Media companies, government of Canada, knowingly contributed to death of naive young journalist

The death of a young Calgary journalist and four Canadian soldiers in the killing fields of Afghanistan has been unblushingly exploited by the country’s mainstream media to buttress its propaganda effort on behalf of Canada’s deadly and tragic role in the American-led imperialist project in the Hindu Kush. This, of course, is to be expected.

More unseemly has been the enthusiasm with which Canadian newspapers, especially those like the Calgary Herald (owned by the neoliberal, rabidly pro-Israel CanWest organization), have used this tragedy to make the deeply misleading case that brave Canadian journalists are “covering” the occupation of Afghanistan in the sense Western reporters covered, say, the War in Vietnam in the 1960s and 1970s.

This is  a pretty picture, but completely fraudulent. Watching television coverage of the tragedy, one cannot escape the nauseating sense that certain senior CanWest executives are privately gleeful at the loss of these five young lives, especially that of their employee Michelle Lang, and are prepared to crassly take advantage of the tragedy to justify the cowardly, intellectually dishonest and jingoistic way they cover events involving the Canadian military in Afghanistan.

Literally tens of thousands of words have been written about this tragedy, far more than if only Canadian soldiers had lost their lives. This is not a criticism. It is natural that any group will react with an expression of solidarity when it has unexpectedly lost one of its own. This is why police officers turn out by the hundreds when one of their number falls on the job. Even taxi drivers can be counted on to do the same thing.

But it is troubling that not one of the words written or spoken in the mainstream media seems to have tried to examine in a critical way what this naive young woman was trying to do in Afghanistan, or the circumstances that led her to be there.

One senses that enthusiasm for the true Afghan “mission” lingers within the ranks of the Canadian Forces (CF). We are not speaking here of the bogus “reconstruction” effort within that country, which in reality is virtually meaningless and non-existent, but the actual fighting with the indigenous Pashtun Resistance that opposes the occupation of their country for economic and strategic reasons by the United States and its proxies. After all, although very little is said about this other than by the occasional grief-stricken family member, soldiers understand that the only way to meaningfully advance their military careers is by actually fighting wars, not participating in the disdainfully dismissed peace keeping efforts so beloved by the Canadian public.

So, as long as a sufficient percentage of soldiers have the reasonable prospect of surviving uninjured, a certain degree of enthusiasm for the fight, for any fight, will persist within their ranks. But one also senses that the CF are coming to respect the tenacity, skill and courage of the Pashtun Resistance, and so they enter the fray with due caution and a realistic sense of the risks they are taking when they deploy in Afghanistan.

Can the same thing be said of the “embedded” Canadian “journalists” accompanying our soldiers in their occupation duties? One thinks not. One suspects this is treated as a lark in Canadian newsrooms, a career advancer about as dangerous as a fast ride on the back of someone else’s motorcycle. Certainly, when they return to their newsrooms, a few weeks in Afghanistan is justification for testosterone-heavy macho braggadocio in the cause of serious career advancement.

So, will any Canadian journalist employed in the mainstream media write critically and knowingly about what led to the completely inappropriate assignment of a young woman reporter who hitherto had covered nothing more dangerous than a Alberta Health Services meeting to the job of war correspondent in a foreign killing field? It is doubtful.

Obviously, the CF “got it.” They tried to keep their journalistic charge well “behind the lines,” in a safe area. Unfortunately for them, and for her, there are no “lines” in Afghanistan other than those that separate the minority ethnic groups with which we have sided and the Pashtun majority of the country, with which we have foolishly gone to war. Moreover, the Pashtun Resistance is becoming bolder and more skilled. They may well have intelligence about who is going where with the CF soldiers. It is their country, after all.

Our forces take these tame journalists into the field, of course, on the instructions of our cynical government, because there is an opportunity for propaganda. The dead reporter’s naive coverage of Canada’s “reconstruction” efforts, examples of which have been proudly published by CanWest, clearly illustrates this. Similar examples have been produced by other reporters, who have had the good luck to survive their short tours of duty. In reality, the bulk of the “reconstruction” financed by Canadian taxpayers to the tune of billions of dollars a year consists of building what might be called “armoured roads,” highways with steel plate buried as deep as 30 feet on either side to hinder partisans from burying anti-tank bombs under the roadway.

