Federal NDP leader Jack Layton

“A comprehensive peace process has to bring all the combatants to the table.” – Jack Layton, Sept. 1, 2006, on the war in Afghanistan

Now that the United States has entered direct talks with the Taliban, one wonders what Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his Conservative camp followers will have to say about this development.

The New Yorker magazine reported yesterday that “the Obama Administration has entered into direct, secret talks with senior Afghan Taliban leaders.”

“The discussions are continuing; they are of an exploratory nature and do not yet amount to a peace negotiation,” cautioned Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Steve Coll.

Alert readers will recall that, back in 2006, Harper and his political and media echo chambers branded New Democratic Party Leader Jack Layton “Taliban Jack” for daring to suggest that the best way to end the pointless and bloody civil war and Western occupation in Afghanistan might be to open lines of communication to the Taliban.

“Is it next going to be tea with Osama Bin Laden? This cannot happen,” sniped Defence Minister Peter MacKay, then the minister of Foreign Affairs.

Primed by the Conservative leaders’ vindictive line, the on-line Tory Rage Machine assailed Layton as naive at best and treasonous at worst, accusing him of betrayal of Canada’s brave soldiers abroad. The usual right-wing suspects posted pictures of the NDP leader Photoshopped into ethnic Pashtun headgear along with their predictably uncreative verbal abuse.

After all, went the conventional official Tory and right-wing echo-chamber wisdom of the day, no good Canadian would ever sit down to speak with unsavoury men who were shooting at Canadian soldiers, even if those same unsavoury men were part of a fragmented coalition that enjoyed the support of a considerable portion of Afghanistan’s Pashtun ethnic majority.

Last year, Harper gave a “cautious nod” to talks with the Taliban — but not by us, mind, only by Afghanistan’s corrupt Western puppet president, Hamid Karzai. Just to be certain, the Canadian prime minister larded on some impossible conditions that no indigenous insurgency, no matter how mild mannered, would accept. “‘There are always important conditions’ that must be met before Canada could endorse any agreement,” the Globe and Mail reported then. “Those conditions would include both the laying down of arms by the Taliban and its respect for the Afghan constitution.” Good one!

Presumably the Harper Conservatives softened their official line this much last year because they knew which way the wind was blowing south of the U.S. border.

But now we have reached quite a different point. The U.S. government is talking directly to the Taliban, who have neither put down their Kalashnikovs nor sworn an oath to uphold the Afghan constitution.

What’s more, the State Department may well be chatting with Mullah Omar‘s men without any involvement by the Americans’ Afghan clients, although the New Yorker states the ultimate goal of the secret negotiations is to broker some kind of formal talks between the Karzai regime and the Taliban.

All in good time, of course. As the magazine points out, it took from 1968 to 1973 before the first secret talks between the U.S. and North Vietnam bore fruit and yielded an agreement to end that pointless and destructive war.

How long this process might take is not likely to be the first item on the agenda for Canadians, of course.

Some of us may want to hear officially what we already know instinctively, that is, how quickly Harper will fall in line and parrot the U.S. position on this genuinely hopeful development. Washington has acted, so that Harper will snap to attention and salute simply goes without debate.

In other words, our prime minister is bound to admit shortly, if only by inference, that in fact Layton had it right all along.

Given that reality, now would be an excellent time for Harper, MacKay and their stooges in the blogosphere to withdraw the offensive “Taliban Jack” slur and apologize to Layton.

Don’t hold your breath waiting for this to happen.

This post also appears on David Climenhaga’s blog, Alberta Diary.

David J. Climenhaga

David J. Climenhaga

David Climenhaga is a journalist and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions with the Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald. He left journalism after the strike...