Thursday, November 08, 2007

Blowing Up Statues Of The Buddha All Over Again

In the shoddy, shallow, squalid and grotesquely politicized "debate" in Canada about Afghanistan and the role of our military there, the one question that matters more than any other is how we can prevent the return of this kind of savagery, still wreaking its havoc just across the border in Pakistan:

Destroying statues of the Buddha. Threatening Christians with death unless they convert to Islam. Burning barber shops. Shutting down a UNICEF polio-vaccination program. Setting fire to stores that sell Indian and western movies. Dispatching suicide bombers to murder soldiers.

Roger Cohen gets it:

The Nazis burned Brecht. The Taliban, then sheltering Osama bin Laden, bombarded the “un-Islamic” Buddhas. The burning presaged war. The destruction presaged 9/11: two Buddhas, two towers.

Heinrich Heine noted that “When they burn books, they will, in the end, burn human beings.” When Buddhas buckle, people will be crushed.

Mark and the Torchists get it. So did these comrades, all those years ago.

The rest is noise.

23 Comments:

Blogger Fred - said...

what the hell is wrong with Layton, CUPE et al that they are so willfully blind ?

Is Peace at any Price with the cost ?

5:38 AM  
Blogger Transmontanus said...

"What the hell is wrong with Layton, CUPE et al that they are so willfully blind?"

This is painful for me, because I persist in thinking of myself as a person of the left, and I'm still convinced that the most effective arsenal in the real war we're facing today - against slavery, obscurantism, illiteracy, xenophobia, ecological destruction, misogyny, tyranny - is to be found in the ideas and methods that animated the liberal-left.

But I think you're at least partly right. "Peace" for us, and at any price for "them," and to hell with what we once believed, that "an injury to one is an injury to all."

Partly it's the overwhelming influence of American counterculture thinking in Canada, to a degree that it's become the language of the Canadian left. We've lost our language, and we don't notice it because we don't have words to articulate it - the words have lost their meaning. "Revolution." "Resistance." "Imperialism."

Hippie vibe-mongering, an apotheosis of "peace" activism, the substitution of anti-Americanism for legitimate left critique and analysis, a crippling incapacity to recognize real fascism when it comes in colours other than white, a reliance on organizations and left "leadership" that deliberately side with Islamist extremists, an elevation of "identity politics" above class politics, an unseemly and obsessive hatred of Israel. . .

Lots of reasons. Not that it hasn't happened before.

Molotov-Ribbentrop. The collapse of the Popular Front in France in the 1930s. The complacence of the left intelligentsia in the face of Stalin's crimes.

No good can come of this, and none has. Where the teachers' unions, the nurses' unions, and the industrial unions could be reforming in fully-resourced and well-equipped solidarity brigades to come to the aid of our Afghan comrades, they're sitting around cross-legged at "teach-ins".

9:26 AM  
Blogger Transmontanus said...

PS, A good read here:

http://tinyurl.com/38ycna

"The real struggle for progressive change is taking place around the world, in countries whose populations do not enjoy all the rights and privileges that we do here in the West. There is the struggle to end the genocide in Sudan; the struggle for democracy in Burma, Zimbabwe and Belarus; the struggle for the emancipation of women and homosexuals across Africa and the Middle East; the struggle to save Iraq and Afghanistan from the Islamists; the struggle for the national liberation of Kosovo and Chechnya. And on all these issues, it is the ‘moderate’, democratic left that is on the side of progress, while the ‘radical’, anti-Western left is on the side of reaction. You cannot oppose the genocide in Sudan, or the Islamists in Iraq, if you oppose ‘Western intervention’; you cannot support women’s rights in the Middle East if you ally with Muslim fundamentalists on an ’anti-imperialist’ basis; you cannot support democracy in Belarus if you celebrate President Lukashenka’s resistance to the West.

"We are for the revolution; they are for the counter-revolution."

My position precisely.

Nowhere is that analysis more pertinent than the case of Iran - where feminists, pro-democracy activists and dissidents are pretty well wholly uninterested in the "activist left" politics of the West, which is more inclined to excuse Ahmedinejad and pander to Khomeinists. The Toronto Stop the War Coalition invites Khomeinists to be their spokesmen, and nobody complains, or even notices.

10:04 AM  
Blogger double-plus-ungood said...

Partly it's the overwhelming influence of American counterculture thinking in Canada, to a degree that it's become the language of the Canadian left. We've lost our language, and we don't notice it because we don't have words to articulate it - the words have lost their meaning. "Revolution." "Resistance." "Imperialism."

Possibly. I find much of the intra-left debate from both sides on this issue are emotion-based, which IMO is a chronic leftist problem. There is very little in the way of actually stating our goals in Afghanistan, determining whether they are possible, and deciding what needs to be done to try and attain those goals.

