Canada’s mission in Afghanistan a tragic mistake, says Laxer

Canada’s mission in Afghanistan has been a "tragic mistake" that will continue to claim lives while offering few foreseeable benefits towards the stabilization of the region, says a report issued Tuesday by York University political scientist James Laxer.

The 135-page document is especially critical of what Laxer sees as the stifling of public debate surrounding the war.

"The Harper government’s line has been that if you question the war, you’re unpatriotic," Laxer says. "It’s the lowest form of wartime propaganda."

Right: James Laxer

It’s time Canadians come to terms with the myths about the war in Afghanistan, says Laxer, "including the myth that this war is about human rights. The mission has been sold to Canadians as divided between a military component and reconstruction aid. In fact, it’s 90 per cent military, 10 per cent aid."

Laxer, who is based in the Atkiinson Faculty of Liberal & Professional Studies, argues that foreign involvement isn’t winning the war on terror: instead, it’s fuelling it.

"The Bush administration made the case that the insurgencies that broke out in both countries in the aftermath of the invasions were largely the work of outsiders and Islamic fundamentalists operating under the broad direction of Al Qaeda," he writes. "What the administration did not want to acknowledge was that the cement that held the insurgencies together was Afghan and Iraqi nationalism, the desire of very important elements in both countries not to have their futures determined by outside invaders."

As a result, Americans are rethinking their role in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"Once they decide to pull their forces out of Iraq, they’ll soon do the same in Afghanistan. The peace deal that will follow will not leave in place in Kabul a democratic regime that respects human rights," says Laxer.

 To address these issues, the report calls for: 

  • The Harper government to issue clearly defined objectives for the mission, including how we define "success."
  • Public hearings across the country and hearings before a parliamentary committee preceding the next vote in the House of Commons on the issue of Canada’s military mission in Afghanistan.
  • A policy of aid that matches our spending on the military mission, to the tune of at least $3.5 billion in additional aid.
  • An assessment of our national security risk. Does the Canadian mission in Afghanistan make Canada a more or less likely target of terrorism?
  • An examination of whether other NATO countries are making proportionate military efforts.
  • An examination of Pakistan’s role in the conflict.

To download a PDF of the report, click here.