Dec 23 2008

The Long Battle For Hearts And Minds On Afghanistan

Finally, it seems Canadians are winning the battle for hearts and minds on Afghanistan. We’ve already long since won that battle in the country where the actual fighting is taking place (Read the poll numbers Terry Glavin has collected here). Afghans want democracy, don’t want the Taliban and are desperate for international support to help bring these things about. But now it seems even my fellow Canucks are starting to get it. Some signs of progress:

A tireless worker and activist for women’s rights in Afghanistan, CASC member Lauryn Oates is profiled in the Globe and Mail this week as one of the Top 10 To Watch in 2009. An excerpt:

“Canadians seem so focused on the bad, and certainly that is compelling. But for some reason it doesn’t seem to sell to point out all the good things. Just in our small project, we’ve seen incredible changes.”

She said the Afghans she encounters, all ordinary, mostly rural people, are terrified at the prospect of a return to Taliban control.

In the past year, Ms. Oates said, Canadian Women for Women has helped build a new school for girls near Jalalabad from $75,000 raised entirely by Canadian donations.

Contrary to naysayers, Ms. Oates said, ordinary Afghans want international aid and intervention.

“People have this incredible resilience,” she said. “If they’re willing to go on, we have to be behind them. The least we can do is stand by them. This is not about charity or pity. I would never tolerate this in my country.

“I’ve learned how to be a human being there. There is such unbelievable hospitality and kindness, contrasted against such cruelty.”

And in the Georgia Straight blog, soldiers and UBC students Tylere Couture and Sverre Frisch, who have been on the ground in Afghanistan, demolish the foundation of stupidities mouthed by Langara professor Peter Prontzos and offer their own pragmatic assessment. An excerpt from their argument:

These groups have to be confronted with blunt force, the kind of force which requires large quantities of professional, coordinated, and well armed soldiers, not blue helmets under a peacekeeping mandate whose funding is being spent on social projects in Canada. Thus, there is no more a political solution to Afghanistan alone than there is a military solution to Afghanistan alone; the two have to be combined to provide the best possible outcome in Afghanistan.

Canada is in a war against thugs who throw acid in young women heading to school (CNN). It’s a war against psychotic nihilists who use children as remote-controlled suicide bombs (AP). We’re fighting fascists who, when the Taliban owned much of Afghanistan, turned the country into a 5-diamond hotel for international terrorists, while all resources went to subjugating and radicalizing the population.

That part of the world will never have a chance at freedom and a “normal” existence in the community of nations unless we win this fight. I’m glad to see more and more Canadians are on board. If you’d like to be a part of this movement in solidarity with Afghans, here’s your formal invitation to join the cause.

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