Canadian elections and Afghan war

This video from Canada is about the war & occupation protest at the Vancouver Art Gallery on November 24th, 2007.

From CTV in Canada:

Desmond Morton, a professor at McGill University, says [Conservative] Prime Minister Stephen Harper is wrong if he thinks Afghanistan has been neutralized as political issue.

“The Conservatives want a quiet month — or two — to have their campaign [for the November 14 elections] , but I don’t think anyone will say that out loud to you,” said Morton, who informally advised former Tory prime minister Brian Mulroney on military matters.

The number of Canadian soldiers killed in Afghanistan may well surpass the psychological milestone of 100 as politicians stump door-to-door across the country this fall.

To date, 97 soldiers have died — four of them in the last week, including one Sunday. …

In what was considered a stroke of political brilliance, Harper carved an agreement with the Liberals to extend the military deployment in Kandahar until 2011. He recruited a former Liberal deputy prime minister, John Manley, and a panel of eminent Canadians to help make the case for continuing the war and reconstruction effort.

Tories confidently crowed in private that Afghanistan had been “neutralized” as a potential election issue and indeed it’s waned in terms opposition sniping and public attention since the spring.

But a few well-timed, spectacular attacks could force it back into the minds of voters without any help from politicians, Morton said.

Even though the Liberals under Paul Martin took Canada into Kandahar, Morton predicted Harper and the Conservatives could end up “wearing” the blame for the war.

They’ve closely identified themselves with the mission and twice extended the deployment of troops, defying polls that suggest many Canadians want the troops out of harm’s way.

It reminds some observers of the political climate leading up to Spain’s 2004 general election, when an al Qaeda-inspired cell attacked Madrid’s commuter train, killing 191 people and wounding 1,755.

The terrorist attack was largely credited with the defeat of the ruling Partido Popular party, which had taken the country into the Iraq war along side the United States the year before.

Morton said surpassing 100 casualties in Kandahar may not be exactly the same as the trauma of civilian train bombing on home soil, but the Canadian public has had a lot longer to stew about Afghanistan.

He said Canadian troops may have been ordered to keep a low profile over the next few weeks and stay out of harm’s way.

“Nobody will ever admit that to you,” Morton added.

See also here. And here. And here.

Report [of Human Rights Watch]: US air power triples deaths of Afghan civilians.

5 thoughts on “Canadian elections and Afghan war

  1. Afghanistan

    US air power triples deaths of Afghan civilians, says report
    “There has been a massive and unprecedented surge in the use of air power in Afghanistan in 2008. . . . Mistakes by the US and Nato have dramatically decreased public support for the Afghan government and the presence of international forces providing security to Afghans.”

    US Attacks Leave 500 civilians killed, injured
    At least 500 civilians were killed or wounded during the five-day US-led troops` ground and air operation in the Sangin district of Helmand province.

    Evidence Points to Civilian Toll in Afghan Raid
    Accounts from survivors, including three people wounded in the bombing, described repeated strikes on houses where dozens of children were sleeping, grandparents and uncles and aunts huddled inside with them. . . . “They bombard us, they hate us, they kill us. . . . God will punish them.”

    Harrowing video film backs Afghan villagers’ claims of carnage caused by US troops
    Women are heard wailing in the background. “Oh God, this is just a child,” shouts one villager. Another cries: “My mother, my mother.” . . . Local people say that US forces bombed preparations for a memorial ceremony for a tribal leader. Residential compounds were levelled by US attack helicopters, armed drones and a cannon-armed C130 Spectre gunship.


  2. Afghans say will open graves to show civilian deaths
    Tue Sep 9, 2008 8:19am EDT

    By Sharafuddin Sharafiyaar

    AZIZABAD, Afghanistan (Reuters) – Relatives of Afghans killed in a U.S.-led coalition raid in western Herat province offered on Tuesday to dig up graves to support claims of large-scale civilian deaths.

    The August 22 air strike in Shindand district has outraged Afghans and opened a rift between coalition forces on the one hand and the Afghan government and the U.N. on the other, which both say that more than 90 civilians were killed.

    The U.S. military, which earlier disputed that figure, said it would re-investigate after new evidence had emerged about civilian casualties in the raid on Azizabad village.

    “We are ready to dig out every grave to show the Americans that civilians, including women and children, were killed in the air strikes,” village elder Gul Ahmad Khan, who said he lost three children in the strike, told Reuters.

    But Khan, who represented the village during President Hamid Karzai’s visit last week to commiserate with the families, said the U.S. must first agree it would pull out all its forces from the country if it was proved that civilians died in the strike.

    “We will welcome them if they visit our bombed village to investigate. But we should have a deal first, if the Americans are proved wrong, then they should leave Afghanistan in shame,” he said.

    The U.S. military earlier said the raid had targeted a Taliban commander who was among 30 to 35 militants killed in the strike. It said five to seven civilians were killed.

    Villagers said false intelligence about the presence of Taliban in the village had been fed to coalition forces and have urged the Afghan government to punish those responsible.

    A group of women, wailing outside their ruined homes, demanded that the Afghan government hand over a man named Nadir to them. They said he had misled foreign forces.

