Another Tragic Anniversary

8 Oct



This girl had just seen her mother killed by the Taliban.

Photo credit: rosewithoutathorn84

It’s been a busy past few weeks, so I missed the anniversary – not that of 9/11, the other one — the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. (October 7th to be precise.) I was reminded again of the absurdity of this enterprise by an article in today’s Globe and Mail, outlining the attempts of the United Arab Emirates government to force the Canadian government to give it lucrative landing rights here in return for continuing use of an air base there called Camp Mirage. Apparently I’m not the only one who thinks this war has nothing to do with bringing good things to the Middle East, even though it would never occur to me to try and reap some sordid benefit from it. The Harper government refuses to be strong-armed though; they’re going to use an airbase in Cyprus – at even greater cost to the taxpayer.

Now, I join most of humanity in finding the Taliban a despicable lot. I don’t agree with the invasion but I know the fundamentalist pseudo-religious group would undoubtedly put someone like me in jail or do worse if they could if I lived in their poverty-stricken nation.

What continues to bother me is the ridiculous notion, taken as a given here by a supine and infotianment-driven media that troops are there to defending Canada. The U.S. uses that ploy as well, only harping on the side issue, that of bringing democracy to the region.

But what constitutes the democracy that is costing nations that have nothing to do with Afghanistan thousands of lives and billions of dollars? The Karzai government. The New York Times ran a long piece a few weeks ago on how the U.S. government can’t figure out why so many Afghanistanis detest this gang of corrupt autocrats. And worse, don’t seem to find the Taliban such an unpalatable option. They have been operating under the assumption that the citizens of that benighted nation can tolerate the corruption, lawlessness and extraordinary injustice that are the hallmarks what of the article called “Corrupt-istan.”

This rationalization says the article, “ seems to have turned out terribly wrong. It now seems clear that public corruption is roundly despised by ordinary Afghans, and it may constitute the single largest factor driving them into the arms of the Taliban.”

Now honestly, this isn’t rocket science.  Previous wars (like Vietnam) have made it pretty clear that people won’t suffer a lazy, murderous, thieving government just because it calls itself democratic. How our governments ever believed that Afghanistan would be okay by simply getting rid of the Taliban – and sticking anything else, however bad, in its place — is beyond comprehension.

I have seen some self-righteous war-boosters point to the Taliban attacks on schools that educate girls as sufficient reason for our continued presence there. But really, in the end, which is worse? A group that won’t let girls go to school, or a group that steals the money to build that school and parks it in what the Times described as “waterfront villas” on “the splendorous avenues of Palm Jumeira in the United Arab Emirates.”

But no one should even be asking that question. Neither option is even remotely acceptable. So why are we propping up one while fighting the other? Why hasn’t occurred to anyone that the people of Afghanistan need to make their own decisions? Is it possible that the decision-makers in our countries are as disdainful of the rights of ordinary Afghans as both the Taliban and the Karzai government? Nine years on and who knows how many deaths at this point and the only message I can think of sending to both the Afghans and the soldiers stationed there, is ‘Sorry.”


This photo was taken by Kipp Efinger in Kabul.

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