Category Archives: Afghanistan

People’s Summit in Quebec issues call for antiwar actions

The People’s Summit Against War and Militarism, which met in Montréal November 19-21, was attended by 225 persons from a wide range of organizations. It issued a Joint Declaration endorsed by more than 70 organizations including trade unions, women’s and student organizations, civil liberties groups, and other social movements and grassroots community organizations in Quebec. Continue reading

Afghanistan Crisis Deepens:
U.S., Canada and NATO Threaten to Extend War

by Tim Kennelly
On March 13, 2008, Canada’s Parliament voted to extend the country’s military “mission” in Afghanistan to July 2011. The motion by the minority Conservative government was supported by the opposition Liberals. The warmakers correctly estimated that fixing an exit date would deflect mounting opposition to the war among the Canadian public and buy time for Canada’s continued participation. Continue reading

Escalation of Afghanistan War: Canada Faces a Fateful Decision

by Roger Annis
The United States and its imperialist partners are losing their war of conquest in Afghanistan and a further escalation is required. Such is the blunt assessment of General Stanley McChrystal, the head of the U.S. armed forces in that country. More troops are needed if the invading forces are to prevail, the general says. He is asking U.S. President Barak Obama for an additional 40,000 soldiers. Continue reading

Afghan Women’s Rights Leader Says Foreign Troops Should Leave

Malalai Joya’s book, Among Among Warlords: The Extraordinary Story of the Afghan Woman Who Dared to Speak Out, co-written with Canadian writer and antiwar activist Derrick O’Keefe, will be published in North America in October. Joya, who was elected to the Afghan Parliament in 2005, was subsequently expelled for opposing the war and President Hamid Karzai’s government. Continue reading

Afghan resistance is ‘terrorist’ under Canadian law, Khawaja trial judge rules

By Richard Fidler. In the first major prosecution under Canada’s Anti-Terrorism Act, Mohammad Momin Khawaja, a 29-year-old Ottawa-area software developer arrested almost five years ago, was convicted October 29 on five charges of participating in a “terrorist group” and helping to build an explosive device “likely to cause serious bodily harm or death to persons or serious damage to property.” Continue reading

Manley Report: Ottawa Gets Advice on Prolonging the Afghanistan War

By Roger Annis

Troubled by the failures of the U.S./NATO war in Afghanistan, the Canadian government commissioned a review last October of the war and Canada’s participation. A panel of five corporate and political figures was cobbled together in an effort to reach broader consensus among the war’s proponents.

Canada is an enthusiastic partner in the war, but there are growing concerns among the country’s elite over the failure to defeat the patriotic resistance in Afghanistan, and a slim but stubborn majority of the Canadian population remains opposed to what increasingly appears to be a futile and criminal war.

The review panel’s report, delivered January 22, has sparked an intense and ongoing political debate.

What the report says

The governing Conservative Party chose a prominent figure in the opposition Liberal Party, John Manley, to head the review panel. The Liberals took Canada into a more aggressive combat role in Afghanistan in May 2005, in the southern province of Kandahar, but some Liberals are getting cold feet and others are tempted to use the failure of the mission for short-term political gain at home.

The mandate of the mission is due for renewal in 2009. The Conservatives hold only a minority of seats in the federal parliament and would require Liberal support to get parliament to vote an extension.

The government gave the review panel four options for the future of Canada’s role, all of which involved some variant of a continued intervention. Manley was already on the record in support of the war and a continued Canadian participation. Two other panel members—Derrick Burney and Paul Tellier—have served on the boards of directors of two of Canada’s arms manufacturers, the aerospace companies CAE and Bombardier. So it was no surprise that the panel recommends that participation in the war continue.

Among the proposals contained in the report are:

  • Continued commitment to the combat role in Kandahar until at least 2009.
  • Insistence on more support from other NATO countries as a pre-condition for Canada to extend its combat mission beyond 2009. The report says at least 1,000 more troops are needed. With such increased support, Manley says the war can be won “in less than ten years.”
  • Acquisition of helicopters and unmanned aerial vehicles at an additional cost of hundreds of millions of dollars. Currently, Canada relies on NATO allies for air support to its ground troops.

Gloomy outlook

The report has been welcomed enthusiastically by the war’s proponents. An editorial in the January 23 National Post urged Harper to use the report as a basis to launch a “reinvigorated mission” in Afghanistan.

But many supporters are less than enthusiastic about the war’s accomplishments to date.

Paraphrasing the report, National Post columnist Don Martin says Canada’s “too-few-by-half combat troops” are, “ill-equipped, poorly coordinated and losing the battle to the enemy while failing to deliver adequate humanitarian aid or reconstruction help to average Afghans.” Martin, who has travelled extensively in Afghanistan, says the failure of the U.S./NATO war is a “sad reality.”

The most vocal critic among backers of the war has been the Senlis Council, a European-based think tank that conducts extensive surveying as well as charitable work in Afghanistan. In a series of detailed studies of the Canadian role in Afghanistan issued in 2006 and 2007, it flatly states that the war will be lost unless new approaches are made to win friends among ordinary Afghans.

“The fact stands that Canada is losing its war in Afghanistan,” writes Martin. “It’s high time other nations measured up as worthy allies against global terrorism—without being blackmailed by our bluff.”

Focus on NATO

The “other nations” referred to by Martin are Canada’s European allies in NATO. Their role in Afghanistan is a central focus of Manley’s recommendations, and a controversial one. The report says Canada should vigorously pressure and shame its allies in Europe into committing more troops to Afghanistan and engaging more actively in combat.

In a January 23 editorial entitled, “Demand the help of NATO partners,” the Globe and Mail writes, “What Mr. Manley proposes is a game of diplomatic chicken, but it is one that Mr. Harper cannot avoid.”

The editorial continues, “…it is a pitiful abdication of responsibility for larger countries such as France and Germany to refuse to assign another 1,000 (soldiers)…”

But what if the “allies” are not persuaded, or if they don’t take kindly to being blamed for the war’s failings? It’s a dilemma that Manley and the government are acutely aware of. They are careful to avoid describing their demands on NATO as blackmail or threats. The preferred term is “applying leverage.”

Canadian aid

Two issues particularly troubled the review panel—the failure of Canadian “aid” in Afghanistan, and the failure of the government to effectively “communicate” the good news of the war to the Canadian population. The report makes some frank criticism on these two fronts.

“Talk to CIDA (The Canadian International Development Agency) and you will hear all manner of good things about the work it is contributing to in Afghanistan,” wrote the Globe and Mail on January 24. But those seeking specifics on what Canada’s “aid” has accomplished “are left exasperated.”

The newspaper echoes what the Senlis Council has reported for several years, which is that Canada has nothing to show for the more than one billion dollars in “aid” money it has spent in Afghanistan since 2002. Ordinary Afghans remained mired in a terrible poverty, and they are frequent victims of indiscriminate bombings and military offensives by Canada and other NATO forces.

By all accounts, humanitarian conditions are deteriorating. Malalai Joya, the suspended member of the Afghan parliament, recently gave a grim picture of ordinary life in her country to the British newspaper The Independent. “The economic situation is also terrible – official figures put unemployment at around 60 percent but in reality it is much closer to 90 percent. Hundreds died in the winter from hypothermia, and women were so poor that they tried to sell their babies because they could not feed them.”

Senator Colin Kenny, chair of the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence, says getting explanations from CIDA is like grasping at air. He told CBC Radio’s The Current on January 22, “We haven’t been able to find out what they (CIDA) are doing,” despite extensive research by his committee. When members of his committee went to Afghanistan to examine aid projects firsthand, they were prevented from doing so by the Canadian military, who said it was “too dangerous” to venture outside the barbed wire military compound where they were housed.

Kenny said that when his committee met the government minister for CIDA, Beverley Oda, last year, they heard nothing but “gobbledegook.” They “didn’t get a straight answer from her in an hour and half.”

Manley’s report proposes that CIDA create a “signature project” such as a school or hospital that could be used to showcase Canadian “aid” to the Afghan people.

The report comes down hard on the government’s mishandling of the information and propaganda side of the war effort. As criticism of the war has mounted, including from its supporters, the government has reacted by closing down access to information. Panel member Derek Burney, a highly placed official of the governing Conservative Party, said, “I’m not opposed to a more controlled message.” But he and the commission are concerned that a total clampdown on information does more harm than good.


By far the most serious political damage to the war effort has been done by non-stop revelations of the use of torture by Canada and NATO as a weapon of war. A damning editorial by the Globe and Mail on January 30 listed no less than seven occasions in 2006 and 2007 when the Conservative government lied about or misrepresented the Canadian military’s collusion with torture agencies of the Afghan government, police and armed forces.

The government’s latest subterfuge was an announcement on January 23 that as of November 2007, the Canadian military is no longer turning over prisoners to Afghan authorities because of the latter’s record of applying torture to its prisoners. The announcement baffled observers who wondered why it was not announced when it supposedly came into effect. The government answered by saying that it was not told of the change by the military. But this story had to change because military leaders reacted angrily to the implication that they are operating outside of the control and direction of the government.

The announcement begged a series of questions. If it was true, what is the military now doing with those it detains? Releasing them? Has it created its own detention facilities in Afghanistan? Is it turning prisoners over to the U.S.? The answer to these questions may lie in a February 4 report in La Presse. The Montreal daily reported that the Canadian military is secretly opening its own detention facility in a wing of the notorious central prison in Kabul.

Canada is already deeply implicated in the torture center operated in Guantánamo, Cuba, because of its refusal to seek the release of a Canadian citizen, Omar Khadr, an inmate since he was imprisoned there five years ago at the age of 15.

