Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Harper wrong to dodge debate on Afghan role

VICTORIA - I don’t know if Canadian Forces are playing an appropriate role in in Afghanistan.
But I am sure the Harper government has it dead wrong when it claims Canadians should blindly accept an open-ended, vague mission
Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay and Stephen Harper want you to do that. Both rejected calls this week for a House of Commons debate on the military mission.
A debate would be bad for forces serving there, MacKay said. "We do not want to, in any way, suggest that we are questioning Canadians' presence there, that we are doing anything except showing our forceful commitment to the mission and to the men and women who are wearing the uniform,” he said. Talking about the mission is bad for morale, and may encourage attacks by those who would drive foreign forces from Afghanistan, he says.
MacKay and Harper have it backwards. We owe the 2,300 men and women in Afghanistan our closest scrutiny of their involvement. We sent them there. Some have already died, and more will. Every Canadian has an obligation to make sure the mission makes sense, that the goals are clear and achievable.
If the answers aren’t satisfactory, then we should make changes, right up to bringing our forces home.
The notion that Canadians should give up their rights and responsibilities because talking about the mission might embolden Afghan fighters is wrong, practically and in principle. There’s no mystery to Western nations’ reluctance to see their troops die overseas. We are not revealing any deep secrets by acknowledging our concern.
Canada has drifted into a military role in Afghanistan with little debate or planning.
The first 850 troops were sent four years ago. They were to help bring stability to the ravaged country, restore some services and fight the Taliban regime that had been supporting terrorists.
And they were a gesture to the U.S., a signal that although Canada would not join the war in Iraq it would join the effort to stamp out terrorists and their support networks.
They have made a contribution. Afghanistan held democratic elections last year, and rebuilding efforts have made progress. But it remains a dangerous, often lawless country, with warring factions, a smashed economy and a violent drug trade.
Last month Canadian troops moved into a more dangerous role, taking command of the multinational brigade in southern Afghanistan. They have taken on a more direct combat role against an aggressive foe, and a complicated balancing act. Our soldiers are supposed to be at once helping Afghanis rebuild and waging war.
The risks in that balancing act became clear when Canadian troops laid down their weapons for a relationship-building meeting with tribal elders, and Lt. Trevor Greene of Vancouver was smashed in the head with an axe.
Canadians need to know what the goals for this mission are, and how long the government expects to have troops there. Harper says their role will be assessed after a year. Canadian generals say that the commitment could be for a decade.
Canadians need to know how success will be measured, and that our troops have the support and equipment they need.
We need to know that all the other support that will help Afghanistan recover - and allow our troops to come home - is being provided. Economic aid and help with rebuilding Afghan society will allow our troops to come home sooner.
We leave lots of our decision to bureaucrats and politicians. We’re busy, they’re generally competent and it’s easier to sit back.
But this is too important. There’s a moral obligation on Canadians to be informed, to pay close attention to the arguments for and against sending our troops into danger.
No one can seriously suggest that has yet happened.
The best way to fix that is a debate in Parliament, in which the government sets out its case and outlines and defends its plans for this military effort.
Footnote: The government has not yet made the case for this military mission. An Ipsos poll has found Canadians fairly evenly divided on whether our forces should be there. An earlier Strategic Counsel poll found 62 per cent of Canadians were opposed to sending troops to Afghanistan. Three-quarters wanted a Parliamentary debate.


CuriosityKilledTheCat said...

The northwards drift of Bushian neoconism ...

Notice how similar the reactions of Harper and his foreign minister, Peter MacKay, are to those of Bush and his neocons?

• There is no need to debate the issue of Afghanistan.
• The military on the ground will determine what has to be done.
• “I have decided...”
• Just state your beliefs and forget about debating them or the issue, after all, you are the leader, aren’t you? And leaders lead, don’t they?

The scariest part is that one sees the steadfastness of a strong-willed person in the positions being taken by Harper, but just south of Canada the Americans are reeling from the many blunders committed by that all-hat-and-no-cattle fellow that “won” the election as their leader ...

Wonder if Canada is in for a period of pontifical infallibility, just like the Americans are experiencing? Signs are that is the case.

Anonymous said...

The first post is a good example of the ideological babble we'll hear in parliament. Lots of anti-American grandstanding and that's about it.

Anonymous said...

I spent a number of years moving Canadian army folks to assorted peace keeping missions around the world. The folks, at that time, might be involved in one or two such things, in their career. Now it's almost continuous. back then the Blue Hat was well known and our fellow servicemen wore it with pride as the actually did "Peace Keeping".

Our forces are getting pretty small as can be seen by the numbers of Reservists working alongside of the career soldiers. Maybe the recruitment attempts arn't doing well when they hear guys like the present boss of the armed forces telling us to expect casualties as the troops go about killing the other side. That wasn't the intent of peace keeping. That's war making.

So Mr.Harper and Peter McKay should cool the rhetoric a bit or go do a tour with the women and men. The conservatives must begin to understand that they are a very small minority government so quit talking like they are second only to Bush as tough guys.

Nobody in the force is going to publically state they don't think they should be where they are
at, or they want to go home. One Seargent in the paper today mentioned being there for 7 weeks. Never outside the compound and wasn't about to volunteer to do so. He was being honest.
In my view, a debate by those elected folks should have occured well before our troops ended up, not seperating two sides at the two sides request, but shooting folks who have no qualms about ambushing some reserve officer in negotiations, with a axe. And if the decision was debated in the house, and still decided to stay there, let's get some equipment that doesn't seems prone to roll overs, and secondly maybe stop having photo ops in front of the same aircraft I flew in back in the mid 60's. The same ones bringing back the bodies now.

Everyone is stretched and getting tired. It isn't the job it started out to be so its' time for reasoned debate.

Anonymous said...

The first comment to your article shows exactly why it is dangerous to hold a debate on our troops in Afghanistan.

Unfortunately we have MPs who would just see this as an opportunity to slag the US and paint the Harper government as their lackeys.

If we could somehow assure ourselves that our MPs would approach the debate in an honourable manner on its own merits rather than as an opportunity to simply attack the US I would agree that we should have the debate.

I don't however believe this will ever happen.

Too bad, we should be able to expect our MPs to act like adults.

Kayber's Blog said...

I think Paul Willcocks has put the whole Canadian involvement with Afghanistan in perspective and has illustrated quite clearly, the concerns that the majority of Canadians have with our role over there.

Even with a frail minority, Paul has also pointed out, in this and other articles, just how un-democratic Steven Harper and his Conservative are. Also, just look at their record on the appointment scandals just after being elected. Unbelievable!

Can you just imagine what this would mean for Canada if these guys had a small majority?

If you thought Gordon Campbell and his dictatorship out here in British Columbia has been bad, Harper and his Conservatives would make the Campbell regime look like saints.

Mind you, Gordon Campbell and Stephen Harper share the same ideology, deep integration with the United States.

God Help Us!!!!!!!!!!!

Kayber's Blog said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

So now Mr.Harper is trying to convince everyone that Canadians are right behind him. No need for a debate. If he is so sure everyone is behind him why not a debate?

I note in passing that oil reserves in Ahganistan are much higher than thought. Could it be the reason the USA got so involved and now our new boy is trying to get a piece of the action? Or is he building a photo op album for the next election?