Sunday, June 25, 2006

Who exactly are the enemies of freedom?

Make a habit of two things — to help, or at least to do no harm.

La Presse article 1

I include a comment from LeDevoir. You may not agree with all of it, I don’t, but it’s a rather Quebecois piece of analysis.
Le Devoir article

Since it was the Liberal prime ministers, Jean Chretien and Paul Martin, who initially committed our troops to Afganistan, Liberals should have no fear asking about the progress of the mission. Is it meeting its objectives? Do the objectives need to change since the Liberals first sent the troops? Are we helping or doing harm?

Who are the enemies of freedom?

Al Qaeda flew planes into the World Trade Center which ostensibly triggered the invasions of Afganistan and Iraq. As it turns out, the American intelligence reports were wrong and there were no Al Qaeda in Iraq before the Bush led invasion. No one would deny that Al Qaeda is in Iraq today. Al Qaeda were definitely in Afganistan where the Taliban, a distinctively Afgan phenomenon, permitted Al Qaeda to operate within its borders with impunity. The original American mission as it was popularly presented was to capture members of Al Qaeda and in particular their leader, Osama bin Laden. The Taliban were an obstacle to that goal and if they had turned over bin Laden, the invasion would never have occurred. Over time, though, the emphasis in the war has slowly but clearly shifted to a new goal: destroy the Taliban.

I first heard about the Taliban in a New Yorker article that appeared, I believe, in the summer leading up to the September 11th attacks. I was struck by the story of how a Taliban mob had beat a well known Afgan poetess nearly to death in the local market for the crime of lifting the hood of her obligatory bhurka to look briefly in her money purse. Although the harshness of the Taliban repression was shocking to Western readers of the New Yorker, there were no plans to occupy the country at that time. Depending on whether you ask a woman, a homosexual, or a person of colour we don’t have to look too far back into the bigoted past of North America to find examples of when the violation of certain social taboos particular to our culture was met with equally grotesque acts of repression. We manage to muddle through on our own. It is doubtful that a violent foreign military occupation would help that process.

Google search: taliban,8599,175372,00.html

Most accounts report that the Taliban were tolerated by their countrymen because they brought peace to a war torn nation. It may be hard for us in the West to understand, but then again most of us have not lived through twenty years of war between competing local clans, vicious opium smuggling gangs and several foreign interests, including the Russians and the Americans. The Americans equipped the Taliban among other groups of “freedom fighters” to push back the communists. After the communist retreat, factional war intensified until the Taliban restored order. Interestingly, during their tenure as the government of Afganistan, besides bringing peace, the Taliban to their credit significantly reduced the volume of the opium trade. The American invasion of Afganistan however reversed this trend and opium production is running again at an all time high, bringing an influx of hard cash to a region with extreme and violent politics.

When I read about Afganistan and the Taliban, I have to be honest, I feel completely out of my depth. I wish more Canadians, especially our politicians and media editorialists, would admit publicly to the same.

Someone who can rightly claim to have a reliable working knowledge of the complexities of the situation is the democratically elected president of Afganistan. He believes that the excesses of the Western crusade “Operation Enduring Freedom” waged against the Taliban are not helping. Violence is on the increase. And the aggressive tactics of the American lead war is trampling on the sovereignty of the legitimate government. The result is a potential backlash with people who look, at least to their fellow countrymen, a lot more like patriots than terrorists fighting to liberate their country from foreign domination.
La Presse article 2

Who are the enemies of freedom in the West? They are the train bombers in Madrid and London. And, if the allegations are true, then the frustrated Toronto bombers as well. Yet no evidence appears to link directly the Toronto conspiracy with the Taliban in Afganistan. And then there is the group of black men arrested in the U.S. last week who had no bomb material or money or plans. They were not short on talk, though, it seems. Besides being a sign of desperation from a tired Bush administration scared by their prospects in the upcoming midterm congressional elections, I suspect that the motivations of these “terrorists” have almost nothing to do with Afganistan and almost everything to do with the idiosyncracies of American race politics. It is not clear to me that lumping all these groups into a single loose category, call it enemies of freedom, the war on terror or whatever you like, will help us to increase public security and promote democracy. Blowing up things and people in the third world may not make it any safer to ride the train in Toronto.


This is the first section of a longer blog which will appear online in parts over the next couple of days.

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