Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Lives lost to politics

CBC reports that while the Cons may have gone over the top with their jingoistic rhetoric on Afghanistan, the initial decision to expand the mission far beyond Canada's realistic capabilities dates back to Jean Chretien:
The former Liberal government led by Jean Chrétien rejected the advice of military commanders by deciding in early 2003 to send 2,000 troops to Afghanistan, CBC News has learned.

In the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks, Canada had sent several hundred soldiers to assist U.S. troops in tracking down al-Qaeda militants in Afghanistan. When that mission ended, senior military officers recommended that Canada send only 500 soldiers in a very limited role — but Ottawa chose instead to deploy 2,000 troops.

The commander of the army at the time, Lt.-Gen. Mike Jeffrey, said he told the chief of defence staff that his forces weren't ready for a significant mission overseas...

He said the announcement of Canada's plans to send a battle group to Afghanistan — made in the House of Commons on Feb. 12, 2003 — took him completely by surprise...

Jeffrey said there were concerns about Canada's role and the command structure of the international force that was to stabilize Afghanistan.

"I could see Canadian soldiers dying," he said, "because they weren't properly prepared. It wasn't that we weren't prepared at some level to go. It's that the risks were too high."...

"Governments decide where the military goes, the military doesn't decide where it goes," Goldenberg told the CBC.

"Imagine the reaction in Canada and around the world if Canada had refused to be part of an international coalition after September 11th."
As the article notes, it was purely a political calculation that led to the conclusion that more troops should be sent - regardless of whether they were reasonably equipped for the mission. And Goldenberg's justification for the decision is even less reasonable than the Cons' usual rationalizations for expanding the mission, as there's no reason to believe that a deployment which would actually have fit Canada's capabilities would have been taken as a "refusal" to participate.

Of course, the lack of focus and oversight has only gotten worse since the Cons took over the helm. But it's clearer than ever that the Libs were the first to lock Canada into an unnecessarily dangerous mission for no reason other than international peer pressure. And that can only ensure that the Libs lack any credibility in questioning PMS' own willingness to bow down before Bushco and other foreign administrations.

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