Shoot to kill

Please chip in to support more articles like this. Support today for as little as $1 per month!

Watching Canadian soldiers kill and be killed raises legitimate questions for political leaders to debate openly.

Jack Layton did more than make a lot of New Democrats proud with his call for Canada to withdraw its troops from the shoot to kill mission in Afghanistan by February of next year.

By asserting that there should be political control over Canada's fighting role, the NDP leader raised an issue that could well define, not just the next election campaign, but the very nature of the military roles Canada takes on in the world.

His act of leadership provoked a lot of negative response, but reason and intelligence are on his side. Watching Canadian soldiers kill and be killed raises legitimate questions for political leaders to debate openly. Why are the military deployed, what are the objectives of the mission, and who it is we are supposed to be helping?

No satisfactory answers have been forthcoming from the government; it is not enough to say we are there to support our troops. Layton is right, the time to put a stop to this costly military adventure is next February, the original date for withdrawal of Canadian Forces.

Why is Canada in Afghanistan? One answer is provided by Compas polls that have shown that Canadian business leaders consistently want to support the U.S. on security issues in order to promote better trade relations. On March 19 the Canadian embassy in Washington began an advertising campaign. Riders on the subway system in the U.S. capital could see Canadian soldiers featured on posters bearing the caption “Boots on the Ground / U.S.-Canada Relations: Security is Our Business.” Beginning back in May of 2004 a government website called Canadian Ally was set up to inform Americans about Canada's role alongside U.S. troops.

Canada is in Afghanistan because the Americans are, but the U.S. rationale is no better. The U.S. undertook military action in Afghanistan in response to the September 11 bombing. The mission was to capture Osama bin Laden and prevent his al-Qaeda terrorists from carrying out additional action against the U.S.

After marching into Kabul and overthrowing the Taliban government, the U.S. has found itself engaged in hostilities against tribal warlords bent on making a living by selling opium. Now the Taliban are once again the enemy, apparently, along with Pashtun tribes.

When the Americans decided to invade Iraq, their new interest diverted attention from Afghanistan where the Soviets lost a similar engagement, following a similar military triumph in Kabul in 1979. By setting up a centralized government the U.S. has succeeded in uniting groups that would have been better dealt with one by one.

Human Rights Watch has characterized the current government as one run by warlords, with some 20 per cent of legislators maintaining private militias.

The U.S. is a military democracy, Canada is not, and that irritates some in the Canadian military who have been itching for the kind of authority over public policy enjoyed by the military in the U.S. How much better it would be to open a public inquiry into how we got involved in the first place and why the military got to set the terms of engagement and the mandate without parliamentary debate or public discussion.

Prime Minister Harper has to answer to an independent inquiry on how he allowed the military to make policy on behalf of Parliament, and his government.

Further Reading

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable. has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.


We welcome your comments! embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:


  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.


  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.