In a previous post I predicted that the Vimy Ridge rededication this week would be used by the Harper government as part of its attempt to shore up flagging support for Canada’s military mission in Afghanistan. Tragically, on the eve of that ceremony, six more Canadian soldiers have been killed, reportedly by one of the “improvised explosive devices” used so effectively by the insurgents in Iraq. In my report written for the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, I showed why IED’s would prove deadly for NATO soldiers in Afghanistan, and it gives me no satisfaction to be proven right.
We do Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan no favour by viewing them as the successors to the fallen at Vimy. However hideous the slaughter of the “Great War”, it is unquestionable that the Canadians in France and Belgium were fervently welcomed by those for whom they fought. Not so in Afghanistan.
In Sunday’s London Independent, Chris Sands reports that Afghans in Kandahar increasingly oppose the presence of NATO troops in their province, and more and more open in their support for the Taliban. Rampant criminal lawlessness and the rapidly rising toll of civilian casualties inflicted by NATO troops has turned public support back towards the insurgents: “At least we were safe under the Taliban” seems to be an increasingly heard remark. More ominously, this feeling may be ready to turn into active support for the insurgents.
If this happens, Canadian soldiers will be caught in the same quagmire as the Americans were in Vietnam, and now again in Iraq. In their efforts to prevail militarily they are instilling fear and hatred in those they purport to help. It took thousands of dead GI’s before the American people came to realize the futility those conflicts. Let us hope the Canadian people will learn the hard and bitter lessons of Afghanistan more quickly.