Last night we attended a town hall meeting called "Canada in Afghanistan: Stop the war, end the torture," co-sponsored by the International Socialists at University of Toronto, and the University of Toronto NDP. It was well attended and high spirited, educational and fun.
During the discussion period, many people mentioned the incredible uprising of grassroots activism around Stephen Harper's prorogation of Parliament. Nearly 200 people attended the recent organizing meeting for the rally in Toronto. Two hundred people at an organizing meeting! Many of those said it was the first activism they had ever done. I'm told that more than 75 people came to an organizing in Mississauga! Wow!
We must not forget - we must never forget - that prorogation is inextricable from what is happening in Afghanistan. We all know that Harper prorogued Parliament to avoid the inquiry into the torture of Afghan detainees. Even Conservative guru Tom Flanagan admits that. We need to remind other anti-prorogation people about this connection at every opportunity.
This huge groundswell of activism is a beautiful thing, and I think January 23 will be an incredible day. Canadians across a spectrum of political lines and beliefs will take to the streets to stand up for democracy. That alone is beautiful. But those of us who stand for peace need to bring it one step further: we must demand an inquiry into the torture of Afghan prisoners, and demand that Canada get its troops out of Afghanistan.
When I pop in to the Facebook page to see the current member total (now 178,316!), I usually take a quick glance at the comments. Many people use a Maple Leaf avatar and write "support the troops" messages. Those are the people who need our message the most.
So what is our message?
That "Canada out of Afghanistan" is not disrespectful of the troops. It has nothing to do with supporting individual soldiers. We want soldiers to have all the care and support they need. But we value their lives beyond measure, and we don't want those lives at risk for a war that cannot be won.
We believe Canadian soldiers should not be in Afghanistan. The rationale for their presence there is a lie. They are not supporting democracy. They are not supporting women's rights. They are not making Canadians safer.
Through its misguided foreign policy, Canada is supporting a corrupt, warlord-based regime; it is subjugating its foreign policy to US bidding; it is killing innocent civilians; it is working with the US to breed anti-Western resentment and hatred. That is, Canada is engaging in terrorism, and thus breeding more terrorism. As Major General Andrew Leslie himself said, "Every time you kill an angry young man overseas, you're creating 15 more who will come after you."
This is not the soldiers' fault. They are doing their jobs on their assigned missions. Our fervent desire to end the war is not a reflection of our opinion of them.
Saying this to hardcore right-wingers who parrot Conservative Party talking points is a waste of your breath. Saying it to open-minded people who oppose prorogation is a duty.
On NoProrogue.ca, you will find a list of anti-prorogation actions taking place January 23. Here are the current locations:
New York City (Canadians abroad protesting at the Consulate!)
Sault Ste. Marie