The happy villagers interviewed by Canadian reporters provide window dressing. They are dangerous window dressing, we may assume, because readers can be certain that many of them change sides at night and join the Resistance, just as occupied people have done for all of history and will always do. The soldiers of the CF certainly know this, even if the innocent reporters sent on excursions by CanWest and companies of its ilk do not. Do you think the word doesn’t go back to Resistance leaders that a young woman journalist was in the region yesterday, and may be again tomorrow? Do you think the Resistance does not understand human nature, that the troops accompanying such a person will be distracted from their military duties when the morrow comes?

Likewise bogus is the continually repeated claim by their employers that Canadian reporters in Afghanistan are risking their lives to inform Canadians about what is going on there. They are risking their lives, alright, but to engage in a misleading propaganda effort to justify the continued occupation of Afghanistan.  Of course, as innocent occupiers in a strange and dangerous landscape, they identify with their military protectors. This is the whole purpose of “embedding” reporters with their country’s troops. Fed a steady diet of government propaganda and suffering from a version of “Stockholm Syndrome,” they regurgitate the narrative of the military brass and Harper government point by misleading point.

Seriously, readers, have any of you ever read a single word from an embedded Canadian reporter in Afghanistan that even made mention of our role in the historical ethnic conflicts in that country, that included an accounting of what is being done with our “reconstruction” dollars, or that had more than a passing reference to the corruption of the government of Hamid Karzai?

Look at this from the perspective of the Pashtuns. Your country is occupied by foreign troops, who conduct themselves in violation of your fundamental religious principles. (Have you seen the “Infidel” T-shirts worn as a gesture of bravado by Canadian troopers? Not in a Canadian news report, you haven’t.) The foreigners have allied themselves with your minority ethnic enemies, who are lording it over you as if this were their country. A Canadian citizen of Afghan origina Quisling, in the language of another war of occupation and resistance – has been given absolute authority over you. A government of your ethnic enemies is looting the land and killing your compatriots and family members. What would you do? You would resist, as you always have, as has every generation of Pashtuns faced with the same thing in their tragic and strategic land. And you would succeed, as you have against every invader since Alexander the Great, including the mighty British Empire and the Red Army.

Do you think the Pashtuns distinguish between the soldiers occupying their country and the journalists “embedded” with the occupation forces? Would you in the same circumstances, if Canada were occupied by Muslim troops from abroad, accompanied by armoured and uniformed Muslim “reporters”? Not bloody likely. You would view them as a legitimate target.

And are those journalists anything but a functional part of the occupation force, and therefore from the Resistance perspective a completely legitimate target? As seen from the homes of the Pashtuns, they obviously are not. The flags on their coffins when they go home prove it.

Canada’s role in the occupation of Afghanistan is senseless, immoral and ultimately doomed. Our corporate media do us no favours by sending inexperienced reporters there to write jingoistic drivel in the company of armed minders, with whom they quickly come to identify. The owners of those media companies have no right to be surprised that their employees are targeted by the Resistance. Like the government of Canada, they knowingly contributed to the death of Michelle Lang. As Canadian citizens, we do ourselves no favours by assuming that the “news” reports created by these people, whether done cynically or naively, reflect the truth of the continuing Afghan tragedy.


Tooralooralai! Find the latest Tooryalai Wesa news update here

Whatever became of Tooryalai Wesa, the former resident of the thriving Vancouver suburb of Coquitlam and one-time lecturer in agriculture at the University of British Columbia, who a year or so ago became the governor of Kandahar province?

Intrepid Afghan-Canadian Tooryalai Wesa, shown clutching some of his stuff, shakes off attack by perfidious Taliban insurgents.

We confess we haven’t thought much about the distinguished Prof. Wesa since we last blogged on this topic in December 2008, which was pretty much the last time we could bother to bestir ourselves to file a post on any topic. Prof. Wesa, as alert readers would recall if this blog had any, was called personally by his boyhood pal President Hamid Karzai to give up his life of academic ease in Canada and take up the cause of serving the Islamic Republic. How best to do this? Why, by rooting out those Islamic warriors insufficiently committed to abetting the Karzai family’s efforts to feather its own pockets. This is an urgent project, of course, in light of the still-unlikely possibility the Canadian army may actually return home as promised next year.

