CANADA in AFGHANISTAN: The US in IRAQ, George Orwell, National Interests, and Keeping an Eye on the Memory Hole

“Early in life I had noticed that no event is ever correctly reported in a newspaper.”
—George Orwell

Sometimes I think one of the worst methods of gathering knowledge about what’s going on in the world is watching the news every night.

I know good people who watch the news every night and know virtually nothing original or insightful about world events—let alone anything comprehensive or expansive.

“Myths which are believed in tend to become true.”
—George Orwell

The daily deluge of political rhetoric allows new lies to become “facts” through repetition.

Like natural selection, this repetition not only changes, bit by bit, what was said or promised in the original rhetoric, recreating objectives, but it creates—probably due to excessive out of context information—what is known as a memory hole.

Truth, as best as it can be deciphered—which is limited—goes down the memory hole into some sort of mental archeological dig.

“A tragic situation exists precisely when virtue does not triumph but when it is still felt that man is nobler than the forces which destroy him.”
—George Orwell

The evolution of America’s reasons for being in Iraq are an obvious example. They began with the fact of dictator Saddam Hussein’s WMDs and his connection to al Qaeda. When that came up false, the reason evolved to the by now standard rhetoric of bringing democracy to Iraq—which the press jumped upon. For what is better news or more encouraging than a “noble war”?

From the views expressed in the mainstream media and from political leaders, one could conclude that Iraq having the second largest oil reserves in the world played no role in the invasion whatsoever—and access to oil pipelines through Afghanistan played no role, either.

“There are some ideas so wrong that only a very intelligent person could believe in them.”
—George Orwell

Nearly as shocking, despite the fact that many of the grand connections and financial support for terrorism appear to originate and expand from Saudi Arabia, we hear nary a squeak against that monarchy. One is tempted to believe this has to do with the House of Saud’s deep-pocket involvement with the American economy, which is goverened by multi-national corporations beholden only to profit—not the environment, boundaries, or human rights. For Saudi Arabia, this appears to also mean largely disregarding their own subjects’ lack of infrastructure and freedom.

Fundamentalist Wahhabism schools flourish in Saudi Arabia, and raise great amounts of “intellectual” and monetary support for extremist groups across the Middle East. Further, fourteen of the nineteen terrorist pilots were Saudi Arabian, and the country is by many considered the most extreme Islamic state in the Middle East.

Read for example this interview with Vali Nasr:

“Saudi Arabia has been the single biggest source of funding for fanatical interpretations of Islam, and the embodiment of that interpretation in organizations and schools has created a self-perpetuating institutional basis for promoting fanaticism across the Muslim world…There is no other state who spends as much money at ensuring conservatism and fanaticism among Muslims…”

This simply shows the double and triple standards of it all—and why history needs to be read, re-read, and deeply contemplated.

Or read even Daniel Pipes, with whom I seldom if ever agree philosophically.

Or slightly off topic yet reflective of the Saudi-American relationship, check this out.

TURN OFF THE NEWS: A DIFFERENT CURRICULUM OF LEARNING

“In our age there is no such thing as ‘keeping out of politics.’ All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred and schizophrenia.”
—George Orwell

So who can explain Afghanistan? How well does the news explain Afghanistan? Personally, I would recommend, say, one hour of watching news a week, and the other five or six hours of news-watching-time being dedicated to reading history, or the original best news reports from when the conflict began, to see what was said. They are instructive for seeing the grotesque spin of language and politics.

Here are the original stated reasons for Canada being in Afghanistan, as supplied by the Government’s website:

1) Defend Canada’s national interests.

If national interests were about protecting people and spreading democracy, helping the Congo would have been way more likely, with 3 to 4 million deaths there over ten years, with horrendous amounts of rape; or Darfur, except for the fact that Talisman oil was there until 2003, and the new imperialist China has dibs on the oil there now; or Canada would be in Iraq, defending the locales from foreign invasion.

