Tuesday, February 05, 2008

A Plea to Canadians from Afghanistan's Sima Samar: "Finish The Job You Started."

Imagine about a third of Afghanistan locked into slavery, obscurantism, jihadism and the most savage kind of misogyny the world has ever known. Then ask yourself whether this is the "Canadian way" of doing things.

Yes, it would mean our soldiers could come home and we would no longer be bothered by such persistent and unpleasant questions as whether we're just stooges of American imperialism "imposing our values" on faraway people.

But we would be haunted by questions of the kind that now torment Sima Samar, who remembers only too well the last time the world shook hands with the devil and abandoned Afghanistan. "Finish the job you started," was Samar's advice.

That's from my essay in today"s Vancouver Sun, which arises from a conversation I had last week with Dr. Sima Samar, the "voice for the voiceless" in Afghanistan.

UPDATE: Ziad the Partisan finally gets some attention from Canada's mainstream news media - and it wasn't even a journalist who conducted the interview. Still, it's pretty good: “Regardless of what the media do,” he says, “if we genuinely make progress, it really doesn’t matter. We have faced many challenges: the terrorists, obviously, and many others who have vested interests — they didn’t want us to succeed. It’s not easy to overcome the legacy of a genocidal, fascist regime, but so far we have made it. Economically, the average person is much better off than they used to be, and freedom has strength. It’s not perfect. But step by step, we are moving forward, with the help of our friends, the United States.”

For all those who would dismiss this as right-wing propaganda, be careful. Howar Ziad is a democratic socialist, and if you dismiss his struggle and sacrifice, you're nowhere near as "progressive" as he is. As he told me not long ago: "I was always on the left, and even now I consider myself left and progressive."

4 Comments:

Blogger The Plump said...

Excellent piece Terry. Unanswerable and moral.

4:41 PM  
Blogger kurt said...

Yes, good piece. With the proviso that what Manley said is true: we can't do it by ourselves. Compare it to Kosovo: 40,000 UN troops for a pop of 2 million, and we've still got 16,000 blue helmets there... except the EU is taking over due to the UN having no mandate to break apart countries, which, however, is the only solution to that mess. Ergo the EU takes over, and hands out favours to Serbia for the loss of Kosovo.

Afghanistan has 28 million and Canada needs help in Kandahar if we are to provide the changes the people there desire. They're counting on Canada, but it's a big job and will take many years even with five times the person-power there now. We deserted them before and have let it fester too long for this to be a quick operation.

Dion would probably change his tune if he saw more nations stand up and be counted too.

10:52 PM  
Blogger Transmontanus said...

I'm really, really hoping against hope that you're right about Dion. I can't imagine the cyncism of the calculations that have gone into the "2009 and we're gone" idea, especially since even if it only meant our troops were just taken out of Kandahar and moved somewhere else, who's to say "somewhere else" wouldn't require taking on armed nutjobs? Shoot back and it's a "combat mission."

The whole thing seems just so bizarre. It's bizarre that with something like 36,000 ISAF soldiers only a quarter of them or thereabouts are actually allowed to act like soldiers.

Doing something about that means doing something about NATO, which means Europe. And besides the Netherlands and Poland, only the French seem capable of persuasion.

How Harper can be persuasive with any of them is one thing. But it doesn't help that the Europeans know he's leading a minority government and doesn't have the backing of his opposition parties on this file.

I know I must sound like a broken record on this, but if we had an activist left and a left intelligentsia with its act together on these issues - driven by a conventional, progressive perspective that took its cue from what the Afghan people want - things would look a whole lot sunnier.

11:26 PM  
Blogger bp said...

Check it out! Harper grows some balls...

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has warned Liberal Leader Stephane Dion that the Conservative government is prepared to go to the electorate as early as next week to seek a mandate to extend the military mission in Afghanistan, CTV News has learned.
[...]
Sources say Harper told the Liberal leader the government will give notice on Thursday to present a confidence motion on extending the military mission in Afghanistan. That motion could be debated and possibly voted on as early as next week.


Dion must be under enormous pressure from certain factions within the party to find a comprimise with Harper. I wonder if he'll put it to a free vote?

(by the way, don't worry about being a broken record--your persistence on the file is why most of us read you)

12:54 AM  

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