Friday, February 15, 2008

When Tyrants Tremble In Their Fear, And Hear Their Death Knell Ringing. . .

. . .and friends rejoice from far and near, how can I keep from singing?

That old anti-slavery hymn rings especially clear today, the day after Valentine's Day, a day when people think about their sweethearts and friends, the 18th anniversary of the day the Khomeinist regime, by fatwa, condemned Salman Rushdie to death. Yet Salman lives.

Among the friends I was thinking about was Lauryn Oates, my co-founder at the Canada-Afghanistan Solidarity Committee, who just returned to Kabul on assignment with Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan. She arrived there just a few hours ago.

Today, another friend, Solidarity Committee member and Vancouver columnist Ian King, has an interview with Lauryn in the metro daily 24 Hours, from just before she left. Here's Lauryn on the grotesquely inverted politics of Canada's so-called "anti-war" movement, and its corruption of Canada's New Democratic Party:

"They're pro-war, which goes against everything I think the left should actually stand for. It's a betrayal of leftist values that caused me to abandon that party."

And that is the bracing truth that far too many people of the Canadian "left" have failed to muster the stamina to face: "Troops out" means war. It means the triumph of barbaric misogyny. It means a surrender to slavery.

"It's absolutely guaranteed," says Lauryn. "You'd see civil war, you'd probably see it for years, you'd see mass deaths, much worse than what what we see now. I couldn't live with that if my country was responsible for letting that happen."

Yesterday, an old friend, Ian's fellow columnist Bill Tieleman, wrote a Valentine's Day column about the eccentric and daring Afghan politician Malalai Joya that reiterates the same delusion that UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon recently called a "historic misjudgment" that is "almost more dismaying" than the rank opportunism of the Taliban itself.

Bill is a decent guy who is simply wholly unfamiliar with the issues at stake in Afghanistan. His mistakes begin with his first sentence: "Canada has already lost 78 soldiers and a diplomat in combat in that tragic country, which we simply do not understand."

The first mistake is an honest but outrageous mistake that also skates perilously close to making partisan politics out of dead soldiers: We have not lost 78 soldiers to combat in Afghanistan. Most of those 78 deaths, which have occurred over a six-year period, had nothing at all to do with combat. It is now 2008. Not one Canadian soldier has died from engaging in "combat" since 2006.

The second half that sentence is not so much a mistake as an admission - or at least the suggestion of one - that he simply doesn't understand what his column purports to be about.

Bill might profit by talking to some of the tens of thousands of Afghan Canadians whose views have been strangely ignored in this country. But first, he would have to set aside the habit, peculiar to and widespread among New Democrats, of letting Malalai Joya do his thinking for him. At the very least, he might be a bit more straightforward about what it is that Joya actually thinks.

Ian King, who took the time to understand a bit about Afghanistan before setting out to write about it, knows only too well what Joya thinks: "When asked by 24 hours' Irwin Loy what the result of a Western pullout would be, she replied 'Civil war'."

In prison cell and dungeon vile, our thoughts to them are winging. When friends by shame are undefiled, how can I keep from singing?

One struggle, many fronts.

In Saudi Arabia, a woman named Fawza Fahli spent Valentine's Day in a dungeon, waiting to be executed by beheading, on a conviction for witchcraft based on a written confession that she does not know how to read, and which she signed, by fingerprint, only after 35 days of beatings, during which she had to be hospitalized.

In Montreal, our beloved Simon continues to wage his campaign to force Canadians to confront the ongoing pogrom that gay people are suffering in Jamaica, and Simon sees a glimmering of hope in that struggle in a Canadian refugee-status application filed by Jamaican Gareth Henry, who has seen 13 of his gay friends slaughtered over the past four years.

Meanwhile, my friend the Iranian-Canadian blog-wizard Arash Kamangir and Israeli-Canadian journalist Lisa Goldman explain, in Notes from the Underground, how tens of thousands of Iranians and Israelis have found ways to send one another their warmest regards, and to argue, and discuss, and make friends, and there's nothing anyone can do to stop them.

