Some bloggers suggest that the National Post is on the verge of bankruptcy, a flagship furiously sucking equity out of its CanWest parent. I hope they're right. The paper is nothing so much as a far-right, politically bent propaganda rag. It would be a small loss to Canada if it went under.
Columnist Don Martin is an example of why we don't need NatPo. He's been on assignment in Afghanistan where the heat must've given him brainwaves such as calling for Canadian forces to issue body counts to pump up support at home. Martin even wanted us to count the "pink mist" that resulted from NATO's aerial bombardments, not particularly worried that mist could be the mortal remains of some kid we exterminated.
Martin leaves Afghanistan today and, predictably, is doing it with a column that comes with everything but pom-poms. He also shows that he just doesn't get it.
Hundreds of Soviet tanks, troop carriers, trucks and artillery guns, perfectly preserved by Kandahar's desert-dry environment right down to goggles and binoculars, lie abandoned in a gated compound within sight of Canadian base headquarters.
For nine bloody years in the 1980s, the Soviet Union tried to prop up a Communist government in Kabul and annihilate the mujahedeen insurgency. Finally, the fading superpower ditched its military hardware here in the rush to flee a fight it couldn't win.
There's a reason the arsenal sits in a gated compound under the watchful eyes of Canadian forces and it isn't because the stuff was abandoned by the Soviets when they left. It's because all this weaponry was put to use by one of the many sides to the civil war that wracked Afghanistan for many years after the Soviets left. This stuff wasn't abandoned, it was surrendered and impounded.
Then Martin comes up with this gem: Right off the bat, let me argue that Canada cannot impose a political timetable on successfully ending this military mission. Earth to Martin, no one is suggesting that Canada can "impose" any manner of timetable on "successfully ending this military mission" whatever that may mean - and it does mean very different things to different people. Does this guy just pull this stuff out of his backside?
This one is precious: Soldiers who believed they had a Churchillian prime minister now know he's just another political weather vane, twisting in response to the winds of public opinion. What soldier in his right mind would have thought Harper "Churchillian"? It would take an incredible ignorance of Winston Churchill to ever draw that comparison, not a problem for Don Martin.
The war against the poppy is lost.
Even with eradication activity picking up under British supervision, the opium-producing plant is setting record high harvests. Detection is not a problem -- soldiers often remark how beautiful the poppy fields look when they're in full red bloom. But British military officials tell me it's a struggle to convince farmers to switch their illegal crop for less lucrative melons, grapes or even marijuana.
Fair enough, Don, but what does that mean to "the mission", to NATO and to the Kabul government? Do the math.
The combined air and ground firepower of the joint forces here is a sight to behold. How so much destructive technology can be neutralized by a few thousand religious extremists armed with ancient rocket launchers, last-generation rifles and old anti-tank mines boggles the mind.
I can't imagine what it would take to boggle a mind like Martin's but his schoolboy fascination with firepower means he has no idea that massive firepower can contribute to losing a guerrilla war. Seven weeks in Afghanistan and he still hasn't grasped that this is classic, asymmetrical warfare and that is precisely how so much destructive technology can be neutralized by a few thousand religious extremists armed with ancient rocket launchers.
Martin goes on to rave about how Kandahar city is bustling with construction and commerce, just as Kabul did previously. What hasn't dawned on him is just what is driving all that activity. It's drug money. Kandahar's very prosperity speaks of our failure to establish an alternative to the narco-economy of the countryside. Kabul too flourished - until the Americans laid into the poppy fields in that region. When the opium money dried up, so did Kabul.
Martin concludes by noting that the job (whatever that is) won't be finished by 2009 which, he says, makes it imperative that Canadian forces stay here until the job is done, even if the surrender monkeys in Ottawa think it's politically convenient to leave.
It's sad, really, that despite almost two months in Afghanistan, Martin has grasped so little of its history and its reality. Of course, if you go there to be a cheerleader, deep thoughts need not be a priority.
Martin is just plain wrong on so many levels. He completely ignores the corruption-riddled Kabul government that, of itself, virtually guarantees that "the mission" cannot succeed. He doesn't get that. He ignores the narcotics driven prosperity that leaves the welfare of the country in the hands of insurgents and criminals, some of them politicians. An economy based on lawlessness cannot give rise to a civil society, end of story. He doesn't realize that we don't control our own war in Afghanistan. We're a part, an important part, but still a part of a far larger campaign and, even if we notionally succeed in Kandahar (which we're not), our contribution can be rendered insignificant if the rest of the place is a failure.
It's unfortunate that the National Post thought so little of this story that it sent a guy of Martin's calibre to analyze it. Really unfortunate.