    “I don’t want anything from the Americans, even if they give the whole of the Afghanistan I don’t want it,” screamed Mah Pari. “We want the government to hand us over Nadir alive,” she said.

    Pari said she lost four members of her family when bombs struck a house where people had gathered for a charity dinner to mark the death of a villager six months ago.

    Wali Mohammad, another villager, said many died while fleeing the bombing. “They were shot dead by from the air,” he said, adding his wife lost her sight in the strike.


    Villagers showed a Reuters journalist a grainy cellphone video of a row of bodies lying in shrouds and blankets on the floor of the village mosque. It was not clear from the video how many bodies there were.

    Another video showed bodies being taken to the graveyard.

    At least 60 of the dead were women and children, the Afghan government says.

    “Under any shape it occurred, this event must be regarded as the biggest violation by NATO forces in Afghanistan,” state-controlled Afghan daily Anis said in an editorial.

    The U.S. military, which has proposed a review of the operation, said new evidence in the form of “imagery” had emerged about the coalition strike in Shindand.

    “There is some evidence that suggests that the evidence that the United States military used in the conduct of its investigation may not have been complete,” Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said on Monday. He did not specify.

    The military said earlier that the air strike was called in after Afghan army and U.S.-led coalition forces came under intense fire during an offensive in the Shindand area.

    Taliban militants had planned to attack a nearby coalition base, the U.S. military said, citing evidence such as weapons, explosives and intelligence materials.

    Violence in Afghanistan this year is at its highest level since the 2001 invasion by U.S.-led coalition forces, with more than 2,500 people killed.

    (Additional reporting by Sayed Salahuddin and Hamid Shalizi; Writing by Sanjeev Miglani; Editing by Paul Tait)


  3. Family of soldier charged with murder ‘shocked’

    January 3, 2009

    Capt. Robert Semrau, a member of the Operational Mentor Liaison Teams charged with one count of second-degree murder in the death of a suspected insurgent in Afghanistan’s Helmand province.

    Capt. Robert Semrau, a member of the Operational Mentor Liaison Teams charged with one count of second-degree murder in the death of a suspected insurgent in Afghanistan’s Helmand province.
    Photograph by: Canwest News Service

    The only sibling of Capt. Robert Semrau says he’s distraught over the murder charge now hanging over his brother, but his family is pulling together in a circle of silence, reluctant to interfere in an unprecedented criminal investigation for Canada’s military in Afghanistan.

    Bill Semrau said the family of Robert Semrau, who is facing a second-degree murder charge for the killing of a presumed insurgent in Afghanistan, would be issuing an official statement at some point, but would not elaborate further.

    “We’re obviously in shock and we love my brother, but we’re not able to make a statement right now,” Bill Semrau said when contacted at his home in Vancouver.

    Robert Semrau’s parents, Don and Jean, also would not comment when contacted Friday night at their home in Camrose, Alta.

    On Wednesday, the Canadian Forces charged Robert Semrau with one count of second-degree murder in the death of the suspected Taliban insurgent. The charge stemmed from an incident believed to have occurred in Afghanistan’s Helmand province on or around Oct. 19.

    Semrau, from Saskatchewan, is accused of shooting an unarmed man with the intent to kill him.

    He is currently in military police custody pending a hearing before a military judge in Canada to determine whether he needs to be retained in custody.

    At the time of the alleged incident, Semrau, along with about 30 other Canadian mentors and members of the Afghan National Army, were involved in a fierce gunfight with Taliban insurgents in Helmand’s capital city of Lashkargah.

    The delay between the alleged incident and the NIS announcement of an investigation — and the fact that Semrau was reportedly charged on Dec. 31, within a day of the NIS announcement of the investigation — caused many observers to ask whether the military had been sitting on the case for over two months.

    “This doesn’t smell right,” said University of Ottawa lawyer Amir Attaran, who has criticized the Defence Department for how it handled the issue of Afghan detainees.

    “I wonder if the family feels the same way. They should.”

    This is the first time a criminal charge has been laid against a Canadian soldier in Afghanistan involving the death of an alleged enemy fighter.

    Canadian soldiers are not normally involved in fighting in Helmand, which is largely under British control. Most of Canada’s troops are in the adjacent province of Kandahar.

    According to the Department of National Defence, the Operational Mentor and Liaison Teams of the 1st and 2nd Battalion, Royal Canadian Regiment, have been operating out of Kandahar and Helmand since August.

    Semrau attended high school in Moose Jaw, Sask., and studied psychology at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon in the mid-1990s, according to friends.

    A Facebook site titled “Support the Freedom of Capt. Robert Semrau” had a membership of more than 300 people early Saturday afternoon.

    “Capt. Robert Semrau, a comrade and a friend, is being wrongfully charged with the death of a presumed Afghani insurgent during a fire fight with Taliban forces,” reads the site introduction. The site creator is listed as Stuart McMahon. He did not immediately respond to e-mail sent to him through Facebook.

    Not everyone who posted comments on the site, however, agreed with its intent. “Wow, finally a murdering Canadian Soldier gets caught. Should be interesting to see how it all pans out,” wrote “Michael.”

    With files from the Vancouver Sun and Saskatoon StarPhoenix
    © Copyright (c) Canwest News Service


  4. Pingback: Listeria epidemic scandal in Canada | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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