The Case for the Debate on Afghanistan
As strange as it may seem to some, as a supporter of our mission in Afghanistan, I am also a supporter of a debate of that mission in Parliament. I could go into the details of how I think such a debate would actually strengthen support for that mission and our troops rather than harm it. I could tell you how I think stiffling debate and wrapping it American-style jingoism and "cut and run" strawman attacks on the opposition will actually erode suppor and divide the country.
No, I will simply point out two things:
1) The NDP has been consistent in calling for this debate since before, and indeed during, the election campaign
"If Paul Martin wants to involve Canada directly in a war in Afghanistan, then he must spell out what our goals are, what our commitments will be, and when and how we will get out.We then require a real national debate, and a
clear democratic decision taken by Parliament."
2) Notice the first line of that press release:
"In Brussels earlier today, foreign ministers from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) countries agreed to expand the presence of the alliance's troops in Afghanistan. NATO proposes to deploy some 6,000 additional troops to the south of the country." (empahsis mine)
From NATO itself:
"The revised operational plan for the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) provides strategic guidance for increased NATO support to the Afghan Government in extending its authority and influence across the country." (empahsis mine)
In other words, NATO revised and updated its plans. The mission changed. The mission changed after the so-called "informational debates" conducted in Parliamentary Committee in November of 2005. It changed in the middle of an election campaign, when the House was not sitting. These changes, therefore, have not been debated in Parliament or committee, since Parliament has not sat since those changes to the mission were made.
All of which begs the questions like:
How does this affect the current mission?
Does Canada need to supply more troops?
Do our troops have the correct equipment, training and logistical support for this?
Does this change affect the long term plans? How?
Is this change a good idea?
In short, we need a debate in Parliament (not committee) . That is what happens in a free and democratic society. These are important quesions that the public at large needs answers to so they can continue to support the mission. We are, after all, still a democracy. Perhaps someone should remind the Prime Minister of that.
I think the case for our continued presence in Afghanistan is a strong one and can easily withstand debate. I think the morale of our troops on the ground is not so fragile that it cannot withstand a debate - after all, we are exercising our democratic rights which is why they are there in the first place.