Readers will recall that Prof. Wesa is by sheer coincidence the cousin of the late Zahir Shah, the King of All The Afghans, kicked off his wobbly throne in 1973 by Mohammed Daoud Khan, another member of Prof. Wesa’s extended fambly. Alas, all these fine men have now passed from the Afghan political scene. All but Prof. Wesa, Mr. Karzai and their cousins in the family torture department, of course. (Diplomatic cables passim.)

Yet, despite this long silence, somehow the muse prompted us check this evening how Prof. Wesa is faring and, lo, to our utter astonishment we learned that someone only the day before yesterday tried to blow the learned Afghan-Cananian to smithereens!

This astounding news was found in something called B.C. Local news – which is no doubt published in the lovely Lower Mainland community of Bangalore – which reported, “on Friday Wesa was in a convoy that was heading through the centre of Kandahar to a mosque when it was targeted by a roadside bomb.” More mind-boggling still, it seems that this is the second time benighted Afghan farmers – pardon me, evil Taliban insurgents – have attempted such a perfidious deed. In April, they attacked the gubernatorial palace but were, praise be, stopped by members of the Princess Nabeela’s Afghan Light Infantry (PNALI).

As we said when we last broached this topic, it continues to be hoped profoundly that Prof. Wesa does not meet a harsh fate in his ancestral home in the Hindu Kush, but that he can some day return to his beloved Coquitlam and his students (in Pashto, remember, “taliban”) at UBC.

Elsewhere in Kandahar, the Globe and Mail reports, coalition troops, whoever they may be, “detained several militants in three separate operations.” None of them will be handed over to the Afghans for torture. Peter Mackay is a Great Canadian ™.

Canada’s Apartment for Foreign Affairs – using your tax dollars to look out for you

Yeah, right!

If you’re a Canadian citizen abroad and the bombs start raining down on your head, you’d damn well better pray it’s not the Israeli Air Force that’s dropping ’em.

That’s because  — as we found out in Lebanon in the summer of 2006 — as far as the Stephen Harper neocon regime is concerned, the life of one single Israeli storm trooper is worth more than the lives of 10, 100 or a even 1,000 taxpaying Canadian citizens, let alone the poor bastards who actually have to live in Lebanon or Gaza.

This is especially true if the Canadians in question have foreign-sounding names. Gotta love those Tories, if there’s a way they can appeal to Canadians’ basest instincts, they’ll try to find it.

Yup, if you’re in Lebanon, the West Bank or Gaza — or for that matter in Egypt or Syria — you can count on the Canadian government not to give a flying fuck at a rolling bagel if Israeli bombs start raining down on you. Doesn’t matter if you’re visiting relatives, doing business, taking in the scene or even if you’re a Canadian serviceman trying to keep the peace. About the only reason they’ll take any interest in your troubles is if they can use it to gin up a bogus terrorism case against whomever you’re visiting.

So right now we’ve got 39 Canadians begging to escape the catastrophe in Gaza while the Israeli Terr’ Force flattens the place because its citizens had the temerity to elect the wrong government in an election that was freer than the one that gave the world George W. Bush? Well, too freakin’ bad for them!

About the only thing that could save them now is if one of them turned out to be named Chris MacKay and was a blond-haired, blue-eyed Mormon missionary from Taber, Alberta.

Failing that, the Government of Canada has other priorities! They’re using the tragedy as an excuse to blame it all on Hamas, the legitimately elected – whoops! terrorist, I mean – government of the besieged, starved, bombed and brutalized concentration camp in which our countrymen are trapped. That pretty much sums up what Peter Kent, television’s sometime “Scud Spud” and the Herpesistas’ pipsqueak junior Minister Responsible for Israeli Talking Points had to say about their plight.

Canada won’t do anything to help its beleaguered citizens trapped in the killing zone unless Hamas lies down and surrenders to Israeli hegemony, Studley said in pretty much those words. “The burden of responsibility lies now with Hamas,” he actually stated.

One would have thought some of the burden of responsibility for Canadian citizens trapped in a war zone abroad would lie with the Apartment for Foreign Affairs, but apparently not when the enfilading fire is from Israeli guns.

Canada won’t even support a temporary ceasefire long enough to help the 39 Canadians escape – not if it interferes with the complete destruction of Gazan infrastructure, including the United Nations school full of refugees, and the murder of Hamas’s elected leadership.

