The end in Afghanistan
Its time to bring our forces home. Afghanistan is no longer even remotely winnable and will only serve to waste the lives of our soldiers. I support our troops and I don't think support the troops by leaving them in an un-winnable situation to be needlessly killed and maimed. So I want them home.
I have not always had this position, of course. Six months ago I was a pariah, I felt, in my own party at the time. I supported the war in Afghanistan, because I honestly thought that Canadian troops could make a real difference. We did things differently, I thought, and this would be to our benefit.
In the past 6 months, it has become clear, however, that we are not doing what we do best and are now in circumstances that prevent us - or nearly anyone else - from being able to win:
1. We are no longer do reconstruction and helping the Afghan people. $9 of every $10 we spend over there are on combat, not on reconstruction. Even then, we are alienating our allies in the Afghan police, refusing to help them, forcing untrained recruits to take the brunt of the fighting.
2. Pakistan is now making peace in the tribal regions, allowing those fighters to be "freed up" to fight against us. Without the cooperation of Pakistan (who created the Taliban in the first place), we are merely assuming the position that was assumed by the Russians and British before us.
3. We are now complicit in the torture and disappearance of detainees, despite the best efforts of our troops on the ground to prevent it. To Afghan eyes, this makes us occupiers, not helpers.
4. The war is no longer about helping the Afghans, or finding Osama bin Laden. We are making the classic mistakes the Russians made 20 years ago - sending in tanks to fight insurgents (unless you buy that the tanks are there for another reasons). Politically, things like "Red Friday's" have morphed from being non-partisan events to show the soldiers we support them, to Nuremberg-style rallies that unflinchingly support the Conservative government's policy. I now make it a point to NOT wear red on Friday for this very reason.
5. We are playing into the hands of the Taliban. "We can't have reconstruction without security and we can't have security without the kind of combat we are doing" say the Conservative Party apologists and war cheer leaders. But if the Taliban wanted to stop reconstruction and wanted to make the Canadians troops appear to be the heavy-handed bad guys, they have succeeded. They can use car bombs and other IED to cause us to focus our money and effort on combat, rather than what we had intended - Provincial Reconstruction. and since we spend 90% of our money in Afghanistan on combat, its working. So long as schools don't get built, so long as civilians get shot, so long as we are complicit in the torture of detainees, the Taliban strategy is working. And Stephen Harper, Gordon O'connor and Gen. Hillier want us to continue and do it more.
None of this should be construed as saying anything against our troops. They are doing their job well, as best they can, in the circumstances they find themselves. They are acting with courage and determination and every one of them should be personally thanked. But that they do what they do well does not mean they should be doing it in Afghanistan. This is no longer a peacekeeping, peacemaking operation. Our troops are probably in violation of the Geneva Conventions and complicit in war crimes, not because of their actions, but because of the policy of this government and the previous government.
Our troops are now in an impossible situation - fighting a war they cannot win, being forced into illegal, criminal acts by policy rather than action and are supporting a government that is more and more appearing only marginally better than the Taliban. I am at a loss to understand how keeping our soldiers in this situation to be killed and maimed, or deciding to make it worse by expanding the time commitment and role, is in any way "supporting the troops".
And now a word of warning:
First person who says I don't support our troops, or somehow support the Taliban because of this get a punch in the fucking throat. Or worse if I ever meet them in the real work.
My brother is a 16 year vet of the Canadian Forces. He is a Warrant Officer who trains a good many of the troops from the reserves that are going over. The CF is looking at him to go over now too, despite meaning they will have no one to do the armored and infantry training he does. My brother is married with a little boy.
If I am going to lose my brother, if my nephew is to lose his father, if my kids are to lose their uncle in service to Canada, then it is up to us and our government that he will not die or be horribly wounded in vain. It is up to them, and us, to ensure that when we ask our troops to go somewhere and conduct operations that may require them to give their lives, that we do so for good reasons, to help those that want and can be helped and do not place our forces into situations where they could become war criminals.
The Afghanistan mission is not that mission. It is a quagmire that will chew up our soldiers, for no other reason than to look tough in a 'war on terror'. Sorry, but that is not worth the life of my brother, or any other Canadian citizen.
I cannot support this mission, as it exists right now.
Bring the troops home.