And friends rejoice, from far and near.

30 Comments:

Blogger double-plus-ungood said...

It is now 2008. Not one Canadian soldier has died from engaging in "combat" since 2006.

I'm not sure how you're defining combat, Terry, but just a moment's googling revealed that Cpl. Nathan Hornburg was killed in a mortar attack in September 2007, and that Trooper Richard Renaud was killed by an IED just a couple of weeks ago.

4:17 PM  
Blogger Transmontanus said...

I'm defining combat the way the dictionary defines combat.

You could be killed by an IED riding that bike of yours in the little picture.

Nathan was killed by an incoming mortar round. He wasn't, and his unit wasn't, engaged in combat.

4:22 PM  
Blogger double-plus-ungood said...

You could be killed by an IED riding that bike of yours in the little picture.

Surely soldiers in WW I trenches that were killed by mortars or by minefields were killed in combat?

4:28 PM  
Blogger double-plus-ungood said...

...or is the term "killed in action?"

4:30 PM  
Blogger double-plus-ungood said...

Reading further, it seems that Cpl. Hornburgs death was part of combat. From the Star:

A Canadian soldier was killed and four others wounded as troops fought with insurgents during a new offensive to seize a section of troubled Panjwaii district of Afghanistan.

The troops came under attack from mortars, rocket-propelled grenades and small arms fire as they pushed westward yesterday from their base at Ma’sum Ghar, west of Kandahar.

Cpl. Nathan Hornburg, a reservist from the King’s Own Calgary Regiment, based in Calgary, was killed around 4:30 p.m. local time in one of those attacks.

4:39 PM  
Blogger Mark, Ottawa said...

Combat, shmombat. There is a job to be done. Great post. Some "social persplective" (sic, the spelling is intentional), as a close Turkish friend of mine used to put such things:

'"The Thug" speaks for himself (one hopes)'

Mark
Ottawa

4:49 PM  
Blogger Transmontanus said...

DPU:

This is really silly.

The Canadian Armed Forces reports zero soldiers killed in a direct combat operation in 2007. The Toronto Star is your authority? Excellent. Here's the Toronto Star from just four days ago:

"Number of Canadian troops killed in combat in Afghanistan last year: 0.

". . .Number of Canadian troops killed by improvised explosive devises in Afghanistan in 2007: 12.

"Number of Canadian troops killed by roadside bombs and land mines in 2007: 11.

"The last Canadian casualty in conventional combat – died fighting – came during the latter stages of Operation Medusa, four servicemen perishing during a ground offensive on Sept. 3, 2006.

"Since that time, there have been deaths in rollovers, helicopter crashes, suicide bombings and accidents but none from aggressively engaging the enemy."

Now, if you'd just read rest of the article you yourself had linked to, DPU, here's what you would have found:

"The troops were taking part in Operation Sadiq Sarbaaz (Honest Soldier), a joint operation between Afghan and Canadian troops.

"Canadian soldiers, backed by tanks and armoured vehicles, were pushing west into territory about 47 km west of Kandahar, in order to establish a new police substation and a more permanent presence to deter insurgents."

Do you copy that?

Our soldiers and Afghan soldiers were engaged in an operation "to establish a new police substation and a more permanent presence to deter insurgents." That is not a combat operation.

Further from the same article:

"In recent weeks, the Canadians and Afghans have been trying to reclaim and reinforce territory they won last fall. . ."

And they came under attack.

DPU: Think about it. In that entire post, you wanted to quibble with that.

Say uncle.

6:53 PM  
Blogger Nick Barrowman said...

Here's Lauryn on the grotesquely inverted politics of Canada's so-called "anti-war" movement, and its corruption of Canada's New Democratic Party:

"They're pro-war, which goes against everything I think the left should actually stand for. It's a betrayal of leftist values that caused me to abandon that party."

And that is the bracing truth that far too many people of the Canadian "left" have failed to muster the stamina to face: "Troops out" means war.


I'm afraid this line of reasoning reminds me of the line from Orwell's 1984, "War is Peace".

