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!

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