In December, army officials argued publicly that any relaxation of the detainment policy would gravely compromise the safety and security of the Canadian mission. Speaking to a committee of the Canadian Parliament on December 14, Brigadier-General André Deschamps, army chief of staff to Canada’s mission in Afghanistan, declared, “The insurgents could attack us with impunity knowing that if they fail to win an engagement they would simply have to surrender.…”

But controversy over the torture policy will not go away. On February 1, the Globe and Mail reported that the governor of Kandahar province, Asadullah Khalid, has personally tortured prisoners; that the Canadian government knew of this since at least the spring of 2007; and that it has kept the information hidden. The following day, the newspaper reported that the head of Canada’s armed forces, Richard Hillier, praised Khalid as a good friend and ally of Canada and that it was up to the government of Afghanistan to investigate any allegations against him.

Government faces severe dilemma

The January 23 announcement of a supposed change in torture policy stems from the government’s growing concern about a legal challenge in Canada’s federal court brought by the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) and Amnesty International that would oblige the military to treat prisoners according to the post-World War Two Geneva conventions. Like the U.S., Canada says its operations in Afghanistan are not bound by the conventions.

The government is trying to negotiate an end to legal challenge. The sticking point is the insistence by Amnesty and the BCCLA that any change to detention policy must be publicly announced seven days in advance.

The Manley report recommends strongly against any vote in the Canadian parliament on the future of the war. The Liberals say they want a withdrawal from the combat mission in Kandahar by 2009, but the review panel wants the Liberals and the governing Conservatives to reach an agreement to continue selling the war by “leveraging” more commitment from Canada’s imperialist allies in Europe.

Manley believes that the best outcome to hope for is a shattered Afghanistan where imperialist interests are nonetheless preserved. “We’re not going to have a VE day here with parades in the streets,” he cautioned journalists on January 23.

The furore over the Manley report can only increase the number of Canadians who question the war’s aims and rationale. Many more can be won to the view that the only principled and humanitarian end to the carnage is withdrawal of foreign occupation forces and recognition of the right of the Afghan people to freely determine their political future.

Roger Annis is a trade union activist in Vancouver BC and a member of that city’s coalition.

Canadian Government Continues Lies and Cover-up on Afghanistan

By Roger Annis

The Canadian government continues to rely on denial and lies to cover up the criminal war in Afghanistan in which it is an enthusiastic partner.

A damning exposé of the war and Canada’s role was published in the Montréal French-language daily newspaper La Presse during the week of October 29. The paper published a series of articles by its correspondent in Kabul, Michèle Ouimet, entitled, “Afghanistan: The Failings of the Canadian Mission.” It is a withering portrait of the lies and deception that define Canadian government policy in Afghanistan.[1]

Torture policy continues

In the first article of the series, on October 29, Ouimet reported that Canada continues to turn over captured Afghans to torture at the hands of the local police and military with which it is allied. Last April, similar torture allegations surfaced. They put the war’s advocates on the defensive. After weeks of denial failed to quell a domestic outcry, the government said an agreement had been signed with Afghan authorities to prohibit future torture of captives turned over by Canada.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper responded immediately to the latest La Presse report, saying “not true,” and “Taliban propaganda.” Presumably, the government feels that such bald denials are not very costly politically. All parties in the Canadian Parliament agree on a continued Canadian military presence in the country. The New Democratic Party distinguishes itself by calling for an end to Canada’s “counterinsurgency” role in Afghanistan.

But the latest allegations, like others before them, are wearing down the benefit of the doubt that a narrow majority of Canadians are willing to give to the government and military.

The rendition policy is being challenged in Canada’s federal court by Amnesty International and the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association. They are seeking a court injunction to oblige Canada to assume full care and treatment of Afghans who it seizes. The federal government lost a round in this fight on November 5 when the court refused a government request to halt the case.

Health care tragedy

Ouimet reported on October 30 that Canadian officials cannot account for $3 million that Canada says it has contributed to the main public hospital in Kandahar, Mirwais Hospital.

The Red Cross administers the hospital and does not provide accounts of expenditure. It also prohibits foreign journalists from entering. Ouimet entered incognito. She reported horrific conditions inside, similar to those reported by the Senlis Council and other journalists earlier this year—no sanitation, lack of basic medications, no available blood products, few medical personnel, and suffering patients.

On May 28, 2007, Norine MacDonald, president of the Senlis Council, an international think tank and aid agency, testified before a committee of the Canadian Parliament and commented on the Council’s examination of the Mirwais Hospital. The hospital, located just a few kilometres away from a lavish Canadian military base and supposedly funded by millions of Canadian dollars, was so poorly equipped, she said, that, “it does not deserve the name hospital.”

Aid fiasco

On October 31, Ouimet looked at a couple of projects in Kabul that the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) says it is funding. One was an $85,000 project to clean up garbage and debris in the city. The project was contracted to a local Afghan businessman. CIDA says he hired 200 people and successfully completed it. CIDA also says it funded a project to install 340 pre-fabricated cement roadside drainage surfaces.

“Not true,” says the mayor of Kabul, Ghulam Hadidi. He says no one told him of the projects.

“I have never seen anyone picking up garbage, and the city is as dirty as ever,” he told Ouimet. “So I ask the question, what happened to the money?”

His officials looked into the cement claim and found the number installed was less than claimed, only 138. The mayor says the city needs 3,800. It found that the cement used did meet the minimum structural standard. But it cost $20 per piece. The mayor says it could have purchased them for $4 each.

“It’s not easy to work with the Canadians,” the mayor told Ouimet. “Their personnel changes all the time.”

The mayor’s daughter, Rangina, was blunter. “Where are they (the Canadians)? What do they do? We never see them; they sit in their fortified camp.”

Ouimet talked to the governor of Kandahar province, and he added his views on foreign aid programs. “Their bureaucracy is so heavy,” he said. “The international community does not listen to us. We never succeed in resolving problems.”

Widespread corruption

On November 1, Ouimet reported from Kabul in an article entitled, “An Administration Corrupt to the Bone.” Her reporting of the UN role is revealing, and particularly relevant to the situation in Haiti where Canada also leads a foreign occupation force.

An aide to President Hamid Karzai told Ouimet, “The international community has injected $19 billion into Afghanistan. About 95% of that leaves the country. Non-governmental organizations employ 540 foreigners who earn from $5,000 to $35,000 per month.

“The last elections cost $395 million. It was the foreigners who organized them, and kept the money for themselves.”

The editor of Kabul Weekly, Mohammed Dashty, is harsher. “The UN is a government within a government…Look at their expenditures, the salaries they pay to their employees, their 4 x 4 vehicles that cross the city, their travel abroad. I call that legal corruption.”

Ouimet’s report sketched a vast scale of corruption within the foreign-imposed Afghan regime.

Humanitarian refugee crisis

The final article in Ouimet’s series, on November 3, sketched the profound humanitarian crisis of Afghan refugees. There are two million of them, living in camps along the country’s borders or in internal camps. They are the second-largest refugee population in the world, after Palestinians.

Ouimet reported something that would come as a surprise to most Canadians. Most of the 100,000 refugees in Kandahar province, where the Canadian military contingent in Afghanistan is based, receive no food aid. In March, 2006, the governor of Kandahar province and United Nations authorities decided to cut it off. The reason was to force refugees to return to wherever they had come from.

This barbaric decision did not have the intended effect of forcibly relocating refugees. But it did cause more starvation and suffering than was already present. Stung by revelations from the Senlis Council and journalists of widespread starvation in Kandahar province earlier this year, Canada has quietly moved to reduce the political damage. International Cooperation Minister Beverley Oda visited Kandahar city in early October and announced “$25 million in food aid.” The announcement contained no details of where, how and to whom the food would be distributed.

War effort faltering

Amidst all these policy failings, Canada and NATO’s war effort itself is faltering. The city of Kandahar, the second largest in the country and the location of a major Canada/NATO base, is slowly being encircled by patriotic fighters, according to the November 1 Globe and Mail. On November 6, Canada‘s minister of foreign affairs, Peter Mackay, narrowly escaped injury from a rocket attack while visiting a forward Canadian military base in Kandahar province.

The Canada/NATO war in the countryside in Kandahar province is also worsening the refugee crisis in the province as thousands come into Kandahar city to escape the fighting.

Meanwhile, the Pakistani military dictatorship, a staunch friend and ally of Canada and NATO, is poised to fall to a popular uprising. Dictator Pervez Musharaf declared martial law on November 3 in an effort to suppress a growing mass movement demanding democratic rule.

Antiwar protests decline in size, but not in influence

Paradoxically, antiwar protests in Canada are growing smaller as the failure of the U.S./NATO war and occupation becomes more apparent. A national day of protest against the war in Afghanistan was held across Canada on October 27. Rallies and marches were smaller than other recent protests. In Vancouver and Toronto, 750 or so protested. Rallies in Montreal and Ottawa drew 200 and 150 respectively, while 100 marched in Edmonton.

But the declining numbers are deceptive. Public opinion polls show a slim but firm majority want an end to the war in Afghanistan. The recent speaking tour to Canada of Afghan parliamentary representative Malalai Joya drew large and interested crowds. Joya condemns the foreign occupation of Afghanistan and calls for an end to the war it is waging.

