Cold Hard Wonk

No sentiment but politics

Disingenuity on Focus

Posted by JJ in Vague Check, All Politics, Crossroads of Culture (Sunday October 29, 2006 at 10:48 am)

It was inevitable that protests against the Canadian mission to Afghanistan would follow a rise in casualties and the first well-publicised Canadian military action in decades. Was it inevitable that casualties would lead to intentional obfuscation?

It began with former Prime Minister Paul Martin’s critique of the mission:

“You can’t win the military war if you can’t win the hearts and minds of the people,” Martin said.

He said that he approved what military planners refer to as the “3-D” approach to the mission: diplomacy, defence and development.

“We are doing the defence,” Martin said. “In fact, we are doing the defence quite aggressively — and you can’t do it passively.

“But are we doing the amount of reconstruction, the amount of aid that I believe was part of the original mission? The answer unequivocally is that we’re not. And I believe that we should.”

Timed brilliantly to follow the loss of four Canadian soldiers to a suicide bomber while handing out aid on a tour of the southern region. Let alone that these deaths were suffered while doing what Martin claimed wasn’t being done. The attack, plainly designed to make the population fearful of Canadian aid-givers would surely be unnecessary if Canadians weren’t providing aid, would it?

But that assertion of a misguided mission is the position opponents are flocking to. In this corner, we have Jack Layton, NDP Leader, repeating the mantra of “unbalance”:

[The mission is] not well constructed, it’s unbalanced, we’re putting 10 times as much into the military side as we are into aid, and we now have famine and real problems spreading in Afghanistan,

In truth, there was a famine going on in Afghanistan before the invasion. Besides which, when the military is the body delivering aid, isn’t it disingenuous to suggest that you can separate its budget from the aid budget for comparison? How much of that “military side” is money spent on aid?

If you’re appealling to quick emotional reaction (whether anti-war or anti-Bush), that’s the kind of question you don’t want people to ask. Which is why the crucial element is suggesting that the mission’s mandate is either to carry out purely American ends or uncertain:

Brian Mason, who leads Alberta’s NDP, said military families in the province often look for “some really good reason why they’re involved in what they’re doing.

“But, I think that increasingly, some of them are starting to question why their loved ones are over there.”

This goes so far, in some cases, as to be an out-and-out lie:

Contrary to endless misleading stories in the mainstream media, the Canadian mission in Afghanistan is NOT a NATO mission, nor has it been specifically authorized by the UN. It is, in fact part of the American Operation Enduring Freedom begun in 2001. (My source? The Canadian Department of National Defense:…_e.asp?id=1703 )

A quick trip to the cited source reveals the following:

More than 2000 members of the Canadian Forces (CF) are in Afghanistan today at the request of the Afghan Government, most of them as part of the UN-Sanctioned NATO-led International Stabilization Assistance Force (ISAF) mission

So why fight so hard to obfuscate the mission? After all, anyone interested in finding out more about the mission’s professed aims and objectives could do so by a simple check on NATO information? Is this a Michael-Moore style “fight disinformation with disinformation” campaign? Do Canadians really not bother to check on the most elementary of claims by their would-be leaders?

Don’t answer that last one, you might cry.

That this approach would profess to spring from genuine concern is especially baffling when it could so easily shift to something real from straw men and misdirection. As a former US soldier put it at a protest in Toronto:

We refuse to participate in an illegal and immoral war under the guise of freedom,

A position which requires more. Why is it illegal to be in Afghanistan? Why is it immoral to do what NATO is doing there? To adopt such a position would require informing Canadians and engaging them in real debate. But that, sadly, doesn’t seem to be on some to-do lists.

No comments for Disingenuity on Focus »

No comments yet.

Leave a comment


(required but not published)

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI