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Carolyn Parrish on Afghanistan

Yesterday, former Liberal MP Carolyn Parrish spoke out against Canada's upcoming deployment to Afghanistan. Her chief complaint is that this action commits Canadian soldiers to a dangerous task, where they may not only have to kill, but may be killed themselves.

In fact, she went as far as to say that "If this thing gets any deeper in (Afghanistan) and we get a couple of dead Canadians back, I'll vote to bring the government down the first opportunity I got."

While this may seem to be in the best interests of protecting our soldiers, the fact of the matter is that this summer's deployments to Kandahar (and upcoming deployments in February) are merely an extension of on-going government policy. Canada has never undertaken a "peacekeeping" role in Afghanistan, despite a common public perception to the contrary. We were the first nation to deploy naval forces to the Persian Gulf after the September 11 2001 attacks and subsequently deployed the 3 PPCLI Battle Group to Kandahar in February 2002 specifically to engage in combat operations against Al Qaida and the Taliban. Our special forces were also extremely active during this timeframe.

Even the ISAF mission, Operation ATHENA has a decidedly non-peacekeeping focus. As NATO puts it:

ISAF's role is to assist the Government in Afghanistan and the international community in maintaining security within the force's area of operations. ISAF supports the Afghan Transitional Authority in expanding its authority to the rest of the country, and in providing a safe and secure environment conducive to free and fair elections, the spread of the rule of law, and the reconstruction of the country. ( (emphasis added)

Ms. Parrish's comments unfortunately indicate that many Canadians, even senior politicians, fail to understand the complexity and intensity of the Afghan situation.

General Rick Hillier, Chief of Defence Staff, has recently made public comments in this area, indicating that the situation is serious and that our soldiers may be called upon to use lethal force in some situations.

Ms. Parrish ironically, did not see these comments as clarifying the situation. Instead she took an aggressive stance against implying that our forces may be involved in a genuine conflict, asking the PM to "muzzle the beast, assume command of Canada's agenda in your usual articulate, dignified and intelligent way. Let the Canadian public know Gen. Hillier does not speak for our government."

While Gen. Hillier may not speak for our Government, he speaks quite plainly for our military, and does not gloss over the unsavoury aspects of the job at hand.

As a public, we need to be aware that the Government has committed the CF to a dangerous mission in a hostile part of Afghanistan, a mission which bears little resembelance to the old style Peacekeeping missions of the 1990's.

It is straight talk - not politically motivated "muzzling" that will ensure the Canadian mindset is ready for what may come in Afghanistan.


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Ruxted Editor on :

Original comments on this editorial can be found here:,32990.0.html

Ruxted Editor on :

I thank you for the very thoughtful letter you recently sent on the subjects of Canada's role in Afghanistan and my concerns about General Hillier's remarks.

I appreciate the tone as well as the content of your letter. You acknowledge my right and duty to express myself and that we understand and share the same democratic principles.

My comments were abbreviated by a half-listening reporter. We have 100 years of history of which we can all be proud. The first fifty years I referred to were filled with justified military action to protect our king, the Commonwealth and democracy in Europe. Canadians fought willingly and died in the tens of thousands, to preserve a way of life which you and I enjoy today. I prefer to call what we, as proud Canadians did peacemaking. We were not the aggressors; we were the ones who made peace the outcome of wars initiated by tyrants.

With Lester Pearson, a new era in Canadian and world history began. A Nobel Peace Prize winner, Pearson coined the phrase and concept of peacekeeping, one for which Canada has become both respected and famous. I've traveled all through Eastern Europe and the Middle East as a Member of Parliament of one of the most beloved countries in the world. I sincerely believe peacekeeping is the next stage of human development, and still do.

For about seven years I was very active in our NATO Parliamentary Association. After a short time I was elected by MPs of all parties and the Senate to chair our NATO Parliamentary Association. My interest was inspired by Lloyd Axworthy's Ottawa Convention, an international proposal to cease the manufacture and use of anti-personnel landmines â “ evil devices which maimed more often than they killed. I worked hard through NATO to encourage several prospective NATO partners, such as Romania, Lithuania, Bulgaria and others to become part of the 100 countries needed to bring the treaty into international law. I also worked hard to further the aims of Canada and other civilized nations to curb nuclear proliferation. I encouraged NATO to admit more and more countries so that there would be mutual strength and security for newly emerging democracies recently released from the grip of the Soviet Union.

Edward, you may have trouble believing me, but this bad girl earned enough respect from European and US delegates to become the first female elected Vice President of the entire association!

Where I parted company with many respected NATO colleagues was when the US and Britain forced Turkey, a weaker partner, to accept US troops on their soil in preparation for the Iraqi invasion after 94% of the Turkish people clearly said "no" in a referendum. The Turks turned down $2 billion in the form of a "foreign aid" bribe only to be coerced into accepting NATO troops that turned out to be 100% American in composition. My subsequent outspokenness against Mr. Bush is history.

I don't believe one can force democracy upon a people, such as those in Iraq, by dropping bombs on thousands of civilians. I don't believe we learned the lessons of the great world wars only to force Turkey to bend to the will of the US for billions in foreign aid or the threat of exclusion from international organizations. I don't believe that Ernie "Smoky" Smith became a Victoria Cross-winning hero so Canadian troops can kill Afghanis to prop up a US-placed puppet government and protect access to much-coveted oil fields.

I've heard from soldiers who are serving Canada today, and those who served in the past. I am deeply grateful to both for keeping my country and my way of life safe for me, for my children, and for my grandson Jake.

Perhaps, as many other writers have suggested, I am a left-wing peacenik. I prefer to believe I am looking to a brighter future where we get at the root causes of terrorism, war and aggression rather than become brutal aggressors ourselves.

Primitive, hand-to-hand combat in the trenches, with bayonets and mustard gas has been replaced by nuclear bombs, sophisticated weaponry and satellite directed weapons deployment. Surely we can progress far enough so humankind will no longer have to bury its mistakes in the hundreds of thousands.

Again, I thank you as a war veteran. Without your efforts I wouldn't even be able to dream of a day when peacekeeping will be all that our soldiers will be asked to do. I'm told General Hillier is a soldier's soldier. As such, I'm happy he's there for our armed forces. You suggest my views are poorly founded. With respect I would also suggest that General Hiller's "political dabbling" in the form of public statements of a most colorful and provocative nature, were best kept private for the inspiration of his troops, if uttered at all. The day our political leaders, the Prime Minister and Minister of Defense, abdicate their responsibility to set our military policy to a lifelong soldier is the day I say that these leaders are not doing the job they were elected to do. Soldiers fight, politicians lead. And such leadership should be within the guidelines of the wishes of the Canadian people.

Again, I thank you for giving me the opportunity to more fully present my position.


Carolyn Parrish, MP

Thanks to Edward Campbell for corresponding with Ms. Parrish to obtain this response, and to Ms. Parrish for taking the time to provide it.

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