Sunday, August 06, 2006

the NDP dream: peace-keeping without war

There are approximately 2,200 Canadian troops in Afghanistan. There are Canadians who demand we remove these troops from there, and leave the Afghans to their own devices, to fight their own battles, presumably by bundling paper money we send as “development funding” into big bales and using them like a mace on the taliban skulls.
A better use of our money would be to spend it to find, face and kill as many taliban bad guys as we can, so that the taliban stops waging war against the people of Afghanistan, allowing that nation to rebuild itself.

Three dead in grenade attack on Afghan postman
July 24, 2006
KHOST, Afghanistan -- Attackers hurled grenades into the home of a village postman in eastern Afghanistan, killing three of his daughters, officials said on Monday, linking the Taliban to the incident.

The attack in eastern Khost province on Sunday followed threats from the extremist movement that they would target anyone in the area working for the government, the district chief said.

The postman and another of his daughters, a young girl, were wounded in the attack in Yaqubi village, district chief Mirza Jan Nimgari said.
"Taliban had sent night-letters [secret leaflets] to Yaqubi district and had warned people to stop working for the government or be prepared to be targeted," Nimgari said.
Afghanistan's postal service was destroyed during the country's decades of conflict and is barely used by citizens. It has started to recover since the Taliban was removed from government in late 2001. The insurgency launched by the hardliners after their ouster sees regular attacks on foreign and Afghan troops but also on civilians working with the government, such as teachers and clerics.

This mailman received death threats for the crime of being a mailman, and yet continued to do his job, in order to feed his family. His is/was a working family. Is he worthy of Canadian help? Nope, according to champion of working families in Canada, the very very Honorable Jack Layton, leader of the New Democratic Party of Canada (NDP).

These are the words of the very very Honorable Layton, from a speech on Canada’s role in Afghanistan, delivered back in May 2006.

New Democrats stand in opposition to this government’s plans to lock our country into a long-term war-fighting role in Afghanistan, a role that does not properly reflect the principles and ideals of the people of Canada.

[Helping working families stay alive does not properly reflect Canadian principles?]

There are those in this house, on both side of the aisle, who will claim that if Canada re-directs its efforts, after four years in Afghanistan, all will be lost. There are those who are prepared to see Canada embroiled in Afghanistan to the end of this decade and beyond – they have claimed that anything less will amount to cutting and running.

Afghanistan is now the largest recipient of Canadian overseas development assistance. The NDP unequivocally supports the continuation of this funding. And we fully support an ongoing development and diplomatic role for Canada in Afghanistan, but the government has tied war-making and aid together in this motion and we oppose that.

Yes, we mustn’t become “embroiled” in "war-making", else we end up actually helping the people there by (gasp) killing the taliban. Unfortunately the enemy doesn’t seem to have the same qualms about death and killing as the very very Honorable mr Layton seems to possess:

a man detonated grenades in a taxi at a police check-post in the province [of Khost], killing himself and another person and wounding three others, provincial police chief Mohammad Ayoob said hours after the attack.
The man exploded the grenades after suspicious police stopped the vehicle, Ayoob said on Monday.

This is a tragedy. Working class citizens being blown to bits by lunatic suicide bombers, determined to kill somebody, anybody they can reach, if it might delay or hinder the chances for societal progress in Afghanistan.

With whom will Canada be left to be diplomatic with, if the butchers of the taliban continue to kill off any Afghani working for a better future? Shouldn’t we, as Canadians second, but as human beings first, shouldn’t we want to see such evil stopped? Or is it part of a new definition of Canadian “ideals” to shrug our collective shoulders at such things as school bombings?

Attacks by insurgents on schools in Afghanistan have increased more than six-fold over last year and have now spread throughout the country, the UN children's agency UNICEF warned Friday.
"With all Afghan children have gone through, to expose them to this kind of terrible violence in a place which they consider to be safe is appalling," spokesman Patrick McCormick told reporters.

"UNICEF calls on all parties in Afghanistan to cease targeting children, education workers, and schools," he added, warning that progress in education was in jeopardy.

The education system is still regarded as shaky following years of political turmoil, including the denial of education for girls under Taliban rule and the subsequent conflict.

The onslaught, which has spread from Taliban heartlands in the southeast and south, has included 11 explosions and 50 school burnings this year.

In March 2002, 1.5 million Afghan children returned to the classroom following years of civil war. By December 2005 the number had increased to 5.1 million children, including 1.5 million girls.

However, in four southern provinces where children and teachers are under increasing threat, more than 100,000 children are thought to be shut out by school closures, despite attempts to ensure protection, UNICEF said.
Last month attackers bombed a primary school to rubble in the southeastern province of Paktika.
The US based advocacy group Human Rights Watch has documented 204 attacks on teachers, students, and schools since January 2005, with schools for girls particularly hard hit. ….

Well, things can and will get worse, should the very very Honorable Layton achieve any traction in our national dialog...

New Democrats will not write a blank cheque for this government, or any government, to drag Canada further into war, to drag our country further away from our place in the world as a nation of peace and peacekeeping.

[How reasonable is it to dream of keeping peace with people like the taliban, when they are so determined to die for their bloody cause? Afghanistan isn't Cyprus, no matter how badly we wish it could be...]

New Democrats will stand against this motion because we believe that the mission defined by this government, is not in line with the values and principles held by Canadians....

Is leaving the Afghan people to the evil of the taliban, somehow, some way in league with anything that might be called "Canadian principles"?

