I do not agree with NDP leader Jack Layton that Afghanistan “is the wrong mission for Canada.” I like to think that Canada stands for democracy and equal rights, and that is why we are in Afghanistan. We were asked to be there by a duly elected democratic government and by our allies. We are not an occupying force; we are fighting alongside the legal government of Afghanistan and the coalition’s presence is, I believe, sanctioned by the United Nations.
We are there to help the Afghan government rebuild after decades of occupation and then civil war. We are there to provide stability and enforce the rule of law. We are there to protect the civil rights of every Afghan. We believe young women have a right to go to school and that teachers who teach them should be protected. Women also have a right to work and not follow the dress code of a particular religious sect. They have a right to medical care. We are there to stop the Taliban from burning schools, threatening teachers, beheading and targeting those who build, and of course to stop them from supporting terrorism and extending their fanaticism to our county.
I do not believe any of this is negotiable, so how then can we enter into a “comprehensive peace process” with the Taliban? Are there moderate Taliban adherents who believe in women’s rights and full equal participation in Afghanistan? Would they sit at the same table as women in the Afghan government or on coalition negotiating teams?
I have voted more often than not for the NDP, and in the 1960s and ’70s I was a card-carrying member of the party and worked a few elections. But I cannot support the NDP in this, and certainly will not be making a donation or signing any petition. Furthermore, if the NDP make this part of their platform, I will not be voting for them in upcoming elections.
We need to learn from history. Appeasement just doesn’t bring “peace in our time.” I believe we must be willing to fight for what we stand for.