Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Canadian troops dying bravely for hopeless mission in Afghanistan

Bill Tieleman’s 24 Hours Column
Tuesday July 10, 2007

Let's get out of A-stan already


The basic problems facing the world today are not susceptible to a military solution.

- U.S. President John F. Kennedy, 1962

Canadian troops are bravely dying for a hopeless cause in Afghanistan.

That sad truth can only be extremely painful for the families of all those soldiers killed on our country's behalf, for they fought believing their contribution would help Afghanistan.

But the reality is that six years after Canada's military began its mission Afghanistan is farther away from being a democracy, the Taliban are stronger than ever and the evil opium poppy trade that produces most of the world's heroin is bigger than ever.

Last week six more Canadian soldiers and an Afghani interpreter were killed in a giant roadside bombing, reminding us of our politicians' rash decision to commit troops that has cost 66 soldiers and one diplomat their lives.

And to what end?

Malalai Joya, Afghanistan's most popular female politician and certainly its bravest, was expelled in May from her elected parliamentary position by the many warlords and drug dealers who also hold seats.

Joya, 29, who has survived four assassination attempts, was removed for publicly criticizing the assembly as "worse than a stable".

In an interview with Reuters, Joya said she was expelled so she could no longer expose a "completely non-democratic parliament."

"Even inside of the parliament they threw water at me and they threatened me with death and one of them shouted: 'Take her and rape her'. They turned off my microphone," Joya said. And these are our allies.

Joya addressed the federal convention of the New Democratic Party September 2006. Her words sharply contrasted the jingoistic propaganda of Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper that claims great progress is being made in Afghanistan.

"I must tell you that unfortunately there has been NO fundamental change in the plight of Afghan people," Joya said. "When the entire nation is living under the shadow of gun and warlordism, how can its women enjoy very basic freedoms?"

"Unlike the propaganda raised by certain Western media, Afghan women and men are not 'liberated' at all," Joya concluded.

And then there's a new UN report that Afghanistan accounted for 92 per cent of the world's opium production, up from 70 per cent in 2000 and 52 per cent in 1996.

Lastly, a rejoinder to 24 hours columnists Erin Airton and Ian King, who pilloried NDP leader Jack Layton last week for reiterating after the six solidiers died that Canadian troops should be withdrawn immediately.

If anything dishonours our brave soldiers, it is to ask an elected representative of the Canadian people not to tell the truth, a truth that can save Canadian lives.

What kind of democratic values are we trying to export if our politicians are told not to freely speak their minds?


Anonymous said...

from malalai joya to darlene mary chidley...'HOW CAN WOMEN ENJOY EVERYDAY FREEDOM'???

Anonymous said...

Another concise and well argued piece. This Afghani conflict is complex. The "solutions" are not self-evident, but the country's history tells us the current approach is counterproductive and a product of American geopolitics. The political blowback to Canada is extremely negative; we are militarizing our culture and entering into a mindset that takes us away from working toward a better world.

With war, the enemy is painted and defined to ensure they are "the enemy". It is completely unclear, however, whether what is labelled "the Taliban" is truly a group with a fanatical religious agenda or whether civilian deaths and foreign occupation has driven large numbers into a resistance. The progressive work has been highlighted - schools, health care, but it is weakly funded by comparison to the guns and tanks. There are significant questions as to whether our presence helps defend a fledgling democracy or warlords and a narco state.

Support the troops, I say. Bring them home.

Anonymous said...

Having just got back from Afghanistan, I can say for certain, that there are religious fanatics in that country that would slaughter every school girl if they could for being a school girl.

The job is not yet done. We are working as hard as possible to get the ANA and ANP trained up, and equipped, in the hopes that when we do go, that the Taliban do not come back.

As for those that would claim, "... why care? Foreigners out now!" The Taliban's ideology is foreign to Afghanistan, it is Whabbism, which is an import from Saudi Arabia, and completely against Pashtun or any other Tribal customs of Afghanistan. Afghans recognise this. Granted, to try and make life a little easier they will side with who ever appears to be winning. And having witnessed first hand Afghans in Kandahar giving up insurgents planting IEDs, I would be bold enough to suggest we are starting to make a difference.

