Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Afghanistan: Do We Stay or Do We Go?

You'd think we'd be well past that sort of question by now, but the organizers of this debate apparently don't think so. At any rate, here's the bumpf:

On Wednesday, April 16, Canada-Afghanistan Solidarity Committee co-founder Lauryn Oates will be debating Stopwar.ca co-chair Derrick O’Keefe. The proposition: “THE CANADIAN MILITARY SHOULD LEAVE AFGHANISTAN AT ONCE”.

This debate is part of the Langara Dialogues series, held at the Vancouver Public Library's central branch.

To all CASC members in or near Vancouver, please come and show your support for the principles of the Canada-Afghanistan Solidarity Committee.

Lauryn Oates will be there on behalf of Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan

WHERE: Alice Mackay Room, Lower Level, Vancouver Public Library, Downtown (Homer & Robson) WHEN: Wednesday, April 16, 2008. 7:30 – 9:00 pm. Doors open at 7:15 pm.

Free admission; seating limited to the first 300.

The debate will be followed by questions from Langara College panelists and a question and answer with the audience.

Meanwhile, a CASC Vancouver press release:

"The Canada Afghanistan Solidarity Committee (CASC) wishes to warn Vancouver-area "peace activists," particularly students, that a demonstration planned for April 17 at the Canadian Armed Forces Recruitment Centre at 1070 W. Georgia is not an "anti-war" demonstration.

"The demonstration is being organized by the so-called Mobilization Against War and Occupation, an extremist group that has been exposed by Macleans Magazine, the Capilano Courier, the 24 hours daily and the Georgia Straight as a bizarre, cult-like group that recruits mainly on Lower Mainland college and university campuses.

"CASC would also like to point out that all informed observers recognize that demands for a withdrawal of international forces from Afghanistan – demands described by UN secretary-general Ban Ki-Moon as a "misjudgment of historic proportions" - would lead to a civil war on a scale far worse than the violence currently underway in Afghanistan's southern provinces.

"The only honest "anti-war" position is to support Canada’s military engagement in Afghanistan, undertaken with the consent of the Afghan government, in cooperation with military forces from nearly 40 countries , in a manner consistent with the international doctrine of the "responsibility to protect."

"The demands of withdrawal issued by MAWO and similar groups are simplistic, ignorant, and morally disgraceful.

"CASC members come from a broad diversity of affiliations and perspectives. We are people from the Left, and people from across the political spectrum, New Democrats, Liberals, Conservatives, and people of no particular political affiliation; Muslims, Jews, Christians, and atheists. We are authors, journalists, academics, gay rights activists, student activists, Afghan-Canadians, and feminists. We come affiliated with a variety of different organizations and all kinds of professions. We are united under the premise that we must honour our obligations to the cause of solidarity with the people of Afghanistan.

"MAWO's position is isolationist, anti-internationalist and objectively favourable to the aims of the enemies of the Afghan people, specifically the Taliban, which is rooted in an ideology of fascism, extremism, misogyny and hatred. Every poll and survey conducted in Afghanistan over the last four years confirms that, in contrast to MAWO's goals the Afghan people support the multilateral security mission Canada is participating in, and look forward to the growth of democracy, development and most importantly, human rights.

"Student activists should not be fooled: MAWO uses "left-wing" language, but its politics represent an affront to the values of the left. For those of us in CASC who identify with the political Left, MAWO does not speak for us. "

For more information, please contact:

Jonathon Narvey, CASC Founding Member Tel: 604.230.2638 or

Lauryn Oates, CASC Founding Member Tel: 604-781-3151


I also notice that the latest disinformation the Vancouver Stopwar people have been spreading is about negotiations with the Taliban (which, of course, it favours) and the questions that never seem to occur to them on this matter are the most obvious ones: Why would the Taliban negotiate with anyone if the NATO-led ISAF forces were simply withdrawn from Afghanistan? Who would the Taliban negotiate with if ISAF troops hadn't secured the election of an internationally-recognized Afghan government in the first place?

Stopwar has also misrepresented the CASC position on negotiations. That position can be found in its submission to the Manley panel, here, as in:

"Much has been made of the prospects for negotiating with the Taliban as a new and imaginative approach to peace in Afghanistan. That prospect must be situated in its factual and historical context.

