POSTED RESPONSE TO A COLUMN BY JEFFREY SIMPSON IN TORONTO'S GLOBE AND MAIL
You lose when you choose the wrong battles.
America is fighting the people of Afghanistan, at least a very large portion of them.
That is a battle you can never win unless you are prepared to behave like Stalin's Russia and crush everyone.
Sadly, America is being pulled in that direction. Its drone killings and air attacks have almost certainly killed far more innocent people than suspected "bad guys."
There never has been a definable "mission" in Afghanistan, other than not-to-be-uttered task of American vengeance.
America went there, against the advice of many wise people at the time, as a response to arm-pumping bullies sitting in bars across the land watching images of the twin towers endlessly repeated over beer. It was the same belly-over-belt battle cry you get for the Superbowl.
The effort gained a modicum of international respectability by Bush-Cheney strong-arming the United Nations into passing a resolution, something which at that time, with America’s great financial and economic strengths and calling in many markers with threats and promises, was not overly difficult to achieve and something it has done a number of times.
But the real test of the international community’s belief in America’s “cause” is the numbers of troops they committed and the nature of their assignments.
The numbers are so small and the assignments are so limited that it becomes a very black joke when America sounds its trumpet about a mission vital to the whole world.
It clearly is not, else millions of troops would have poured into Afghanistan and completely occupied it. NATO fully engaged would be an awesome event, but it was never more engaged than press briefings and contingents of troops the size of a Remembrance Day parade.
Canada went there, having offended the Bush-Cheney sensibilities a few times (thank you, again, Mr. Chretien, for keeping us out of the dirty, murderous hell of Iraq) because it felt the pressure – the same kind of pressure with which the U.S. obtains U.N. resolutions – that it “owed one to the Pentagon.”
The Liberals expected the commitment to be similar to that of other NATO countries – that is, minimal – but our current wannabe-Republican government managed to put them in the worst possible spot. Pure incompetence, as was the turning over of detainees, mostly poor farmers – for torture, something they continue to hide.
Ours is a fool’s mission. Canada’s forces have done their best, but doing your best in a pointless task goes nowhere, and that is where we are, nowhere.
The Taleban need never have been our enemies. They attacked no one. And the guys we allied ourselves with are every bit as backward. Indeed, few seem aware of the fact but it was the Northern Alliance – “our” guys – who first let bin Laden stay in the country.
The Taleban, formed in the face of a murderous chaos after the Russians left to provide what locals regarded as clean government, only refused to extradite bin Laden because the U.S. provided not one scrap of evidence against him, the provision of such evidence being the normal procedure in extraditions everywhere.
The measure of American dissimulation is the absurd occasional recording of bin Laden, a man who was certainly killed in the air bombardment at the beginning, a bombardment so awful the U.S. never wanted to reveal the details, just as it has always hidden the extent of its victims in Iraq.
All the garbage about women and backwardness is just that, garbage: it was Bush-Cheney propaganda to win over soccer moms for war. Yes, Afghanistan is backward, but we have done very little in reality to change that – actually an impossible task for a vast land of 30 million – and the world is screaming with backward places and abuse against women.
In Africa, 3 million women a year suffer genital mutilation, and in many places there young girls are routinely raped by the older men in their village who are in no way held accountable. Where are the calls to invade and sort that horror out? There are none, of course, but we kid ourselves that that is why we are wasting lives and great treasure in Afghanistan.
Again, Afghanistan is a fool’s mission.