Long war foreseen in Afghanistan

In its speech opening a new session of the Canadian Parliament on October 16, the Canadian government said it would end the military mission in Afghanistan by 2011. This extends by two years a 2009 date set by the preceding Liberal Party government. The Liberals’ original date for ending the combat mission was 2007. The Liberals tacitly supported the new 2011 date by abstaining on an October 24 vote on the speech.

The head of Canada’s military, General Rick Hillier, complicated the political farce when he declared that he considers 2017 as the earliest possible date for a withdrawal. Military officials from Britain, which has the second-largest foreign presence in Afghanistan, stated several months ago that they were committed to a decades-long war in Afghanistan.

Canada’s rulers have tied the country’s future to a brutal and endless war in Afghanistan — a war, moreover, that is but a leading front of a U.S.-led war of conquest in the entire Middle East.

[1] Michèle Ouimet’s articles on Afghanistan can be found at

Rough Waters for Canada’s War in Afghanistan

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

By Roger Annis

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

Not much is going well for the Canadian warmakers on the ground. 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 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.)

Anti-women policies

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.

Humanitarian disaster continues

While Canada, the U.S., Britain and other NATO countries press on with a cruel and destructive war, millions of Afghan people suffer horrific conditions. Several million continue to live in refugee camps along Afghanistan’s borders. According to the United Nations Commissioner for Refugees, Afghans are the second largest group of refugees in the world, second only to Palestinians.

A glimpse of life in the rural areas of the country was given to readers of the CanWest newspaper chain in Canada on July 28 by correspondent Don Martin. Headlined, “Children starving in Kandahar area,” the article describes a daylong tour by Martin and a hired guide on the outskirts of Kandahar city.

“Kids are starving in Kandahar and the surrounding refugee camps,” wrote Martin. “And the allegation leveled by the Senlis Council, an international think tank now branching into humanitarian relief, is that the Canadian government won’t help and doesn’t care.” He says he set out on his trip in order to prove or disprove the Senlis accusation.

His conclusion? He saw starving children everywhere he went and witnessed very little medical care and no public education. “The whole day was an unsettling experience.”

“Could Canada make a difference? Absolutely. Should it do more? Seems obvious to me.”

Martin’s report echoes what the Senlis Council has been reporting for several years throughout Afghanistan. Its reports are ignored by mainstream news outlets in Canada and elsewhere.

Indifference to shocking conditions

Former Vancouver paramedic Edward McCormick gave a similarly disturbing report to CanWest on February 17. In January, in a mission sponsored by the Senlis Council, he spent one month examining conditions in hospitals in Kandahar and British-occupied Hellman province. Conditions in the hospitals shocked him.

Kandahar city’s main hospital, he reported, “is filthy and there is absolutely no medical equipment to be found anywhere.” Patients, including children, are dying needlessly from war wounds.

In a particularly damning comment on the Canadian military, McCormick says, “There is no sign of foreign aid in those hospitals.”

“The foreign army doctors have never bothered to go over and say hello.” Canada’s lavish home base in Kandahar is only a few kilometers up the road from the hospital that McCormick examined.

“There is a humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan,” he concludes, “and the neglect that continues to be demonstrated in Ottawa is fueling support for the insurgency.”

Civilians are regularly killed in large numbers by aerial and artillery bombardments. NATO forces no longer call these “mistakes” —they are now regarded as just an unfortunate price of war.

Reports such as these parallel reports of the ugly reality of Iraq under U.S. and British occupation. A new report by the aid agency OXFAM at the end of July finds eight million people in Iraq in urgent need of food and medical aid. The lack of clean water and reliable electricity for much of the country is having devastating consequences for the population.

Government campaign

The Conservative government of Stephen Harper is undeterred. It says the war will go on until “victory” is achieved, however long that may take. Harper underlined his commitment by visiting the war zone in May. “Terrorism will come home if we don’t confront it,” in Afghanistan, he told assembled journalists.

But there is growing unease even among the war’s supporters. The government and military now say they have a plan to turn fighting over to an “Afghan National Army” under construction. Faced with growing concern over Canadian casualties, they propose to eliminate that problem by putting more Afghans in the line of fire.

“The way to essentially reduce the risk is to have more Afghans doing the work,” said the new head of the Canadian forces in Afghanistan, Brigadier-General Guy Laroche, on July 27.

But the foreign overseers of this “army” do not trust it enough to provide vehicles, advanced weapons, or personal armour. Afghan police and soldiers regularly abuse and steal from the very civilian population whose “hearts and minds” they are supposed to win.

The government’s minister of defense, Gordon O’Connor, has so often lied and contradicted military officials that many war advocates including the country’s leading daily newspaper, the Globe and Mail, have called for his resignation

Meanwhile, important voices are speaking out against the war. James Clancy, national president of the National Union of Public and General Employees, issued a statement in late July saying, “The proud and independent Afghani people oppose the occupation of their land by foreign troops. The insurgency is gaining ground by uniting people around the goal of forcing the foreign soldiers out. The simple fact is that things are not improving in Afghanistan – they are getting worse. It is doubtful that the presence of foreign troops can ever bring the peace and stability the people so desperately desire.”

Even the timid New Democratic Party has stepped up its voice in opposition to the war. Last year, it and the Bloc Québécois party voted in the Canadian parliament to oppose a two-year extension, to 2009, of the Canadian mission.

War will go on

Criticism of the war will continue to mount, but so will the government’s stubborn pursuit of it, because the aims of this war go beyond the borders of Afghanistan. Canada has committed to spending billions of dollars on new military equipment and new fighting capacity — new tanks and helicopters; Canada’s first mobile fighter jet squadron ready for deployment anywhere in the world; new ships; and countless other items.

Why all this new hardware? Earlier this year, the army’s head, Lieutenant-General Andrew Leslie, explained that the resources there are not for Afghanistan alone. “Let’s not kid ourselves,” he said. Too much has been invested.

“It is logical to expect that we will go somewhere fairly similar to Afghanistan and do much the same activity.”

Iran? The oil fields of central Asia? Venezuela’s troublesome revolution? The list of potential targets is long, but the government and military’s hand is not as free as they would have us believe. Determined antiwar campaigning can play a decisive role in blocking Canada’s imperial ambitions, and is needed more than ever today.

Afghanistan: No Gender Equality Under Occupation

Supporters of the occupation of Afghanistan often argue that the NATO force is liberating women from the oppression they suffered under the Taliban. The Harper government, no supporter of women’s rights in Canada, recently promoted that view by sending Governor General Michaëlle Jean on a well-publicized visit to Afghanistan on International Women’s Day. In following report from Kabul. originally published in Green Left Weekly, Ramani Desilva argues that the liberation of Afghan women can only be accomplished by the women themselves. An important step towards that goal will be complete withdrawal of the occupying Ramani Desilva

KABUL — The new constitution of Afghanistan formally grants equal rights to women and men. The government has also endorsed the UN Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), which, according to development agencies, is significant progress on gender equality “policy advocacy.” The first time I arrived in Kabul the women I saw on the streets were wearing scarves on their heads and those wearing full chador were a minority. Maybe, at a superficial glance, the situation had improved for the women of Afghanistan?

The propaganda of the NATO occupation forces made the “liberation” of women synonymous with the “liberation” of the country from the Taliban. The ministry of women’s affairs was set up and much publicised for international consumption as the changing face of a “liberated” Afghanistan. The ministry has become the pet project of many development agencies. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Laura Bush are patrons of the US-Afghan Women’s Council, which supports women’s “leadership” training and micro-credit projects.

But the situation outside Kabul and the heavily guarded zones of the development agencies, whose staff are penned in day and night due to tight security provisions, is extremely unstable and volatile. There is a constant feeling of uneasiness that the situation could explode at any moment, including in Kabul itself. During my stay there was a mortar attack on Jalalabad Road, one of the main highways and army convoy routes out of Kabul. There are reports of Kabul airport coming under frequent gunfire attack. The plane that was flying me out of Kabul taxied down the runway ready for take off, then suddenly slowed down, U-turned and returned to the terminal. The pilot explained that there were some “technical difficulties,” which we found out later was a broken windscreen. “Maybe someone took a shot at us,” said a UN security officer, wryly. But no-one was laughing.

The government has no influence or control over the country and President Hamid Karzai is laughingly referred to as the “mayor of Kabul.” Almost half the country is deemed high to extreme risk areas, i.e. in UN parlance, a “volatile” to “hostile environment.” This includes almost all of the southern and eastern parts of the country along the borders with Pakistan. These are war zones where there is ongoing fighting between NATO troops and Taliban forces, drug lords and other Afghan-style criminals and gangsters.

According to some workers I spoke to, the resistance is widespread and not only limited to the Taliban, due to the inability of the government to deliver any improvements to the lives of the vast majority of the population. Poppy production linked to the drug economy has resurfaced with a vengeance, and many government officials are implicated. Some development agencies are reluctant to set up banks as these could be used for laundering drug money.

Afghanistan ranks 173 out of 178 on the United Nations Development Programme Human Development Index (2004). Life expectancy today is approximately 44.5 years. One out of five children dies before the age of five and maternal mortality is among the highest in the world. Some 90% of adult women are illiterate. Some 75% of girls attending primary school drop out before grade five. Newly re-opened girls’ schools are closing down due to violence against women and girls. Stories are told of how young women today are less educated than those belonging to their grandmothers’ generation. Sexual violence against girls, institutionalised through “traditions” such as child marriage, continues to be rife. Suicide among young women is said to be increasing. A May 2006 United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) survey on violence against women in Afghanistan indicates that it’s widespread, extreme, systematic and unreported.