Instead, it's the usual leftist hunt for thought crime, from both sides.

Our cross to bear.

11:17 AM  
Blogger Graeme said...

"Willfully blind" is too charitable to Jack Layton. What I find most disappointing in Layton and the NDP--especially since the NDP should be my ideological home in Canadian politics--is the extent to which Layton engages in demagoguery with regard to the mission in Afghanistan. If you listened to Layton, you'd get the impression that Canada was pressured into sending troops to fight in Afghanistan simply because of American pressure. You never hear from him that Canada is operating in Afghanistan under a UN mandate and "under the auspices of international peace and security organization" (to nick a phrase from the NDP's platform). It's deliberate and it's disingenuous.

None of this is turning me away from "the left", but it does make deciding who to vote for very difficult.

11:48 AM  
Blogger double-plus-ungood said...

You never hear from him that Canada is operating in Afghanistan under a UN mandate and "under the auspices of international peace and security organization" (to nick a phrase from the NDP's platform).

I believe that while the mission has UN sanction, Canada is there as part of our NATO commitment, and not as part of a UN force.

11:59 AM  
Blogger Graeme said...

I don't understand the distinction. Surely NATO counts as an international peace and security organization? My point is that Canada's Afghanistan mission is entirely consistent with the NDP's platform on peace and security.

12:16 PM  
Blogger double-plus-ungood said...

Surely NATO counts as an international peace and security organization?

Only if the Warsaw Pact could be labeled the same. NATO is a military alliance.

12:30 PM  
Blogger Graeme said...

The Cold War is over.

1:18 PM  
Blogger Transmontanus said...

Dear DPU:

You're incorrect is all, in this: "I believe that while the mission has UN sanction, Canada is there as part of our NATO commitment, and not as part of a UN force."

No. We are part of a UN mission. That mission's military component is the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), and NATO's more or less heading it up because most of the countries participating in ISAF are NATO members.

Graeme's right, and if anything, he's too generous to Jack. This is not "George Bush's war," as Jack likes to put it. That is an ugly, deliberately deceitful, and inflammatory, willful misrepresentation.

What Layton and the current NDP leadership is advocating is not just a rebuke to standing NDP principles, it's a rebuke to everything any serious leftist and progressive has ever argued, as rebuke to the emerging democracy in Afghanistan, and a rebuke to a half-century of Canada's leadership in building multilateralist approaches to conflict resolution.

This, from earlier this week, straight out of the UN's mouth:

"5 November 2007 – Concerned about recent fighting in Afghanistan, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today appealed to all States assisting the violence-wracked nation to maintain their existing commitments to root out terrorism and rebuild a peaceful society.

"Mr. Ban has “followed with concern the recent fighting in Afghanistan, in particular around Kandahar and in Farah provinces, where formed groups of Taliban have attempted to take and hold certain districts,” according to a statement issued by his spokesperson.

"He underlined the crucial role that the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and the Afghan security forces are playing to ensure that Afghanistan does not again become “a host for terrorist and extremist groups.”

“The Secretary-General notes that it is an unfortunate reality that such operations continue to be necessary in Afghanistan, but reaffirms that the hope for lasting peace in Afghanistan and the region, and for a world without terrorism, depends on their success,” the statement added."

"While thanking those countries which have provided assistance, he appealed to all Governments involved in Afghanistan to maintain their existing commitments in order to ensure the success of the joint effort to rebuild Afghanistan, “so that it can offer hope and opportunity to its people, friendship to its neighbours, and an example to the rest of the world.”

What is the example to the rest of the world the NDP is setting? It is this: Fuck you, Mr. Ban. Fuck the UN. Fuck Afghanistan.

And then the NDP turns around and says Canada should comply with the Kyoto Accord.

One can't have it both ways. One can't appeal to multilateralism as an approach to solving desparately daunting global problems out of one side of one's mouth and out of the other say, oh, the Yanks are for that one, so we're against it.

Here's how stupid they make themselves sound: "Out of Afghanistan! Into Kyoto!"

Didn't make that one up.

Actual slogan.

1:20 PM  
Blogger double-plus-ungood said...

I think that I've already mentioned my commitment to the military Afghanistan mission, Terry. Even so, I think that the NDP's position is not a simple withdrawal from Afghanistan, but a reallocation of efforts to more humanitarian and development efforts there. While I don't necessarily agree with that position, it is certainly in keeping with the NDP's socialist heritage.

Many regard the military mission in Afghanistan futile in the long run, and creating more problems than it solves in the region. Again, while I may not agree with that particular position, I'm not about to denounce it as treason to socialist principles. It's a reasonable argument, but one that I think flawed.

