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Squandering Resources on War

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Forty years ago this month I left the Republic of Vietnam after 19 months in I Corps with forward units of the Third Marine Division. During that time I participated in operations from Chu Lai to the DMZ and wore out six pair of boots in the process. At 21 I weighed about 130 pounds and had a 27 inch waist. However, that kind of experience is not a diet plan that I would recommend to anyone.

I was lucky, almost sixty-thousand of us died there during the ten year period from 1962-1972. Thousands more went home scarred and mangled, some carrying problems like Agent Orange that would not be noticeable for years. Today the US Veteran's hospitals are filled with men of my generation still suffering the effects of that war.

Now the US is entangled in a war in Afghanistan and Iraq, a war whose outcome looks to be no more successful than the Vietnam misadventure, and though the number killed may be fewer, the effects will probably be no less damaging to another generation. Unfortunately, unlike the Vietnam conflict, Canada has joined the US in their latest fiasco, committing troops to the Afghan theatre of the war. Almost seventy have been killed to date and there is no telling what the future effects will be on our troops as the diseases and poisons that they acquire begin to show up, often years later.

About half of all Canadians do not support Canada's involvement in this war. This lack of support poses a problem for the Canadian government which could lose the next election over it and the propaganda mill has been churning out various messages ranging from "its about reconstruction" to the evils of the Taliban and the usual war on terror spook stories. History, of course, tells us a different story.

In an article written for the web edition of the Globe & Mail on July 6, James Appathurai, a spokesperson for NATO, makes the argument for staying the course and drags out the Taliban boogeyman. What he fails to mention is that the same Taliban that have been assigned the role of villain now were heroes twenty years ago when they were fighting for the Americans against the Russians. The Russians of course were in Afghanistan to help with development and facilitate a stable Afghan government. Sound familiar? One must ask that if development and a stable government are the goal in Afghanistan, why did the US and others spend so much effort blowing up and destabilizing the country when the Russians were there to do what the allies say they are doing now? Far fewer people would have been killed or displaced had the world left the Russians and the Afghans alone.

Mr. Appathurai, like many others, repeats the bad Taliban mantra, pointing out the harshness of life in Afghanistan under their rule. Granted the Taliban were not nice people, but what is not said is that before them and after the Russian backed government, things were worse. One reason that the Taliban achieved power is because they brought law and order to a country rife with chaos and civil war. In the wake of the current invasion and occupation of the country, conflict again rips apart the country. It is not for nothing that many Afghans have said that as much as they disliked the Taliban, things are worse now.


The record of western powers invading and occupying Afghanistan has been one of one western defeat after another. It is probably a pipe dream to imagine that this occupation will turn out any better. The Karzai government, the equivalent of the Vichy government in France under the Nazis, is corrupt and despised. The opium trade, once curtailed by the Taliban, is booming again, and the allies are killing more civilian bystanders than the Taliban. The only good news is that for western military contractors there is a lot of profit to be made. Blood money, but so what?

Last week the Chief of Defense Staff, Gen. Hillier, said that if the Afghan mission were better explained to Canadians that seventy-five percent would support it. This sounds a lot like the US administration's wishful thinking on Iraq as they pour more and more bodies into a nightmare that many of their generals even say can not be won. It might be that if the mission were more truthfully explained to Canadians very few would support it, aside from those who can turn it into a profit making opportunity.

A young captain in the Vandoos, now being deployed to Afghanistan, said that they were going to Afghanistan to give the Afghan people a society like ours. I wonder if he ever thought whether or not they might want a society like ours, even if it were true that that was the reason for going there? More likely they will keep their own society and ours will suffer the waste of more soldier's lives, and the squandering of truck loads of money that could have gone into healthcare and other more worthwhile efforts.

 

Jerry West grew up on a farm in California and is currently Editor and Publisher of THE RECORD newspaper in Gold River, BC. Graduate with Honors and graduate school, UC Berkeley. Member, Phi Beta Kappa. Vietnam veteran and Former Sgt. USMC

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