Women development staff working outside Kabul frequently receive death threats. Some have even been killed. In September 2006 Safiye Amajan, the provincial head of the women’s ministry in Kandahar and a respected women’s rights advocate, was shot repeatedly outside her home as she was leaving for work. It is a well-known fact among development agency circles that Afghan women staff are targets and routinely put their lives on the line as a result of their work.

The Taliban used the “women’s question” to enforce its own agenda. The imperialist occupation forces have also used the agenda of gender equality to ultimately pursue their own interests: the occupation of Afghanistan for strategic geo-political reasons. In the eyes of many people, the ministry of women is associated with the occupation. A meeting with the minister, referred to by the title “Her Excellency”, who sat behind an enormous, glittering desk accompanied by an entourage of some half-a-dozen minions, was like an audience with royalty — clueless and out of touch. Meanwhile, life for a majority of the women and girls in Afghanistan is one of desperate suffering under extreme forms of oppression.

Gender equality can only be meaningful when the cause is championed by a politically independent movement of women. This is the hard-learned lesson of the international women’s movement, the militant sections of which have campaigned for the autonomy and independence of the movement since its inception. The cause of gender equality that aligns itself with the imperialist occupation, whether clothed in development or some other pseudo-democratic rhetoric, is bound to harm the interests of the majority of women in Afghanistan, Iraq or elsewhere. And, as the situation in Afghanistan indicates, it’s a failing strategy.

The Birth of Canadian ‘Peacekeeping’

Since its inception in the 1948 partition of Palestine, United Nations peacekeeping has been, with Canadian support, an instrument of oppression.

By Ian Beeching

In their current drive to build up Canada’s army and its war-making role, Canada’s rulers rely on its reputation for “peacekeeping” as part of United Nations missions abroad. Many Canadians, including on the left, agree that there is a just and humanitarian role for the army and even propose peacekeeping as a positive alternative to Canada’s present war in Afghanistan.

But Canadian peacekeeping is a myth. Nowhere is this so clear as in the birth of peacekeeping, that is, in Canada’s role in the creating the state of Israel at the expense of the Palestinian people. “Peace” was kept for the Israeli state while the Palestinians were driven from their homes.

A shift in strategy

Peacekeeping was born in the era of rising liberation struggles following the World War II, when many oppressed countries freed themselves from direct colonial rule. In 1949 capitalism was shaken by the second great anticapitalist revolution of the century, when China won its freedom from imperialism. This triumph spurred struggles across Asia and Africa; America and its imperialist allies where in retreat.

With many colonies achieving independence, imperialism had to develop new mechanisms to keep its grip on its wealth — a new strategy that would allow some forms of political independence so long as the prerogatives of foreign capital were protected. One aspect of this strategy was the development of a form of military intervention that could march under a pretence of humanitarian concern while hiding the beast of capital. The result was UN peacekeeping. It opened the door to non-colonial powers, like Canada, to play a role in the imperialist enterprise, and thus had special importance for the rulers of this country.

The 1948 partition of Palestine

What we know as peacekeeping began with the partitioning of Palestine in 1948. This early experiment in peacekeeping was limited in scope. The United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO) forces did not attack poor unarmed civilians as UN troops in Haiti do today. The main purpose of UNTSO was to supervise the Armistice Agreements between Israel and its Arab neighbours. Yet UNTSO and more aggressive recent peacekeeping ventures have had the same hidden agenda.

British, U.S., and allied powers saw a Zionist state in Palestine as a buttress against the wave of Arab nationalism in the Middle East. (Zionism is the ideology that views historic Palestine as an exclusive enclave for Jewish immigrants from other parts of the world.) Britain was too weakened by World War II to continue its colonial grip on Palestine. A new and creative way of establishing Western interests in the Middle East was needed, one that would minimize resistance from the Soviet Union and Arab countries — and it was found in the United Nations.

The conflict then raging in Palestine was an indirect result U.S./British policies. When western countries, including Canada, barred Jewish refugees escaping the Holocaust, many Jewish people saw Palestine as their only salvation. With the rapid growth of Jewish settlements on Arab land, Palestinians rose in protest. Britain was forced in 1939 to limit Jewish immigration to Palestine. The Zionists in Palestine, unhappy with Britain’s decision, waged a terrorist campaign against British forces and the indigenous Arab populations. In 1947, exhausted from World War Two and unable to maintain control, Britain turned its mandate in Palestine over to the United Nations, which organized the creation of Israel.

The terms of partition were grossly unfair. The Zionist state received 56% of Palestinian territory, although Jews were a minority in Palestine and owned only 9% of the land. Even worse, the partition launched a pro-imperialist state that was expansionist and deeply hostile to the Arab population of the region. All this was done against the clearly expressed will of the majority of Palestine’s inhabitants.

Canada played a central role in the partition. Lester B. Pearson, who became Canada’s minister of external affairs in 1946, chaired the first committee on Palestine at the UN and was a strong supporter of Zionism. Brushing aside any thought of alternatives, he said: “I have never wavered in my view that a solution to the problem was impossible without the recognition of a Jewish state.” Canada sat on the United Nations special committee on Palestine, with justice Ivan Rand as its representative, and voted for the UN resolution that imposed partition.

Arab resistance to the project led to the Arab-Israeli war of 1948, in which Egypt, Syria, Transjordan, Lebanon, and Iraq fought unsuccessfully to maintain Palestine’s integrity.

In an attempt to secure Israel’s existence and give it the breathing space it needed to build its army, in 1948 the United Nations decided, with Canadian support, to set up the UNTSO peacekeeping force to maintain a ceasefire between Israel and Arab states. Canada contributed a military contingent.

UNTSO forces remained stationed on Israel’s borders, — indeed they are there still. They did not succeed in keeping the peace. Assisted by UNTSO protection, however, Israel, which has received more than $134 billion in U.S. aid since 1949 dramatically increased its military capability — by 2005 it was the fifteenth-largest military spender in the world. .

After only a few years, in 1956 Israel launched an aggressive war against its Egyptian neighbour. Again, Canada intervened through peacekeeping.

Suez Canal crisis

In 1952, a revolutionary movement in Egypt overturned the monarchy and ended British control, asserting the country’s sovereignty. A process of social and economic reform led on July 26, 1956, to Egypt’s nationalization of the foreign-owned company operating the Suez Canal—the sea link between the Mediterranean and the Indian Ocean. The takeover was consistent with Egyptian and international law, but imperialist forces would not accept this affront. Britain and France made a secret deal with Israel to invade Egypt and retake the canal.

On October 29, Israel attacked Egypt, rapidly advancing toward the canal. Almost immediately England and France issued an ultimatum demanding that Egypt pull its forces 10 miles back from the canal. When Egypt refused to withdraw from its own territory, Britain and France launched a full-scale war and occupied the canal area.

The move by England and France met immediate resistance from the United States, due to conflicting economic interests in the region. The U.S. asked the UN Security Council to order a ceasefire but was blocked by a veto from France and Britain. The General Assembly then passed the ceasefire resolution in a non-binding vote of 64 to 5, with Canada abstaining. The U.S. used economic pressure to force British compliance.

In a conflict between its British and U.S. allies, the Canadian government was caught in the middle. The impending disaster in relations between of Britain and United States threatened the Canadian government’s international alliances and its domestic stability.

Ottawa was not concerned with the arrogant violation of international law represented by the British-French-Israeli invasion – but it thought the invasion was reckless and poorly thought out. Pearson explained on October 29: “I don’t for one minute criticize the motives of the governments of the United Kingdom and France … I may have thought their intervention was not wise, but I do not criticize their purpose.”

Pearson arrived at the United Nations in New York determined to find a compromise between Canada’s quarrelling allies. As he explained to U.S. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles on October 31, “We are interested in helping Britain and France. I would like to make it possible for them to withdrawal with as little loss of face as possible, and bring them back into realignment with the U.S.” First, Pearson proposed that the UN take over command of Anglo-French occupation forces. That proposal met strong resistance from many UN member countries, and was quickly abandoned. On November 3, Canada introduced a resolution to have United Nations forces occupy the canal area as a replacement for British-French-Israeli forces.

With Egypt’s consent, United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF) troops entered the country. A contingent of 1,007 Canadian troops formed part of the 10-country, 6,000-strong force. The UNEF forces stood between the opposing forces and ensured the foreign invaders could leave with their hands clean. Meanwhile, the Israeli state moved on to its career of conquest.

Violation of sovereignty

Shortly following the establishment of UNEF, Israel began a troop build-up along the Syrian boarder. To deter an invasion of Syria, Egypt wished to assume a military position along the Egypt-Israel border, and ordered UN troops to leave the country to make this possible.

Under the original UN agreement Egypt had every right to tell UN troops to leave whenever it wished. Pearson had provided assurances that the UN was to “enter Egyptian territory with the consent of the Egyptian Government, in order to help maintain quiet during and after the withdrawal of non-Egyptian forces.” Yet when Egypt requested UNEF withdrawal, Pearson insisted, in blatant violation of Egyptian sovereignty, that Egypt had no right “to tell the force when it shall leave.”

As a result of Canada’s clear support of Israel and its biased role in both the 1948 partition of Palestine and the 1956 Suez Canal crisis, it was no longer accepted among Arab nations as a neutral arbiter. As a result, Canada was the first country asked to remove its troops from the UNEF forces in Egypt. Gamal Abdul Nasser, president of Egypt, said this was because of Canada’s “biased stand in favour of Israel.” On May 16, 1967, the Egyptian government ordered all UNEF forces out of the country.