Granted, the sudden departure of all western troops from Afghanistan would result in chaos. But what about negotiations followed by phased withdrawals?

And what's the alternative? Endless warfare? In the last 20 months, Canadian troops have fired over 4.7 million bullets at insurgents in Afghanistan. Couldn't we be putting our resources to more effective use? And how many more lives need to be sacrificed?

6:54 PM  
Blogger double-plus-ungood said...

DPU: Think about it. In that entire post, you wanted to quibble with that.

Are you suggesting that I wanted to "quibble" about anything else in the article, Terry? I didn't, as I agreed with the bulk of it, but that statement seemed off, and I was asking for clarification. In response, you seem to think it "silly" to do so, and want me to "cry uncle".

Why the defensiveness?

7:31 PM  
Blogger Mark, Ottawa said...

Nick Barrowman: "And how many more lives need to be sacrificed?"

To be both realistic and, I fear, cynical: a country of some 33 millions suffers (so far) just under 80 deaths in military operations in Afstan that seriously began almost exactly six years ago and have not been continuous since then either in time or the nature of the missions.

Yet we debate the meaning of the word "combat". This happened to the Newfoundland Regiment on one day in 1916. Please read it, not that what happened was a good thing, but just to provide, er, context. At the time Newfoundland had a population of around 240,000.

I fear (again) that Kate McMillan may be on to something.

As for lives lost, this might warrant more of your attention; one is talking about defenceless civilians in most cases:

"The federal government is launching a national effort targeting the superbug methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus in its bid to reduce the number of hospital-acquired infections that kill thousands of Canadians each year. An estimated 220,000 Canadians develop hospital-acquired infections each year, of which MRSA is one type, according to Canadian Nosocomial Infection Surveillance Program figures. About 8,000 people die of them annually..."

Mark
Ottawa

7:35 PM  
Blogger Transmontanus said...

DPU: Always a bit sensitive about suggestions that I've been inaccurate.

You didn't say uncle. G'wan. Do it.

Nick:

"Canadian troops have fired over 4.7 million bullets at insurgents in Afghanistan. Couldn't we be putting our resources to more effective use?"

Better marksmanship?

9:20 PM  
Blogger Transmontanus said...

This is too rich to pass up.

1. Supported by the overwhelming evidence, and by her own judgment, based on years of personal experience in Afhagistan, Lauryn Oates observes that the demands of "anti-war" activists are straight out of Orwell. Their "peace" really means war.

2. She says so.

3. Nick responds by saying Lauryn Oates is committing the Orwellian offence of claiming that "War is Peace."

You can't make this stuff up.

9:41 PM  
Blogger kurt said...

"Canada has already lost 78 soldiers and a diplomat in combat in that tragic country, which we simply do not understand."

Tieleman is right with the last five words of this quote, and he and others play to this constituency that doesn't understand.

Yup, he's got that right.

And I suppose that if Canada lost a quarter of its population to war (as Afghanistan did with the Soviets; 2 million killed, five million refugees) he'd call that a "victory."

I think it's good to signal our intention to leave Afghanistan as soon as possible and to negotiate with reasonable parties as this assures Afghans that we have no imperialistic intentions but on the other hand you can't negotiate when you're in retreat. The criminally insane will only escort you to the border and then turn around and murder anyone that ever had a kind word to say about you.

9:44 PM  
Blogger Nick Barrowman said...

Lauryn Oates observes that the demands of "anti-war" activists are straight out of Orwell.

But are they? If I remember 1984 correctly, the claim (made by the totalitarian government) was that continuous warfare was the route to peace.

The suggestion that "anti-war" really means "pro-war" seems Orwellian par excellence.

6:11 AM  
Blogger Graeme said...

Yes, and when "anti-war" activists marched in the streets of London with "We Are All Hizbullah" placards, they just really wanted peace.

8:09 AM  
Blogger Nick Barrowman said...

Yes, and when "anti-war" activists marched in the streets of London with "We Are All Hizbullah" placards, they just really wanted peace.

I think two different questions are being confounded here. (1) Would a genuine anti-war approach actually have the opposite effect? and (2) How genuine are some "anti-war" activists?

