Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Steven Harper – our War prime minister.

In recent weeks the people of Afghanistan have undertaken another initiative to increase the possibility for peace in their country. That should surely be a development that the Canadian people and government would welcome. Why then is our prime minister one of those attempting to muscle the Afghans into continuing the war? That is the real purpose of his – and other NATO leaders'– recent visits to the country.

This last New Year's Eve, the lower chamber of the Afghan parliament passed a bill granting amnesty to all Afghans who had been involved in any acts considered war crimes during the past quarter century. This bill was the basic requirement for the Afghan people to be able to put the wars of the past behind them and work toward peace in their own land.

The amnesty gave rise to intense political activity that lead to the formation of the United Front early last month. The platform of the United Front calls for a parliamentary form of government, it aims to reduce the powers of the president to appoint regional governors, and to overhaul the electoral system into one of proportional representation. It also believes in dialogue, reconciliation, and power-sharing. This initiative has brought together many of the leaders of the Northern Alliance, who defeated the Taliban, but it also includes members of the Khalqi from the communist erea, and even leaders who have been associated with the Taliban. This diffuse group could well reach agreements that remove the dictatorial powers the American designed constitution gave to Hamid Karzai – which apparently displeases the American administration very much.

M.K. Bhadrakumar in Asia Times Online says, "The amnesty move has deprived the US of the one weapon that it wielded for blackmailing the "warlords" into submission . . . powerful leaders of the Northern Alliance groups, the mujhideen field commanders, and petty local thugs alike. The prospect of a war-crime tribunal was held like a Damocles' sword over any recalcitrant Afghan political personality. In the able hands of former US ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, it did wonders while ensuring Hamid Karzai's election as president and in consolidating US dominance in Afghanistan."

The Afghans appreciate our help in reforming their army and training their police. They welcome development aid, when it actually performs that service instead of feeding corruption. They deplore the indisciminate bombing by the US air force on civilians and suspects alike. They need help to remove their farmers' dependency on the poppy crop – not the trash and burn policy of the American and British forces. They would rather have dialogue with the moderate elements of the Taliban than see the NATO offensives bring all-out war to the southern provinces. It is their country – we have no right to ignore their wishes.

The very fact of the subsequent high level visits by NATO leaders from Europe and North America to speak of continuing the ‘pacification action' and the soft bribery of ‘development' proves that a peace in Afghanistan that sidelines their own interests is not to their liking. Note that the most involved European NATO countries all have a past record of colonialism and a strong interest in having some measure of influence over the export of the ever increasing production of oil and natural gas from Afghanistan's northern neighbours.

This is the background that all Canadians should look at when they evaluate Steven Harper's visit. Even his words parrot those of his puppet-master George Bush – "no deadlines for the removal of our troops". Canada has a long history of sending troops overseas to keep the peace, as well as to support our allies and friends who are in dire peril. The only interests put in dire peril by the Afghans' own peace initiative are those of the intervention forces. We have recently celebrated the sacrifice of over 60,000 Canadians who gave their lives in the First World War. How well do we honour their memory by participating in the occupation and control of Afghanistan?

Friday, May 11, 2007

Do you see Steven Harper singing more and more from George Bush's song book?

The Opposition parties in Parliament are demanding answers to questions of coverup and carelessness for the welfare of Afghans and all Harper can do is beat the patriotic drum and pretend compassion for the men and women he will send to their deaths in Afghanistan. How dare the opposition ask for information, when he is doing his best to hide the realities from the electorate?

He's also trying to hide the realities from those who will pay in blood for his policies. As yet, they don't get it, but they will.

It would be a beautiful world if the Afghans could enjoy a society as enlightened as ours, but please open your eyes. Those in the Afghan resistance will stay in the country for the rest of their lives – NATO forces will move out as soon as some plausible benchmark can be claimed. Pakistan will always border Afghanistan and have a vital interest in the people governing there — when the troops leave, Canada will likely not even have a direct air link to Kabul. The Indians also share a border with Afghanistan and have as much interest in seeing a government in Kabul remaining independent from Pakistani interference as is the converse. What hope for the dawning of this beautiful world?

The Americans have attempted to play the Great Game in the region against the Russians and Chinese. They want to ensure the pipelines from the barely tapped oilfields to the north go straight across Afghanistan to the ocean and to whatever markets the Americans deem appropriate. In the process they want to prevent Iranian oil pipelines taking oil to India. The Russians are winning so far – using oil and gas from Kazakhstan for their own consumption while they sell Russian oil and gas to Europe. The Chinese are also looking to gain control of these resources just across their border. What business does Canada have in becoming involved in this mess?

European NATO countries are in Afghanistan in order to exert some measure of influence into these cross currents of oil diplomacy – because they are dependent upon oil and gas imports. Not so Canada. While the Chretien government joined in when the Taliban government was overthrown in order to lessen the opprobrium of the States and the pro-US apple polishers in Canada; as a country, we have never accepted that our nation has to toe the line to George Bush's war policies. That is until the Harper government took power. Someone should tell Harper that a sovereign country is not an Enron or some other vehicle of convenience for his political games, but a nation of people who have a right to chart their own destiny.

I know perfectly well the present government has never owned up and admitted their slavish adherence to US right-wing objectives, but I don't expect them to. I have lived too long under Tory rule in Alberta to ever expect an honest answer or even any answer at all that is more than a whitewash or a shut-up. Steven Harper is an MP from Calgary for a reason. The electorate there has been well trained to sit up and bark when the Tories offer a tidbit. Many of the Albertans who vote Conservative – both Provincially and Federally – know more about the US system of government than Canada's. Many of them look to the south rather than to Canada for their ambitions – until the US bites them, as with the mad cow border closure. The Harper administration is essentially a Calgary operation – the same one which fleeces the whole of Canada with inflated oil prices at the pumps. The corporate policy is profit and to hell with the people who live in the country – be it Canada or Afghanistan.

Open your eyes, Canada.