In other words, the lives of actual Canadian citizens stand second in the eyes of the Harper government to Israel’s genocidal war aims – starvation, ethnic cleansing, collective punishment and all.

No,  that’s not really fair. When it comes to Israel’s interests, Canadians are nowhere near second-place with Harper’s odiferous crew. We’re quite some way farther back in the queue.

Canadians need the full facts on the Semrau murder charges now

The Canadian Government needs to clear the air immediately about the actual circumstances that led to Capt. Robert Semrau being charged with second-degree murder in the death of an unarmed Afghan man during fighting in Helman Province last October.

This will benefit participants on all sides of the debate over Canada’s role in Afghanistan, and it will help our Canadian soldiers who are fighting in that benighted corner of the East. In fact, about the only people not likely to benefit from a transparent investigation are the politicians who sent our soldiers to Afghanistan and are keeping them there.

One can feel a certain sympathy with former prime minister Jean Chrétien for sending our troops abroad in the face of demands by the violent and threatening Bush Administration in the United States that Canadians join the unwarranted and now discredited invasion of Iraq. It is harder to feel any sympathy for the decision of the toadying regime of Prime Minister Stephen Harper to keep bleeding our soldiers in the Afghan hellhole Chrétien chose.

Nevertheless, whatever we may think of their foolish and politically motivated mission in Afghanistan, Canadian soldiers are generally well trained and highly disciplined. They know this themselves, even if we civilians sometimes forget it. So there is certainly now a suspicion within their ranks that the charges against Capt. Semrau were motivated by the need to achieve some political goal.

If the air is not cleared quickly and the full facts made known to everyone, this suspicion will grow rapidly among the troops. This in turn will have a deleterious impact on the morale of Canadian soldiers, which is already tanking as a result of the hopeless nature of their mission, to the detriment of their effectiveness and safety in battle.

With Capt. Semrau facing 25 years in a military slammer and the reasons for this shrouded in murk, Canadian soldiers in the war zone must be wondering, “What if I make the same mistake?” They need to know, as do we back here in Canada, whether Capt. Semrau did indeed make a “mistake,” or if his alleged actions are understandable under the hopeless and dangerous circumstances in which he found himself.

As civilians concerned about our country’s misadventures abroad, many of us are asking ourselves: “What the hell did Capt. Semrau do?” What we should be asking ourselves is this: “What goals are the Canadian Forces trying to achieve by laying these charges?”

We need to remember that soldiers in populated war zones often have difficult decision to make about when it is appropriate to return fire. Canadian soldiers’ discipline has served them well when they are tested by opposing forces in places where there are large numbers of civilians. Their American counterparts, to their discredit, are not so disciplined – to their own ultimate cost.

The timing of the charges against Capt. Semrau is suspicious, coming not when the event supposedly happened but months later at a time when the government’s own confidential polling – now confirmed by public polls conducted by the media – shows that public support for the Afghan adventure is quickly eroding.

There is no good reason not to submit the charges against Capt. Semrau to public scrutiny now.

If we are not told the facts, it is reasonable to conclude that the government is concealing something that would make the Afghan mission even more unpopular with Canadians.

The real reason Canadians are dying in Afghanistan

All sarcasm aside, what is the real reason Canadian troops are fighting and dying in Afghanistan?

This is an important question because, regardless of what Defence Minister Peter MacKay foxily pretends, it is extremely unlikely that Canadian forces will depart the Afghan war zone after the entirely fictitious withdrawal date set for 2011.

Because they don’t like “liberals,” even in the White House, the government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper may have some fun threatening to pull out of Afghanistan after 2011. But if his Conservatives manage to hang onto power, in the end they will revert to instinct and say, “Ready, Aye, Ready,” to the American president, even if he’s one they don’t particularly approve of.

Moreover, if the Canadian government were to change, we shouldn’t expect much different from a Liberal ministry led by Michael Ignatieff, or for that matter from a coalition. On this issue, indeed, even Jack Layton might surprise us if by some fluke he were to become prime minister.

Canadian troops are in Afghanistan to stay, as are U.S. soldiers and a motley collection of troopers from other NATO countries. Just as changing the American president did not alter this reality, neither will changing the Canadian prime minister or any other NATO head of government.

Since it is impossible to defeat an insurgency of this nature without murdering pretty well every man, woman and child in Afghanistan, and possibly all of the East, our soldiers are likely to be there for a long time.