Canada’s role in the creation of Israel has won wide recognition in Zionist circles. The president of the Canadian Jewish Congress from 1939 to 1962, Samuel Bronfman, “praised Canada for having played the most important part in partitioning Palestine.” To show its appreciation of Canada’s role in its formation Israel erected a “Canada Park” on the rubble of bulldozed homes where an Arab village had once stood.

Israel continues to this day to take over Palestinian land and homes, bulldozing everything in its path. The General Assembly of the UN has passed by overwhelming majorities countless resolutions condemning Israel and demanding the right of self-determination for the Palestinians. Canada has voted against almost every such motion.

This past summer, Israel bombed a well-marked and clearly identified UNTSO observation post in Lebanon, during the Israeli attack. The strike killed a Canadian, yet Prime Minister Harper brushed it off and let Israel go without even a verbal warning.

‘Peacekeeping’ marches on

Since 1956 there have been many other examples of peacekeeping. In most, the results were tragic for the people involved.

Between 1964 and 1993 Canada maintained a peacekeeping force of 1,500 troops in Cyprus that supported and prolonged a U.S.-orchestrated regime change and a partition of the island.

In 1992 Canada contributed 1,300 troops to the UN mission in Somalia that was supposedly to end a famine and bring stability to the country. But this mission quickly turned from food distribution to the kidnapping of Somalian General Mohammed Farrah Aidid. Canadian soldiers, acting under orders, tortured and murdered several innocent unarmed Somali men. The resulting official investigation into Somalia affair was the first such inquiry in Canadian history that was terminated without being completed.

In 2004 Canada along with France and the United States, orchestrated a coup overthrowing Haiti’s democratically elected president. This led to a brutal UN occupation, with Canadian participation. (For more on Haiti, see Socialist Voice #90, “Haitian Masses Move Forward Against Foreign Occupation.”)

In Afghanistan, Canada has now — for the first time since the 1950-53 Korean War — thrown aside the mask of peacekeeping and moved to open war.

A minority of ruling-class voices fear that Canada’s war against the Afghanistan people is not winnable and advocate peacekeeping as an alternative. Others argue that Canadian forces should be shifted to peacekeeping assignments in other countries, such as in the Darfur region of Sudan. This demand, which has unfortunately been endorsed by the NDP, will not serve the interests of the suffering people in Darfur. Peacekeeping Darfur would serve as a cover for increased imperialist penetration of oil-rich Sudan.

The only principled position that antiwar forces in Canada can take is firm opposition to any international deployment of Canadian armed forces, whether or not they are mislabeled as “peacekeepers.”

Sources include:

Ismael, Tareq y. Canada and the Middle East. 1994: Calgary, Detselig Enterprises.

Dessouki, Ali. Canadian Foreign Policy and the Palestinian Problem. Ottawa: Middle East Research Centre Publication, 1969.

Canada/NATO Invasion of Afghanistan Sows Destruction and Misery

By Roger Annis and Ian Beeching

A few months following the launch of the Canada-led NATO invasion of southern Afghanistan in late 2005, the newly elected Prime Minister of Canada told assembled Canadian soldiers in Kandahar that the goal of the foreign occupation of Afghanistan was to “create a democratic, prosperous, modern country that can be a model in this part of the world.”

An October 6 editorial in the Globe and Mail national daily says the military defeat of the “Taliban” is “a superfluous sideshow to the real Canadian mission of painting schools and drilling wells.”

The reality in Afghanistan puts the lie to these stated goals. Occupation forces have brought widespread death, misery and destruction to the country. The invasion and occupation of southern Afghanistan is degenerating into a military and political debacle for the four countries engaged — Canada, Britain, the U.S. and Holland.

Senlis Council report

On September 5, 2006, the Senlis Council, a prominent think tank based in Britain, released a comprehensive report on the U.S./NATO occupation of Afghanistan. It says, “Five years of international presence in the country aimed at increasing the living standards of the Afghan population have failed to make any measured improvements in the accessibility and quality of health and educational services in most of Afghanistan, beyond the confines of Kabul.”

The report was compiled by a large number of researchers based in Afghanistan and it reveals a country living a social and humanitarian disaster.

“Despite promises from the U.S.-led international community guaranteeing to provide the resources and assistance necessary for its reconstruction and development needs, Afghanistan’s people are starving to death. Afghanistan continues to rank at the bottom of most poverty indicators, and the situation of women and children is particularly grave. One in four children born in Afghanistan cannot expect to live beyond the age of five, and certain provinces of the country lay claim to the worst maternal mortality rates ever recorded in the world”

According to Senlis, more than 70% of the Afghan population is chronically malnourished, while less than a quarter has access to safe drinking water.

Human loss, social destruction

The United Nations Development Program reports similar catastrophic conditions. It says the average life expectancy for the people of Afghanistan is 44 years, at least 20 years lower than in neighbouring Central Asian countries.

According to the United Nations Human Rights Commission on Refugees, Afghanistan had 2.9 million refugees in 2005. That number is growing as a result of foreign military operations.

The occupiers like to point to the region surrounding the capital city Kabul as proof of their accomplishments and good will. But progress there is as elusive as in Iraq’s capital city, Baghdad. Open sewers line the streets. Rent for an intact home is too expensive for ordinary Afghans, forcing many to live in dilapidated and structurally unsound buildings. Residents of Kabul receive, at best, four hours of electricity a day.

Prison conditions in Afghanistan are reportedly worse than the horrors that came to light in the prisons of Iraq. According to a May 12 article in the Globe and Mail, six thousand prisoners were crowded into Afghanistan’s 34 prisons at that time, a tenfold increase from the numbers incarcerated at the time of the fall of the Taliban-led government in 2001.

“As the Afghan court system expands, the prison population is rising sharply. Yet the jails are falling apart,” the article explains.

A February 2005 story in the UK Guardian reported widespread Abu Ghraib-style abuse by U.S. forces against Afghan prisoners, including torture, taking ‘trophy photographs’ of detainees, and carrying out rape and sexual humiliation.

Earlier this year, Canada announced that it does not apply the Geneva Convention governing the treatment of prisoners in Afghanistan. It hands prisoners over to the existing prison system, thereby making Canadian soldiers accomplices to war crimes.

Failure to reconstruct

Canada and NATO are failing to rebuild infrastructure with their “Provincial Reconstruction Teams.” According to Senlis, “There is a large and increasing gap between the massive international expenditure on security in Afghanistan, and the limited nation-building achievements…. This security-focused spending indicates that right from 2001, the priorities of the U.S.-led international community for Afghanistan were not in line with those of the Afghan population. Rather … the international community has prioritized physical, military-focused security over the relief of Afghans’ extreme poverty and economic instability.”

Guillaume Fournier, Afghanistan Country Manager for the Senlis Council, told CBC Radio One in September, “The biggest hindrance to reconstruction is the weekly bombing of civilians.”

According to World Bank estimates, Afghanistan needs $27.5 billion to rebuild its shattered social and physical infrastructure. But according to Senlis, Afghanistan received only $7.3 billion between 2002 and 2006, while NATO military spending was $82.5 billion during that time.

A September 23 Canwest News Service article, entitled “Reconstruction in Baby Steps,” described the reality of Canadian reconstruction efforts in Kandahar province. A Canadian military officer said that resources are lacking and reconstruction is still a “work in progress.” “I don’t have a squadron’s worth of engineers here. I don’t have troops that go out with equipment and build things and build bridges.”

The September 26 Globe and Mail reports that an ambulance donated by Canada for use by the medical center in the Panjwaii agricultural district west of Kandahar city four months ago is instead being used by local police and government administrators. Two doctors in the medical center told the reporter they are not keen to work with NATO-organized medical clinics because of the deep resentment of the population towards the occupiers.

Similar failure surrounds the British presence, according to the September 9 Economist magazine. Citing one example, it wrote, “British troops in Helmand (a neighbouring province to Kandahar), who have $36 million to spend this year, have built the odd bridge and market stall…”

If the failure of “reconstruction” in Afghanistan is little known in Canada, one reason is the concerted efforts by authorities to hide it. An article by Geoffrey York in the June 3 Globe and Mail described the rules for journalists working in Afghanistan who choose to “embed” with Canadian forces.

“The restrictions warned sternly that I could be ejected from the military base if I spent ‘an inordinate amount of time’ covering non-military activity. The Department of National Defence doesn’t want the embedded reporters to write much about refugees, schools, health care or electricity – all the basic realities of life for Afghans.”

Warmaking trumps “reconstruction”

In early September, the 2,300 Canadian troops in Kandahar launched a massive ground assault in Panjwaii district, code-named “Operation Medusa” and backed by U.S. troops and airpower. Residents were warned in advance of the offensive to leave their homes and villages.
The assault was declared a huge success several weeks later. “More than one thousand” enemy fighters were said to be killed. But reporters saw few bodies of resistance fighters.
Canadian and NATO authorities admitted that fighters had staged an orderly retreat and appealed for more troops into the area. Canada quickly dispatched several hundred more soldiers, and for the first time it will be deploying tanks. Deadly attacks on Canadian and other NATO forces resumed within days of the “victory.”
Meanwhile, some 20,000 residents were made homeless after their homes, villages and crops were destroyed in the fighting. Winter is approaching and they face an uncertain future.
The September 11 Globe and Mail reported on the use of the chemical weapon white phosphorous during “Operation Medusa.” The banned weapon is now routinely used against Afghan fighters and to destroy agricultural plantings. The chemical severely burns human flesh upon contact.
Deepening resistance
U.S./NATO officials say they are surprised by the scope and success of the resistance to their latest offensives. “The fighting is extraordinarily intense,” said the commander of British forces in Afghanistan. “The intensity and ferocity of the fighting is far greater than in Iraq.”
But the reasons for deepening resistance are not difficult to understand. The Senlis report states:

“During the past five years, there have been some limited achievements in Afghanistan…. Yet these visible achievements, frequently lauded in the West, mask the [Afghan government’s] lack of independence and the growing irrelevance of the Afghan government to the Afghan people.”