National interests, for the most part, mean business interests—oil, largely, in this case—and staying relatively in line with American policy. Oil, of course, keeps the war machine going, and vice-versa.

One might think, with all these battles, oil profits would suffer. Alas, no—with quarterly oil profits being greater than any other entrepreneurial undertaking in the history of the world.

2) Ensure Canadian leadership in world affairs.

See above. Canadian leadership in world affairs means maintaining a voice by whom we accommodate, for Canada has no serious military power—and any fool can see power is the final arbiter. And following America speaks volumes about that stated goal, for no one could suggest that America’s foreign policy path since 2001 has increased their role as a moral leader in world affairs—in fact, just the opposite as any poll would show.

3) Help Afghanistan rebuild.

Work here is being done, of course, and I would say as a by-product of trying to preserve National Interests, but the conditions and premise are brutal and paradoxical.

From April, 2007, Frontline’s The Other War shows the best intentions and courage of Canadian soldiers risking their lives in that dangerous country, and the challenge and sadness of reality.

But more profound than my opinion, obviously—or even some political leader from the States or Canada—how about a word from the remarkably courageous Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA)? RAWA despise the Taliban, and released this damning and difficult to read communique in December of 2007:

The US and her allies [the Canadian Harper government etc] tried to legitimize their military occupation of Afghanistan under the banner of “bringing freedom and democracy for Afghan people”.

But as we have experienced in the past three decades, in regard to the fate of our people, the US government first of all considers her own political and economic interests and has empowered and equipped the most traitorous, anti-democratic, misogynist and corrupt fundamentalist gangs in Afghanistan [referring here, firstly, to the original empowerment of Islamic fundamentalists from all over the Middle East to fight the Russians].

The reinstatement of the Northern Alliance to power crushed the hopes of our people for freedom and prosperity into desperation and proved that for the Bush administration, defeating terrorism so that our people can be happy, have no significance at all.

The US administration plays a funny anti-Taliban game and pretends that a super power is unable to defeat a small, marginalized and medieval-minded gang which is actually her own product.

But our people found by experience in the past few years that the US doesn’t want to defeat the Taliban and Al-Qaeda, because then they will have no excuse to stay in Afghanistan and work towards the realization of [America's] economical, political and strategic interests in the region…

After about seven years, there is no peace, human rights, democracy and reconstruction in Afghanistan.

On the contrary, the destitution and suffering of our people has doubled everyday. Our people, and even our unfortunate children, fall victim to the Jehadis’ infighting (Baghlan incident), the Taliban’s untargeted blasts and the US/NATO’s non-stop bombardments.

The Northern Alliance blood-suckers, who are part of [Afghanistan President] Karzai’s team and have key government posts, continue to be the main and the most serious obstacle towards the establishment of peace and democracy in Afghanistan. The existence of tens of illegal private security companies run by these mafia bands are enough to realize their sinister intentions and the danger they pose.

The full RAWA statement is here.

CONSERVATIVELY SUGGESTING…

With the vote passing for an extension of Canadian troops in Afghanistan until 2011 (with qualifications), I wish I could post something like the Darfur in 10 Minutes overview—but the Afghanistan situation is even more complex. International involvement and off-and-on associations with groups we claim to despise has been schizophrenically pronounced for decades.

It would not surprise me if the Russians invaded with similarly stated, noble objectives.

And again, without doubt there are soldiers and officers truly committed to trying to bring some stability to Afghanistan (watch the PBS piece)—even with the ironic possibility that their presence in Afghanistan increases resistance and problems.

“Political language…is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.”
—George Orwell

Having mentioned the three original stated reasons—national interest, leadership in world affairs, and rebuilding Afghanistan, and what those words might mean euphemistically—here’s what Canadian Defense Minister Peter McKay said about the protesters shouting: “End it, don’t extend it!”, and the one reason for the Canadian military being there.

