Friday, May 25, 2007


I have to say up front that I am ambivalent about Afghanistan. I think I represent the huge middle ground of opinion on this issue in Canada. Let me explain to both the hawks and doves why I (and I would contend the majority of the rest of Canadians) feel the way I do.

I agree that Afghanistan is an entirely different situation than Iraq. The intervention in Afghanistan was entirely justifiable, given the events of 9/11. I also agree that our troops and other officials are trying mightily to help the people of Afghanistan recover from 30 years of war, and for that they deserve our thanks. Frankly, I don't think you could find many Canadians who would disagree with either of the above statements. But, there are things about the "mission" in Afghanistan that bother me and keep me from embracing it unreservedly.

The biggest reason for my ambivalence stems from the quality of leadership we are getting, on Afghanistan. The elephant in the room is the Bush Administration. I trust neither Bush's judgement nor his honesty and as long as he is president of our largest ally, it is highly unlikely that I will trust the decisions being made about Afghanistan in NATO. And, seeing our Prime Minister hugging the Bush Administration so closely, even to the point of using their catch phrases (cut and run, etc.), only serves to reinforce the uneasy feeling I get that our government will not question a president who needs to be questioned, closely.

The detainee issue is a perfect illustration of the mistrust I have in our government's ability to lead us in an intelligent way. We are signatories to the Geneva Conventions and our government, through its action and inaction, seems indifferent to the consequences for our troops should we ignore our responsibilities under them. Given the lessons of Abu Ghraib (another huge elephant in the room), it is unsettling that our government would dismiss the issue so summarily (even to the point of trotting out the beleaguered President of Afghanistan to use as a shield for our PM).

So, the bottom line for me is trust. Until I can trust our leaders, both domestically and internationally to make competent and legal decisions in the conduct of the mission, I will not feel comfortable with our involvement in Afghanistan, despite my desire to help the people there.
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