Today's Toronto Star reports that, for the first time, a majority of Canadians oppose Canada's continued military presence in Afghanistan.
Public support for Canada's military role in Afghanistan has dropped "precipitously" as more and more Canadians thinks troops are fighting an impossible mission, a new poll shows.

. . .

Currently, 49 per cent of Canadians oppose the Afghanistan mission, 38 per cent support it and 12 per cent have no opinion, according to an EKOS poll done for the Toronto Star.

"There has been a precipitous decline. For the first time we see more Canadians opposed to the mission than in support of it," Graves said in an interview.

In December, 2001, support for Canadian participation in military action in Afghanistan was at 62 per cent, with only 18 per cent opposed. By December, 2002, 50 per cent supported the mission, with 30 per cent opposed. And support has dropped more than 10 percentage points since early this year, the same time that Canadian troops took on a more dangerous and high profile role in southern Afghanistan.

Surprisingly though, opposition isn't driven by concerns about mounting casualties — 16 soldiers have been killed in the last three months alone. Rather, opponents say the mission is unlikely to bring stability and democracy to Afghanistan and fear that it is bringing Canada uncomfortably close to American foreign policy, the poll indicates.
This bit is infuriating:
Graves [the pollster] said pessimism is infecting Canadians' outlook on the world and fuelling an "incipient isolationism."

"There's a growing sense that problems in places like the Middle East, in Iraq, in Israel are things not tractable, not solvable, that our best interests will (not) achieve real progress in our lifetime," Graves said.

"That's a very depressing sense of futility and hopelessness that seems to infect our outlook."
Mr Graves, could it be that a growing number of Canadians recognize that the way to solve the world's problems is not through the sights of a tank?

In any case, what does this mean in practical terms? Both the Conservatives and the Liberals support "the mission" - love that euphemism - and I'm sure most voters are not so adamantly opposed to it that they will vote NDP. Where does this leave Canadians who don't want Canada in Afghanistan? From the same story:
Despite the public unease about Afghanistan, Harper and his Conservatives don't appear to be paying a political price.

"There's a real sort of paradox here," Graves said. "Despite this precipitous decline in support for the mission, it doesn't appear to have had any deleterious impact on Harper's approval ratings or the prospects for this party."

Indeed, while Harper visited troops in Afghanistan in the spring and his government endorsed a two-year extension of mission, Canadians recognize that it was the Liberals who dispatched the troops on the more difficult Kandahar mission in the first place.

On a similar note, public opposition hasn't produced any political return for the New Democrats, who have called for troops to be brought home.
In yesterday's Star, columnist Haroon Siddiqui writes:
You didn't have to go any further than the blanket coverage of the fifth anniversary of Sept. 11 to know the great divide between the United States and the rest of the world, and also between those Americans and Canadians, like Stephen Harper, who support George W. Bush's geopolitics and those who don't, namely, the majority of Americans and Canadians.

While each of the 2,973 victims of 9/11 needs to be remembered, no less worthy of commemoration are those sacrificed in the failed war on terrorism:

- The 2,670 Americans, and the 42,000 to 100,000 Iraqi civilians killed in Iraq.

- The 16 Canadian soldiers killed since May in Afghanistan.

- The tens of thousands of Afghan civilians killed, maimed or displaced since the toppling of the Taliban five long years ago.

- The hundreds of Palestinians killed and the hundreds of thousands starving in the Israeli-occupied territories, now with Canadian complicity.

These Muslim victims were, and are, not all terrorists. Not to see the connection between their tragedy and the Muslim anger around the world is to be obtuse or ideologically blind.
In closing, Siddiqui sums up what many of us are thinking:
Standing by the U.S. and Israel is not the same as standing with Bush and some Israeli politicians. Israel has a right to exist and thrive but so do the Palestinians. Our presence in Afghanistan is legitimate but not as the B team of the American war machine. Canadians understand this, as recent polls show. But our government doesn't.

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