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Monday, October 13, 2008

Afghanastan... 97 Canadian Lives Lost

And for what?
On September 11, 2001... several fuel-full, long haul aircraft were hijacked and used as flying bombs to wreak havoc on the world. They were ultimately aimed at four targets in the United States of America, ostensibly the center of the economy which was the strategic target of the terrorists flying them, and their leader, Osama bin Laden. 9/11, which the attack became known as, is now a term that lives on, ignominiously, in the fabric of not only the USA, but also of practically every country that had nationals working in the area of the Twin Towers, The Pentagon and on the planes that crashed there, and in Shanksville, Pennsylvania that day.

The President of the USA, George W. Bush apparently decided to lead America into attack mode, and to garner support and help from the nations of the UN and NATO. Many joined him in the moment, and committed men, armaments, money and so on... to find, capture or kill bin Laden and his cohorts. In the years since, the allies have been wreaking havoc on Afghanistan where it was considered that the leadership ruling the country, the Taliban, where protecting the 9/11 conspirators. It has never been proven that the Taliban (which is a Wahhabi Muslim sect) were a part of the conspiracy, or that they were actively protecting bin Laden (who is a member of the Sunni Sect)... in fact, there has been evidence that in fact the Taliban were shunning bin Laden because of the suffering he had brought down upon them by attacking the USA. Sunnis and Wahhabi Muslims do not like each other, more evidence that they probably were not in cahoots.

Either way, the war started, with the USA in the lead, but tens of thousands of allied soldiers, airmen and supporting diplomats and laymen involved. The idea, was to capture bin Laden, and to rid Afghanistan of the Taliban, which was clearly a terrifying government... but probably not a culprit in 9/11. Many of the countries that joined in, did so in order to provide the building blocks for the free society that was hoped would replace the Taliban. While it has been known for centuries that the hundreds of tribes were unlikely to ever band together to have a free society, George W. Bush and others thought otherwise, and lead the attack. They would be fighting against the very people they had helped arm and support through the CIA to fight against the Russians through the 1980s; and most of the weapons carried by the Taliban in 2003 were originally supplied by the USA, or were captured from the Russians when they abandoned Afghanistan, in defeat.

So... Canada, among the allies, went to Afghanistan to help train the Afghan army, to help build a police force and legal system, build schools and other engineering projects that would be necessary for the newly elected (which would happen on October 9, 2004) government of President Hamid Karzai, to be successful. This was in 2001 (remember the battle of Tora Bora in eastern Afghanistan was in December of 2001). All was well with this process until March of 2003.

George W. Bush, still not having any luck finding and killing (as promised to the people of the USA around September 20th, 2001) decided to practically abandon the war on Osama bin Laden and terrorism... and move on to Iraq. He justified it by rationalizing that Saddam Hussein was a funds source for the 9/11 attack; that he had WMD (remember that acronym for "weapons of mass destruction"); that he was funding new conspiracies against the USA... and so America must rid the world of Saddam. He massed 100,000 troops in Kuwait and Turkey, attacked and following the opening shock and awe of American might announced success in the war on terror... MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!

Except, he had both miss-judged what was necessary to close out Iraq; and what it would take to capture bin Laden and fix Afghanistan. Unfortunately for the allies, Bush decided that Iraq required more attention and funding. As a result, resources from the USA were taken from Afghanistan and focused on Iraq. To date, America has spent 1/70th of the nearly trillion dollars spent in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq... in Afghanistan!

So, the Allies had to improvise... commit hard military assets to beat the resurgent Taliban and supporting insurgents. They would have far less military support from the USA so they had to begin putting down a resurgent force that has been successful for over 1,000 years, against almost every army of every dominant country. Also, they had to abandon much of the effort to rebuild the country... win the hearts and minds of Afghans, so we could have a stable western nation in the heart of Islam.

So, when Bush abandoned his own troops in Afghanistan and those of the Allies by underfunding, with holding man and machine of war... he allowed bin Laden to escape in to the mountains of Eastern Pakistan; allowed the Taliban to reassert itself against President Hamid Karzai; and caused Canada and its allies to take on significant losses... dead and wounded soldiers.

At this juncture, we have in Canada suffered 98 deaths in the combat troops. We are often criticized by our neighbor to the south for not contributing to the war on terror. I believe that this is an inordinate commitment to the cause. We have only 10% of the population of the USA, so I would argue that this is a substantial commitment.

