Editorial: Afghanistan comes at a price

By Chris Beauchamp

Terrorism has finally arrived in Canada, and if you listen to the reports and op-ed pieces pouring out of the media, this means two things. 1)You should be very afraid, and 2) It’s been a long time coming.

What shocks people about this case, and what a number of pundits are clinging to, is that these suspects are mostly Canadian citizens, born and raised. Sure, it’s scary to think that people who have grown up enjoying the privileges of our free society could learn to hate it so much, and in such a short time. But, as is often the case when we examine terrorism, we focus on all the wrong things. Even though these suspects are being accused of plotting all manner of ugly crimes–including beheading Stephen Harper-their purported motivations are mostly buried in the reports. Make no mistake, these suspects (if they’re guilty) have an agenda, and like that behind most acts of terrorism, their reasons are a lot more specific than the childish notion that they hate our way of life.

In this case, the motivation is simple: to get Canada to withdraw troops from Afghanistan. For the first time since the Korean war, Canada has troops on combat duty in a foreign country. This, and little else, has made us a target of terrorism, and as a country we need to think long and hard whether our commitment can bring stability to Afghanis, or whether it will only create legions of enemies. It’s no surprise that these suspects have been arrested less than a month after the Harper government announced its commitment to “stay the course” in Afghanistan until 2009. Canadians have been denied the chance to discuss this commitment, blinded by the oversimplifications made by media and politicians. The House of Commons passed the decision after 6 hours of debate-less time than a round of golf.

Robert Fisk appears on the cover of this issue. A seasoned foreign correspondent for British newspapers, Fisk has the air of someone extremely confident in his worldview, and whether you agree with that view or not, a number of his points are incontrovertible. For too long in the West, we’ve refused to acknowledge that terrorism is not bred in a vacuum. We do not face an enemy intent on assimilating us or destroying our way of life. We face an enemy intent on driving us out of foreign lands, and the hard truth is that our way of life has grown dependent on the resources in those lands. We would do well to learn what’s behind these acts of violence, rather than conveniently proscribe motivations that suit our purpose.

Fisk shares something in common with Harper–and even with terrorists. They all trust in the certainty of their beliefs. Certainty can be a scary thing, especially when we’ve done such a poor job of truly examining the motivations behind terror, and an even poorer job of discussing Canada’s new role in the world.

Maybe we should be afraid, and maybe it has been a long time coming. Or, maybe extremists don’t hate Canadian values, just Canadian actions. Perhaps a better understanding could assuage our fear. Perhaps not.

Unfortunately, the only true certainty is that as long as Canada is committed in Afghanistan, we will be a target.

-Chris Beauchamp


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