Masthead graphic based on a painting by Gudrun Thriemer.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Grant Clubine, Speech to Rally, October 28, 2006.

Welcome everyone, and thank you all so much for coming to this rally and Peace walk today, to show your concern about what is happening to the people of Afghanistan and the terrible situation our federal government have put our soldiers in.

We are the NPC [Nelson Peace Coalition] and we are a newly formed coalition, with members from different local Peace and Justice groups and unaffiliated individuals and we want to invite others from our local communities to join us in learning, gathering and analyzing information and responding to Canada’s role in Afghanistan and our continuing role in international affairs.

Today in solidarity with Peace and Justice activists across Canada, as called for by Canadian Peace Alliance, 35 towns and cities are holding events. In BC alone we have, Comox Valley, Kamloops, Kelowna, Nanaimo, Whistler, Victoria, Vancouver, and Grand Forks, which is having their event at 1pm today sponsored by the Boundary Peace Initiative, The CPA and the USCC. Today we are all rallying in support of the people of Afghanistan, to protect our troops from “our” own government, to demand that our government pursue talks with the people of Afghanistan, the Taliban and all other stakeholders and for our government to abandon their commitment to promoting US foreign policy

It is said that the first casualty of war is the truth. We should have learned this a long time ago. The lesson was presented to us during the Vietnam war, and now this brutal lesson is being taught to us again in Iraq and Afghanistan

We have been lied to. It is so fundamentally critical for us to deeply examine the reasons for going to war in this era of terrorism. If we can’t or won’t learn why terrorism exists, what motivates people to support it, and what steps we can take to remove that support, then it will continue to exist and to flourish

We have turned extreme economic corruption into war, not so called “just wars”, but rather “unjust” wars and as time goes by more and more of the truth will come out. We have been lied to, or at the very least misled. But because we have so much credible information about the lies of the Bush administration on both the Iraq and Afghan files, we may well end up being more embarrassed about how easily we were duped here in Canada, although it seems that huge numbers of us were asleep, we must have been because we are intelligent people overall. We must have been asleep. And we are now at increased risk of being the recipients of terrorist attacks, that our foreign policy will be the cause of. We need to find a new way of looking at war...and peace.

Our 2 traditional methods for finding solutions to or engaging in war are pacifism and ‘just war theory’. There is a third paradigm called “just Peacemaking theory”. Just Peacemaking demands that we examine the cause of terrorism and how and why people are drawn to support it. And it is clear that terrorism is on the increase worldwide. If we are going to stop it, it will be through talking to our enemies and being willing to negotiate with them and by creating and supporting initiatives that correct injustices that cause terrorism. No amount of retaliatory violence will stop terrorism. The British military and the Pakistan government are negotiating with the Taliban and are having some success. Our Foreign Affairs Minister Peter McKay chooses for Canada’s response, jingoism and infantile slogans. He recently stated that the Harper government will never negotiate with terrorists and that there is no one to talk to anyway. To Jack Layton’s suggestion of negotiating with the Taliban, he arrogantly quipped, “what next Jack, tea with Osama Bin Laden”. Shortly after this interview, General Rick Hillier was asked if he thought negotiating with the Taliban was acceptable and he responded by saying that we must talk with them, and with all levels of their leadership. He also said that it was his opinion that the majority of the Taliban are moderates and only a small group of them were extremists.

Canada must create a list of steps that must all be thoroughly exhausted in times of conflict and crisis before moving to discussions on the last resort of war. Since the Bush doctrine of “preventative and pre emptive war”, war has become more of a first choice. We must promote this list of steps worldwide as part of our foreign policy. Peter McKay and his boss won’t do this for us. Peter McKay clearly does not have the skills needed to occupy the position of Foreign Affairs Minister.

Reconstruction efforts are a disaster in Afghan. Although over 20 billion dollars has been allocated for infrastructure, very little is being built and the saddest part is, that just like in Iraq, Afghan citizens are not being allowed to participate in the reconstruction of their own country. The majority of contracts to build schools, hospitals, roads, bridges and houses are being awarded to foreign contractors while the unemployment levels in Afghanistan are at 40-50 % and growing.

How can we expect Afghan citizens to not pick up a gun and fight for the Taliban and get $12 a day pay, so they can feed there families, when some of the only work that is being offered to them is with the Afghan police or army for $4 a day and then also be a target of suicide bombers and roadside bombs. All the while foreigners come into their country and get construction jobs that pay huge salaries. Poor farmers have little choice but to grow poppies for the drug trade and so with US foreign policy being forced on the NATO alliance, the US is effectively creating another narco state. There is the problem of, and I really struggle with this term, collateral damage. How can we expect Afghan citizens to accept this? How can anyone accept bombings and rocket fire as a path to Peace and stability?

Another peacemaking practice we should be promoting and using is sustainable economic development, with an emphasis on community development. We must do this by talking to the Taliban and other stakeholders and respecting how they do things according to their cultures and traditions in their local communities. This is not rewarding terrorists. This is what will separate people from supporting terrorists, when they see that justice can be won more effectively by working non violently than through the use of violence. In addition, we must advance true human rights, democracy and religious freedom, through the use of co operative conflict resolution. In short, meet the basic needs of people, provide opportunities for work with realistic earnings. involve people in decision making and support for terrorism will fade away. This is well documented in practice with the PKK in Turkey, the IRA in Ireland and others.

As much as we are being told that this is what we are promoting in Afghanistan, it is not the truth and we must speak the truth about what is really happening there.

In the late 70’s a progressive Marxist government was in power and had large popular support as it brought in more reforms than the country had witnessed in the previous 200 years. This government gave women equal rights , it affirmed the separation of church and state, legalized labour unions, made health and education priorities, girls were sent to schools and child marriages and feudal dowries were banned. This government also cancelled all debts owed by peasant farmers and land reforms were being studied and planned.

But the US saw only a communist regime and the CIA was dispatched to undermine and eventually bring down this government. This was before the Russians were in Afghanistan. The CIA created the Mujahedeen and helped introduce opium poppy production in Afghanistan to fund the Mujahedeen, otherwise known as the war lords and drug lords. Before the US got involved, Afghan farmers grew a variety of crops and livestock and had a very successful raisin export business. The brutal era of the Mujahedeen with its mass murders and mass rapes, tortures and executions to intimidate any remaining supporters of the government, and so it was in 1994 that the Taliban emerged from the Madrasas’s of Pakistan and the Afghan people supported them in desperation to end the bloodshed and bring stability.

And now the drug lords and war lords are back in power through the US backed puppet regime of Hamid Karzai, while legitimate politicians like Afghan MP Malalai Joya have to pay for private security and sleep in a different place each night to avoid those drug lords and warlords who openly call for her rape and murder, even during sittings of Parliament. Hamid Karzai has refused to protect her, and when she comes to Canada as she did last month to tell what is really happening in Afghanistan, she is completely ignored by the Harper government.

It is little wonder that so many NATO members will not join in this charade and leave Peter McKay crying out that Canada cannot shoulder the weight of this catastrophe by itself and pleading for other NATO countries to step up.

See also John Ryan, "Afghanistan: a Tale of never ending Tragedy," Centre for Research on Globalization, July 19, 2006, which was the basis of a talk presented at a forum preceding Winnipeg's annual Peace Walk in June (Theme: End Canada's occupation of Afghanistan).

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