Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Organizing Against Deployment to Afghanistan

A coalition of Quebecois groups that oppose war and empire have been conducting a letter-writing campaign directed at soldiers in the Canadian Forces who are currently stationed at CFB Valcartier, of whom 2000 will deploy to Afghanistan later in the summer. As of yesterday morning, more than 3000 letters have been sent, providing soldiers with "a dissenting point-of-view about [their] deployment that we hope will prompt [them] to reconsider [their] participation." The group has also set up a support phone number and an email account for soldiers who are considering resisting deployment.

For the full text of the letter, click here or see below.

The letter is usually sent with a list of citations by war resisters from Canada and the U.S., found here.

For the top page of the campaign's website, look here.

The email containing this information (which I have so far received from at least three different sources) advised that the coalition wanted people to "Please forward and post widely; especially post to any contacts you have in the Canadian Armed Forces, whether based at CFB Valcartier or not." As well, "If your group, collective or organization would like to endorse and support the mailout campaign, please get in touch." If either of those applies to you, please go ahead and do it!

And here is the full text of the open letter:

For several months you’ve been preparing for your mission to Afghanistan, and you will be leaving shortly for Kandahar. During your training, you’ve been told again and again that your mission is to stabilize Afghanistan, to win the hearts and minds of Afghans, to liberate women, and to establish democracy. We are writing this letter to offer you a dissenting point-of-view about your deployment that we hope will prompt you to reconsider your participation.

The Afghan people have never attacked Canada or Québec, and had nothing to do with the attacks of September 11, 2001. Still, Defence Minister Gordon O’Connor -- who used to work as a lobbyist for corporations and public relations firms who profit from war – recently stated that your presence in Afghanistan is “retribution” for 9-11. [Edmonton Journal, January 21, 2007]

The Canadian government defends its involvement in Afghanistan in the name of women’s liberation. However, the Afghani government that you are defending is comprised of warlords who are just as brutal in their treatment of women as the former Taliban regime. In the words of the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA):

“The corrupt and mafia government of Mr. Karzai and its international guardians, are playing shamelessly with the intolerable suffering of Afghan women and misuse it as their propaganda tool for deceiving the people of the world. They have placed some women into official posts in the government who are favored by the warlords and then proclaim it as symbol of "women's liberation" in the country.” [RAWA Statement on International Women’s Day, March 8, 2007, www.rawa.org]

Your deployment in Afghanistan means complicity with the civilian deaths and other activities – like the transfer of prisoners to potential torture and death – that are tantamount to war crimes; here are some examples:

  • this past April, US airstrikes killed at least 57 civilians in Herat Province, more than half of who were women and children [International Herald Tribune, May 12 2007];
  • earlier, in Nangarhar Province, another 19 civilians, including an infant, were killed indiscriminately by US troops, who forced journalists to erase their videotapes of the incident [CBC News, March 4, 2007].

Canadian troops too have been involved in civilian deaths:

  • in March 2006, soldiers shot dead a taxi driver riding near a patrol [CBC News, March 15, 2006];
  • in August 2006, a 10 year-old boy was shot and killed [National Post, August 23, 2006];
  • in December 2006, an elderly Afghan man was shot and killed [CTV News, December 13, 2006];
  • in February 2007, there were two separate incidents involving the killing of Afghan civilians by Canadian troops, including a homeless beggar [Canadian Press, February 17, 2007, CBC News, February 17, 2007 and CTV News, February 19, 2007].

The Afghan mission is based on lies. Canada’s military role in Afghanistan – which began in 2002 – is directly linked to George Bush’s “War on Terror”. 2500 Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan means 2500 more US soldiers in Iraq, despite widespread opposition to that war. The “War on Terror” has been a failure, and has meant less safety and security in the world, particularly for the civilian populations of the Middle East. According to your commander in Afghanistan, Major-General Andrew Leslie: "Every time you kill an angry young man overseas, you're creating 15 more who will come after you." [CBC News, August 8, 2005]

The “Taliban” was declared defeated back in 2002 by George Bush and Donald Rumsfeld, but more than five years later, they’re inexplicably back and stronger than ever. It’s clear that as long as there are foreign forces in Afghanistan, there will be thousands of average Afghans motivated to actively resist those forces. In North America, the mass media brands all opposition to foreign occupation as "Taliban", that dangerously serves to marginalize all Afghani resistance.

