Forty years ago this month I left the Republic ofVietnam after 19 months in I Corps with forward unitsof the Third Marine Division. During that time Iparticipated in operations from Chu Lai to the DMZ andwore out six pair of boots in the process. At 21 Iweighed about 130 pounds and had a 27 inch waist.However, that kind of experience is not a diet planthat I would recommend to anyone.
I was lucky, almost sixty-thousand of us died thereduring the ten year period from 1962-1972. Thousandsmore went home scarred and mangled, some carryingproblems like Agent Orange that would not be noticeablefor years. Today the US Veteran’s hospitals are filledwith men of my generation still suffering the effectsof that war.
Now the US is entangled in a war in Afghanistan andIraq, a war whose outcome looks to be no moresuccessful than the Vietnam misadventure, and thoughthe number killed may be fewer, the effects willprobably be no less damaging to another generation.Unfortunately, unlike the Vietnam conflict, Canada hasjoined the US in their latest fiasco, committing troopsto the Afghan theatre of the war. Almost seventy havebeen killed to date and there is no telling what thefuture effects will be on our troops as the diseasesand poisons that they acquire begin to show up, oftenyears later.
About half of all Canadians do not support Canada’sinvolvement in this war. This lack of support poses aproblem for the Canadian government which could losethe next election over it and the propaganda mill hasbeen churning out various messages ranging from “itsabout reconstruction” to the evils of the Taliban andthe usual war on terror spook stories. History, ofcourse, tells us a different story.
In an article written for the web edition of the Globe& Mail on July 6, James Appathurai, a spokesperson forNATO, makes the argument for staying the course anddrags out the Taliban boogeyman. What he fails tomention is that the same Taliban that have beenassigned the role of villain now were heroes twentyyears ago when they were fighting for the Americansagainst the Russians. The Russians of course were inAfghanistan to help with development and facilitate astable Afghan government. Sound familiar? One mustask that if development and a stable government are the goalin Afghanistan, why did the US and others spend so mucheffort blowing up and destabilizing the country whenthe Russians were there to do what the allies say theyare doing now? Far fewer people would have been killedor displaced had the world left the Russians and theAfghans alone.
Mr. Appathurai, like many others, repeats the badTaliban mantra, pointing out the harshness of life inAfghanistan under their rule. Granted the Taliban werenot nice people, but what is not said is that beforethem and after the Russian backed government, thingswere worse. One reason that the Taliban achieved poweris because they brought law and order to a country rifewith chaos and civil war. In the wake of the currentinvasion and occupation of the country, conflict againrips apart the country. It is not for nothing thatmany Afghans have said that as much as they dislikedthe Taliban, things are worse now.
The record of western powers invading and occupyingAfghanistan has been one of one western defeat afteranother. It is probably a pipe dream to imagine thatthis occupation will turn out any better. The Karzaigovernment, the equivalent of the Vichy government inFrance under the Nazis, is corrupt and despised. Theopium trade, once curtailed by the Taliban, is boomingagain, and the allies are killing more civilianbystanders than the Taliban. The only good news isthat for western military contractors there is a lot ofprofit to be made. Blood money, but so what?
Last week the Chief of Defense Staff, Gen. Hillier,said that if the Afghan mission were better explainedto Canadians that seventy-five per cent would supportit. This sounds a lot like the US administration’swishful thinking on Iraq as they pour more and morebodies into a nightmare that many of their generalseven say cannot be won. It might be that if themission were more truthfully explained to Canadiansvery few would support it, aside from those who canturn it into a profit making opportunity.
A young captain in the Vandoos, now being deployed toAfghanistan, said that they were going to Afghanistanto give the Afghan people a society like ours. Iwonder if he ever thought whether or not they mightwant a society like ours, even if it were true thatthat was the reason for going there? More likely theywill keep their own society and ours will suffer thewaste of more soldier’s lives, and the squandering oftruck loads of money that could have gone intohealthcare and other more worthwhile efforts.