So what gives?

First of all, we can be confident that none of the reasons we have been given to date for our role in the occupation of Afghanistan hold up under even cursory scrutiny.

For example, the West’s soldiers are not in Afghanistan to get revenge for the 911 attacks, to hunt down Osama bin Laden, to protect Western cities from future terrorist attacks or any of the other related folderol peddled on this general theme.

Indeed, by any common-sense measure, our continued presence in a Muslim land – drinking beer, as our troops were on Christmas Day 2008, and for that matter celebrating Christmas with presents for the children of our local retainers – makes terrorism in Western cities considerably more likely, not less so.

Moreover, if revenge was our goal, surely by now, well over a million pounds of high explosive later, we should have achieved it!

Hunt down Sheik Osama? No less an authority than departing U.S. President George Bush says that one’s not really the objective any more, if it ever was.

No, 911 may have presented a neat excuse, but it does not explain our presence in Afghanistan now.

Likewise, our soldiers are not dying to halt the drug trade. On the contrary, the Taliban had all but done that! The resurgence of the opiates trade came after the U.S. toppled the Taliban government. Indeed, all the signs point to the fact that the shaky government of President Hamid Karzai, which we are keeping in power with Canadian blood, profits enormously from the illicit drug trade. Karzai’s own brother Ahmed Wali Karzai is widely reported to be a leading drug exporter!

Most of the heroin injected into the veins of the pathetic and dangerous denizens of East Vancouver, where Prime Minister Harper’s government is enthusiastically dismantling safe-injection sites, originates in the poppy fields of Afghanistan. The efforts of Canadian soldiers indirectly make its importation into Canada much more likely.

Furthermore, Canadian soldiers are not dying to bring democracy to Afghanistan – where we are propping up a government that has virtually no popular support. Bogus Afghan elections, no matter frequently they are held, will not change that.

Nor are we fighting for the rights of Afghan women – at an official level in Canada and elsewhere in the West, no one gives a damn about Afghan women, who in some ways are worse off now than they were under the Taliban.

Nor are we fighting for religious freedom – as the treatment by the Afghan government of Christian converts, happily tolerated by our Christian soldiery, amply proves.

If you believe any of these fairy tales, you are naïve at best.

So, what is the real reason we continue to fight in Afghanistan?

One key to solving this riddle can be found by examining who is involved in this effort. For this is not merely plucky little Canada eagerly serving as coat-holder to the American bully. In addition to the United States, all the major European powers are here in one form or another.

These include countries that hesitated to support, or scorned outright, the idiotic American attack on Iraq, those that traditionally (like Canada) have avoided military adventures other than peacekeeping, and those whose leaders looked down their noses at the unsophisticated George Bush and his cynical neocon handlers.

The other key to understanding why we are in Afghanistan is as simple as looking at a map. Afghanistan has always been a strategic crossroads. That is why it has been invaded so many times – and why, presumably, the unhappy Afghans have become such fierce resistors of invaders. Nothing has changed.

On the other hand, notwithstanding its vast petroleum reserves, Iraq is not as strategically important a piece of real estate – unless you happen to be Israeli, the tail that wags the American foreign policy dog, that is. Hence the lack of enthusiasm for the Iraq invasion among European states and, for that matter, Canada under former prime minister Jean Chrétien.

The Pakistani-born British author Tariq Ali sums the Afghan situation up in a neat phrase: “Afghanistan has become a central theatre for uniting, and extending, the West’s power, its political grip on the world order.” This, in a nutshell, is why the Europeans and Canada are aboard.

Afghanistan is strategically located. In the chess game of global power, it can be used by the traditional powers of Europe and North America to checkmate Russian, Indian and especially Chinese ambitions.

This is the real reason that NATO “must” succeed in Afghanistan, as we are so frequently advised by the tame North American media, in the face of the manifest opposition of the people of that benighted country. This is the real reason that Western powers that agree on little else are willing to work together to secure Afghanistan.

If the price of that success is more dead Canadian soldiers, more heroin on Canadian streets or for that matter terrorist attacks on Canadian civilians, then, as far as our leaders are concerned, so be it.

