OTTAWA — Canadian soldiers and increased aid will be needed in Afghanistan for at least another two decades, says the head of UNICEF Canada. Nigel Fisher says heated political debate in Parliament over the length of the Afghan mission is misguided. ... "What we should be doing is questioning why we’re there, and coming up with a rationale that holds water and that the Canadian public could understand — even if they don’t agree.”
Strong stuff. Although a little troubling. We should come up with a rationale, after the fact, to justify our presence in Afghanistan, and it's not important whether or not the Canadian people agree with the policy, just so long as they understand it? What if the Canadian people actually want to exercise their democratic right to end a conflict that they don't agree with? What then?
"It’s when you give confused messages, or all we see is Canadian soldiers coming back in body bags, that we don’t see the positive side of what they’re doing.”
Well, the message is going to inevitably be "confused" when 1.) The Liberal decision to go into Afghanistan was done without much thought or consultation with the Canadian Forces, and 2.) Regardless of whether it's Liberal or Conservative, both parties will wish to go there to prop-up some Western puppet, regardless of the wishes of the Afghan people themselves.
But I take issue with the idea that Canadians aren't hearing about the good things that we're doing over there. Every couple of days there's a heartwarming story about Canadians building schools, handing out candy, building soccer fields, etc., for the Afghans. Canadians' confusion or ambivalence about the mission isn't due to an absence of reportage about the good we're supposedly doing. It's because at bottom, this whole affair feels a little murky.
MPs should be discussing ways to refocus and increase aid in ways that the Afghan people — and Canadian taxpayers — can measure, he said.
Well, sure. And, more to that effect:
But Canada’s help would be more obviously effective for people on the ground if it were less “thinly spread” among so many areas, he said.
I read something recently to the effect that CIDA is spending more time consulting with Afghans and trying to find Afghan contractors to build needed infrastructure, while the Australians are winning greater praise for just simply going ahead and building things themselves.
While there's room to discuss which form of development assistance has the overall advantage, the big picture about whether this aid is the main focus of the Western countries or not, and whether it will trump all of the violence and political cynicism of "The Mission" is another story altogether.
Keeping with Mr. Fisher's own proposals:
These include an urgent need to help more Afghan women survive some of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world. Much more could also be done to provide books and other basics for Afghan schoolchildren, he said.
Afghans are risking their lives in the most unstable parts of the country to keep classes open, and yet lack the most basic teaching tools, Fisher said.
Canada plans to spend about $1.2 billion over 10 years in aid to Afghanistan by 2011.
Fisher said micro-credit programs to generate local income are among funding successes.
Equipping schools and bolstering services for pre- and post-natal care would have an immediate impact with measurable results, Fisher said. He would like to see annual aid funding boosted to about $250 million, up from the $139 million spent in Afghanistan last year — an increase he says Canada can well afford.
“We could do much more if there were more resources.”
Well, that's just it, isn't it? All of the wealthy countries promised Afghanistan all sorts of reconstruction and development assistance following the country's needless pummelling at the hands of the US military. But when it came time to pay up on those elaborate promises, the rich countries mysteriously fell silent. What aid did come through, was (as I've said elsewhere) spirited out of the country again by dubious contractors from those same wealthy countries.
It's not some mystery why Western leaders didn't pony up the dough like they said they would. The reason for this lack of genuine commitment is because Western leaders really don't care about the people of Afghanistan. It's why we make a hash of things wherever we go. These poor people just don't matter.
If you hope to do some good with Canadian resources, the first thing you're going to have to do is take power away from the arrogant pricks who currently hold it.
I wish I could say something more eloquent, but I'm off.