Why are we in Afghanistan?

We never hear of the real motive for our involvement in Afghanistan because ‘it stands in total contradiction to how we as Canadians perceive ourselves’

S. Imran Ali, MSc ’08
S. Imran Ali, MSc ’08

Today, approximately 2,500 Canadian soldiers serving under a NATO-led mission in the volatile Kandahar Province in southern Afghanistan sombrely await a violent Taliban spring offensive to burst forth with the ferocity of a river engorged with the winter’s melt.

The impetus that keeps them there today is not that which sent them in the first place.

It has evolved, gradually and discontinuously, from a hunt for ghosts that never materialized following the tragedy of 9-11, to a mission of democratization by force, to the reconstruction of a nation that has not known peace for decades, to a quest to liberate women from the burqah, to whatever the war’s marketers discern will most effectively evoke in the populace the emotion and passion required for sustaining such brutal a venture as war.

However, the marketers are failing their task; only 47 per cent of Canadians support their country’s involvement in Afghanistan, according to an Ipsos-Reid poll late last year.

Lack of meaningful justification for the war drives the decline, as motives are progressively exposed as ineffective, impossible or simply untrue.

There’s widespread acceptance the threat of terror has only been exacerbated by the tragic fiascos in Iraq and Afghanistan. Iraq is a growing, painful testament to the foolishness of attempting to democratize a nation with bombs—democratization which, according to Human Rights Watch, has installed in the new Afghan parliament a majority of warlords, drug barons and their associates.

A recent CorpWatch report has exposed the disgusting misuse and inefficacy of reconstruction funds in Afghanistan by many of the same corporations indicted in Iraq, while the inclusion of humanitarian
assistance into military operations has destroyed perceptions of aid organization neutrality, forcing Médecins sans Frontières, following the murders of five of its staff, to withdraw from Afghanistan where dozens of aid workers have been killed.

Malalai Joya, a champion of Afghan women’s rights and youngest in the new Afghan National Assembly, declared during a recent visit to Canada that foreign soldiers have not achieved any fundamental changes.

She said there can be no basic freedom in a nation living under the shadow of the gun and warlords and said no nation can donate liberation to another nation.

History shows there are no altruistic wars. No nation truly sacrifices the bones of its young men and women and the essence of its economies for reasons that eventually do not return to its own interests.

Why, then, does Canada fight in Afghanistan?

This brutal question delivers one to a sad, familiar place. The petroleum reserves of the Caspian Sea basin are among the largest in the world and are mostly unexploited. Zbigniew Brzezinski, a former U.S. National Security Advisor and highly influential geostrategist, has said control of the vast energy reserves of Central Asia is fundamental for American global primacy.

China, Russia and Iran contend as major players on the chessboard of Central Asia, limiting the only viable route for U.S. control of Caspian resources to the petroleum fields of Turkmenistan, through the south of Afghanistan and from the Pakistani coast to the global trade routes of the Arabian Sea.

To advance the hegemony of the world’s only remaining empire, Canada—under the helm of NATO—fights to cut and control the path for the proposed Trans-Afghan Pipeline through the restive, Talibanheld south of Afghanistan. But we are not without our own interests.

In September 2004, self-proclaimed president-forlife Saparmurat Niyazov of Turkmenistan, a nation described by Human Rights Watch as being on par with North Korea and Burma for political and civil freedoms, invited Canadian firms to develop Turkmen petroleum fields and to be involved in the construction of Trans-Afghan Pipeline. This followed negotiations with a delegation from Calgary-based
Buried Hill Energy Ltd., which included former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien as an advisor to Bennett Jones, a Calgary-based law firm specializing in energy issues. This delegation visited Turkmenistan again early this year to continue negotiations on development of energy reserves, according to the Turkmenistan State News Services.

Chrétien has also lobbied for other Canadian energy interests in the Caspian region.

The collusion of Canadian business and political elites with dictators and repressive states only serves to highlight the disturbing hypocrisy of the war in Afghanistan, a war marketed as one fought for the liberation of a brutalized and oppressed people.

Control of Caspian Basin energy is the geopolitical economic motive for our involvement in Afghanistan
that we never hear of, for it stands in total contradiction to how we as Canadians perceive ourselves—as peacekeepers, humanitarians and a force for good in the world.

We have no other option now but to either re-think our foreign policy or re-think what it means to be Canadian and what values we truly stand for.

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