An Afghanistan for Afghans is not currently an option should we just leave now, as all the foreign entities (aka al Qaeda et al) would take over with the Taliban as their puppet government). We would wind up having to go back, not unlike Somalia, or Rwanda, or any other place we pulled up stakes too early from. It is entirely too predictable, and the loss of human life would be horrendous.


It is nice however, to see here an article that does not devolve into idiotic jingoism and propaganda, and instead actually is the beginnings of a discussion. Some in accuracies... Such as "...no fundamental change" (look up the infant mortality rate in Afghanistan for today, and compare it to 2001). Positive lasting change does not come over night. For whatever reason, we were allowed to do the job almost right in Bosnia, and I can tell you, the change did not come over night, it came over a period of 2 decades, to the point where BiH has regained tourism, and has most of it's infrastructure repaired or rebuilt. We still have people in BiH after the first rotations started back in the early '90's. Expecting such rapid change anywhere, is unreasonable.

Bill Tieleman said...

Thanks very much for the comments on this column.

I want to strongly recommend anyone interested in Afghanistan to read this week's cover story in The New Yorker on the drug eradication program there - it is tragic and shows how hopelessly misguided and foolish we are.

The New Yorker article can be found at:


If you can't find it for any reason, let me know and I will email it.

greenchained said...

Hi Bill,

I'm gonna toss a question at you because I'm reflexively a ban all weapons, everybody hug everybody, march against nukes peacenik, but Afghanistan throws me because what the Taliban do to women strikes me as the type of vile behaviour I thought Peacekeeping missions were all about.

I get that this is all being terribly managed, the place is a mess and Canadians are on the front lines (likely because it allows our politicians political cover for not going into Iraq) etc. but plan b is? Turn off the news when we hear about women being executed? And after all the peacekeepers leave how soon is it before all women like Joya are raped and killed?


Anonymous said...

If I'd seen this prior to our lunch today, I might have choked on a spring roll or shrimp dumpling, Bill!

Your argument is specious at best, old boy.

Since when do the NDP not want to see the eradication of human rights abuses and violence against women--anywhere??????

Christ, Layton was almost foaming about abuses in Somalia and India last month, etc.

Only if the CN Tower is toppled will the idiot Layton and his apologists realize the kind of hatred bred in the Middle East, must be fought head-on.

The world must share. If not, Russia might have abandoned their cause against Himmler's (one removed) troops, and the American casualties would have been astronomical not two weeks later...but I suppose most of your readers would have secretly enjoyed that...

Another concise piece, yes, but well argued, no.

Next time, we're going Italian.

Bill Tieleman said...

Thanks Newspeak and it's a damn good question.

My answer is - how long do we try and hold back the tide?

The Soviets in their occupation were repressive in many ways but very progressive on women's issues - probably responsible for the number of women in Afghanistan who have education and professional training.

But they couldn't hold the country with 100,000 troops - double the NATO contingent.

NATO is putting 900 percent more military resources into Afghanistan than development - billions of dollars in arms and munitions - and they are further behind than in 2001.

The sad fact is that Afghanistan will return to repressing women and being a theocracy shortly after foreign troops leave - whenever that is.

Unless the Afghani people who reject the Taliban and the mujahadeen warlords and drug dealers are willing and able to defend themselves and take over their country, it is hopeless.

We've given them 6 years of military and other aid, we've sacrificed our soldiers and we are even worse off.

Remember Churchill's request of America in 1941? "Give us the tools and we will finish the job."

That's as far as we should now go. If they can't protect and defend themselves against Islamic feudalists, we can't do it for them.

Women won't be raped and killed - they'll be returned to a 14th century role of subservience, but we can't make them change or change their men.

The only foreign interventions that work are those to expel and invader - like in World War II - not to depose a government we don't like. Didn't work in Iran, hasn't worked in Iraq, won't work in Afghanistan.

Thanks for making me think further about it.

Bill Tieleman said...