The NDP has been clear and up front about their beliefs: they do not think that helping the people of Afghanistan is worth a Canadian life. I wonder why that is... There are almost 30 million Afghans, not so different in population from Canada itself. Look at your children tonight, look at your wife or husband, the postman who delivers your mail tomorrow, the police officer who shows up to answer your call after a crime, the teachers and students, the men, women and children that you see every day; look at these people and try to imagine what life must be like for their counterparts, in Afghanistan.
What if you were there, sending your child to a school that might be blown to bits that day? What if you were driving a taxi and any one of your fares that day might be planning to blow himself up to allah, with you along in tow?
What if you were risking death by simply showing up for work?
Wouldn't you want some help?

The way to keep peace in Afghanistan is to kill the bad guys of Afghanistan. Only when the taliban is destroyed, can there be freedom for Afghanis.
We value freedom for all: that is a Canadian principle. Isn't it?


truepeers said...

As you said about someone else, Charles, do you think Jack Layton is actually trying to tell us what he *really* thinks about Muslims and poor people: there's no hope for them unless, perhaps, a big momma state comes along to give them the teat for a number of years? And as Jack says, Canada can't afford to spare one of momma's teats for so long. It might cost us, say, a national childcare program.

This idea that Muslims can't change is probably wrong. But it will take leaders with vision and faith in what all human beings have: an inability to transcend their present limits. Ultimately, it is transcendence, which in the Christian tradition is conceived in terms of the relationship of father and son and Spirit, in which Jack has no faith. He only believes in change through years and years of mothering, which is another kind of "faith" altogether.

Charles Henry said...

As a matter of fact, Truepeers, your description is exactly what I hear when I listen to the NDP's position; "these people are not capable of any better than they are right now, so why aim for anything higher than to treat them like farm animals, cleaning their stalls and feeding their troughs out of the 'goodness' of our hearts".
I used to work with a strong NDP supporter, and whenever we would walk together she would routinely give of her pocket change to various drugged up beggars intercepting our route. When I pointed out that the money she just gave is obviously going to be used to get high, not for shelter, she agreed and said, "yes I know, but now I feel better, because I hate to see people suffering."

So it's not about helping the Other through a charitable act, it's about maintaining an illusion that the charity-giver is a better person than the recipient.

Surely, "helping" another needs to involve change, so that help can mean progress. Denying this kind of change for someone, denies them a piece of their very humanity, keeping them as some kind of lifelong child.... forever suckling at the national teat, to borrow your symbol.

truepeers said...

What you say is very true; your former colleague is seeking a guarantee of her righteousness. But there is something else in that kind of guilt to which she might not so readily admit. There is implicit in feeling guilt for arbitrarily-encountered beggars some sense that one is responsible for what is happening in the world. This, like our friend at the World Peace Forum who took responsibility for a million Vietnamese deaths, is really a kind of arrogance implying that one is all-powerful and connected to the cause of all things in the world (hence one's guilt). It is playing God. Of course, since Jack and friends don't really have the power to play God, they get flustered and do the opposite: nothing at all practical that would only show up their ungodly limits, while doing all they kind to maintain the appearance in their own little bubble that they or we are all-powerful and hence guilty for all the violence and poverty in the world. But now I hear myself writing and know it is what you have said many a time, Charles...

Reality has a habit of jolting such fools out of their delusions. But the more deluded the more postponed and eventually violent will be that jolt. Since we share a country with many people who don't immediately flinch, laugh or cry when Jack comes on screen, this violence is going to affect us, sooner or later, if we don't defeat the forces of western guilt at home and support our troops by paying a very cool but also faithful attention to human realities.

Steve said...

Good post on the illogic of the NDP approach toward Afghanistan. A perfect example is in this letter by my MP to Stephen Harper. It is either wishful thinking or wilful deception. They haven't a clue of the implications of what they advocate.

truepeers said...

Steve, I've got one of them for my MP too - Bill Siksay. And when I went to report on one of the Israel hate nights at our recent World Peace Forum, I saw Bill and sat behind him, wanting to try and figure out what he was doing there - wishful thinking or willful deception? He seemed very politic in his body language and applause - always being polite to the moonbats but not indulging in excess or the standing o's. I think therefore it's part wishful thinking about peace coming about if only we believe in it enough: sharing the utopian faith while remaining a little more serious than the average utopian. But they obviously also have the knowledge that this is a divisive issue and that NDP types are mostly on one side, so one has to be too. The desire to accomodate oneself to that pragmatic truth will no doubt deceive them when trying to account for more fundamental truths and they will deceive in turn out of a will for votes. I don't think many people are much aware of the nature of the war we're in.

Charles Henry said...

Steve, for some reason I can't get Nash's letter to open.. but I did poke around her site generally.

Pretty astonishing to read that she claims she can "champion women's equality", while belonging to a party that openly wants us to leave Afghanistan women to fend for themselves against some of the most aggressively misogynist men on the planet, the Taliban.

I suppose when she says she "cares for her community", she means it with all her heart... because her heart limits her to **only** caring for her community.

How unreasonable is it to wish for more honesty in the current debate? If someone doesn't care one whit about people in other countries, at least they could display the courage of their convictions and come out and say so; I would disagree with them, but at least in honesty there could be clarity, and maybe some mild form of mutual understanding.
All the double-talk and half-truths are getting both sides nowhere, and is only further dividing us among ourselves...