Power on our planet is moving east. If you doubt that, just ask where your helper is located the next time you phone a call centre to buy a computer or get technical product assistance. It should not surprise us that the great powers of the West – even those with social democratic governments – are prepared to make military as well as diplomatic moves to resist this inexorable historical shift. Nor should it surprise us if the rising powers of the East challenge us in a new “Great Game” in Afghanistan.

A strong case can be made that our occupation of Afghanistan for these purposes is unnecessary, or even unwise. But, given the history of Mankind, it would be unlikely if it were not to continue.

We should understand this. Canadians may agree or disagree on whether our troops should be caught in what is sure to be a bloody and protracted Afghan quagmire. Nevertheless, we can all see why our government – regardless of who is at its head – might want them there.

But our government owes us an honest explanation. They should cut the crap and tell us the real reasons for their actions – and the real risks!

The continuing Kandahar nightmare: fresh dangers await our troops

As if Kalashnakovs and improvised explosive devices in the hands of the Taliban weren’t enough, now it appears that fresh dangers await our boys as they shore up Operation Enduring Heroin Trade in Afghanistan’s dusty south. Not only is Kandahar City the heart of the Pashtun insurgency, it turns out it is the gay capital of South Asia as well.

There is nothing new about this. British troops whispered about it a century ago as they marched to their doom at the hands of the Pathan horde, giving a whole new meaning to the notion of the “Great Game” in the Hindu Kush. It seems that every male Pashtun has had at hand a catamite – known locally as an ashna – pretty well forever. And some of them, it appears, like the looks of our pale Western soldier boys. Oh dear!

But somehow this awful fact seems to have slipped the minds of our Canadian Forces trainers as they prepared our lads to, as it were, go up against the Taliban. Surely men wearing mascara, holding hands with each other and going about in women’s clothing (just like me dear old Dad) wasn’t what they emphasized in boot camp as they taught the frightened recruits how to get a mirror-like sheen on their marching boots through the brisk application of discarded pantyhose.

But there you have it! First deadly roadside bombs, homicidal Pashtuns and a strictly enforced ban on beer (except on Christmas Day). Now the flower of Canadian manhood must face another peril as they fight to ensure the flow of opiates to downtown Canada proceeds unimpeded.


Kissing noises! Warning: Afghan insurgents may be exactly as illustrated!

British troops who were in the area earlier in this decade recall the terror they felt upon realizing what they were up against: “One bloke who had painted toenails was offering to paint ours,” reported a horrified Royal Marine. “They go about hand in hand, mincing around the village,” he told a Scottish newspaper in a report widely circulated in some of the more unsavoury corners of the Internet. Said another: “Every village we went into we got a group of men wearing make-up coming up, stroking our hair and cheeks and making kissing noises.”

Good lord!

Naturally, this is not news to the Afghans, who have a saying:  “Over Kandahar the birds fly with only one wing! They need the other to protect their bottoms!” (Maybe it’s a good thing, the risk of friendly fire notwithstanding, that our boys have to rely on the U.S. Air Force for cover!)

Perhaps Tooryalai Wesa, Kandahar’s new Canadian governor, can advise our doughty troopers on how best to win over the locals to the side of Freedom, Peace and Timbits. After all, as a resident of the delightful city of Coquitlam, he is presumably a man who is familiar with both Afghanistan and the aptly named West End of Vancouver. Maybe ending the terror threat to Canada is as simple as making available a pipe band and a detachment of Princess Patricia’s Evocatively Named Canadian Light Infantry to march in the next Kandahar Pride Parade?

Rig-a-dam-doo indeed! Condoms all round!

Prof. Wesa’s Big Adventure: a historical parallel

Kandahar Governor Tooryalai Wesa signs autograph for admiring Afghan peasant girl. May not be exactly as illustrated.

Kandahar Governor Tooryalai Wesa signs autograph for admiring Afghan peasant girl. May not be exactly as illustrated.

Asadullah Khalid, the erstwhile governor of Afghanistan’s Kandahar province, got shit-canned last summer after he was criticized by no less an eminence than Canadian foreign minister Maxime Bernier. Apparently M. Bernier didn’t feel Gov. Khalid came up to Canada’s high standards of incorruptibility in Afghanistan’s dusty south, where the Canadian Forces are the backbone of the “NATO” occupation, pardon me, reconstruction effort.

