Trudeau: Calling it as he sees it
I noted this weekend that both The Globe and Mail and The Calgary Herald editorial page took shots at Alexandre Trudeau for his recent comments on Afghanistan. See http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20080823.wetrudeau23/BNStory/specialComment/home
He had recently stated that Canada should end its “aggressive military operation in Afghanistan.” He thought that the Pashtun people should be left alone because they had “extremely different values than ours, values we may not agree with.” In his view we “have no reason to tell . . .how to live their lives,” and that “It’s not our business to try to teach them lessons.”
The Globe first of all pointed out that the Pashtuns was only an ethnic minority in the country, with about 42% of the population. Whether it is 42% or 50% as said by some observers, the Pashtuns are by far the largest ethnic group. The other six major ethnicities in the country are ranging between 3% (Turkmen) of the population, to 18% (Tajik). But I quibble.
The Globe’s editorial then resorted to the usual emotional and graphic rhetoric that we have come to expect from the supporters of the war. It said the Taliban were oppressors and were the “champion of the global league of utterly odious societies,” who, if returned to power, would “resume exporting abroad the venom that fuelled its barbarity.”
The Globe acknowledges that the mission “is far from perfect,’ and that progress towards secular democracy had been erratic – a very rosy description given the view of many on-the- scene observers who would say that progress has been non-existent and is now in considerable retreat.
But the most glaring, misleading statement of the editorial was the statement that there was a question as to whether NATO could defeat an insurgency without “a substantial reinforcement.” The Globe has excellent people on the ground reporting on the war. They must know that the use of such a benign term as “a substantial reinforcement” to describe what NATO needs to win in Afghanistan is further evidence – if any was needed – of a continuing deception on the Canadian people. If the Globe had said, NATO has 50,000 troops in Afghanistan but needs 300,000 to 400,000 fighting men and women - at least! - to win the day and establish democracy, that would have been a true statement. But the Globe didn’t come clean.
At least Trudeau told the truth as he, and many other observers who have hunkered down in alien cultures with bullets whizzing past their heads, sees it. In his opinion, this is not a good war, and its best we get out.
The Herald as is its wont these days, now that it has relegated itself to being a mere pamphleteer of neocon causes, accused Trudeau of uttering ‘defeatist remarks.’ It took issue with his description of Canada’s role as “aggressive” and conveyed astonishment that Trudeau seemed to consider that Canada was part of a 19th century ‘Great Game’ for dominance in central Asia. Well, its not such a hare-brained idea. No doubt the Herald writers – boneheads as most of them are these days – did not know that it is widely rumored that President Karzai was a consultant for Unocal (since taken over by Chevron) regarding the proposed but now stalled Trans-Afghanistan Gas Pipeline to transport gas from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan, thence to Pakistan and India. Chevron, in fairness, is no longer part of the deal. In fairness to Karzai, he denies the rumor. However, in judging the veracity of the rumor it should be kept in mind that Karzai is not popular in the country, is distrusted by most of the people and his government is corrupt.
Then, in a character assassination worthy of the infamous Senator Joe McCarthy, the Herald poses the thought that Trudeau’s use of the word “aggression” to describe the NATO Afghanistan operation exposes Trudeau “to the suspicion he does not wish the military mission well.” Get it? He doesn’t support the troops. Warming to the subject, the writer describes Trudeau’s words as “a slap in the face to every Canadian who grieves a fallen soldier.”
We’ve heard this cowardly stuff before, during the war in Viet Nam and more recently during the Iraq war. The people making the war and their cheerleaders say, you must support the war, and if you don’t, well, then you obviously don’t support the troops – and if you don’t support the troops you are unpatriotic, perhaps even a traitor, etc. That’s what they said about Muhammed Ali when Uncle Sam tried to throw him into the slammer for failing to go to Viet Nam.
The fact is that there are times – and I believe this is one of them – that to advocate getting the hell out of the war, you do support the troops. Our NATO partners are not pulling their weight. Things are going backwards not forwards. There are still bumper crops of poppies, and plenty of corruption. And the Taliban are using our troops for target practice. The Herald ignores all of that. It continues its mindless jingoism and tries to assassinate the character of a young man who dares to tell the world what he thinks and sees as the truth.