You have to wonder what guys like George Bush and Stephen Harper aresmoking. The war in Iraq and Afghanistan rages on with no end in sightwhile they make speeches about winning. Meanwhile, the military is tellingus that they are losing. A recent U.S. Marine Corps report on the situation inAnbar province west of Baghdad said that the battle was lost there and that AlQaeda has filled the vacuum.

Other analysts have reached the conclusion that the insurgents are learningand adapting to situations much better than the allies. From all appearances itseems evident that the invasion of Iraq has proven to be a great catalyst forspreading the influence of radical Islamists throughout the region.

Whether this was the intended outcome or not is a good question. It certainly runscounter to the stated purposes of the war but, on the other hand, as long as thewar continues either in Iraq or in one place or another, there are fortunes tobe made from providing the supplies and support to keep it going. There arealso political advantages if one can use fear tactics and support-the-troopschest-beating effectively to control public opinion.

The same applies to the situation in Afghanistan, which after all is really justanother facet of the war in Iraq, and which has at least the same potential tosuck up lives as the Iraq theatre is doing.

Last Monday, Prime Minister Harper used the occasion of the anniversary ofthe 9/11 terrorist incidents in New York and Washington to twist history andjustify deployment of Canadians to Afghanistan. His separation from realityreminds one of George Bush. He actually blamed the Taliban for theSeptember 2001 attacks.

Now the Taliban, who are rather conservative andright-wing like Mr. Harper, are not very decent fellows unless one is areligious fanatic, but pinning 9/11 on them is a bit of a stretch, even for Mr.Harper. This would be the Taliban who had their hands full governing one ofpoorest nations in the world — a nation full of warlords and drug dealers whowere an ever present threat to Taliban power.

The Taliban, as bad as they might have been and might still be, hardly fit thecategory of international threat. In fact, these same Taliban offered to give upOsama Bin Laden if proof could be provided that he was involved in the 9/11attacks. A really good question is why wasn’t that offer pursued instead ofthe implementation by the U.S. of the doctrine of pre-emptive warfare and themassive invasion of the country?

Most Canadians, it seems, are smarter than their Prime Minister. In a recentpoll that asked questions around the September attacks, 53 per centplaced the blame right where it belongs: on U.S. foreign policy. Fewer than40 per cent bought into the propaganda about their being an attack on allwestern style democracies. If Mr. Harper thinks that the war in Afghanistanis about terrorism he is deluding himself, if he doesn’t then he is trying todelude the public.

The Prime Minister also said that it was because of Canadian troops that theTaliban were in retreat. Well, we should have no doubts about the abilities ofCanadian troops; most who I have known take their work seriously and wecan rest assured that they are performing the tasks assigned to them in a verycompetent and professional manner.

The question is, are the Taliban actuallybeing beaten or is the PM just blowing more smoke to fool people intosupporting him? In the type of war being fought in Afghanistan, retreats meanvery little in the big picture. Forces like the Taliban can be in a constant stateof retreat and still win. All they have to do to win is not quit.

Contrary to Mr. Harper’s feel good fairy tales, other news coming out ofAfghanistan the past week was not as optimistic. The former aide-de-camp tothe commander of the British task force in southern Afghanistan quit the armyin disgust saying that the fight was pointless. Mr. Harper’s Defense Minister,Gordon O’Connor made a public statement admitting that we cannot beat theTaliban, and a Canadian security expert reported that our supposed ally — Pakistan — is letting insurgents across the border to attack our troops. InEurope, the head of NATO said that commanders were surprised at the levelof resistance that they were encountering in Afghanistan, and called for moretroops.

I can remember years ago, in another part of the world, commanders weresurprised at the level of resistance and called for more troops. They keptcalling and the numbers kept going up until there were half a million ofthem chasing people who would not give up. In the end, almost 60,000 troops died before the chase was called off.

Karl Marx once said ofhistory, elaborating on Hegel, that events appear twice — the first time astragedy, the second as farce. Canada is fortunate that men like LesterPearson and Pierre Trudeau kept us out of the tragedy. The same cannot besaid for Stephen Harper and the farce.