You’ll notice both in Iraq and Afghanistan, the reason now is consistently the nobility of trying to bring democracy to these tribal, illiterate cultures.

“What you saw in the House, the expressions whether they be through votes [Liberals and Conservatives largely for, NDP and Bloc Quebecois largely against, 198-77] or what was said in the gallery [by the anti-extension protesters], are expressions of a country that has a healthy, vibrant democracy.

We hope that some day we will be able to see that type of diversity and freedom of expression in Afghanistan. That’s exactly what we’re there to do.

Full article is here.

National interest—meaning business interests—and world leadership tied to America are not mentioned.

“Every war when it comes, or before it comes, is represented not as a war but as an act of self-defense against a homicidal maniac.”
—George Orwell

Were not the initial reasons for America being in Afghanistan a response to the 9/11 attacks—to “smoke out” Osama bin Laden and kill the terrorists?

Bin Laden was abandoned verbally by Bush years ago—and without mainstream media sufficiently calling him to task for either his initial idiocy or his subsequent about face.

I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s right in one way about bin Laden, of course. How important is he? But that was not the tool of fear-creating that was used in the first place.

And here’s the progression of US misrepresentations told over and over again.

As for Who are the Taliban? Here’s some information that might be useful.

QUESTIONS UNANSWERED (and they have to remain that way)

Although I’m not a supporter of Jack Layton, and he is being accused of weakness and the stupid idea of not supporting the troops (by wanting them home), the questions on the NDP website are worth reiterating:

“In April [2006, I believe], I asked the Conservative Minister of Defence, Gordon O’Connor, a number of key questions. In fact, I asked the very same questions of him that he had asked the Liberal government just a few months before.

• What are the goals and objectives of this mission and how do they meet Canada’s foreign policy objectives?
• What is the realistic mandate of the mission and how is it being enforced?
• What are the criteria to measure progress?
• What is the definition of success?
• And what is the clear exit strategy for this mission?

Last year, while [the Conservatives were] in opposition, Gordon O’Connor said that these questions must be answered when intervening in failed states [it was the Liberals, after all, who chose to go into Afghanistan]. Now, after seven months in office, the Conservatives, just like the Liberals before them, have failed to answer these questions.”

These are fair questions. What are the answers? They cannot be answered—which is how it has to be. It’s like a smoker with lung cancer thinking that wishing they had never smoked might take away the cancer. Afghanistan has already been occupied for nearing seven years, excluding the hell from the Taliban and the Russians before them, and so on.

WITH A LITTLE CONTEXT TO RISE ABOVE THE RHETORIC

“Sometimes the first duty of intelligent [people] is the restatement of the obvious.”
—George Orwell

So we as citizens should not rush so quickly to fight amongst ourselves about the most recent debate in the House of Commons. That is what is wanted. Spiteful debate between citizens along the current allowable parameters of political rhetoric—with stunningly little opportunity to effect change—makes the government decision appear both democratic and justified.

We should glance back to how we arrived in Afghanistan in the first place. We should reread our reasons for being involved, so it does not become a debate about whether we support the troops or not, or whether we are against the Taliban or not. We should consider the manner in which America pushed forth in the first place after the horrendous attacks on 9/11.

I deplore the agenda, brutality and ignorance of the Taliban—and anyone who agrees surely must feel equal dis-ease with the findings and attitudes that have exploded out of Saudi Arabia.

But what is truth? Compare the smiling glow on Bush’s face when he visits the Saudi Princes to his dower expression when he talks about Iran or Iraq. What is evident is the ongoing influence the House of Saud has in the American economy (as one example, with Egypt not far behind) and in turn America has on us Canadians. This should be a large part of the conversation, regardless of one’s position on Canada in Afghanistan.

Similarly, the numbers of deaths in Iraq, and, say, the Congo or Darfur, are heart-breaking, but what is done there?