9:32 AM  
Blogger Graeme said...

I don't know what you're asking in the first question. The opposite of what? As for the second, whether Canadian anti-war activists are genuine or not is beside the point. The fact is that the leadership of the movement is, as The Dude once put it, "pro-war, but on the other side". There's been a fair bit about that on this blog, but start with this. The entire movement is tainted by association.

10:01 AM  
Blogger Transmontanus said...

Well. That explains it.

Graeme: If you were wondering whether this Nick Barrowman is just plain addled, wonder no more. It has just come to my attention that he leans toward a conspiracist view of the Afghanistan question, he is an admirer of the neo-fascist American millionaire Eric Margolis, and he is an acolyte of the very same Cairo conference attendees mentioned in the piece you linked to in your comment. For his guidance on the Afghanisan question Barrowman also turns to Roger Annis, whose great contribution to "anti-war" politics has been to bring together under a phony "socialist" banner the Cairo cult that runs the Canadian Peace Alliance and some of the dregs of the MAWO cult whose Charlie-Manson figurehead is Ali Yerevani.

Barrowman: You are not welcome here. We have nothing to discuss.

Graeme: This is the sort of thing that has caused me to wonder whether I shouldn't just scrap this whole blog business and just stick to conventional journalism. Or get a different web page. Or at least turn the "comments" off. Or something.

12:49 PM  
Blogger Ian King said...

Nick: "Peace" as defined by the groups that have co-opted the term, means withdrawal. This would lead to a civil war. Read what Oates said: a return to an early-90s situation. In this case, a false "peace" really does mean war. They're just opposed to wars where we're doing the fighting.

After seeing who you're relying on for analysis, I can see why you are confused. You're reading stuff from the likes of Annis (a promoter of the "peace" movement kibitzing with Hamas, among others) that ignores the implications of Canada's actions on Afghans, preferring to focus on conspiracies. Or the likes of Steven Staples, a perpetual dissembler who thinks that world rank is more important than percentage of GDP in comparing defence budgets. Most of your sources are in the core of the so-called peace movement, the ones who are reponsible for the rot therein. Oh, and there's Margolis. Read his pre-2001 stuff to find out what he's about.

You want to know why their views aren't more widely disseminated? For the same reason that the David Ickes of the world are obscure -- most people won't spread hate-addled rubbish with little connection to reason or reality.

If you were reading this stuff innocently because it seemed appealing, find out what their authors really stand for. Then read them again. If you still think they're most concerned with a reduction in violence, you're hopeless.

2:08 PM  
Blogger Mark, Ottawa said...

Liberals and combat:

WLMK's policy at the start of WW II was much like the current Liberal approach to Afstan: as little combat as possible. While English Canadian (yes, there were still such people then) public opinion compelled King to send the 1st Canadian Division to the UK in 1939, he intended to focus the Canadian war effort on the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan--training pilots in Canada --and on the RCN, with minimal involvement in combat (and thus casualties) overseas.

Events, and further English Canadian pressure, forced a much greater and bloodier involvement than King had intended (in order to avoid problems with Quebec).
http://www.junobeach.org/e/4/can-tac-air-bca-e.htm

"The Canadian government was not too receptive, however, to the first British proposals for setting up air training schools on its territory. Prime Minister King did not want Canada to get involved in the war by supplying pilots. In addition, he was concerned that the interference of imperial armed forces would not allow Canada to develop its own national air force.

But the proclamation of the state of war on September 10th, 1939, changed the situation entirely. The Canadian Parliament, having voted to support Britain’s war effort, had now to decide what form that support would take. Large-scale airmen training on Canadian soil seemed to be a significant contribution, and also one that would keep to a minimum the number of soldiers serving overseas..."

As King stated in a radio speech, December 17, 1939:
http://collections.civilisations.ca/warclip/objects/common/webmedia.php?irn=5012659

"The United Kingdom Government has since informed us that, considering present and future requirements, it feels that participation in the Air Training Scheme would provide for more effective assistance towards ultimate victory than any other form of military co-operation which Canada can give. At the same time the United Kingdom Government wishes it to be clearly understood that it would welcome no less heartily the presence of Canadian land forces in the theatre of war at the earliest possible moment.

