This has nothing to do with peacekeeping.
Brian Mulroney was fond of saying "Give me twenty years and you
won't recognize this country." But he was a piker compared to Stephen Harper
who is changing the ethics and political culture of this country faster than
Mulroney ever dreamed.
The most obvious case in point is the vote on May 17 that extended Canada's
participation in the occupation of Afghanistan until the spring of 2009. The
next step in this appalling transformation of Canada into a lap dog of US imperialism
will not be far behind. We will agree to NATO's "request" that we
take over command of the whole sordid enterprise. It is almost certain to come
out at some point that Mr. Harper pushed NATO to make the request.
None of this, of course, should come as any surprise from a man who is infatuated
with everything American and contemptuous of his own country and what it has
stood for, for decades. Harper has always detested Canada's peacekeeping role,
schooled as he was by the Yankee lovers at the Calgary
School of political science and its intellectual guru, Tom Flanagan.
How could this happen in a country that is deeply suspicious of American military
adventures and committed to the principles of multilateralism?
Harper's no Reagan
A good deal of the answer lies in the decay and political corruption of the
so-called "natural governing party," the Liberals. The danger Canada
faces at the hands of Stephen Harper is not dissimilar to that experienced by
the US, despite the enormous differences in political culture. I am reminded
here of Ronald Reagan and one of the reasons he was so popular. Most people
forget -- if they ever knew -- that in polling on actual issues, a majority
of Americans disagreed with almost everything Reagan did.
So why was he so popular? Because people looked at Reagan, then looked at the
Democrats, and concluded one simple thing: Reagan, at least, was a man who believed
in what he was doing. Voters were so tired of the opportunism and lack of political
principle on the part of the Democrats that they supported a president simply
on the basis that at least he believed in something.
The danger in Canada is that many have come to the same conclusion about the
Liberals. They have always been a party of opportunists, with an uncanny instinct
for where the middle is. Under Paul Martin they were truly a party without principle,
vision or ethical core. People remember.
But Stephen Harper is no Ronald Reagan. He is mean, condescending and viscerally
arrogant, and his nature will ultimately betray him. Until it does, however,
he can do enormous damage. In a parliament with a separatist party, the Liberals
trying to divine what the opportunistic thing to do is on any given issue, and
the NDP sticking to its bizarre line that Canadians want it to "make parliament
work," Harper has been given lots of room to maneuver.
While the vote to extend the occupation is history, its consequences are not
irreversible and that is just what Canadians committed to peace and the international
rule of law should be working towards. Canadians are divided on this issue in
part because they rightly care about the fate of soldiers' lives, but also because
the facts are elusive and the peace movement is weak. Yet the facts are overwhelmingly
on the side of Canadian values and against the Afghanistan adventure. Just as
the debate in the Commons began, the Polaris Institute revealed just how much
this commitment has distorted Canada's role in the world. The decision to support
the US in Afghanistan (which the Liberals admit was done to appease the US over
our decision to stay out of Iraq) has already cost $4.1 billion since Sept.
What happened to peacekeeping?
Afghan and related operations account for 68 percent of the $6 billion spent
on international missions during that time frame. Equally disturbing: according
to Polaris, during that same period Canada devoted a mere $214 million, about
three percent of international mission spending, on United Nations missions.
Our "peacekeeping" is a joke: We now have just 59 military personnel
devoted to UN missions. Canada, which virtually invented peacekeeping, once
ranked among the top 10 contributors to UN missions in terms of military personnel.
We are now 50th.
Equally important, however, is the actual nature of this farcical "humanitarian"
effort. So few investigative journalists know the facts or will tell them, it
is not surprising people are bamboozled by the warmongers. But one who does
have the jam to tell the story is columnist Eric Margolis. He is worth quoting:
"Afghanistan's complexity and lethal tribal politics have been marketed
to the public by government and media as a selfless crusade to defeat the `terrorist'
Taliban, implant democracy, and liberate Afghan women. Afghanistan is part of
the `world-wide struggle against terrorism,' we are told.
"None of this is true. In 1989, at the end of the Soviet occupation, Afghanistan
fell into anarchy and civil war. An epidemic of banditry and rape ensued. A
village prayer leader, Mullah Omar, who lost an eye in the anti-Soviet jihad,
armed a group of `talibs' (religious students), and set about defending women
from rape. Aided by Pakistan, Taliban stopped the epidemic of rape and drug
dealing that had engulfed Afghanistan, and imposed order based on harsh tribal
and Sharia religious law."
The Taliban stopped the production of opium and heroin -- except in the area
controlled by the Northern Alliance: the thugs, drug pushers and rapists who
are now Canada's "allies." The Taliban were hardly humanitarian and
imposed an extremely harsh Sharia regime on the country. But with them gone,
the epidemic of rape has returned and our "allies" are responsible
for 80 to 90 percent of the world's heroin.
Wrong from the start
It is important also to revisit the original relationship between the US and
the Taliban and the US invasion. The US poured millions into Taliban coffers
until, says Margolis, about four months before 9/11. It was only cut off when
the regime refused to sign a contract with US oil giant Unocal to build a pipeline
south from the Caspian Basin to Pakistan. It is also surely relevant that the
Taliban knew nothing of the plan to attack the US. (The plot was hatched in
Germany.) Much was made of the fact that the Taliban refused to hand over Osama
bin Laden to the US. But Bin Laden was a national hero wounded six times in
the anti-Soviet struggle -- which the US financed. When the Taliban offered
to turn him over to an international tribunal upon seeing evidence of his guilt
in 9/11, the US refused. And then invaded. This was by any international legal
standard a totally illegal war, which could only have been justified if Afghanistan
threatened the US. It is also an illegal occupation.
This is the "mission" that Stephen Harper, Yankee sycophant and budding
warmonger, has "extended." The mission is not intended to ever end
because its purpose was and is to ensure the US permanent access to Mideast
oil and Afghani land for pipelines. But end it will -- just as every other colonial
occupation of Afghanistan has ended -- when the occupiers tire of bleeding.
Too bad dozens of Canadian soldiers, who should be peacemakers, will have to
die to teach us an old lesson.
Murray Dobbin writes his State
of the Nation column twice monthly for The Tyee.