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Have Canadians been killing and dying for Kandahar's Al Capone?

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With October 2009 marking the bloodiest month of eight years of the latest Afghan War, new revelations suggest that opponents of this war have not only been proven right, but that we have been understating the case against this military occupation.

Nowhere is this truer than with Canada’s ‘mission’ in Kandahar, where the true nature of this western intervention has been laid bare.

Last week, the New York Times reported on its front page that Ahmed Wali Karzai -- the President’s younger brother and the most powerful man in Kandahar Province -- has in recent years regularly received payments from the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). To date well over 100 Canadian soldiers have died in this southeastern corner of Afghanistan; one can only conclude that their lives have been sacrificed to the cause of protecting a toxic brew of nepotism, opium trafficking and graft -- all of it personified by this 'Al Capone of Kandahar,' Ahmed Wali Karzai.

The revelation of CIA payouts was just one of a number of bombshells that the world’s most influential newspaper saw fit to print; and, it’s worth pondering just how much anonymous top U.S. government officials saw fit to leak. Not only do more sources corroborate allegations of Karzai’s role as a drug kingpin, they even reveal that U.S. taxpayers’ money has been paying him rent for their Special Forces to use Mullah Omar’s old compound outside Kandahar City. Part landlord, part puppet -- Canada and the United States’ man in Kandahar.


As it happens, I was in New York last week with leading Afghan dissident, women’s rights leader and suspended parliamentarian Malalai Joya for the launch of A Woman Among Warlords, a timely book I had the honour to co-write with her over the past two years. On our way to one of her media appearances, we discussed the Times article.

“This is a very important revelation,” I earnestly offered.

“But this is not news for the Afghan people, everyone knows this man as a drug lord and a puppet,” Joya responded. She looked at the photo of Karzai, put the newspaper aside and then looked away, out the window.

After a few minutes, she spoke again, softly, “You know, I am not happy how much [events] have proven me right about this occupation.” She talked about the various massacres reported in recent days -- in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.

“Sometimes I wish that what I have been saying had been proven wrong, and that somehow things would have improved. I would have had to apologize for my mistake, but at least the situation would not be this disaster.”


It has now been nearly six years since Malalai Joya, then 25, made headlines at the December 2003 post-invasion Loya Jirga where Afghanistan’s new Constitution was debated and the process of legitimizing the U.S.-installed Karzai government was pushed forward. Since then, she has survived numerous assassination attempts and lived an underground life to continue to air the key grievances of the Afghan people.

While Afghanistan has burned, too many of the progressive forces in the West have fiddled. It’s no secret that the anti-war movement, especially in the United States, has thus far failed to mobilize adequately around the issue, with much of it either balkanizing to the point of irrelevance or folding up shop in deference to (or due to hypnosis by?) the new Obama administration.

But maybe even those of us who have been actively engaged in opposing the Afghan War throughout have failed to fully articulate the scandal of this intervention, which has been put forward in such clear terms by people like Joya.

When she said years ago, for instance, that the Karzai regime was the “most corrupt government in the world,” this wasn’t hyperbole. When she warned that the West had “turned Afghanistan back into the centre of the opium trade,” we were slow to fully articulate just how much our countries’ soldiers and governments were propping up a narco-state.

After a blatantly fraudulent ‘election’ and now mainstream media exposure of the Karzais’ nepotism and corruption, the work of the anti-war movement should in a sense now be easier, if also more urgent than ever.

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