The visit by President Bush to Ottawa on the weekend – and the magnificent demonstrations against him – reminded me of just what a mess these neo-con boneheads have gotten themselves into. Unfortunately, they’ve taken us down the garden path with them – by diverting social resources from extravagances like social programs and disaster relief (think: Hurricane Katrina) and into military spending instead and by sending young men and women to die in the service of imperialism. And it appears that even on their own terms it’s all been for naught as the British flee from Basra and have all but declared defeat in southern Iraq.
The same future, I would suggest, awaits Canada’s army in the quagmire known as Afghanistan.
This country, one of the poorest on the planet, has borne the brunt of imperialism for hundreds of years. Having the misfortune of being located at the boundary of empires – the Russian and British-controlled India and then between the Soviet and American spheres and now between the Russian, American and Chinese spheres – Afghanistan has been invaded, occupied, and manipulated seemingly forever. And yet it is a testament to the Afghan people that they have never surrendered to foreign occupation but have always resisted and pretty consistently defeated various imperialisms.
Alas, resistance has its price as long as imperialism continues to exist in the world. Ask the people of Haiti who continue to be punished for overthrowing slavery at the end of the 18th century. Or the people of Palestine. Those who resist must be made to suffer more than all the rest as a lesson. And for the people of Afghanistan they have the misfortune of not only supplying an object lesson to others who might pursue an independent path. They are also a key link in an inter-imperialist rivalry in that region. The Americans want/need to isolate and contain the growing Chinese threat. And they need to prevent the Russian empire from re-emerging and re-consolidating control in the Caucasus. Afghanistan has become key to that battle – it is the route through which gas and oil from Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan need to pass if they are to avoid Russian control or passing through America’s arch enemy, Iran. And of course, to avoid China, except as a market.
Beyond the immediate resource needs, the America can’t hegemonize/dominate the Caucasus region if there is a restive Afghanistan at its rear. It’s a basic premise of military doctrine that you never leave your rear vulnerable. If the Russians or the Chinese or the Iranians could insinuate themselves into Afghanistan, the Yanks would be in trouble. And so, there we are, as part of the Yankee Doodle Democracy (gas pipeline) Brigade.
And the mess is getting bigger every day as we bomb, harass and dominate growing numbers of Afghans into the arms of the Taliban. With the machinations of global power politics behind our intervention in the region, could it have been any different. These are the reasons why Canadian troops are being shot at. These are the reasons the insurgency can't be defeated. You'd think after Vietnam - hell, after the drubbing that the Soviets go int Afghanistan in the 1980s - that somebody would figure this stuff. Apparently not.
Anyway, it’s heartening that a majority of Canadians now oppose the intervention in Afghanistan. We can only hope that sentiment can be mobilized to force our government to withdraw the troops before more die. Keep your eyes - and calendar on October 27, that's the next big national mobilization against the war in Afghanistan.