You will recall that, on September the 19th, the Government announced that a division was being organized for service overseas,
and, as you are aware, no time is being lost in our endeavour to
meet the wish of the United Kingdom for the early despatch of an Expeditionary Force."

King in effect coerced the Brits into agreeing with the first part of the first paragraph.

As to the significance of the current mission, I recommend Salim Mansur.

Mark
Ottawa

5:09 PM  
Blogger Transmontanus said...

This is why you're the best, Mark.

8:05 PM  
Blogger Ti-Guy said...

Mark Collins: "Terry Glavin at his best."
Terry Glavin: "This is why you're the best, Mark."

*rolls eyes*

3:50 AM  
Blogger Mark, Ottawa said...

Here are direct links to my sources above;

"The Canadian government was not too receptive..."

"The United Kingdom Government has since informed us that..." (pdf file)

Mark
Ottawa

8:36 AM  
Blogger Bill Tieleman said...

TIELEMAN RESPONDS TO TERRY GLAVIN

Dear Terry,

I’ve now had a chance to thoroughly read your comments here about my column on Afghanistan, as well as on your own website.

On your website you state about my column:

“The first mistake is an honest but outrageous mistake that also skates perilously close to making partisan politics out of dead soldiers: We have not lost 78 soldiers to combat in Afghanistan. Most of those 78 deaths, which have occurred over a six-year period, had nothing at all to do with combat. It is now 2008. Not one Canadian soldier has died from engaging in "combat" since 2006.”

I find your point about the definition of “combat” to be bizarre. When soldiers die as a result of violent enemy actions, in particular Improvised Explosive Devices, that’s combat to me.

I don’t understand what useful purpose defining combat differently serves anyone.

Now let’s deal with your claim that this “skates perilously close to making partisan politics out of dead soldiers”. What are you talking about?

I seriously do not understand where you are going with this or why. Partisan? In what way?

And to say it is “outrageous” makes me shake my head even more.

Now let’s address Malalai Joya’s comments about foreign troops in Afghanistan.

You and Ian King both approvingly quote Joya from a 24 hours interview with Irwin Loy as saying that “civil war” would result if NATO’s military mission ended.

But you conveniently ignore what Joya said before and after that statement, leaving out all the context and contradictory information.

Here are the parts of the 24 hours story of October 26, 2007 that you haven’t quoted:

“Foreign troops in Afghanistan, she says, are not helping.

‘No nation can donate liberation to another nation,’ she said. ‘These past six years are a clear example.’

Joya then continued:

“Asked what will happen if the foreign military withdrew from Afghanistan, and Joya is sure of her answer.

‘Civil war,’ she said.

But if the troops remain?

‘If the U.S. and its allies continue to support the Northern Alliance, tomorrow another 11th of September will happen,’ Joya said.

‘Our only hope is other countries like Canada will act independently and support freedom-loving democratic parties in Afghanistan.’

Joya’s position is more complex than you give credit for.

As for myself, it’s obvious that after seven years of massive military and economic support from Canada and other countries, Afghanistan remains a battleground.

The situation is not a longer Canadian military mission or more troops – we cannot defeat the Taliban, certainly not while supporting a government composed of key repressive warlords and drug lords who profit from the radical expansion of the opium trade.

That evil business, by the way, which puts heroin on the streets of Vancouver and cities around the world, is centred in Afghanistan. A full 92% of all opium now comes from that country, a huge increase since the time when the Taliban almost eradicated the trade in 2000.

Terry - both of us believe in democracy and human rights.

But where we part paths is in the use of military means to promote social change in a foreign country.

I believe, as even Hamid Karzai has said, that talks with the Taliban – difficult as that would be – are the eventual solution.

Like it or not, the Taliban have significant support amongst the Afghani people and they will not be militarily defeated.