Canada’s role in Afghanistan is a trap. It means on-the-ground Canadian soldiers become “cannon-fodder” for the illogical and unjust policies of generals and politicians.

As armed forces soldiers, you know better than anyone the potential consequences of resisting orders to participate in this mission. But you can refuse to participate in this war. Already, one Canadian reservist has refused to serve in Afghanistan. Daily, US soldiers resist orders to serve in the Middle East, and many have come to Canada to seek refuge.

We write this letter in the spirit of dialogue and debate. We write also to offer our concrete support, in confidence, if you do decide to consider resisting deployment to Afghanistan. Our contact information is below; don’t hesitate to get in touch.

-- Coalition Guerre à la Guerre (Quebec City) >>
-- Coalition Québec pour la paix (Quebec City) >>
-- Block the Empire (Montreal) >>
-- Rassemblement Outaouais contre la guerre >>
C.P. 55051, 138 Saint-Vallier Ouest, Québec (Qué) G1K 1J0
418 208-7059 * info(AT)valcartier2007.ca *

Please circulate widely!


Anonymous said...

I sincerely hope they are charged for this. As a serving member I will say this....regardless of whether they agree with the conflict in Afghanistan, they should have no right to directly contact military members or our families. They can stand on the streets and protest all they like or write letters to the editor or blog about it. Given the emotions present when a family member is deployed, a purely partisan political tactic like this is disgraceful. As for the so-called resistor, I will say this...reservist choose their deployments, he was fined for missing an exercise and chose to make a cause celebre out of it. That speaks to more his values than his brothers and sisters in arms.

Scott said...

I can certainly appreciate how deployment must be a deeply emotional time. It must be tremendously difficult for families and for those who are heading overseas.

However, I am afraid I do not agree with you at all in your condemnation of this tactic. You call it "partisan", which makes me think you may have understood this as some sort of publicity stunt for some political party or other. But it's not -- I have little time for party politics and would have been unlikely to post such a thing if that was its intent. It's not about getting votes for some party. It's not about winning some purely intellectual contest of ideas. It's about people killing and dying, and doing so for the sake of lies and to the benefit of empire. It doesn't get much more urgent than that, and the kind of initiation of respectful dialogue represented by this open letter is the very least that we need to be doing as human beings of conscience in response to the role that this country is playing internationally.

I suspect the odds are against you dropping by this post again, but if you do so, I would be interested in your response to the actual content of the letter.

Anonymous said...

So, if I'm understanding properly, our troops need to DO MORE in Afghanistan for groups like RAWA? Tons more? Because it there is still such a great degree of oppression for women who have every right to have freedom, then we should send more troops and squelch sharia law and terrorism that is spreading throughout this world through Great Britain, France, the U.S., and Canada....yes, Canada. You have some interesting neighbors right around you.

Scott said...

Hi anonymous...nope, don't think you're understanding properly.

War and colonization cannot liberate women. If it could, you'd think RAWA would be asking for more Western troops, bigger guns, more bombing. Yes, they oppose the Taliban, but you know what? They oppose the occupation too. In fact, stirring up hysteria about the need for white men to protect brown women from brown men is an imperial trick that has been used to drum up support for imperial war for centuries in the West, often with the support of some strands of white-dominated feminism.

And the idea that there is some sort of imanent danger of radical islamist tyranny in Western countries is ridiculous. Ending the occupations of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Palestine; instituting more just global economic relationships; and dealing with the racism that diasporic communities in Western countries must struggle with every day would largely take care of the legitimate grievances that those inclined to terror maniuplate for recruiting purposes. Ordinary police work with full respect for civil liberties would take care of whatever was left over. Sending more troops just makes things worse.