"Firstly, although the Canadian Forces may negotiate the surrender of armed criminals our soldiers happen to engage, Canada is not entitled to trespass on the sovereignty of Afghanistan by negotiating with illegal armed groups in the absence of Afghan government direction.

"Secondly, the Afghan government, with the assistance of Canada and other of its partners in a United Nations initiative, had already negotiated the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of roughly 56,000 former combatants well before the idea of negotiating with the Taliban came into vogue.

"Thirdly, Afghan president Hamid Karzai has been clear from the outset of his term of office that he is prepared to negotiate with any armed group that is prepared to lay down its weapons. Indeed, President Karzai has engaged representatives of illegal armed groups directly in discussions.

"Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, while there is scant evidence that the Taliban's hard-core jihadist leadership is interested in any such entreaties, Canada can and should demand that the Government of Afghanistan should not under any circumstances contravene its international commitments by "negotiating out" the rights of women in any talks with the Taliban, or in the establishment of any power-sharing agreement."


Blogger Stephen said...

Even before MAWO's cult-like status was fully revealed recently, I was thoroughly unimpressed with them, in terms of both principles and strategy. I think they are an embarrassment to the progressive community.

Stop War, well, I agree with them on Iraq and Iran, and disagree with them on Afghanistan. Anti-war activists by and large I think are well-meaning people whose principles I share to a fair degree. However, they have to revisit the reasons that millions marched in the streets to oppose the Iraq war, and realize that they don't apply to Afghanistan.

7:31 PM  
Blogger Graeme said...

What dilettantes! If these clowns had any involvement with left-wing politics pre-9/11, they would surely recall that the left was always on the side of women's rights and against the Taliban.

11:33 PM  
Blogger bp said...

Terry, any chance you know whether the debate is going to get filmed?

If not, maybe you could youtube it for us folks who won't be able to make it...

11:52 AM  
Blogger Budd Campbell said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

1:20 PM  
Blogger kurt said...

I can't be there but a podcast would be welcomed.

1:30 AM  
Blogger Budd Campbell said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

8:48 AM  
Blogger ahmed said...

Derrick O'Keefe was certainly well informed, he made and passionate and excelent case against the presence of NATO troops, particularly illustrating how the western presence in Afghanistan has consciounsly and quite systematically empowered the most oppressive layer of Afghan society from the warlords on. No matter what ones position is, it would be hard for anyone to claim that he didn't own that debate. He won it quite cleanly

12:01 PM  
Blogger vildechaye said...

So Ahmed you were wowed by O'Keefe's arguments about warlords. I actually don't care who "won" or "lost" the debate, but I do care about making sure the Taliban never gets back into power. They showed what they really were before 9/11 when they destroyed those ancient buddhist statues. Everything that has been revealed since -- about their appalling treatment of women, support for Al-Qaeda, etc. -- is confirmation of their inhumanity. So, no, NATO has NOT empowered "the most oppressive layer of Afghan society." That label belongs to the Taliban. And given the bad choice between the oppression of warlords and worse oppression by the Taliban, I would definitely support the former, and so, I suspect, do most of the Afghan people.

3:37 PM  
Blogger Mark, Ottawa said...

There's a very useful daily update of media coverage of Afstan (done by Afghans as far as I can tell) at this site:

"Moby Media Updates"

Each day's entry is only the lead story; there are many more. Including perhaps, from an international perspective, a disproportionate number of Canadian ones. Indicative maybe of our obsession with, and our doubts about, actually being in a real war.

You can sign up for a daily e-mail, at left on the page.


5:45 PM  
Blogger truepeers said...

Anyone who is impressed by O'Keefe's emotional rhetoric and fantasy view of the world has no idea what real thinking about our tragic human condition is.

O'Keefe is just someone obsessed with pointing fingers, blaming Harper and Bush for all the world's woes, as if scapegoating is some kind of intellectual performance. He actually argues as if the corporations and the "monied" interests give a damn about what goes on in Afghanistan, as if what's going on there, with NATO, is all about making money (building five star hotels and shopping malls). He fails to see that there are very few corporate board rooms where they wouldn't willingly follow his implicit advice to just ignore much of the impoverished world, and go about business as if it didn't exist. If only those people, without money to spend, would just stop causing problems and go away.

