldier Mathew Dinning went public in order to shame military authorities into paying the full cost of their son’s funeral. Other reports have detailed inadequate medical services for injured and returned soldiers, and enormous stresses on spouses and children of soldiers sent to the war theatre.
(Mistreatment of Canadian soldiers by the Canadian government is nothing new: 1,700 former military personnel or families have launched a class action lawsuit because they were deliberately sprayed with Agent Orange during chemical weapons testing on Canadian military bases during the 1950’s, 1960’s and 1970’s. The military refuses to accept responsibility for its actions.)
Canadian and NATO claims to be fighting to liberate women in Afghanistan have also received a rough ride as reports have detailed the anti-women policies of the Afghan governing regime.
One of the few public voices for women’s rights in Afghanistan is elected member of parliament Malalai Joya. She was expelled from the parliament in May, in part for criticizing the anti-women policies of the regime.
Read all of it here.