It's like deja vu all over again as Canada's governing Tory party cop a move from the Bush play-book.
Here's the situation. Canadian troops have been serving in Afghanistan since 2003, serving as an adjunct to Operation Enduring Freedom. The Canadian government sent them there, basically, as a means of making up with the Bush administration over our opting out of the Iraq invasion. Since December of 2005, however, our forces have taken over control of the area around Kandahar, and have suffered a number of casualties in the time since including one diplomat killed via car bomb, and one soldier injured in an axe attack. Naturally, the Canadian public, who hadn't really been paying attention to the issue, are now expressing concern.
A poll taken in December (http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/LAC.20060224.POLL24/TPStory/Front) makes clear two things. One is that the majority of the country is opposed to the mission as it is currently constituted. The second is that a vast majority of the country (73%) would like to see parliament debate the matter, especially when it comes to extending the mission around Kandahar when Canadian obligations expire in (if I am calculating correctly) December of 2006.
How has the new Tory Government responded to these concerns?
Well, by stiff-arming the majority of Canadian people. Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay, speaking yesterday, shot down the idea of a parliamentary debate. His reasoning had a familiar ring to it:
We do not want to jeopardize or in any way have a psychological or a real impact on the troops who are in Afghanistan...I don't believe we can undermine our commitment to the forces, to our men and women there.
So even debating the policy of the current government, offering criticim of the direction it has taken, is too dangerous because it might adversely impact the troops. Sound familiar?
So how long are we supposed to keep our mouths shut, Mr. MacKay? Canada's top general is hinting that we might be stuck in Afghanistan for a decade. Are Canadians really expected to grin and bear it for ten years while our forces are slowly ground down in what has become (no matter what it started life as) a small scale quagmire (in the same sense that Iraq is a large scale quagmire?)?
Quit hiding behind the troops! If you are so sure of your arguments, bring them to the HOC and let them carry the day.
Full story can be found here:
CBC News: Commons vote could undermine Afghan mission: MacKay