Sacrificing untold numbers of Canadian soldiers in a war that cannot be won is irresponsible and immoral.

Withdrawing our troops must be done wisely and while supporting an end to the conflict – which may not be possible, given the U.S. position.

But to continue a military role in Afghanistan indefinitely, as the Conservatives and perhaps now the Liberals support, is unsustainable, illogical and dangerous.

Dr. Sima Simar of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, you quote as saying: “Finish the job you started.”

Unfortunately military intervention in a country’s internal war has rarely succeeded in achieving results unless peace talks are the goal, not defeat of one side.

Finishing the job should mean finding a solution to the war that rages in Afghanistan, not committing Canadian soldiers to the eradication of the Taliban, which is impossible.

Afghanistan has a long history of defeating foreign armies with a vengeance. Canada is not going to be the exception to that rule – unless we dramatically change our approach.

I appreciate your contribution to this debate and regret that some comments posted here by readers make personal attacks more than informed points but I prefer that this website remains as open as possible to all perspectives rather than appoint myself as content editor.

Your views are always welcome here, even when we disagree.

Yours warmly,

Bill Tieleman

9:44 PM  
Blogger Transmontanus said...

Bill:

As I said in my original message to you, our positions are probably a lot closer than you might think.

Where we differ is in our understanding of the facts, but please, let's also be honest: Your position and the NDP's position are one and the same. I'm not saying this to encourage people to draw any unseemly inferences, so be fair: What you say and what Jack Layton says, right down to the rote citations from Malalai Joya, are the same. Your assertions about "combat" and Canada's "combat role" are exactly the same as Jack Layton's.

In your case, at least, I will take it on faith that you sincerely mean it when you say you find my statements about "combat" bizarre. I hope to show you that the reason you find them bizarre is that your understanding of the facts about our "combat" role in Afghanistan is wholly and utterly wrong. I hope also to show that when you get your facts right on this question, the entire Canadian "troops out" position crumbles into dust.

But we'll start with Jack Layton on the subject. The first words out of Jack Layton's mouth when the Manley Panel report was released were: "For six years, the Liberals and Conservatives have had Canada involved in a counter-insurgency combat mission in southern Afghanistan."

Here's just how wrong that is.

Roughly 850 Canadian troops were deployed to Kandahar - that's in southern Afghanistan - between February and August of 2002. They were engaged in a variety of combat situations, including a major three week "combat" operation that ended March 18 of that year.

The we left Afghanistan. We came home. We returned in August, 2003, to Kabul (not southern Afghanistan) where we engaged in a variety of non-combat roles and activities, certainly nothing resembling a "counterinsurgency" or "combat mission" of any description.

The Afghan Women's Network began to mobilize across Afghanistan, begging ISAF to extend the rule of law throughout the country; the world listened, various international commitments were hammered down and even Hamid Karzai, "the mayor of Kabul" got on board.

In November of 2005, Camp Julien, outside Kabul, was shut down, and Canada took control of the Kandahar Provincial Reconstruction Team.

It was not until February of 2006 that "Operation Archer" put Canada in the lead for security within the Kandahar PRT's jurisdiction. It was not until September 2006 that Canadian Forces engaged in a full-bore combat operation, called Operation Medusa - the mythical "George Bush style counterinsurgency warfighting combat mission" we keep hearing about.

Our soldiers have not been engaged in any "counterinsurgency combat" of any consequence for the past several months.

That's it.

You wrote: "Canada has already lost 78 soldiers and a diplomat in combat in that tragic country, which we simply do not understand."

"In combat," you wrote.

I'm not defining the word combat in any bizarre way. I use the term the way it's found in the Oxford English Dictionary, and in the matter of our engagement in Afghanistan, I look to the facts of our soldiers' deaths there when I consider the truth of your claim that "Canada has already lost 78 soldiers and a diplomat in combat". I invite you now to look at those same facts, yourself, and reconsider the truth of your claim.

The overwhelming majority of Canadian soldiers' deaths in Afghanistan have had nothing to do with anything resembling combat. They mostly died from IEDs, vehicle accidents, helicopter crashes, suicide bombings, and so on. As you will have noticed from the timeline I provided above, there has been hardly any combat to speak of.