THE COURAGE OF BARBARA LEE

Excluding earlier history for the moment, we are in Afghanistan and the US is in Afghanistan and Iraq—with its hundreds of thousands of deaths—in the manner we are, because no one, save Barbara Lee, had the courage to say, ‘As we act, let us not become the evil that we deplore.’

She was outvoted 98-0 in the Senate, 420-1 (Lee’s vote) in the House. That is an heroic stance.

“All the war-propaganda, all the screaming and lies and hatred, comes invariably from people who are not fighting.”
—George Orwell

Humans and human behaviour is a mystery. I don’t know the answers at all, but I do know the daily spoon-fed context the public eats up—and then vomits in the guise of free speech and argument—is largely mythical and deplorable.

The best of what I wish for myself—enough to live, to be creative, to live in dignity without the threat of insurgent or State terror—I wish for my sisters and brothers, be they Canadian soldiers, Afghan citizens, the Congolese, the tribes of Darfur, Americans, Iranians, Iraqis and all the rest.

How these improvements come about, I am not sure. However, those in charge of so-called National Interests and noble wars and fluctuating objectives, concern me.

Learn as much as you can—and think for yourself, with the rest of the world in mind. Lots of love, peace, sleep, joy and discernment to you and yours,

Pete

Share

7 Responses to “CANADA in AFGHANISTAN: The US in IRAQ, George Orwell, National Interests, and Keeping an Eye on the Memory Hole”

  1. Erynn says:

    There are moments when I think nobody reads Orwell anymore.

  2. And he’s still so revealing, honest and compelling. And even where one disagrees, his words encourage a person to expand their thoughts beyond the low-bandwidth of political rhetoric and tribal fear—and illogical patriotism. Name one patriotic Multinational corporation, save where it serves their profit interests. By definition, their Multinational. God love Orwell.

    And lots of love to you. Thanks for reading!

    Pete

  3. Erynn says:

    I always read, even if I don’t have anything to say ;)

  4. Karen says:

    Hi Pete,

    I stopped watching the news a long time ago too. One can almost get a better view of the truth from the Sunday comic pages or Jon Stewart than the mass media, which I realize they are a part of, so OK, we can’t win.

    I’m all for reading as much history as possible or we will repeat it, but beware the source. So much history is simply propaganda or indoctrination; look at any school history text. Heck, look at most college level texts. And that’s fine, but only if you are also teaching students to think critically. Unfortunately, in this “leave no child behind,” teach to the test environment, we are not teaching our children to think much deeper than deciding what to have for lunch at the cafeteria.

    I had a history teacher in high school you would have loved. He’d have a list of the reasons for some war or other historical high point on the board when we walked in. He’d sit on his desk and say, “OK, copy that crap down and remember it. You’ll need it for the final. Then we’ll discuss why this really happened.” And we would.

    History is only as good as those who have recorded it. We have to rely on the honesty and integrity of the writer.

    Erynn is right. We’re out here reading. Keep making us think; mass media sure isn’t.

    Hope you’re feeling better too.

    Love to you,
    Karen

  5. Hi guys—thanks for the great moon copy!

    I so agree with what you’re saying about texts—critical—and I love that eacher: hilarious. right away, by that simple, loving act of subversion, a student with even the faintest signs of synapses firing will now, beautifulyy, start searching for what is really being said.

    And standardized testing, a friend/educator told me today, are in a strange, pressurized way, part of the war culture in that we learn by rote, we’re taught what we have to learn—no deviation—and the pressure to be a winner (as opposed to a loser) by following the narrow width of learning is pronounced.

    Interesting world—and I have so appreciated what I’ve learned from these comments for the past year or months.

    Lots of love to you both, on this mysterious, unstoppable journey,

    Pete

  6. Can you help me purchase a copy of see grace fly? I have tried EVERYTHING to buy one withouy luck. thank you, sheryl berwick

Leave a Reply