The Afghan puppet government and its police and army forces are deeply resented by much of the population for their corruption and abuse. Looting and wanton destruction by foreign and puppet forces routinely follow in the wake of their military operations.
On May 29, a popular uprising occurred in the streets of Kabul following yet another in a long line of civilian deaths caused by reckless driving of a U.S. military convoy. Protesters marched on the presidential palace chanting “Death to America.” The protest was brutally suppressed, with Agence France-Presse reporting at least 14 protesters killed.

Canadian soldiers have killed civilians, including children, during patrols in Kandahar. Scores of civilians were killed during the recent “Operation Medusa” bloodletting.

“For 30 years, we’ve had this problem,” Abdul Zahir told a Globe and Mail reporter in June while caring for three injured relatives in a crowded hospital in Kandahar. “Foreign troops come here and start fights.”

The death toll of Afghans is so bad that even the puppet president Hamid Karzai has spoken out. In late June, during an earlier U.S./Canada/NATO offensive in southern Afghanistan, he declared, “It is not acceptable that in all this fighting, Afghans are dying. In the last three to four weeks, 500 to 600 Afghans were killed.”

The poppy eradication program pursued by occupation forces is another major reason for growing disaffection and is sharply criticized by the Senlis Council. Farmers receive no alternative support when their poppy plantings are destroyed.

Support for occupation eroding at home

The Canadian government is losing support at home for its warmaking abroad, according to recent polls. An EKOS Research/Toronto Star poll in mid-September shows 48 percent opposed to Canada’s part in the war in Afghanistan and only 38 percent in favour.

Candidates for the leadership of the opposition Liberal Party are feeling the heat of shifting public opinion. Most now say they oppose the Canadian offensive operations in Kandahar. (The party initiated the Kandahar offensive last year while still in government.)

A major foreign policy report by the Canadian Senate that was issued on October 5 decries the absence of ”reconstruction” projects in Afghanistan. “If we don’t get aid in there, then we won’t win militarily, ” said the chairman of the committee that produced the report.

NDP convention delegates vote for “troops out”

Another sign of growing antiwar opinion was the vote by delegates at the national convention of the New Democratic Party in early September to demand a withdrawal of Canadian troops from Afghanistan. The resolution calls for “the safe and immediate withdrawal of Canadian troops from Afghanistan.”
The vote was a striking victory for antiwar forces and will help broaden support for antiwar protests.
Unfortunately, the resolution also provides justification for continuing Canadian military intervention in poor and underdeveloped countries, including Afghanistan, by advocating what it calls “peace building.” It says the party should “support the continuation of development assistance to Afghanistan and democratic peace building in that country so that reconstruction efforts and good governance are achieved.”
“Democratic peace building” is code language for continued violations of the sovereignty of the Afghan people. The same language served as justification for the invasion of Haiti in 2004 and overthrow of its popular government by Canada, the U.S. and France.
Leaders of the NDP have taken their distance from the “troops out” section of the resolution. Party leader Jack Layton told CBC Radio news on September 24 that he favours a continued military presence by Canada in Afghanistan. He said he wants an end to the current combat operations in Kandahar but a continuation of “peace-building.”
The party’s foreign affairs critic in Parliament, Alexa McDonough, wrote a newspaper column on September 17 that criticized the Canadian-led offensive in Kandahar but made no reference to a withdrawal of Canadian troops, from either Kandahar or anywhere else in Afghanistan.
Canada out of Afghanistan
The Canadian government and its NATO allies have accomplished nothing for Afghans. They are propping up a reactionary and illegitimate government that has little popular support, have killed thousands of Afghans, and have destroyed crucial infrastructure and food production.
A column in the October 3 Globe and Mail by U.S. journalist Sarah Chayes underscored the dilemma of the occupation forces. She described the Afghanistan government of Harmid Karzai as, “a government devoured by corruption.” It, “seems just as hostile to [the people’s] legitimate interests as the Taliban are.”
Chayes has no solution to this problem because she staunchly defends a continued presence of Canada and NATO in Afghanistan, and those forces in turn support and defend the very government that she so harshly condemns.
The occupation forces are deeply hostile to the social and economic aspirations of Afghanistan’s poor majority. They are in Afghanistan to foster pipeline deals that will deliver oil from Central Asia to seaports and earn billions of dollars in profits for Canadian and other foreign oil companies. They are transforming Afghanistan into a military base to attack patriotic forces throughout Asia and the Middle East and to pressure and threaten China and Iran.
October 28 day of antiwar action
A cross-Canada day of protest against the war has been called by the Canadian Peace Alliance on October 28. The call is supported by growing numbers of political, social, student and religious organizations, including the Canadian Labour Congress, many local and regional trade unions, and the Canadian Islamic Congress.
People from across Canada will come into the streets on that day to demand the unconditional withdrawal of Canadian forces from Afghanistan.
In so doing, we will be joining with those in Afghanistan who are resisting the pillage and destruction of their country and who want democratic government and meaningful programs to improve living standards and rebuild the shattered country.
These protests will strengthen the struggle for justice and peace at home, including the fight to reverse the vast cuts to social programs recently announced by the Conservative Party government and the campaigns to end the abuses of democratic rights that led to the torture ordeal of Maher Arar and the indefinite detentions of political prisoners.

For more information on the October 28 day of protest, visit the Canadian Peace Alliance website at:
The Senlis Council report quoted in this article is available online at

End Canada’s Occupation of Afghanistan!

Call for action on October 28, 2006

This call for a pan-Canadian day of action, co-signed by the Canadian Peace Alliance, the Canadian Islamic Congress, the Canadian Labour Congress and the Montreal coalition Echec a la Guerre, is being distributed and discussed at the World Peace Forum now taking place in Vancouver. -SV

The Collectif Échec à la guerre, Canadian Peace Alliance, the Canadian Labour Congress, and the Canadian Islamic Congress are jointly calling for a pan-Canadian day of protest this October 28th, 2006, to bring Canadian troops home from Afghanistan. On that day, people all across the country will unite to tell Stephen Harper that we are opposed to his wholehearted support for Canadian and U.S. militarism.

This October marks the fifth anniversary of the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan, and the people of that country are still suffering from the ravages of war. Reconstruction in the country is at a standstill and the needs of the Afghan people are not being met. The rule of the new Afghan State, made up largely of drug running warlords, will not realize the democratic aspirations of the people there. In fact, according to Human Rights Watch reports, the human rights record of those warlords in recent years has not been better than the Taliban.

We are told that the purpose of this war is to root out terrorism and protect our societies, yet the heavy-handed approach of a military occupation trying to impose a US-friendly government on the Afghan people will force more Afghans to become part of the resistance movement. It will also make our societies more — not less — likely to see terrorist attacks. No discussion on military tactics in the House of Commons will change that reality. Indeed, violence is increasing with more attacks on both coalition troops and on Afghan civilians.

While individual Canadian soldiers may have gone to Afghanistan with the best of intentions, they are operating under the auspices of a US-led state building project that cares little for the needs of the Afghan people. US and Canadian interests rest with the massive $3.2 billion Trans Afghan Pipeline (TAP) project, which will bring oil from the Caspian region through southern Afghanistan (where Canada is stationed) and onto the ports of Pakistan. It has been no secret that the TAP has dominated US foreign policy towards Afghanistan for the last decade. Now Canadian oil and gas corporations have their own interests in the TAP.

Over the last decade, the role of the Canadian Armed Forces abroad has changed, and Canadian foreign policy has become a replica of the US empire-building rhetoric. The end result of this process is now plain to see with the role of our troops in Southern Afghanistan, with the enormous budget increases for war expenditures and “security,” with the Bush-style speeches of Stephen Harper, and with the fear campaigns around “homegrown terrorism” to foster support for those nefarious changes. It is this very course that will get young Canadian soldiers killed, that will endanger our society and consume more and more of its resources for destruction and death in Afghanistan. We demand a freeze in defense and security budgets until an in-depth public discussion is held on those issues across Canada.

The mission in Afghanistan has already cost Canadians more than $4 billion. That money could have been used to fund human needs in Canada or abroad. Instead it is being used to kill civilians in Afghanistan and advance the interests of corporations.

On October 28th, stand up and be counted.
Canadian Troops Out of Afghanistan Now!

For more information see:

Into the Quagmire: Canadian Military Invades Southern Afghanistan

By Roger Annis

The newly-elected Prime Minister of Canada has committed his Conservative Party government to a long-term military adventure in Afghanistan. So as to make the commitment crystal clear, Stephen Harper made the new, forward Canadian military base in Kandahar his first foreign foray. He made a highly publicized visit on March 12-13.

In a speech to soldiers and assembled journalists, Harper declared, “We recognize—the international community recognizes—that this is a long-term project. And we’re here for the long term.”

The Conservatives are following the trail blazed by their Liberal Party predecessor. Canada joined the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan in 2002. Late last year, it made a significant increase in that commitment when it accepted to head up a ”provincial reconstruction team” (PRT) in Kandahar and neighbouring provinces in the south of the country.