Let's look at the more recent record.

Number of Canadian soldiers to die in combat in 2007: Zero.

In 2007, we lost 12 soldiers to IEDs - which would have killed them just as dead if they were completely unarmed, or weren't even soldiers. Roadside-bomb and landmine deaths in 2007:
Eleven.

The last Canadian soldier to die in combat was in 2006.

This goes to the very core of the way the "left" in Canada has got it wrong on the Afghanistan question. Call it a "George Bush style warfighting counterinsurgency combat mission" until you're blue in the face, it will still be a lie.

And it will still make decent people like you, Bill, look completely silly when you say these things. And you make it worse for yourself when you say, when a soldier gets killed by an IED, "that looks like combat to me." You can't decide to call something "combat" just to make it suit your claims. That's called making the facts fit your rhetoric, and people will notice, and people will see that you're trying to make the truth conform to a preconceived political position.

You write: "I don’t understand what useful purpose defining combat differently serves anyone."

Great. Take your own advice, then. Don't. Just say no, Bill. The NDP has apparently decided to define "combat" anyway it wants, to serve its own purposes, and I agree with you. It should stop.

And that's the trouble Jack Layton is in. The more people learn about Afghanistan, the worse he looks.

The more effort that goes into bending the truth to make the NDP look good, the more transparently bogus the rhetoric gets, and the more obvious it becomes that "troops out" politics are based on fiction - and in this particular case, a very specific fiction. A myth.

Here's how the "warfighting counterinsurgency combat role" myth evolved.

"Combat" is just one term military strategists use in setting out the terms of what are known as "rules of engagement." These terms become a kind of shorthand when journalists and headline writers use them, and then they enter the language of common speech - often finding their way back, in distorted form, into the terms journalists use. As soon as self-proclaimed "anti-war" polemicists and polticians pick them up these terms imediately mutate into tropes and memes that have nothing to do with words' original meaning.

The next thing you know, people are writing things about Afghanistan that have nothing to do with the facts, with the truth.

You can;t simply define "combat" any way you want - you do, and you end up saying things that “skate perilously close to making partisan politics out of dead soldiers”. That's what I was talking about.

The term "counterinsurgency" is an another example. Unlike most of Afghanistan, Kandahar is a hellhole of lawlessness and Taliban whackjobs, foreign and domestic. The shorthand for that is "insurgency." Our soldiers' rules of engagement there have to reflect that fact - they can't just invent some new soundbyte or fancy word to make it go away. They have to deal with it.

When our soldiers get shot at, their rules of engegement say they should shoot back, and if they can, they should sometimes go looking for the whackjobs doing all the shooting, and shooting them. That's what the "counterinsurgency" is. That's it. That's all.

And this: ". . .where we part paths is in the use of military means to promote social change in a foreign country."

No we don't. That's nuts. I'm not proposing that we use "military means" to "promote social change" in Afghanistan. Nobody is. It's not happening. It isn't true.

"I believe, as even Hamid Karzai has said, that talks with the Taliban – difficult as that would be – are the eventual solution."

There have been "talks with the Taliban" and other armed groups underway since 2002, Bill. Canada and the UN have participated in the demobilization of almost 60,000 former mujahadin since then.

What's new is a very dangerous move afoot - which Layton got himself sucked into - to effectively acquiesce to the hardline holdouts through a UN-driven process of "bringing the different sides to the table" that has already been tried. It was called the UN Special Mission to Afghanistan. It began on January 1994. It accomplished absolutely nothing.It ended on September 11, 2001.

Read my op-ed in the Vancouver Sun, based on that interview with Sima Samar, if you're interested in what the "left" in Afghanistan thinks about doing all that over again.

Even Malalai Joya doesn't want that, Bill. You can't have it both ways.

"Like it or not, the Taliban have significant support amongst the Afghani people and they will not be militarily defeated."

