The report on Afghanistan delivered Monday by the Manley panel was deeply disappointing. Its totally predictable findings could have been written without the panel of instant Afghan experts wasting millions of tax dollars.
This whitewash was designed to provide political cover for the Harper government, which has hung its hat on the failing war in Afghanistan, and provide it an escape hatch if the kabob hits the fan. It's the latest example of the Liberals pathetic failure to demand Ottawa answer tough questions about the mess in Afghanistan.
Most disturbing, the report claimed continued military operations in Afghanistan, which has so far cost 79 Canadians dead and untold billions, were necessary to "enhance" Canada's international influence. Two days later, another Canadian soldier died in action.
As one who spends half his time abroad, I can attest that Canada's military role in Afghanistan is virtually unknown to Americans, save occasional pats on the back to the Harper government from Bush administration officials. Many Americans can't find Canada, never mind Afghanistan, on the map.
In Europe and Asia, most people regard the Afghanistan conflict as a 19th century-style colonial war over future oil pipeline routes, and NATO's role there the result of severe arms-twisting by Washington. That's why most NATO troops are kept out of combat.
Canada's position as one of the world's most respected, admired nations has nothing to do with its military role in Afghanistan. Quite the contrary.
Ottawa's rash blunder into a tribal civil war in Afghanistan, and one-sided policy in the Mideast, have put Canada squarely in the gun sights of violent anti-western groups, and make it appear an eager spear carrier in the Bush/Cheney wars in the Muslim world. Every bombed Afghan village breeds new enemies for Canada.
Ottawa is hiding the full truth about Afghanistan from Canadians. Our flag-waving media has further obscured the facts.
When did we last see a report filed from the side of the Taliban and its growing number of allies?
The report's claim that Afghanistan's U.S.-imposed regime is "democratic" is absurd. CIA "asset" Hamid Karzai was installed by Washington and is kept in power by U.S. troops and a stream of cash payoffs to drug-dealing tribal chiefs. His rigged "election" was supervised by U.S. troops and bought with $100 bills.
Afghanistan's so-called "national army" is made up of U.S.-paid mercenaries. The "army" does not need more training, as Manley claims. It needs loyalty to a legitimate national government -- which does not exist.
Half of Afghanistan's population, the Pashtun tribes (source of Taliban), has been largely excluded from political power. Until included, there will be no stability, never mind democracy.
Ominously, the war is spreading into Pakistan. Canada is backing Musharraf's dictatorship in Pakistan while claiming to be fighting for "democracy" in Afghanistan.
The report soft-soaped government corruption. It ignored the 800-lb. gorilla in Kabul: Senior government officials up to their turbans in the heroin trade. Canada, the U.S. and NATO find themselves patrons of the world's leading narcostate, which supplies 90% of the world's heroin and runs on drug money.
The drugs are exported through Pakistan, another key western ally. Taliban eliminated the drug trade before being overthrown.
Most important, Manley's report completely ignored the biggest problem of all. Canada has no political objective in this aimless war beyond making high-ranking Ottawa officials feel self-important at NATO meetings.
The Karzai regime, which rules only Kabul, would not last a week without western troops. There is no prospect of national political consensus until the Taliban and its allies are brought into the process. The reborn Afghan Communist Party is again a dominant influence in Kabul, including running torture prisons to which Canada had, until recently, been sending captives.
Canada is not being ennobled by this sordid, ugly, drug-fueled war. Its honour and reputation are being injured, its security endangered.
The Manley report is the political equivalent of a subprime mortgage. It does the nation a disservice. Eric Margolis writes a regular column for the Toronto Sun.
© 2008 The Toronto Sun