Alex, while I appreciate your enthusiasm for the argument, your solutions lack common sense.

Of course sensible people everywhere decry human rights violations - in Afghanistan, in China, in Darfur, in North Korea, in Cuba, in any country.

But do we take up arms, invade them all, occupy their lands until they turn into democratic regimes with multiple political parties and free elections?

Of course not - it's not possible.

Where human rights are violated we should first and foremost suspend trade and use that leverage to encourage change, with the obvious exception of some forms of humanitarian aid.

Economic pressure from all democratic nations could transform China into a true democracy but it's not happening - instead we sacrifice workers' jobs in multiple industries so Kwik-E-Marts of the western world can sell sometimes poisonous, poorly made crap from polluting factories using cheap exploited labour.

As to your second argument - fight them there or fight them here - we obviously aren't succeeding with that strategy.

After 9-11 and our shock and awe retaliation we saw train bombings in Madrid and London and a tourist massacre in Bali. We now have scores of homegrown terrorist wanna-bes in England, the US and even here.

Great work. Really helpful.

Alex, we share the same goal but the strategy and tactics you suggest are not only wrong but have been proven a failure.

That should lead you to another approach.

And Italian? What about Greek?

Anonymous said...

Sorry Bill but losing is not a reason for leaving. Things looked pretty bleak on June 21st 1941 too. There was no reason to believe Hitler wasn't popular in Germany and no reason to believe other fascist governments weren't popular too. But we kept at it even without the Russians and Americans on our side.

Surrender to people like the Taleban should not even be an option.

We need to do more, not leave.

Anonymous said...

Watch the interview with Rory Stewart and then make up your own mind.

Link here:

Afghanistan is a tough one but so would be others like Darfur.

Anonymous said...

1) We could relieve some suffering in Darfur ! = Most Countries want to buy the Opium & use it for painkillers in Africa & USA says NO

2) If we take drug money away from the Talliban , it cuts the funding needed to buy weapons to kill our soldiers .
----- Original Message -----
From: steve dockeray
To: phill till
Sent: Monday, August 15, 2005 5:06 PM
Subject: jill A drug bust at Vancouver Airport on June 23 resulted in seizure of 90,000 doses of heroin worth about $1 million.ie : the drugs originated in India


A drug bust at Vancouver International Airport on June 23 resulted in the seizure of 90,000 doses of heroin worth about $1 million. Six unidentified Vancouver-area men in their 20s are facing charges. Police suspect the drugs originated in India and one "mule" carried them in the suitcases on a domestic flight from Toronto to Vancouver, where the five men met him. With guns drawn, undercover members of the RCMP’s Greater Vancouver Drug Section, arrested the men and seized nine kilograms of what is suspected to be heroin hidden in two suitcases. RCMP Sgt. Dave Goddard said a man travelling from Toronto to Vancouver was found to be carrying the suspected heroin.

Sources: “Airport bust nets 9 kg of heroin.” The Vancouver Province. June 26, p. A24; “Six arrested, suspected heroin.” The Richmond Review. June 25, p. 16.

1) we have gangs in India who are buying Afghani heroin .

2) we have bush allowing the drug\war lords to produce heroin .

3) we have bush going after Marc emery for weed , we have bush allowing the production of heroin .

4) we have the local media , business , rcmp & the provincial government helping bush get emery .

5) we have people freaking over property crime in Vancouver , but they say nothing about heroin ie : property crime ...

6 ) we have this because " gordo , the board of trade & people in the local media " are working with the American drug czar ie : selling seeds is more important than Afghani heroin .

Thank You , for your time .
Steve Dockeray
Milner B.C.

Anonymous said...

----- Original Message -----
From: Steve D
To: programming @cknw com ; nwnews ; twt@cknw.com
Sent: Wednesday, July 04, 2007 5:00 PM
Subject: I don't think we should leave Afghanistan but our current mission should be ended

I don't think we should leave Afghanistan but our current mission should be ended ie: until we have Pakistan enforcing their side of the border all we are doing is feeding our troops into a never-ending meat grinder !

steve dockeray

milner bc