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Bye-bye Canadian military
I don't normally post here about my trainspotting exploits, but CN extra train 351 went through Southern Ontario today with sufficiently interesting cargo that it's worth noting. 351 had around 80 flatcars of Canadian military equipment heading for the US and is the second such train to pass in the past week.
The military equipment is every conceivable piece of machinery the military has that runs on tires, or so it appears. What it is up to, I really don't know, but I am very curious. Perhaps Canada is invading the US? Not likely, of course, but you never know with the US military being so thinly spread around the planet...
For my photos of this curious train taken this afternoon in Ingersoll, Ontario, see this page.
Anyone have any idea what these hundreds of army trucks are actually up to?
Canada's role in the War in Afghanistan
I have a problem with war. All war. Sometimes, though, it is necessary for a generation to be sacrificed in the name of a cause. My question: is Afghanistan one of these?
I've implied in previous posts that I disagree with our role in Afghanistan. I'd like to clarify this a bit.
In World War 2, Canada joined its allies when they faced imminent invasion. It wasn't a case of a perceived but false threat, it wasn't about defending another country's internal human rights, it was about defending our allies from invasion, pure and simple.
Things like the Holocaust didn't figure into the decision in 1939. It was not a "just" war in that sense. We, as a country, did not know what was happening, and even contributed to it with our own refusal to take in refugees, never mind the fact that we actually interned Canadian people of "enemy" heritage in camps right here, in Canada.
So who got invaded in 2001?
Well, the US did. The official report says 19 people, mostly from Saudi Arabia, flew four planes into 3 buildings and a field on September 11th, 2001, killing three thousand people including Chris Carstanjen, a friend in the IT department at my high school who was on UA 175 bound for a motorcycle show in California.
As a result, the US, with the backing of the United Nations, invaded the already war-torn country of Afghanistan, ostensibly to catch Osama Bin Laden, a CIA-trained international "terrorist" who had fought on the West's side against the Soviet invasion of, well, Afghanistan, because he was alleged to have orchestrated this attack on America.
After running him on 'Afghanistan's Most Wanted' for a few Saturday nights, they decided he wasn't going to be caught and all of a sudden, it became a "just" war about defeating the evil Taliban who follow a rather extreme view of Islamic law and tradition.
So Canada joined in this "just" war.
As Scott Brison said the other night, millions of people who couldn't go to school, many of them young women previously not permitted to be educated, are now there.
The regime has been toppled and now we fight skirmish battles. Our soldiers are dying, and our soldiers are killing. It's still a war.
Is it a "just" war?
It's awfully subjective. Yes, some people's lives are better, in some cases much better, because of the US-led and ally-heavy invasion of the country. Some civilians are dying. It's an unfortunate consequence of nearly all wars, but civilians were dying before we arrived, too, executed for such offences as being seen in public with skin visible.
On the face of it, these reasons alone should be enough for us to invade a country and "liberate" it. Though if it is, there are certainly a lot of countries we could justify invading for human rights violations. Canada, for one and two, is no stranger to human rights violations, though at least we have abolished the death penalty for our own people.
We have been in Afghanistan for around four and a half years. We have around 2000 troops there, roughly the number of our soldiers captured at the Battle of Dieppe. The total troops in Afghanistan right now count in at approximately 21,000.
The War in Europe started September 1st, 1939, and ended May 8th, 1945, a span of about five and a half years. For that war, Canada alone had 1.1 million people - around 10% of the population of the country - join up over the course of the war, losing 45,365, from a population about 1/3 of what it is today. If we are to take a "just" war seriously, that is serious.
In Afghanistan, there are fewer troops from all the Allied countries combined than Canada alone lost in the Second World War. In fact, there are fewer Allied troops in Afghanistan than the 35,000 sworn police officers in New York City.
If it is really about being a "just" war, we'd be in Darfur, separating warring sides and preventing massacres.
Is it a "just" war?
Maybe. But if it is, we are certainly not treating it like one.
To turn an invaded country around, we have to do more than hold an election and offer children a chance at going to school. We have to rebuild the infrastructure ourselves and create a sustainable economy not based on the production of heroin. And we need to have enough soldiers there to have a fighting chance of actually accomplishing something in the long term.
After the Second World War, the United States rebuilt Germany and Japan into the economic powerhouses they are today, with the Marshall Plan. It was a massive reconstruction effort aimed at rapidly and effectively rebuilding the countries after years of bloody war.
Neither country has ever gone to war again.
Do I support the war?
No. Not as we're currently fighting it. Either we should do it properly, or not at all.
As we're fighting this war right now, all we are doing is perpetuating a quarter-century old conflict in Afghanistan. If we stay or we leave, it doesn't really matter, the civil war will go on. If after four and a half years the domestic forces haven't strengthened enough to fight for their own cause, who are we to fight for them?
Michael Ignatieff argues that it is a peacekeeping mission, and says we need more of them to avert future Rwandas, an assertion backed by UN Rwanda mission commander, Canadian Lt. Gen. Romeo Dallaire.
I disagree with the first assertion, and agree with the second.
Our war in Afghanistan is not a peacekeeping mission. We have chosen a side. But yes, we should do more peacekeeping missions.
In Afghanistan, we did not avert a Rwanda by invading. Human rights were being violated, but not significantly more than in many countries around the world. The human rights violations had not just begun and were not in the midst of getting more serious.
But in the Darfur region of Sudan, we might. People are being massacred there, by all accounts, and the international community is doing virtually nothing about it.
If we are not really there for the Afghan people and human rights, why are we there?
This article adresses this question at length. We are in Afghanistan, prolonging our mission for one reason and one reason alone: the United States needs us there. We sent our troops to Afghanistan in the first place to free up American troops to go to Iraq, and we are keeping them there to show solidarity with the alpha male of our Allies.
Neither our former nor our current government has ever come straight out and said this. A war under false pretenses is not a war I can support. If the government were to come straight out and say "either we go to war in Afghanistan, or we face more problems in our relationship with the United States," then at least they would be honest, and the question of whether to extend our mission or withdrawn our troops would be seen through an entirely different lens.
In short, I don't believe our war in Afghanistan is justified in the way we like to pretend it is. I don't truly believe that our contribution to the war will serve to bring a lasting peace to Afghanistan. I also don't think we have any strategy figured out about how we plan to turn Afghanistan over to its own people and eventually leave. Our two year extension will inevitably turn into two more, over and over again, until a real strategy is created. And finally, I don't believe our government has been honest about why we are there.
Don't let it be said that because I do not support this war as it stands that I do not support our troops in Afghanistan. Our troops are doing their job as they are asked to by our government, and they are doing an admirable job of it. No army that questions its orders or challenges the reasons for its presence in a battle will maintain the morale and resolve to perform its mission.
In my view, the best way to support our troops is to ensure that what they are fighting for is worth it. To have a national debate on the topic, as we are doing, is the healthiest approach to answering this question.