The crime against humanity that is Afghanistan

I have a confession to make which may shock many of my readers and even some of my close personal friends.

Many people do things in the hastiness of youth which later goes on to serve as a deep embarrassment for them.

Some get tattoos.

Some experiment with drugs.

I once took out a membership in the old Progressive Conservative Party of Canada.

But, allow me to explain.  I met two-time PC Party leadership Candidate David Orchard on a couple of occasions and even had lunch with him and his long-time friend and advisor Maraleena Repo a few years back during one of his Ottawa trips.

I joined the PC Party (the only party of which I have ever been a member) due in large part to the principled policy positions of Orchard on NAFTA, U.S. foreign policy, Canadian foreign policy and his impressive environmental credentials.

Yesterday, I received an e-mail from David Orchard’s brother Grant which contained an Op/Ed piece that Orchard and Professor Michael Mandel have co-written and were disseminating as widely as possible.  As predictable, very few mainstream media are carrying the insightful and well-argued Op/Ed (so far as I can tell, only the Halifax Chronicle Journal carried it).  So, out of respect for the man who once impressed me so much that he got me to actually join the PC Party, I am posting his and Professor Mandel’s Op/Ed here for all to read.


Afghanistan and Iraq: the same war
by David Orchard and Michael Mandel

Four years ago, the U.S. and Britain unleashed war on Iraq, a nearly defenceless Third World country barely half the size of Saskatchewan. For 12 years prior to the invasion and occupation, Iraq had endured almost weekly U.S. and British bombing raids and the toughest sanctions in history, the “primary victims” of which, according to the UN Secretary General, were “women and children, the poor and the infirm.” According to UNICEF, half a million children died from sanctions-related starvation and disease.

Then, in March 2003, the U.S. and Britain ­ possessors of more weapons of mass destruction than the rest of the world combined ­ attacked Iraq on a host of fraudulent pretexts, with cruise missiles, napalm, white phosphorous, cluster and bunker-buster bombs, and depleted uranium (DU) munitions.

The British medical journal The Lancet published a study last year estimating Iraqi war deaths since 2003 at 655,000, a mind-boggling figure dismissed all too readily by the British and American governments despite widespread scientific approval for its methodology (including the British government’s own chief scientific adviser).

On April 11, 2007, the Red Cross issued a report entitled “Civilians without Protection: the ever-worsening humanitarian crisis in Iraq.” Citing “immense suffering,” it calls “urgently” for ” respect for international humanitarian law.” Andrew White, Anglican Vicar of Baghdad, added, “What we see on our television screens does not demonstrate even one per cent of the reality of the atrocity of Iraq …” The UN estimates two million Iraqis have been “internally displaced;” another two million have fled ­ largely to Syria and Jordan, overwhelming local infrastructure.

An attack such as that on Iraq, neither in self-defence nor authorized by the United Nations Security Council, is, in the words of the Nuremberg Tribunal that condemned the Nazis, “the supreme international crime.” According to the Tribunal’s chief prosecutor, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson, such a war is simply mass murder.

Most Canadians are proud that Canada refused to invade Iraq. But when it comes to Afghanistan, we hear the same jingoistic bluster we heard about Iraq four years ago. As if Iraq and Afghanistan were two separate wars, and Afghanistan is the good war, the legal and just war. In reality, Iraq and Afghanistan are the same war.

That’s how the Bush administration has seen Afghanistan from the start; not as a defensive response to 9-11, but the opening for regime change in Iraq (as documented in Richard A. Clarke’s Against all Enemies). That’s why the Security Council resolutions of September 2001 never mention Afghanistan, much less authorize an attack on it. That’s why the attack on Afghanistan was also a supreme international crime, which killed at least 20,000 innocent civilians in its first six months. The Bush administration used 9-11 as a pretext to launch an open-ended so-called “war on terror” ­ in reality, a war of terror because it kills hundreds of times more civilians than the other terrorists do.

