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Foreign Correspondent
by international syndicated columnist & broadcaster Eric Margolis


Copyright: Eric S. Margolis, 2006

March 13, 2006

PARIS - Scattered across South Africa’s wind-swept veldt are the forgotten graves of 266 Canadian soldiers killed from 1899-1902 fighting to impose British Imperial rule on fiercely resisting Boer farmers. The Canadians were part of an Imperial Army sent by London on its latest colonial adventure.

A century later, Canadian troops have again been sent to fight as auxiliaries in another remote war- ­ this time Afghanistan, a nation many Canadians could not locate on a map.

Since time immemorial, when great emperors went to war, they summoned contingents of their vassals and tributaries to their standards. So it was in Afghanistan, and then Iraq, when the US decided to invade those nations and demand its allies join the so-called `war on terrorism.’

Under irresistible pressure from Washington to aid its highly unpopular military expeditions in either Iraq or Afghanistan, America’s allies and NATO partners opted for the lesser evil, Afghanistan.

That is why 2,100 Canadian troops have ended up, in of all places, in Afghanistan, a nation in which Canada has absolutely no strategic, commercial, cultural or emotional interests.

But Canada’s new minority Conservative government, taking a page from the Bush Administration, latched onto the Afghan War as a handy way of generating new patriotic support and showing it is `tough,’ unlike its unwarlike predecessors.

Now, as the number of Canadian military casualties continues to rise, the confused and dismayed public rightly asks, `what are we doing there? We thought it was another peace-keeping mission.’

Thank Ottawa and Canada’s media for misinforming the public. There was no significant debate in parliament over sending Canadian soldiers into combat.

The media indulged in flag-waving and mawkish human interest stories instead of warning Canadians they were walking into small but real war.

Canadians are not peace-keeping in Kandahar: there is no peace to keep. They are there to help impose US rule over Afghanistan, and safeguard routes for planned oil pipelines.

Nor are Canadians fighting `world-wide terrorism,’ as they are being told. The most active and dangerous extremist groups these days come from North Africa and Western Europe, not Afghanistan. Taliban, however backwards and brutal, was not a terrorist organization but an anti-communist religious movement.

Taliban did not know Osama Bin Laden, a national hero of the anti-Soviet war, was going to attack the United States. Its leaders agreed to hand him to an international tribunal provided the US presented evidence of his guilt ­ in other words, a normal extradition under international law. Washington refused to provide evidence and demanded he be turned over.

Afghans refused to betray an honored guest without proof of his guilt ­ proof, by the way, which has never yet been presented even though US Secretary of State Colin Powell promised after 9/11 to release a White Paper containing evidence of bin Laden’s involvement tin the crime.

But none of this matters to the flag-wavers. Canadian soldiers are on a war-fighting mission, auxiliaries in the US-led military occupation of Afghanistan. In the southern heartland of the nation’s largest tribe, the famously warlike and xenophobic Pashtun (or Pathan), US forces and their allies are seen as foreign occupiers and enemies of Islam. Pashtun are slow to act, but ferocious when they do, and they never, never forget a wrong.

For some reason, Ottawa agreed to put its little garrison into Afghanistan’s most dangerous area, Kandahar, in the center of Pushtun territory and heartland of Taliban ­ which is still fully active. Many Afghans do not differentiate between Americans and Canadians.

Afghan tribes are taking up arms against their foreign occupiers in a spreading jihad. I saw this happen during the 1980’s, when growing hatred of Soviet occupation forces ignited a national uprising.

Today, in the eyes of many Afghans, the US has merely replaced the Soviets as that nation’s latest occupier. All past occupiers, starting with Alexander the Great, were driven out by the fierce Afghan tribes.

Canucks are prime targets. They lack effective liaison with circling US warplanes that normally bomb and rocket any attackers within 2-3 minutes of an assault. Such deadly instant response by US air power has so far limited attacks on US forces, and forced the resistance to resort to roadside explosives and car bombs, as in Iraq.

The US $1.6 billion monthly Afghan war is stalemated. National resistance to occupation is growing. The US-installed Karzai regime in Kabul would not last a day without foreign bayonets.

The former Taliban regime almost totally suppressed the heroin trade. Its overthrow by the US caused an 800% increase in heroin production.

Today, Afghanistan is a narcostate. It supplies 90% of the world’s heroin; the economy runs on drug money. This is the regime `democratic’ regime Canadian troops are defending with their lives.

Parliament, media, and all Canadians have got to begin debating what their soldiers are doing in this narcostate in a stalemated war that lacks any foreseeable political resolution.

Forget all the cheery propaganda fed to the gullible press, including the latest preposterous excuse for sending troops: to promote women’s rights. Afghanistan is a dangerous mess and Canadians are right in the middle of it ­ and in the middle of other people’s war.

When more body bags come home from Kandahar, as they likely will, Canada’s politicians are going to have to start explaining to the public what, exactly, its soldiers are dying for in Afghanistan. So far, aside from mouthing empty platitudes, they have not.

Monkey see, monkey do. Why can’t Canadians, a sensible, temperate and intelligent people, at least make their own mistakes instead of aping those of the United States. Canada’s jolly little colonial war may turn very nasty.


  • What a pity Serb war criminal Slobodan Milosevic died before he could be judged at the Hague. Serbs need to see and understand the full extent of his crimes and incitement of religious and national hatred, and understand how deeply this communist turned Balkan Nazi befouled their nation’s reputation.

  • The on-again, off-again brain-numbing nuclear negotiations between Iran and the west seem at a dead end, but never give up on the wily Iranians. They are among the world’s most tenacious, irritating, and difficult negotiators and love brinksmanship. A deal is still possible, the moods on both sides are hardening.

  • We learn that the cost of George W. Bush’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has now surpassed, in constant 2006 dollars, the cost of the Vietnam War at its height, when the US had 550,000 troops deployed there. This means two things: first, the US military is too expensive to use for more than a few weeks; second, the war has become a financial black hole. Defense(should we call it `offensive’) spending is up 70% since Bush took office. Remember President Eisenhower’s warnings about the military-industrial complex?

  • The French are indeed getting fatter government surveys show ­ mainly young French. French-hating overweight Republican golfers will be delighted by this news. But the culprit, it turns out, is US or American-style fast food joints to which French youth is flocking. It’s known, appropriately, as `le mal bouffe.’ In food, as in currency, the bad money always chases out the good. Or as a 18th century French thinker noted, ‘nothing is as contagious as bad taste.’ French nationalists are going to jump all over this latest example of Yankee imperialism.

Published at since 1995 with permission, as a courtesy and in appreciation.

To read previous columns by Mr. Margolis: Click here

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