This is a myth of scandalous proportions. I offered to send you 12 sets of empirical data on what the Afghans say about the Taliban (and by the way, it's not "Afghani people"; an Afghani is a unit of currency). The last numbers I saw had nine per cent reporting favourable views of the Taliban.

And as a conventional fighting force, the Taliban actually were quite soundly "militarily defeated" long ago. That's what the suicide bombing is about. What to do about it? Start by reading the Manley Panel report, or any of the recent Senlis Council reports, or the U.S. Afghanistan Study Group report. Read anything, and you will find that "Sacrificing untold numbers of Canadian soldiers in a war that cannot be won" isn't what anyone is proposing.

Nobody.

"Withdrawing our troops must be done wisely and while supporting an end to the conflict – which may not be possible, given the U.S. position."

I have no idea what that means. It reads like one of those weird gaffes Stephane Dion always makes. "Supporting an end to the conflict?" Is there someone you're not telling us about who does not support "an end to the conflict?"

Which U.S. position? The only U.S. position that counts right now are the positions the Democratic Party candidates have staked out. And they're much less likely to withdraw troops than Bush would be if he were still hanging around. And they're much more committed than Harper ever was.

What counts is what NATO/ISAF does, and if we pulled out, we'd be the first and only country out of nearly 40 ISAF countries to do so.

I'm going to start winding up here, Bill, because I'm afraid there is a fish-in-a-barrel opportunity in pretty well each and every sentence you wrote, and this could go on for a while. Forgive me, but I can't resist the temptation for just this one:

"Afghanistan has a long history of defeating foreign armies with a vengeance."

The exact opposite is true. If there is another country in the world that has been defeated as many times as Afghanistan has, go see if you can find it. And the only relevance your statement has to anything relies on the presumption that Canada's NATO/ISAF engagement is some sort of unwelcome a foreign occupation that "Afghanistan" is fighing to defeat.

That's one of the most outrageous myths about Afghanistan out there right now. It's lala-land.

In fact, at long last, the Afghan people are finally winning. Canada is playing a major role in making that happen. The overwhelming majority of the Afghan people want us there.

I'm with them, and so are an increasing number of Canadian socialists, liberals, and progressives.

The NDP is not. The mainstream "left" in this country is not. And I am sadly resigned to the prospect that the "troops out" position that the NDP has adopted - and which UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon describes as "a misjudgment of historic proportions" - will prove perhaps the greatest single misjudgment, on any issue, that the NDP has ever made.

My opinion is that the NDP's friends should do something about this, instead of making things worse. And that, Bill, as far as "opinions" go, is pretty well the only major point where you and I appear to differ.

Sincerely,

Terry Glavin

2:27 AM  
Blogger double-plus-ungood said...

DPU: Always a bit sensitive about suggestions that I've been inaccurate.

This also means that you are sensitive to any disagreement with your views. Why should others then not be sensitive to you regarding their point of view with a vocal lack of respect?

You didn't say uncle. G'wan. Do it.

Nope. I'm done here, for at least this topic.

12:39 PM  
Blogger Transmontanus said...

DPU:

You just inadvertently presented a clear-as-a-bell illustration of the
problem at the heart of the debate that's unfolded here.

You say my sensitivity about accuracy betrays a sensitivity to disagreement with my "views."

You don't see the difference between accuracy and views. You don't see the difference between facts and opinion.

Check you head.

12:58 PM  
Blogger kurt said...

Tieleman has the right to be uninformed, misinformed, mistaken or simply wrong, but when he lies, as he does in his description of our forces and by extension all Nato forces as occupiers, he crosses the line. That is a scurrilous canard.

2:19 PM  
Blogger Mark, Ottawa said...

Terry: An excellent refutation of Mr Tieleman :).

Mark
Ottawa

4:45 PM  
Blogger Transmontanus said...

Kurt:

Viz Tieleman, "when he lies. . ."

This brings us back to the question of whether Layton was lying or is just (searches for polite term) misinformed and hypercaffeinated.

I don't think Bill is lying.

What his response demonstrates is that he just hasn't done any rudimentary fact-checking. I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt that the same applies in his column.

5:59 PM  

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