But it takes a peculiar mental midget to think that "NATO out of Afganistan" is equal to "Stopwar". Only mental midgets don't know how a tribal society, left to its own devices, is a warring society. Only mental midgets can both 1) live as if they don't have blood on their hands because they live in an enormously rich country where life is easy and they can hide behind pacifist guarantees of self-righteousness, while treating politics as some kind of managerial risk-benefit analysis, and only those who don't get it - Harper and Bush - are to blame for everything; and 2)claim they are not themselves classic products of the corporations' world view, people above politics, above war, above uninsured risk, above unseemly death.

Men who are really against the corporate order know that politics, sooner or later, will always trump economics, and politics sometimes involves conflicts and sometimes wars in which noting is certain, but rather messy and uninsured. Life is tragic but only fantasists spend time thinking they are doing something moral by slagging those who are doing their fighting for them. In the debate, O'Keefe didn't even have the balls to once mention or contest the official (and no doubt most plausible) reason for our being in Afghanistan: to fight al Qaeda, to deny Islamist terrorists free run in any country on earth: to fight an enemy because they want to destroy the global order in which they can hardly compete or remain confidently Islamic, to destroy the safety and wealth from which O'Keefe safely rests in fantasy about stopping war.

O'Keefe's approach to politics is a fantasy because all that it is really concerned with is finding the guarantee of his own moral righteousness, the equivalent in politcs of the consumerist's instant gratification. I don't joke when I say O'Keefe for all his anti-corporate rhetoric is the epitome of someone whose world view is forged at Costco. The corporate global order hasn't ended war, but it has done more to allow the fantasy to grow, that an end to war is now possible, than any other cultural force on this planet. And only a mental midget growing up in a place like Vancouver, isolated from all the world's bad guys, and just ordinary evil doers like you or me or any other normal human, could believe it.

I conclude that O'Keefe is just a shifty front man for the Jews and the neocoins. I think the whole secret agenda of rabble.ca is to get people so fed up with hating the Jews and the neocoins, and yet so frustrated by their own effeminate fantasy rhetoric, that they will one day just give in and accept the new world order. They are the dhimmis of the real Dalai Lama-Microsoft-Canwest-Coors conspiracy. I swear. I emote. I blame. I cry for the dead. I win the debate hands down.

Meanwhile, back in reality...

1:40 PM  
Blogger Transmontanus said...

". . .shifty front man for the Jews and the neocons."

I thought that was my job.

1:51 PM  
Blogger truepeers said...

As for Lauryn Oates, I thought she did very well for someone who has not wasted her life (as I have) playing with words and arguing endlessly on the internet and elsewhere.

She was beautiful in being able to refer the audience back to reality, after O'Keefe's rhetorical outbursts, because she actually has invested much of her life in Afghanistan, she has a real stake to lose. She is a real person with hopes to get something out of a messy and ugly world. Meanwhile, O'Keefe has the luxury of just withdrawing from such messiness, of living as if he doesn't have to take his own stake in history seriously, as if he is above self-interest.

Lauryn rightly pegged the preening narcissism of those Canadian leftists who dance with the likes of Hezbollah and Hamas, concerned only with striking a pose in Western cafes and NDP conferences, and not with the lives of ordinary people in the poorest countries who cannot hope to know any quick fix to their great human dilemmas, but who, if they received concerted help for many years, might be able to get to the next level of development.

But when Lauryn suggested that maybe we rich coddled fantasists, called Canadians, might actually think about making a long-term commitment to Afghanistan than lasted well after 2011, the death hippies who dominated the audience turned against her.

I, on the other hand, found her a breath of fresh air, a young Canadian woman who isn't living for shopping, who doesn't need guarantees of her own moral righteousness or that everything in the world will turn out hunky dory, but is putting her life on the line for other people. If only we could get more than a few thousand of those over to Afghanistan....

1:52 PM  
Blogger Mark, Ottawa said...

Two posts at "The Torch", seeking reality:

"Jim Travesty at it again"

'Linda "Shoot the Hippo" lashes out'


5:34 PM  

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