The forgetful M. Bernier himself has passed from the scene now that it has been revealed he left state secrets lying around his magnificent biker-chick girlfriend’s messy kitchen. But no matter, the war in Afghanistan continues satisfactorily enough, with Canadian soldiers being blown to bits only a couple of times a month in groups no larger than two or three, numbers apparently insufficient to arouse the somnolent Canadian public to pay attention to what their armed forces are up to in the Islamic Republic.

Now we receive the heartening news that a Canadian – a Canadian! – has been appointed as the governor of Kandahar. No doubt the good people of that benighted province will be absolutely delighted, and the Taliban will be run out of town immediately. As if!

The Canadian in question, of course, is no ordinary Canuck. He’s a chap named Tooryalai Wesa, late of the thriving community of Coquitlam, B.C. (You may have passed it, or flown over it, on your way to Vancouver.) Prof. Wesa is a boyhood chum, we’re told, of Hamid Karzai, the hapless Mayor of Kabul, a few parts of it, anyway.

Prof. Wesa – yes! he’s a learned man, a lecturer in agriculture at the University of British Columbia! – was called personally by Mr. Karzai, who is currently busy impersonating the president of Afghanistan, to ask him to take on the job. The call, presumably, was made on an American army officer’s sat-phone, as the aforementioned Taliban seem to have blown up all the telegraph lines leading out of Kabul just now. Ah well, at least he’s not a sociologist!

By sheer coincidence, I’m sure, Prof. Wesa happens to be a cousin of the late Zahir Shah, King of the Afghans, kicked off his wobbly throne in 1973 by Mohammed Daoud Khan, another one of Prof. Wesa’s cousins. King Zahir had the good fortune to be seeking medical treatment in sunny Italy at the time, so “the Father of the Nation” survived until last year. Not so President Khan, alas, who set up a fragile republic only to be bumped off by the perfidious and godless Soviets in 1978, back in the day when the Taliban were the good guys, or at the very least “freedom fighters.” So sorry! No more!

Still with us? Yes? Splendid!

Let’s switch continents for a moment to the chilly land of Norway. Anyone know who Vidkun Quisling is, or, rather, was?

Mr. Quisling, a proud son of Norway, was once a Commander of the British Empire (revoked, 1940) and for a spell the prime minister of his lovely country. He was a man who had some things in common with Prof. Wesa. He was a good student, for example, the top graduate of Norway’s military academy in 1911. One is certain he would have done well in agriculture had he chosen that field. He even founded his own religion! (This is something Prof. Wesa is unlikely to do, however, for a variety of reasons, even if he feels the urge.)

Like Prof. Wesa, however, Mr. Quisling was supported in his government role by the armed representatives of a foreign power. Unfortunately, this was to cause him some difficulty later in his political career.

You see, it turns out that Prime Minister Quisling’s efforts on behalf of the Reich Government were not regarded particularly highly by his fellow Norwegians. Indeed, this seems to be a universal human characteristic – not liking foreign interlopers and their stooges, that is.

So strongly did the Norwegians feel about this, as a matter of fact, that they gave their sometime prime minister’s name – quisling – to a number of languages, including ours. “To writers, the word Quisling is a gift from the gods. If they had been ordered to invent a new word for traitor … they could hardly have hit upon a more brilliant combination of letters,” opined the Times of London in April 1940. Moreover, while for the past few hundred years the Norwegians have not been known as a particularly bloodthirsty lot – unlike, say, the Pathans of Kandahar province – on Oct. 24, 1945, they nevertheless put Mr. Quisling up against a wall and shot him dead!

It is to be hoped profoundly that Prof. Wesa meets a gentler fate. Perhaps he will return someday to his students (in Pashto, “taliban”) at UBC and his beloved Coquitlam.

Still, his inauguration seemed inauspicious in this regard. It took place in an unfinished basement room, we are reliably informed by the Canadian Press, the better to withstand a Taliban attack, one supposes. Some well-armed Canadian troopers stood by, as did a stenographer from the Canadian Press, who noted the unforgiving glare of the energy-efficient light bulb that swingingly illuminated his moment in Afghan history and recorded the optimistic words of the senior Canadian officer present. Nothing is said of the state of the gathered worthies’ undersilks.

Ah well, as the Canadian commanders keep reminding us, all these Taliban attacks just mean the foe is growing weaker. Thank God there is light at the end of the Salang Tunnel!