No. We are part of a UN mission. That mission's military component is the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), and NATO's more or less heading it up because most of the countries participating in ISAF are NATO members.

I stand corrected.

2:03 PM  
Blogger Transmontanus said...

"I think that I've already mentioned my commitment to the military Afghanistan mission, Terry."

As you have. I didn't mean to make it sound as though you were un maudit stoppiste.

I'd like to know, though, about the way you characterize the NDP position. I've given up trying to figure out what it is, apart from the many clear and persistent statements by Layton, by Libby Davies, by MacDonagh, by Siskay, and the rest: "Support The Troops - Bring Them Home."

I did read a brief a while back from Dawn Black that appeared to signal a readiness to entertain the idea of redeploying to places where our soldiers could wear blue helmets and hand out sweets and conduct therapy sessions, but Black took a savage beating from the stoppists for that, and I've heard nothing since.

If "troops out" isn't the NDP position after all, then rank dishonesty and reactionary cowardice are still its burdens, for not telling its constituencies the truth.

"Many regard the military mission in Afghanistan futile in the long run, and creating more problems than it solves in the region."

Not sure who the "many" are here, although I'm perfectly willing to entertain the notion that there may be problems with the conception and execution of the "counterinsurgency" that outweigh the obvious benefits. I just haven't seen any sensible analysis to make that case, anywhere. So I doubt that it exists. But if you're saying we need to do a better job at killing jihadists, ten okay, I'm listening.

2:30 PM  
Blogger double-plus-ungood said...

But if you're saying we need to do a better job at killing jihadists, ten okay, I'm listening.

I hope that particular argument is just a quick thought and not a serious suggestion. If Iraq has shown us anything, it's that killing a lot of people tends to piss off their friends, family, and community, and then there are a lot more people that need to be killed.

If killing off Jihadists is the mission, then we're going to be there for a long, long time, and there won't be a lot of people left when we finish.

One of the primary objections to the current strategy is that we're fighting a proxy tribal war, and that won't end without a political solution. As proposed political solutions so far are not including all political groups in the country (for obvious reasons), there will not be peace in the foreseeable future.

As Canadian political will for the mission is dependent on progress of some kind, it's likely to fail before any politically stable system is implemented in Afghanistan.

2:49 PM  
Blogger Transmontanus said...

Nope, wan't a quip at all. I'm for killing jihadists. No apologies.

Maybe you're working from a different understanding of the term. When I use it in the Afghan context, I refer to crazed religious militants who mean harm and violence and death to the people of Afghanistan, and who will not be stopped unless they're dead.

I don't even necessarily include all of the Taliban in this definition; there is evidence to suggest that some members of the Taliban council know they're licked and want to stop. But this won't do: "As proposed political solutions so far are not including all political groups in the country (for obvious reasons), there will not be peace in the foreseeable future."

They're will be peace when those "political groups" who refuse to put down their guns are either dead, or have put down their guns because they've wised up to the fact that we're not going to stop killing them unless they do.

From the inception of the Karzai regime, and from the beginning of the ISAF mission, the invitation to "negotiate" has always been there. What Layton gets wrong - either deliberately or because he's sincerely uninformed, is: A) It's not up to Canadian forces or NATO or ISAF or the UN to negotiate with any of these criminals. That's Karzai's call. B) Karzai, and ISAF, and NATO, have been negotiating the successful demobilization and re-integration and retraining of tens of thousands of militiamen and warlord mujahadeen from the beginning. C) Karzai talks to Taliban "leaders" whenever the opportunity arises, and welcomes talks, D) The main reason any of these people have shown a willingness to negotiate is because we've been doing a pretty good job killing them, and E) The jihadists don't want to negotiate. They want to kill Tajiks, Uzbeks, Hazaras, Pashtuns, Canadians, Turks, Poles, Pakistanis, and anyone who doesn't follow their orders.

I'm for killing jihadists first.

No apologies.

3:37 PM  
Blogger double-plus-ungood said...

They're will be peace when those "political groups" who refuse to put down their guns are either dead, or have put down their guns because they've wised up to the fact that we're not going to stop killing them unless they do.

When was the last time this approach worked? WW II?

Also, I fear that you are going to be disappointed regarding Afghanistan. There are only two outcomes that I see as likely. We either go home after a military solution has not worked and leave Afghanistan to work it out themselves, or Jihadists make up part of the government while we still have a military force there.

I should stress that I would much prefer some other outcome, one preferably involving the political elimination of Islamism and the blossoming of democracy in Afghanistan. I would also like a pony.

I'd wager a lot on loss of political will to continue the mission as being the most likely turnout.

4:00 PM  
Blogger double-plus-ungood said...