“PRT’s” are the forward offensive units of the U.S. and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) occupation forces in Afghanistan. Troops from the U.S., Germany, Britain, Italy, and more recently Canada and the Netherlands, have divided the country into operational zones. Comprising more than 2,000 combat troops, the Canadian military force arrived in Kandahar in February and immediately began offensive military operations.

Canada’s corporate media, most already strongly supportive of the U.S. war in Iraq, quickly fell into step with the Afghanistan adventure. Television screens and print news publications have been filled with reports from embedded journalists, cheering on the Canadian mission. For one week in early April, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s based its main nightly television news broadcast at the Kandahar air base.

War, not peacekeeping

The Canadian mission to Afghanistan is the first foreign mission in a half-century in which the declared aim is warmaking, not “peacekeeping”. Brigadier-General David Fraser described it as follows on February 15, “We’ll be training the Afghan national security  forces … so when they want to go out and do operations against that minority that’s trying to destabilize the good people here, we’ll be out there to support them. And if that means hunting, we’ll be out there hunting.”

A Canadian commander, Lt.-Col. Tom Doucet, told journalists in Kandahar on March 12 that while the eventual goal of the “PRT” is to rebuild schools, roads and infrastructure, the key issue now is security.  “Once we get rid of the bad people,” he said, “we can carry on with full force in terms of the reconstruction and development.”

The “bad people,” or as the head of Canada’s armed forces put it last summer, “the murderers and scumbags,” are those people in Afghanistan who resist for whatever reasons a foreign occupation of their country or who protest the refusal of foreigners to help solve crying social and economic needs.

The new warmaking strategy ties the projects of non-governmental organizations and other “civil society” groups directly to the military effort. An article in the March 2006 issue of Walrus magazine explained:

“One unique aspect of the new strategy is the way that development and humanitarian aid are being used specifically for the purpose of building loyalty toward coalition forces and democratic reforms. The American, British, and Canadian governments all have representatives from their international development and relief agencies stationed in Afghanistan; the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) alone plans to spend $616 million there by 2009….

“The strategic use of aid [sic] may offend some, but this approach is gaining credibility and has been adopted by CIDA and Foreign Affairs.”

Such abuse of foreign aid has prompted some highly reputable aid organizations to leave Afghanistan. Doctors Without Borders pulled out in 2004 after a 26-year presence delivering vital medical services to the civilian population. Marie-Madeleine Leplomb of the group’s Paris office told Radio Free Europe, “Given the multiplication of actors, how can the [Afghan] community recognize who is a humanitarian worker and who is doing intelligence? We are not credible anymore.”

Government, media rally prowar sentiment

The Kandahar mission received a rude shock from public opinion polls in February and March. In one, a Globe and Mail/CTV poll published on February 24, 62 percent of respondents said they were opposed to sending troops to Afghanistan, while 43 percent said they opposed Canadian participation in “the war on terrorism.” In response, an intense government and media campaign in support of the war in Afghanistan went into high gear.

Poll numbers may improve for the government as its pro-war propaganda campaign progresses, but they reflect a major problem for the Canadian intervention. Large sections of the Canadian population are deeply skeptical of the war’s stated aims, if not outright hostile. Demonstrations across Canada on March 18, the day of international opposition to the war in Iraq, drew attention to this. Opposition to the war in Afghanistan was a prominent theme. More than 3,000 people marched in each of Vancouver and Toronto, more than 2,000 in Montreal, and some 750 in Ottawa.

Like the U.S.-led war in Iraq, the war in Afghanistan is being waged in the name of helping the people of that country to build a new and progressive society. “The international community is determined to create a democratic, prosperous, modern country that can be a model in this part of the world”, Stephen Harper stated in Kandahar on March 13.

But Canada is there in order to earn its share of the oil, mineral and other resource wealth in the region and to earn its place in the new imperialist world order that its allies in the U.S. and U.K. are determined to create. To cite one example, Canada’s long-serving and former prime minister Jean Chrétien is today a legal representative for several Canadian oil and gas companies seeking production and pipeline investments in central Asia. These projects require a “stable” Afghanistan so that pipeline projects can go ahead.

Common economic interests are drawing Canada closer to U.S. political and military strategy throughout the Middle East and the world. Canada sat out the 2003 Iraq war. But since then, it has undertaken significant political and military moves to back the U.S./U.K. policy in Iraq and the region. These include establishing a military base in Dubai, on the shores of the Persian Gulf, and joining in the international gang-up on the government and people of Iran.

Canada played a lead role in the overthrow of the elected government of Haiti in 2004, a government that Canada and the U.S. deemed to be a threat to their extensive interests in the Caribbean.

The new, Canada-backed imperialist world order has no place for the provision of basic human rights and social services to peoples. Thus, in Iraq today, there is still no reliable supply of electricity, clean water, health care, and economic development to the people of that country, three years after the U.S. and U.K. “liberated” it. Prisons are overflowing, and torture is routinely practiced.

Similarly in Afghanistan and Haiti, the provision of meaningful services to the populations are little more than an afterthought to the Canadian effort. Accusations of brutalizing Afghan civilians have already been levied against Canadian soldiers. The family of Nasrat Ali Hassan, a rickshaw driver in Kandahar, condemned the Canadian military after a Canadian soldier opened fire without warning and killed him on March 14. In Haiti over the past two years, Canada has trained a new police force that stands accused of massive human rights violations.

Prison conditions in Afghanistan are reportedly worse than the horrors that have come to light in Iraq. This poses a delicate dilemma for the Canadian occupiers. On December 18, chief of Canada’s armed forces Richard Hillier signed an agreement that has Canadian soldiers turning people it has imprisoned over to the Afghan government military authorities.

“Hillier is placing rank-and-file Canadian troops, unwittingly, in the position of very likely being accessories to torture and, therefore, war criminals under international and Canadian law,” commented Amir Attaran, a law professor at the University of Ottawa.

Even the Afghan police and army get rough treatment from their erstwhile foreign allies. They are poorly armed and trained, and suffer very high casualties. Six Afghan police were killed on April 17, apparent victims of “friendly fire” from Canadian soldiers and U.S. helicopter gunners.

Sham “debate” in Canadian Parliament

None of the four political parties in Canada’s Parliament oppose the Afghan adventure. The New Democratic Party voiced the unease of the Canadian population when it called for a debate in the parliament. The government convened a “take notice” discussion in Parliament on April 10 where no vote would be taken. Most members of Parliament did not bother to show up, including Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Bloc Quebecois leader Gilles Duceppe.

New Democratic Party Member of Parliament Peggy Nash said in the discussion, “I question whether the war on terrorism, as originally designed south of the border, was really a struggle for women’s rights and the dignity of Afghan women. I did not hear that in the public debates at the time of the invasion of Afghanistan in 2002, but it is still a worthy goal.”

The NDP’s unease concerns only the way Canada’s war effort is organized, not the war itself. Nash went on, “Could the government please tell us when our military will finally leave this U.S.-led operation and instead become part of a NATO-led mission with which we could all feel more comfortable?”

(Command of the “PRT” in southern Afghanistan, including Kandahar, is scheduled to shift from U.S. to NATO this summer.)

Several NDP MP’s joined an antiwar rally outside the Parliament while the “debate” took place. They did not voice their views inside.

The more aggressive military posturing by Canada will cost lots more money, and all parties in Parliament voted last June to significantly boost military spending in the coming years. Military spending in 2005 was $13.4 billion. The new Conservative government is talking of boosting that to $17 billion annually. It has specifically cited the need for new naval craft and aircraft to boost Canada’s capacity to intervene abroad.

The war is ours to stop

Sixteen Canadian soldiers have died in Afghanistan since 2002, and the pace of casualties is rising. Four soldiers died on April 22 when a convoy of Canadian vehicles was struck by a roadside bomb. It was the largest loss of life by the Canadian military in combat since the war in Korea. The government responded by following the example of its warmaking ally south of the border and banning all future media reporting from military bases when the bodies of dead soldiers are returned.

The refusal and inability of occupation forces to tackle the staggering social and economic problems in Afghanistan will fuel opposition to their presence. So, too will the occupiers’ backing of the reactionary and anti-popular governing authority in Kabul.

As the Canadian mission fails in its stated aim of “winning the hearts and minds” of the Afghan people, it will bring more suffering to the Afghan people. The occupiers will resort to the same brutal methods of rule that the U.S. and Britain have already made infamous in Iraq.

Canada’s rulers are deeply committed to their war alliance with the U.S. and its disastrous plans for military conquest of the Middle East. With meaningful debate closed off in Parliament and the media, Canadians must increasingly take to the streets in order to voice our opposition.

For news on the Afghanistan conflict and actions demanding Canada’s withdrawal, contact the Canadian Peace Alliance,

Canada’s Generals Promote Government’s War Course

Protests called for September 24 against Iraq, Afghanistan occupations

By Roger Annis

The commander of Canada’s armed forces, Gen. R.J. Hillier, is speaking out boldly in support of the U.S.-led imperialist war effort in the Middle East and Asia. He is spending the summer months on a lecture circuit as the point man of the Canadian government’s new, more aggressive imperial foreign policy. Part of that role is to prepare the country for more deaths of Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan.

Two thousand Canadian soldiers are on their way to Kandahar in Afghanistan. There they will join the front lines of an expanding war led by the U.S. against those standing in the way of the foreign occupation of that country. At a press conference on July 13 to announce the Kandahar mission, Hillier told reporters of his views of the July 7 bombings in London and the Canadian role in Afghanistan.