That the Karzai regime was subsequently set up under UN auspices doesn’t absolve the participants in America’s war, and that includes Canada. Nor should the fact that Canada now operates under the UN authorized International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) mislead anyone. From the start, ISAF put itself at the service of the American operation, declaring “the United States Central Command will have authority over the International Security Assistance Force” (UNSC Document S/2001/1217). When NATO took charge of ISAF, that didn’t change anything. NATO forces are always ultimately under U.S. command. The “Supreme Commander” is always an American general, who answers to the U.S. president.

Canadian troops in Afghanistan not only take orders from the Americans, they help free up more U.S. forces to continue their bloody occupation of Iraq.

When the U.S. devastated Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia (1961-1975), leaving behind six million dead or maimed, Canada refused to participate. But today Canada has become part of a U.S. war being waged not only in Iraq and Afghanistan, but also in a network of disclosed and undisclosed centres of physical and mental torture, like Guantanamo Bay in illegally occupied Cuban territory. What we know about what the U.S. government calls terrorism is that it is largely a response to foreign occupation; and what we know about American occupation is that it is a way the rich world forces the rest to surrender their resources.

General Rick Hillier bragged that Canada was going to root out the “scumbags” in Afghanistan. He didn’t mention that the Soviets, using over 600,000 troops and billions in aid over 10 years, were unable to control Afghanistan. Britain, at the height of its imperial power, tried twice and failed. Now, Canada is helping another fading empire attempt to impose its will on Afghanistan.

Canadians have traditionally been able to hold their heads high when they travel the world. We did not achieve that reputation by waging war against the world’s poor; in large part, we achieved it by refusing to do so.

Canada must ­ immediately, and at the minimum ­ open its doors to Iraqis and Afghans attempting to flee the horror being inflicted on their homelands. We must stop pretending that we’re not implicated in their suffering under the bombs, death squads and torture. This means refusing to lend our name, our strength and the blood of our youth in this war without end against the Third World. THE END


DAVID ORCHARD is the author of The Fight for Canada: Four Centuries of Resistance to American Expansionism and ran twice for the leadership of the Progressive Conservative party. He farms at Borden, SK and can be reached at tel 306-652-7095,,

MICHAEL MANDEL is Professor of International Law at York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto and author of How America Gets Away With Murder: Illegal Wars, Collateral Damage and Crimes Against Humanity. He can be reached at tel 416-736-5039,


6 Responses to “The crime against humanity that is Afghanistan”

  1. 1 janfromthebruce 4 May, 2007 at 1:13 pm

    I remember reading that article somewhere Pauli. I have always maintained that the war on terror is one long war front, Afghanistan, Lebannon, Iraq. That it was about propping up American neo-imperialism, resource extraction, and power dominance within the middle east.

    I am and was disappointed in their paper ending. I found it weak in comparison to their excellent beginning analysis. Here, they suggested that American politicos should be charged with crimes against humanity, how essentially Canadian politicos are militarily supporting ‘war against the poor’ and working in concert to support this war effort. In response, they don’t ask for withdrawal but to take refugees.
    Gee, if you were to ask those ‘refugees’ do you think that is what they want or would that be considered a default choice.

    To put it a different way, as a Canadian if Canada was in the middle of a foreign occupation and assault, would you rather leave your homeland or prefer the ‘occupiers’ leave?

  2. 2 Stephen 4 May, 2007 at 3:11 pm

    “In response, they don’t ask for withdrawal but to take refugees.”

    In fact, the refugee demand is their ‘immediate’ and ‘minimal’ suggested response. What’s more, refusing to lend our name, strength and soldiers’ lives to the war could certainly be understood as a call for withdrawal.

    Turning to the political dimension: I wonder how, if at all, other Liberals and Conservatives will respond to this piece (e.g. Ignatieff, Dion, Harper, etc.).

  3. 3 Red Jenny 4 May, 2007 at 3:42 pm

    Interestingly, I’m having a bit of an argument over here with some real hawks who are using the same argument as the US uses about being in Iraq: basically we have to kill “them” over there before they take over here.

  4. 4 jimreed 18 August, 2008 at 10:47 am

    It is heartening to know that there are still people of principle in our country…which has – and no one can contest this – lost its moral compass.

    The question is: How can we get it back?”

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