Coincidentally:

After nearly two years of increased bloodshed, Afghan President Hamid Karzai is reaching out to Taliban militants, who have been waging battle against his government, in a renewed push for a political settlement to a conflict that increasingly seems unwinnable militarily, analysts and diplomats say.

Speaking of the need for national reconciliation, Karzai has invited insurgents to lay down their arms and talk, and even join his administration. ...

"At this stage we are talking about the principle of talking," Hamidzada said. "Everything will be within the framework of the constitution. We're not going back on human rights; we're not going back on women's rights. We're not returning to the days of the Taliban."


So my wager in the previous comment may be unwise.

4:21 PM  
Blogger Transmontanus said...

Told you so. Old news, though. And not to be approached with wishful thinking:

"Unfortunately, in negotiations dominated by men, women's rights are often the first thing to become a bargaining chip -- usually meaning they are negotiated right out of any discussions. This is particularly true with groups having a proven track record for human-rights abuses against women and girls, such as the Taliban and the Northern Alliance."

Here:

http://tinyurl.com/22pvld

( I should stop using tinyurl. They've got a little "Support Ron Paul" sticker on their page. Eejits.)

4:35 PM  
Blogger Transmontanus said...

As for: "When was the last time this approach worked? WW II?"

When hasn't it worked?

Where's your "commitment to the military Afghanistan mission" gone?

"Also, I fear that you are going to be disappointed regarding Afghanistan."

I fear that, too. But not as much as the Afghans fear it.

As for "go home after a military solution has not worked," you really shouldn't bother with that. Name someone, anyone, who has argued for a "military solution" to Afghanistan's problems. The military aspect of the international commitment is not "a solution," it's a regrettably necessary component of a broad-ranging reconstruction and state-rebuilding effort.

". . .and leave Afghanistan to work it out themselves."

The Afghans are working it out for themselves. The international community is helping them do that. Look up "Bonn Agreement." Look up "Afghan Compact."

"or Jihadists make up part of the government while we still have a military force there."

See previous note - jihadists, definition.

4:47 PM  
Blogger double-plus-ungood said...

Told you so. Old news, though. And not to be approached with wishful thinking

Sadly, I suspect that as women's rights have already been traded away in much the north without much notice, that this will not be much of an obstacle to these discussions.

4:54 PM  
Blogger double-plus-ungood said...

When hasn't it worked?

Cuba. Nicaragua. Malaysia. Northern Ireland. Laos. Thailand. Vietnam. Cambodia. Sudan. The Palestinian territories. Lebanon. Iraq.

Fighting insurgencies through sheer firepower simply does not work.

Where's your "commitment to the military Afghanistan mission" gone?

Why do you think it went anywhere? I think that it's crucial that there remain a military deterrent to various factions, and it's just as crucial to defend humanitarian efforts in the country. That doesn't mean that I think they can win this kind of counter-insurgency.

See previous note - jihadists, definition.

Islamists, then.

5:01 PM  
Blogger Transmontanus said...

DPU:

There's a weariness in your tone. Don't let it get the better of you.
I've updated the links on the side of this weblog; see under Afghan Solidarity. Check in there from time to time. You'll see lots to be worried and weary about, but also lots to lend substance to the proposition that we've actually won already (I won't even tease you about inadvertently comparing the Taliban to the Sandinistas and the IRA and the Pathet Lao and the Vietcong).

The challenge is consolidating those victories, and keeping the fascists at bay, and soldiering on through CIDA, through the efforts of groups like W4WA, the Agha Khan Foundation, UNICEF, and so on. It's heartbreaking that Canada's labour movement, and the left generally, has refused to contribute to the effort, and has indeed largely dealt itself out of the conversation about how to best demonstrate and deliver concrete and real-world solidarity with the Afghan people. But we pick up and carry on.

You're quite right to imagine that "loss of political will" may be the biggest burden we carry on the Afghan question. Unburden yourself, first, and the load will be easier to carry.

Now off for a pint with you. It's Friday, after five.

All the best,

5:13 PM  
Blogger double-plus-ungood said...

I won't even tease you about inadvertently comparing the Taliban to the Sandinistas and the IRA and the Pathet Lao and the Vietcong.

Tactics are the point, not the ideologies.

Now off for a pint with you. It's Friday, after five.

Don't drink these days, but thanks. Raise one for me.

6:09 PM  
Blogger Bob Broughton said...

Here's an extemely barbaric news item I spotted yesterday: Rape victim sentenced to 200 lashes and six months in jail.

What, if anything, can anybody do about this? I'm not going to hold my breath waiting for the U.S. to invade Saudi Arabia. Would this sort of thing happen if the monarchy were overthrown by Al Qaeda? I don't know.

I know that everytime I fill the tank with gasoline, I'm supporting this regime. I don't like it, but there isn't much I can do about it.

10:15 AM  

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