March 14, 2008

ACTIVISM: Why we must march tomorrow ..

"Courage, my friends, we can still make a better world"

Friends of the Ottawa Peace Assembly (aka: Ottawa's local peace activists),

The above quotation comes from Tommy Douglas, former CCF/NDP leader and longtime peace activist.

It reminds us why we must march, rally, and educate ourselves about Canada's mission impossible in Afghanistan.

It reminds us why this Saturday marks an important moment in stopping this war, and truly helping the people of Afghanistan.

We need courage to challenge the bluster of Canada's warmongers, and the politicians who support them.

Let's face it: Canada's war in Afghanistan is already over. This war will end in 2009, but not due to any wisdom from the federal government. It is already a failure and a majority of Canadians know it.

Western reconstruction operations in Afghanistan are a farce. Following a time-honoured pattern, most of this money leaves in the briefcases of foreign contractors.

As an aide to Hamid Karzai recently told a Quebec reporter, "the international community has injected $19 billion into Afghanistan. About 95% of that leaves the country... non-governmental organizations employ 540 foreigners who earn from $5000 ton $35,000 per month. The last elections cost $395 million. It was the foreigners who organized them, and the kept the money for themselves."

The balance of "reconstruction" money goes to drug-running warlords who call the shots in the current Afghan government. These thugs -- many of whom terrorized Afghans in the early 1990s -- build mansions for themselves and their friends, and get NATO to guard their compounds.

Poverty in Aghanistan is at record levels. As foreign contractors clinked beers in Kabul, a thousand people froze to death this winter.

A million pounds in bombs were dropped on Afghanistan in 2007, and 40,000 Afghans have died since 2001. Not surpringly, Afghan resistance to the occupation is growing. Hamid Karzai, in reality, is the Mayor of East Kabul. No doctored poll by US-government funded agencies can honestly say otherwise.

Still, after today's vote on the Afghan mission, Stephen Harper will likely crow about "staying the course". He'll go to NATO with a fistful of political nerve, claiming widespread support for Canada's so-called "war on terror".

No doubt, some will throw up their hands, and insist that protest doesn't matter. Polls indicate 61% of Canadians are opposed to extending Canada's war in Afghanistan, but that wasn't reflected in today's House of Commons vote.

But a funny thing happened yesterday in Harper's pre-fabricated democracy. Regular people, like you and me, showed up to serve notice that we will stop this war. We demonstrated an ounce of bottom-up activism can challenge the mightiest of bullies.

The Commons galleries erupted in anti-war chanting. Soon after the Tories voted, "End it, Don't Extend it!" was heard throughout the building. Our chanting could even be heard even as we were shepherded into the halls.

Dion and Harper were stunned. They didn't expect this intrusion of democracy. They didn't think us plebes would storm into their "palace", and point out that the Emperor has no clothes.

My friends, this Emperor's been naked for years, and their "palace" belongs to all of us. Let's get on with the task of telling others. This Saturday, we'll rally, we'll march, and we'll educate ourselves. We'll build the support and capacity needed for our message of peace.

As veterans from the Vietnam war will attest, peace activism is about persistence, and appealing to the hearts and minds of Canadians.

Courage my friends: we can, and we will, stop this war.

See you on the streets tomorrow!
In peace,

Joel Harden

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