Add these 97 to the 600 Americans, and around 100 from the other countries in the Allied contingent and we find that there has been an unreasonable cost as a result of the abandoning of the war by George Bush and his supporters. The Canadian contingent will have thousands wounded and will have spent $18 billion by the end of the commitment in 2011... an enormous financial burden, for so little return... no bin Laden; no peace in Afghanistan; no reduction in global terrorism; no reduction in opiates in the market and so on.

So where do we go from here... I would encourage us, the Canadian part of 'us' to follow a plan that does not use military might, at all. We should understand that the goal is to find a solution to terrorism, and to bring the conspirators of any, any past or future terrorism to justice. It has been suggested by the British Military that one way to accomplish this is to utilize the Taliban and its leader, Mohammad Omar to establish calm in the country. Further to negotiate with the Taliban, which is a fundamentalist Sunni Islamic group to mitigate the negative aspects of its governing style so that they are able to rid the country of the drugs, the terrorists and war. Negotiate to ensure that the population is supported and the infrastructure rebuilt in safety. And keep their feet-to-the-fire to ensure that they don't slip back into the treatment of women that has been the center of objection to their interpretation of the Sharia Law of Islam.

It is critical that we acknowledge that the success (I use that word, success, although I don't like the implications) of the conspirators of 9/11 has gone far beyond the destruction of that day. I attach the Iraq war and the incredible costs in lives and a trillion dollars that America didn't have, to 9/11 . I attach the popularity of George W. Bush in the near-following years to his ability to push through trillions of dollars in tax relief to the rich, which America didn't have. I attach that same popularity that resulted from the country's resolve coming together after 9/11 to approve various dissolutions of regulations that would have prevented the recent melt-downs in the markets and allow sub-prime mortgages for more folks that also didn't have money. And ultimately for the recent meltdown and the despicable manner in which George W. Bush continues to shirk responsibility for nearly taking down the banking system and our way of life.

The Canadian part of me tells me that Canada needs to learn that it's strength is in it's resolve to do the right thing, not what other countries tell it to do. By saying no to George W. Bush regarding attacks on Iraq in 2003, the country, under the then liberal majority government made a very good decision based on the right reasons. Too bad that when the war in Iraq started to go bad, and the American military demanded that Canada go into the Kandahar district and battle a resurgent insurgent group of terrorists... the Conservative minority government and its propping supporting parties didn't say NO.

As Canadians, we need to learn from these experiences with the mighty neighbor to the south... we must stand on our own two feet. We must say no to deregulation of the banking sector and any sale or merger of the five major Canadian Banks. We must say no to further penetration of the northern permafrost for oil exploration or pipelines because of the environmental damage it is causing. We must say no to any further military action that is not in the support of peace keeping... and when we go to keep the peace, we must be prepared to fight for what is right, but first protect our men at arms.

As Canadians we must begin to advance into the new environmental realities... we must innovate in non-carbon dioxide generating energy, and research and fund innovation in the reduction of the need for that energy which is wasted (eg: heating the winter outdoors; lighting the night sky; intermodel transport of goods and people; cooling/drying the summer outdoors); we must lead the world in the development of non-animal, edible protein and carbohydrates that can be produced without destroying the ground we need to live on; we should innovate in our mining of raw materials, and develop human safe, amalgams to use in replacement of the plastics we must rid the world of; research ways to generate large amounts of safe water from the oceans; innovate to channel either rising oceans or the people that will have to live 'on/in' them; design ways of life and education for our people that will obviate the need for chronic healthcare as we know it today.

There are lots of things to do... yet we have just wasted 45 days of an election campaign arguing about such pettiness none of us actually learned how tomorrow will be different from today, or for that mater... yesterday! That is because we have wasted not only the 97 lives, but what they stand for... commitment to a cause! Not one leader lead into the election... tactical poppycock was the maximum we got... because we are not committed to the future.

The only way Canada will even be part of the future of the world is to stop accepting the status quo. To stop living within the roles that bind us in yesterday... behind the leaders... America, China, India, Japan. We need to step out... to have vision. We must be positive, and I think the way to start is with change here in Nova Scotia... now...

I ramble... I will pick back up some day...

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Grad. Saint Mary's University, 1975, got into the medical device business initially in sales, then various management positions up to president, all in Medical Devices. I prefer therapy products over diagnostic, but they are all fun, and in a way have defined my life. I have now evolved, with help from my 35 year partner Lynnda with whom I now share every hour. I am into staying healthy, photography, kayaking, bicycling, gardening and two books a week. I wish I had gotten to this stage earlier!