He described the perpetrators of the London bombings as “detestable murderers and scumbags,” and likened them to those opposing imperialist occupation in Afghanistan. “They detest our freedoms, they detest our society, they detest our liberties,” he said. “We are going to Afghanistan to actually take down [sic] the folks that are trying to blow up men and women.”

“We are the Canadian Forces, and our job is to be able to kill people.”

Hillier describes the targets of the Canadian military as a “ball of snakes,” made up of terrorists, drug dealers and other “rogue” elements. His message is that it’s time to toss away the myth of Canada as a “peacekeeper” in the world and pursue a far more aggressive foreign policy centered on military conflict with the country’s perceived adversaries.

The commander believes that Canadian military policy must do more to facilitate and promote investment opportunities for Canadian capitalists. In a speech on July 22, Hillier likened Canada’s military interventions to recent trips by Canadian political and business leaders to promote Canadian investments in “emerging markets.”

Two decades of slaughter

Another military spokesperson, Maj.-Gen. Andrew Leslie, bluntly posed the price the Canadian people will pay for this military adventure in a speech to the prestigious Couchiching Conference August 7, reported in the Toronto Star.

Referring to Canada’s occupation, he affirmed that “Afghanistan is a 20-year venture.” The human cost will be heavy, he warned, but “there are things worth dying for. There are things worth killing for.” Nor will Canada’s civilian population be spared: “Every time you kill an angry young man overseas, you’re creating 15 more who will come after you,” he conceded. “You have to be prepared for the consequences.”

Needless to say, neither of the generals referred to any evidence that the Canadian people had asked for this crusade or approved it: the federal government has conscripted us all for its war, and that is that.

Former Canadian general and head of United Nations forces in Yugoslavia, Lewis Mackenzie, wrote in the Globe and Mail on August 1, “…our military’s role is to kill as efficiently as possible once the political order has been given rather than participate in ‘peacekeeping’ missions that rarely meet the criteria for success.”

Generals follow government lead

The generals are speaking on behalf of a government that is carrying out a dramatic shift in foreign policy. Their comments have received enthusiastic support from the mouthpieces of corporate Canada. “Canadians are going to war,” enthused a July 16 editorial in the Globe and Mail. “Like it or not, we are all in this together…Bravo to [Hillier] for saying it.”

Prime Minister Paul Martin and Anne McLellan, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, have boosted the war course with dire warnings that Canada will become a target of bombings similar to those in London.

The groundwork for the new course was laid out by the government earlier this year. In May, it released a policy statement entitled “Canada’s International Policy” that argued why Canada must become a more aggressive imperial power in the world, and how it will achieve that. Then in late June, the financial side of the policy was approved when the government passed its much-delayed budget, with New Democratic Party (NDP) support. It contains a massive boost in military spending, adding $12.8 billion over the next five years. (Planned military spending for 2005 is $13.4 billion.)

Powers to spy, detain, torture

Prior to the new international policy statement, the government had already enacted “anti-terrorist” laws that give the police and courts vast powers to spy on, arrest, and indefinitely detain those whom it targets. New powers also take away rights and protections of people living in Canada who are not citizens.

Police threats or intimidation against people of Muslim faith or Middle Eastern origin have become commonplace in Canada since 2001. Some have been deported, and there are currently five men who have sat in jail for several years, or longer, with no charges laid.

Government and police pressure on Muslims has stepped up since the July 7 bombings in London. Like the Blair government in Britain, Canadian government spokespeople and newspaper editorials are arguing that people of Islamic faith who do not aggressively condemn Muslims labeled “terrorists” are themselves complicit in acts of violence.

(No such pressure is applied on people of other faiths who do not condemn the violence and murders of Palestinians by the Israel government, the torture and illegal detentions of people in U.S. jails in Iraq and Guantanamo Bay, or the killings and lawlessness in Haiti under the Canada-backed occupation.)

The public inquiry into the case of Maher Arar has shed light on how the government applies these new powers. Arar, a Canadian citizen, was kidnapped in New York City in 2002 by U.S. officials and then flown to Syria, his country of birth, where he was detained and tortured for nearly a year. As the inquiry revealed, his name was given to U.S. authorities by Canada’s national police, the RCMP, as a possible “terrorism” suspect.

The Canadian government and its embassy officials in Syria did nothing to protest or reverse Arar’s kidnapping, and only moved to request his return to Canada after a growing public campaign led by his wife shamed them into action. At the inquiry, embassy and police officials played dumb about the Syrian government’s well-known track record as one that practices torture.

The inquiry has also revealed that while the Canadian government pretends on the world stage to oppose the use of torture, in fact it joined with the United States in a now frequent practice of “offshoring” torture by delivering detainees into the hands of authorities that can be counted on to use such methods and report the results. Canadian police have interrogated at least one detainee in the U.S.-run concentration camp in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Afghanistan under occupation

Although several thousand Canadian soldiers and political staff will soon be occupying Afghanistan, there is virtually no newspaper reporting in Canada on conditions there. The few articles that appear are puff pieces by “embedded” reporters in U.S. or Canadian army patrols. This is no coincidence. Four years after the occupation began, following a short but bloody war, the country remains mired in a social and humanitarian disaster.

Millions remain dependent on aid. According to the World Food Program, at least 6.5 million people out of a population of 21 million are dependent on food aid, and famine is a recurring risk in the most remote parts of the country. Only 25 per cent of the country’s population has access to safe drinking water and sanitation. (At least eight people died of cholera, a water-borne disease, in Kabul in June. Yet, Kabul is the one claimed success story of the occupying powers.)

Of the $13 billion promised to Afghanistan in aid by countries around the world, only $3.1 has been set aside for reconstruction or social programs. The rest is earmarked for police and military spending. Two million refugees still live in camps in neighboring countries, while hundreds of thousands are living homeless or in makeshift accommodation within the country.

Only 40 per cent of children are vaccinated against disease. One fifth of children die before the age of five. Life expectancy is 44 years of age. There is one doctor in Afghanistan per 6,000 people.

Violence and lawlessness by occupying forces and their onetime allies in the former Taliban is rampant. As a result, many aid agencies have withdrawn from the country. Doctors Without Borders, which has worked in Afghanistan since 1980, withdrew in 2004. It strongly criticized the U.S.-led occupation coalition for using humanitarian aid as a tool in its political and military aims, thus making aid workers targets for anti-occupation fighters.

As in Haiti, the occupation forces in Afghanistan are allied with many of the most right-wing elements in the society. Socially progressive movements were largely destroyed during the years of U.S. support to the rightist forces that came to form the Taliban government.

Canada’s role

There are some 18,000 U.S. occupation troops in Afghanistan, and another 5,000 from other imperialist countries. The latter are serving under the command of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Canadian soldiers will soon be the largest military contingent in the NATO command.

Until now, the Canadian soldiers have served in the relatively safe confines of Kabul and the surrounding area. In plunking themselves down in Kandahar, they are taking their fight to an area of the country where opposition to occupation is deeper. Part of Hillier’s speaking circuit is aimed at preparing the country for this. He is polishing up his answers to the difficult questions that will be asked when Canadian soldiers start to die.

The goal of the imperialist troop presence is to “pacify” Afghanistan by “killing people” who oppose the foreign military occupation. In so doing, the occupiers gain valuable military experience for use elsewhere, and they gain Afghan soil as a staging ground for intervention elsewhere in the region.

The countries that participate in the military effort in Afghanistan and elsewhere in Asia and the Middle East are those most likely to benefit from the exploitation of oil and human resources if “stabilization” is achieved. That is the message coming out of Washington, and Ottawa is acting accordingly, to advance its own interests.

Another sign of Canada’s commitment to this course is the deal it is negotiating with the regime in the United Arab Emirates to allow it to establish a permanent military base, right on the shores of the Persian Gulf.

Layton backs government, Hillier

While Hillier’s war course has drawn criticism from many Canadians, the leader of the New Democratic Party, the party to which many trade unions are affiliated, has cheered him on. “A bit of strong language in the circumstances; I don’t find that to be wrong,” said Jack Layton on July 14.

The NDP opposed the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan, arguing that if should have been waged under the auspices of the United Nations. It took the same stand at the time of the Iraq war. But it supports the Canadian participation in the Afghanistan occupation. Its spokespeople usually evade the question of the ongoing U.S./British occupation of Iraq. When party leaders discuss Iraq, they advocate that the occupation be run by the UN.

Thankfully, many are not following the NDP’s lead. In Vancouver, Mobilization Against War and Occupation held two protest rallies in July against Hillier’s bellicose statements. The rallies were held at the doors of the Armed Forces Recruiting Center in Vancouver, and more are planned in August.

The Canadian Peace Alliance, a broad coalition based in Toronto, has issued an appeal to join international protests on September 24 against the occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan. The appeal states, “The Canadian Peace Alliance is calling on its member groups, individuals and supporters to mobilize for a pan-Canadian day of action against the wars of occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan and in support of U.S. military war resisters on Saturday, September 24th, 2005.”

The statement goes on, “In Canada, the federal government is moving in exactly the opposite direction. They have doubled the military budget and increased support for the U.S.-led ‘war on terror’ by increasing troop levels in Afghanistan. As General Hillier’s recent belligerent comments indicate, Canada provides increasingly open support for a broader campaign, led by the United States government, to assert control over the Middle East region. Also, Canadian corporations continue to profit from the war while people of Muslim and Arab backgrounds, such as the ‘Secret Trial Five,’ face ongoing harassment, intimidation and racial profiling.”

The statement ends with the call, “End the wars of occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan, Let the war resisters stay. All out September 24th!” Many antiwar groups across Canada are taking up this appeal.