In a posting to the Ploughshares peacelist yesterday I promised to comment on the recently-released report on the current state of Afghanistan by the Senlis Council, a prominent European think-tank. Since it runs to hundreds of pages and covers dozens of topics, where to start?
On the CBC and other Canadian media, the first priority is the portrayal of Canadian soldiers as heroes slogging their way through a difficult task, but with a light at the end of the tunnel. During the Vietnam War, it was commonly said that the light at the end of the tunnel was probably an oncoming freight train. Reading the Senlis report, you can almost hear the whistle…
But I’ll get to Canada’s role in future posts. This is about Afghanistan, so let’s begin with the Afghanis. One of the most heart-rending sections of the Senlis report is the description of the grinding poverty in that embattled nation. This grim picture just hasn’t made it onto our TV screens past the mind-numbing interviews with self-assured majors and colonels.
The alpha and omega of Afghanistan’s problems is its poverty. The section of the report entitled “The Hunger Crisis” is the stuff of nightmares: “…the country remains ravaged by severe poverty and the spreading starvation of the urban and rural poor… the situation of women and children is particularly grave… One in four children in Afghanistan cannot expect to live beyond the age of five… the worst maternal mortality rates ever recorded in the world… the country has one of the lowest life expectancies in the world… ”
By any standards, the situation in Afghanistan is a humanitarian disgrace of epic proportions. According to the Senlis report, the underlying problem in Afgahnistan is not the Taliban, but the poverty that fuels and sustains it. So why does the Canadian government believe that tanks, bombs, and more troops can solve Afghanistan’s problems?
To be continued…….