A Toronto newspaper quoted Lt.-Col. Gordon Corbould, the new battle group commander, and Sgt. Tim Seeley, a civilian-military co-operation officer for Canada's Provincial Reconstruction Team, on Thursday as saying that channels were being opened to moderate Taliban. Other officials in Kandahar, who spoke privately, backed up the military's assessment, calling it creative thinking.
We must assume that this gesture is seen by those who are best able to make such determinations as the only route to stability. It is also a gesture that was spitefully and unanimously derided by Harperoid troglodytes as a reprehensible act of cowardice. Awkwardly, the "Conservatives" must now inflict upon Lt.-Col. Gordon Corbould the odium they heaped upon "Taliban" Jack Layton. According to Stephen Harper's standards, our Afghan battle group commander is a terrorist sympathiser and a disgraceful Chamberlainesque appeaser.
The grotesque surreality of our situation is unprecedented in our history: the ranking commander of Canadian Forces in the most crucial (indeed the only) theatre of Canadian combat operations is pursuing a policy not only utterly at odds with and repugnant to the government's own oft-declared principles but, more seriously, premised upon objectives totally contrary to those our government has been broadcasting as the moral rationale for the conflict. As Harper bangs his little fist into his clammy palm whilst yammering sententious platitudes about "defeating" the Taliban, our soldiers join Hamid Karzai in his two-year-old bid to enter into negotiations with people once described by outgoing Chief of Defence Staff General Rick Hillier as "scum". It is as if Montgomery had decided to scrap Alamein and send Rommel an invitation to tea instead ...without informing Churchill. This is the lunacy we're living.
We may, I suppose, assume that the government has been fully aware of our attempts to negotiate and that Harper has simply been burying the truth under the kind of perfervid rhetoric he obviously feels Canadians require to stay motivated--as if we're incapable of being inspired by anything more nuanced than the prospect of "killing us a whole bunch of Islams".
We may believe that. Appearances suggest, though, that Peter Mackay was truly taken aback by these latest reports--that what was news to us was news to him also. We are faced, therefore, with the troubling probability that our government has not the foggiest notion of what's actually transpiring in Afghanistan. Apparently, the falcon cannot hear the falconer: our Afghan contingent is clearly acting on its own initiative, independently of government direction--wisely, I believe, since, as the army has doubtless learned (and as most Canadians have known for years), Stephen Harper is intellectually, emotionally and morally unequipped to direct himself across a foot-bridge at a mini putt. Thus, our Forces are politically leaderless; Harper's incompetence has turned them into unwilling rogue agents.
I should like to know what effect Mackay's response to Corbould's initiative will have on our troops' morale. After all, Mackay said, "We are not talking to the Taliban. We are not having direct discussions with terrorists" immediately after learning that, in fact, our soldiers are talking to the Taliban. Thus, either MacKay has ethically devolved so catastrophically that lying is no longer merely an option but an instinct with him, or his definition of "we" is meant to exclude the military.
If the latter is the case, Mackay seems to be severing the government from the Forces--putting a firewall between them, as it were. I am sure the men and women who are daily putting themselves in danger's way at the irresponsible behest of these candy-assed, pinstriped poltroons will be fascinated to learn that the Harper ministry considers itself unconnected to and unaccountable for the actions of the Canadian Afghan contingent. They stand in awe too, surely, at Mackay's power to beget ineptitude upon ineptitude: after revealing his total ignorance of field realities, Mackay responds, not by countermanding the ranking officer and re-taking control of events, but by simply distancing himself from the operation and feebly announcing his opposition to it.
So this is the best Mackay can offer our soldiers in Afghanistan: negation without leadership. He stabs our soldiers in the back and hasn't even the decency to catch them as they fall. Right now, the most fearsome enemy our soldiers face is not those who fight them, but those who "lead" them.