There were some new developments in the last week or so in Canada's intervention in Afghanistan. We had the first ever combat death of a female Canadian soldier, a sad triumph of equality I suppose. P.M. Harper held a ludicrous six-hour parliamentary "debate" on extending our mandate - an issue of such importance ought to have proper hearings and long study, not a feel-good exercise like that. Even so, he only barely managed a majority with a few votes from the Liberals, the other parties opposing.
And the latest - after an intense fire-fight with the Taliban involving Canadian troops, the Americans came in with jet fighters and Apache helicopters and bombed a nearby village where the retreating Taliban were thought to be hiding. The village, it seems, was destroyed (to save it?) and there was heavy loss of civilian life. (Numbers are disputed, as always in these things, but may be a hundred or more)
A number of serious concerns arise from this incident. First, Canada is supposed to be in charge in Kandahar province. Well, it turns out we're only in charge as long as the Americans say so. The Canadian commander has denied calling in the air-strike and blames it on "higher levels", meaning Americans.
So much for any effort the Canadians have been making in establishing rapport with the locals.
The proponents of Canadian involvement say that the purpose is to help the Afghans by building schools and so forth, and that because of the Taliban presence, military force is needed to protect the reconstruction effort. If so, air-strikes which destroy entire villages are completely counter-productive, both in physical and political terms.
We have to ask, do the local people want us there or not? (I don't care what Karzai says) I don't think this question is being addressed. If not, then this is just another colonial exercise of the powerful West telling the "backward" East what's best for them.
If we must be there, we should establish clear rules of engagement and if we are in charge in the operational area of Kandahar, as advertised, then that ought to mean that the Americans are barred from blundering in there with their heavy-handed fire-power whenever they want. If they won't agree, we should say "G'day" and leave them to it.
Will Harper take the American military and political leadership to task on this outrageous brutality? Not likely. Canadians need to pay more attention to foreign policy before we get dragged into another bloody Bush quagmire.