NDP Calls for Canadian Troops Out of Afghanistan

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By SA Canada / September 2006 issue of Socialist Action

Until Aug. 31 the labour-based New Democratic Party had declined to demand that Canadian troops leave Afghanistan—much less take the side of the popular resistance to the Zionist apartheid state in Palestine and the invasion of Lebanon.

Then NDP federal Leader Jack Layton issued a policy statement on Afghanistan. The core of it is this: “New Democrats are calling for the withdrawal of Canadian troops from the combat mission in southern Afghanistan. Withdrawal should begin as soon as possible—working with our international partners to ensure a safe and smooth transition—but with a view to having it complete by February 2007.”

This position represents a real advance, reflecting the pressure of anti-war opinion, including inside the NDP. But it falls far short of demanding that Canadian forces get out of Afghanistan entirely, not just out of the southern region, and that the exit commence immediately, without conditions to be negotiated, and without military redeployment being the aim.

It must be said that, from the start, the Canadian intervention was an unjustified foreign occupation at the service of big business and militarist interests, orchestrated by Washington. Ottawa’s role was to free up some U.S. forces for the dirty imperialist war in Iraq.

The shift of Canadian troops to Kandahar did not change ‘the mission’ fundamentally, it just exposed the basic nature of it—while exposing Canadian soldiers to the more potent enmity of local resistance to the foreign occupation. The warlord-druglord regime in Kabul clings to power at the whim of Washington, and is doomed to fall. Not one drop of blood should be shed in its defence.

The time for Canada’s military to leave Afghanistan, entirely, is now—and not to be re-deployed to Lebanon, or Sudan. Nor should Canadian cops be policing Haiti’s poor while protecting its sweat-shop owners.

Canada’s state and military are not neutral. Neither should the NDP be. The NDP should be on the side of workers, the poor, and the oppressed everywhere. And that means opposing imperialist intervention, starting with Canada’s.

“Troops out of Afghanistan now”, which is the lead slogan of the antiwar protests called by the Canadian Peace Alliance for Oct. 28, and endorsed by the Canadian Labour Congress, should be the NDP’s clear demand of the Stephen Harper Conservative government in Ottawa.

Layton’s ambiguity about partial withdrawal and possible redeployment of Canadian forces to other potential sites for a military ‘mission’ only helps Harper fudge the issue behind the rhetoric of ‘multinational peacekeeping’, which is precisely what Harper claims he is engaged in doing with other NATO countries in Afghanistan.

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