Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Canadian troops deserve support

The London Free Press
By Rory Leishman

In a Christmas Day address, Gen. Rick Hillier, the chief of the defence staff, told a gathering of Canadian troops serving in the combat zone of southern Afghanistan: “There are millions of wishes passed on from Canada ... You've got incredible support back in Canada for what you do -- absolutely incredible support.”

Indeed, millions of Canadians are profoundly grateful for the courage and tenacity of our troops in combating the Taliban. But alas, there are also many Canadians who oppose any combat role for Canadian troops in Afghanistan.

NDP leader Jack Layton thinks Canadian troops should no longer engage in either combat or reconstruction projects in Afghanistan. At his behest, the great majority of delegates to a national policy convention of the New Democratic Party in September adopted a resolution summoning the Harper government to begin the “safe and immediate withdrawal of Canadian troops from Afghanistan,” but steadfastly to "support the continuation of development assistance to Afghanistan and democratic peace building."

NDP foreign affairs critic Alexa McDonough backed the motion. She said: "This (resolution) sends a loud clear message from New Democrats: Democracy building is what the Afghan people want, not more violence and instability. A comprehensive peace plan is what is critically important to building democracy and peace in the region."

The absurdity of this new NDP position is hard to credit: It should be evident even to the meanest intelligence that the Taliban have no interest in building peace in Afghanistan except on the basis of their return to power.

New Democrats esteem themselves as champions of human rights. In a press release on December 20, Layton denounced the International Olympic Committee for having decided “to deny women the right to participate in ski jumping in the 2010 Olympics Games in Vancouver.”

Why, though, is Layton no less concerned about the fate of Afghan women should the Taliban seize power once again? Does he not recall how the fanatical leaders of this Islamist organization banned women from the professions, barred girls from attending school and subjected both men and women to public lashings, limb amputations and executions in the Kabul soccer stadium?

Currently, there are more than 32,000 troops from 37 countries – including roughly 2,500 Canadians – serving with the UN-mandated International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan. Their mission is to establish governmental stability in Afghanistan and to eliminate all remnants of the Taliban’s terrorist regime.

This allied mission has the solid support of Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his government. In a recent address to a meeting of the NATO Parliamentary Association in Quebec City, Canadian Defence Minister Gordon O’Connor explained: “We can’t allow the Taliban to return to their former prominence — to take over Afghanistan and resume their regime of terror and tyranny; to flaunt their disregard for human rights; to punish and terrorize their own people; to murder innocents; to harbour those who would threaten us and our families at home and abroad."

Canadian leaders have not always understood the need for Canadian troops to engage in collective international security. In 1924, the government of Canada opposed all such operations on the ground that Canada is "a fire-proof house, far from inflammable materials." That naïve assumption was disastrously wrong then as it is now.

In the 1930s, the allied democracies could easily have prevented the Second World War, by taking timely action to prevent Hitler and the Nazis from seizing power in Germany. In view of this experience and the succession of terrorist strikes that have hit the United States, Britain, Spain and numerous other countries in recent years, it would be folly for the democratic allies to allow the Taliban terrorists and their Al-Qaeda allies to regain power in Afghanistan.

The Canadian troops serving under NATO and UN auspices in Afghanistan are playing a key role in protecting the Afghan people from the Taliban. And in so doing, they are also helping to safeguard Canada and the other democracies from attack by Afghan-trained Islamist terrorists.

During the Second World War, the Canadian armed forces distinguished themselves in battle. And now in Afghanistan, they are doing so again. In the words of Gen. Hillier, these valiant Canadian combat troops deserve “the absolutely incredible support” of all Canadians.

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