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Shared in accordance with the "fair dealing" provisions, Section 29, of the Copyright Act.


Dodging the real questions

O'connor only spouts support-our-troops rhetoric to counter doubts about Afghanistan

Jim Mc Nulty, Montreal Gazette, 16 Nov 06

Article Link (Subscription required)


As sales pitches go, Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor's

promotion of Canada's mission in Afghanistan is more remarkable for

what he leaves out than what he puts in.


His speech this week to the Vancouver Board of Trade was full of

patriotic vigour and rally-round-the-troops emphasis on the need for

Canada to support freedom and democracy.


In that sense, he didn't need to convert the Canadian public. Of

course we support the troops, and of course we endorse freedom and



But fact is that the public has deep concerns about the mission

that go beyond the death toll of 42 Canadians.


Canadians are worried about other big NATO countries' refusal to

join our troops in the south of Afghanistan, where Taliban put up

fierce resistance.


We are troubled by the ease with which Taliban pour in from

Pakistan, which supported the Taliban prior to 9/11.


Pakistan remains a jihad factory. Its semi-autonomous border

regions with Afghanistan are home to extremist madrassa schools that

churn out Taliban by the hundreds. Pakistan's military intelligence

harbours many Taliban *supporters*.


Canadians remain anxious about the expansion of Afghanistan's

poppy-based drug economy, fuelling heroin supplies around the world.


And at the end of the day, Canadians wonder about fighting for

freedom and democracy in a country that counts dozens of warlords,

drug lords, thieves and other seriously corrupt individuals in its

barely-functioning government.


Stephen Harper's team might not have all the answers at hand, but

it needs to at least address the questions - something O'Connor

failed to do in any meaningful way.


He completely avoided the subject of Pakistan's questionable

resolve in the battle, and the corruption in Hamid Karzai's regime

in Afghanistan.


On the drug issue, he said it was a responsibility of British

forces, which have so far failed spectacularly.


As to the unwillingness of NATO partners to join Canada in the

south, O'Connor said "it's our expectation as time goes on in

Afghanistan that these caveats will be removed."


One month ago, Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay said that

Canada "cannot continue to do this" without more NATO support.


Asked how much longer "cannot continue" means, O'Connor replied

that "we are quite capable of keeping the commitment we have in

Afghanistan going into the future as long as you can imagine it."


That doesn't jibe with Mac-Kay's statement, and it won't wash with

the public, a majority of whom said in a recent Environics poll that

Canada should withdraw troops before its 2009 scheduled pullout



Platitudes and rhetoric are no substitute for strong answers on

tough questions.

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