Toronto Terror Conviction and the War on Terror in Afghanistan

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The Toronto Star

Toronto Terror Conviction and the War on Terror in Afghanistan

by
Haroon Siddiqui

Saad Khalid of Mississauga has been sentenced to 14 years for planning terrorist attacks in Toronto. Earlier, a co-accused was found guilty on a related charge. Nine others are awaiting trials. But NATO has not bombed Mississauga or invaded or occupied it, let alone killed and displaced tens of thousands of civilians there.

Yet it continues to do precisely that in Afghanistan, ostensibly to prevent just such terrorist plots.

Setting aside all the propaganda about liberating Afghan women and other imperial good deeds, even Barack Obama has come to define the NATO Afghan mission in terms of our own security – preventing the re-emergence of Al Qaeda bases that were eliminated with the Taliban in 2001.

There are Al Qaeda bases in Pakistan, though. And active Al Qaeda branches in Saudi Arabia and North Africa. NATO is not invading those parts of the world.

For good reason.

Most terrorist attacks are coming from insurgents/militants in U.S.-occupied Iraq and NATO-held Afghanistan. In the West, they are mounted by "home-grown cells," which are not Al Qaeda cells at all, or even "Al Qaeda-inspired," as the lingo has it.

Rather, they are disparate groups driven to vengeance for western misdeeds against Muslims and given to draping their mission in misguided notions of jihad.

Nor are many, or any, of these people from madrassas. They are products of our public schools. Yet there are no blanket calls for closing down or "reforming" such schools, let alone bombing the soccer and cricket fields – and pubs – that these culprits may have inhabited.

Their criminal plots are best smashed by police, using paid informants if need be, and the perpetrators charged and, if found guilty in swift and transparent trials, appropriately sentenced.

This is what has just happened.

Which takes us back to Afghanistan: What are we doing there?

After spending eight years and $200 billion, America has just been told by its top commander there that it is not a good idea to bomb weddings and kill the bride, the bridegroom and the guests. It's also stupid to kick in doors and enter people's houses in the middle of the night, shouting instructions in English that nobody understands.

Gen. Stanley McChrystal has also conceded what's been known all along: Afghanistan has been going downhill ever since 2006, a fact denied or fudged in varying degrees by Ottawa and other NATO capitals – and the dutiful pro-war media.

Accepting reality can be the first step toward fixing a problem. But that may not be the case here, given the extent of the mess and the inability of NATO – the U.S., in particular – to do anything well other than perform as a killing machine.

Within days of Washington vowing yet again to protect civilians, an American jet blasted two fuel tankers hijacked by the Taliban Friday, killing scores of civilians who were just collecting free fuel.

Of the three conditions McChrystal has laid out for success – "a revised implementation strategy, commitment and resolve, and increased unity of effort" – the last two are clearly missing.

When he comes calling for even more troops than Obama has committed, there'll be few takers.

Obama's, and Ottawa's, promised civilian component for economic development in Afghanistan and Pakistan is yet to fully materialize.

His, and NATO's, hopes of an incorrupt and credible government has been dealt a blow with the fraud-laden presidential election and Hamid Karzai's political alliances with warlords, war criminals and drug dealers.

Karzai, hand-picked by the Americans in 2001, is no longer taking orders from Washington. He can see how unpopular the U.S. has become among his fellow Afghans.

As if in tandem, public confidence in the NATO mission is sinking in member nations, as people tire of sacrifices that don't bear proportionate fruit. They can clearly see what their governments don't want them to.

Haroon Siddiqui is the Star's editorial page editor emeritus.

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