Just What Are We Doing for Afghanistan?

By Ben Bull
Published September 27, 2006

In her Saturday, September 23 column, the Toronto Star's Rosie DiManno reflects on the Afghanistan mission debate and asks, "What sacrifices is Canada making - apart ... from the men and women in uniform?"

She goes onto answer her own question by saying, "Most Canadians give nothing."

What arrogance. The implication that any person who fails to support the Afghanistan mission has nothing to offer and nothing to lose is extraordinary.

I chose not to join the army and I choose to question the war, but that does not mean I give nothing. I am deeply saddened whenever I see a fellow countryman returning home in a casket. I fear greatly for the reputation of my country as I contemplate the risks this mission presents.

I can assure Miss DiManno that plenty of my tax dollars are funneled into this armed conflict, dollars I would much rather see channeled towards foreign aid efforts like AIDS in Africa, or debt relief around the world.

DiManno states that the mission supporters who rallied in front of Queens Park last Friday are "not activists" - as if "activist" were a dirty word. It all sounds a lot like, "If you're not with us you're against us," and I'm sure none of us wants to go there...

If the Afghanistan mission is simply about creating stability and providing foreign aid, then why are we not in Darfur, Uganda, Zimbabwe, or any of the other dozen or so countries that are crying out for humanitarian intervention?

Could it be because no oil pipelines are waiting to cross their soil? Or could it be because US President George W. Bush did not create their messes in the first place, and come asking us for help?

DiManno is clearly very close to her subject - perhaps too close. Her sentimental observations of Afghanistan children ("joyous things"), and their miserable lives, paints a genuinely moving picture of life "over there".

That is no reason to dismiss those of us who worry about the wisdom of this mission and where it is taking us.

Ben Bull lives in downtown Toronto. He's been working on a book of short stories for about 10 years now and hopes to be finished tomorrow. He also has a movie blog.


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