Feb 26 2010
During the Vietnam war, American forces were obsessed with body counts. In a jungle war where the South Vietnamese and US forces were theoretically in control of all territory, while actual military control extended only to the nearest treeline, counting enemy deaths served as some kind of grotesque marker for military success. In the end, these metrics were utterly beside the point. The Americans bugged out under the cover of a peace deal that was promptly torn up as communist tanks crashed through the gates of the presidential palace in Saigon.
Americans and NATO forces like our own don’t publicize body counts anymore. It’s not just because Vietnam tainted the practice. Partly, this is because they work for politicians elected by populations that have only rarely been comfortable with the scale of carnage made possible by industrial methods. Body counts may have helped certain soldiers win promotions, but this sort of information doesn’t do much to win the hearts and minds of the home front. Instead, we focus today on the more traditional metrics of success on the battlefield — territory and the support of the people who dwell within it.
These days, it is the Taliban who are obsessed with body counts — as usual, without distinguishing combatants and civilians. In the heart of Kabul, seventeen Afghans and foreigners were murdered this morning by suicide attackers. The enemy boasts of their “glorious” victory over medical doctors, a documentary film-maker, government officials and three Afghan policemen. It was a brutal act, only slightly dulled in its effect by the parade of Taliban atrocities that have come before it.
While the Taliban are focused on the body counts of doctors, film makers, aid workers and ordinary Afghan civilians, ISAF and the Afghan National Army are concentrating on the end-game. It’s not about counting corpses — it’s about boots on the ground and ordinary Afghans having a chance to get on with their lives without worrying about getting their throats slit by barbarians.
We’re still early into this surge, as our own soldiers and our allies have finally been given the resources they need to do the job. But the early signs are promising. Finally, we can start looking at what comes after the thugs have been routed. By 2011, we may already be a good ways along this road.
The Canada-Afghanistan Solidarity Committee (CASC) will unveil its Vision for Canada’s Role in Afghanistan Post-2011 on March 9 at the National Archives Hall in Ottawa. The event, called “Canada and Afghanistan: Keeping Our Promises”, is hosted by the Free Thinking Film Society of Ottawa and is also a fundraiser for the Afghan School Project.
This Vision document will outline recommendations for how Canadians can best remain involved in Afghanistan, in terms of both civilian aid and the security that is essential for providing that aid. Abandoning Afghanistan is not an option:
“The threat of abandonment by Canada, the U.S., Britain, and other major NATO countries is not just causing fear and dismay among our Afghan friends,” says CASC senior adviser Lauryn Oates. “It is encouraging the Taliban, and it is encouraging the worst kind of corruption. It is making things worse for ordinary Afghans, whose rights our soldiers have been fighting and dying for.”
CASC’s Vision is based on unprecedented and far-ranging consultations carried out with participation from Canada’s Afghan immigrant community as well as a cross-section of the Afghanistan population. The consultation includes feedback from ordinary citizens as well as politicians, human rights workers, elders, community leaders and experienced analysts.
This event will raise funds for the Afghan School Project (ASP), a Canada-based grassroots initiative, established by the Canadian International Learning Foundation. The ASP provides financial and administrative support to an educational institution in Kandahar, Afghanistan, which provides more than 700 women and men with the opportunity to receive education, while providing members of the community with access to the Internet and online classes from Canadian and international institutions.
Speakers at this event include:
• Major-General (Ret’d) Lewis Mackenzie. Served in the Canadian Forces for 35 years, including a UN peacekeeping command in Yugoslavia in 1992. Awarded the Order of Canada in 2006
• Ehsanullah Ehsan, Director of the Afghan-Canadian Community Centre in Kandahar City
• Nasrine Gross, Afghan-American writer and human rights activist
• Dr. Nipa Banerjee, currently a professor of international development at the University of Ottawa, served as Canada’s head of aid in Kabul for three years.
• Dr. Douglas Bland, Chair of the Defence Management Studies Program at the School of Policy Studies, Queen’s University
• Lauryn Oates, Human rights and gender equity activist; CASC senior advisor
• Terry Glavin, Award-winning author and journalist. One of Canada’s leading voices in support of our Afghanistan campaign.
March 9, 2010, 7:00 pm
National Archives/Library of Canada, 395 Wellington St., Ottawa
Tickets: $30 regular admission, $15 students
• Purchase tickets online:
Online at http://www.canilf.org/news/
• Purchase tickets in person:
Ottawa Folklore Centre (1111 Bank Street, Ottawa)
Compact Music (190 Bank; 7851 ½ Bank Street, Ottawa)