Afghanistan determined to stay in Dark Ages
by Salim Mansur
After nearly a decade of much blood and treasure spent in rescuing Afghans from their Dark Age, it is now well past the time for the Canadian government and its allies to end their mission in Afghanistan and depart.
It should be left to historians to assess how wise or mistaken was the effort to assist nation-building in Afghanistan.
The recent murder and mayhem by Afghans over the inadvertent burning of the Qur'an, despite the apologies tendered by Americans, should be the proverbial last straws on the back of the mission that increasingly appears to be resented by those very people for whose benefit it had been launched.
But the coup de grace was delivered by the ingrate Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, when he approved the decision of the country's main religious gathering — the Afghan Ulema Council — to place restrictions on women's freedom in Afghanistan. The timing of Karzai's announcement on the eve of the UN-supported International Women's Day could not have been more striking in delivering the message that Afghan men prefer their ancient ways, and they will fight endlessly to push back the reach of civilization from their midst.
Much has been spoken and written about Afghanistan during the past decade than at any time in the past century, and much sympathy evoked for a country that has greatly suffered from wars and excesses of human cruelty.
And yet the more open to view Afghanistan has become to the outside world, that opening confirms how greatly resistant the country remains to the forces of change from abroad, or the desire for change from within.
Its geography made it a closed and inaccessible buffer state at the edge of civilization.
Its misfortune is Britain's civilizing reach barely touched its outermost boundaries, unlike India's fortune of two centuries under British rule that provided her with the wherewithal to emerge as the world's largest functioning democracy.
The West's present-day, self-imposed multicultural sensibilities inhibit the sort of robust understanding of itself and other cultures it once possessed.
Here are the words of Winston Churchill in describing Afghans whom he encountered during a military expedition in 1897:
"This state of continual tumult has produced a habit of mind which recks little of injuries, holds life cheap and embarks on war with careless levity . . . Their system of ethics, which regards treachery and violence as virtues rather than vices, has produced a code of honour so strange and inconsistent, it is incomprehensible to a logical mind . . . Those simple family virtues, which idealists usually ascribe to primitive peoples, are conspicuously absent.
"Their wives and their womankind generally have no position but that of animals. They are freely bought and sold and are not infrequently bartered for rifles. Truth is unknown among them."
Churchill's despatches from the frontier of Afghanistan are to be found in his book The Story of the Malakand Field Force: An Episode of Frontier War, first published in 1898.
Only political correctness will deny that not much has changed since Churchill's encounter with Afghans.
And since not much of substance has changed, as one listens to Hamid Karzai, any further expenditure of blood and treasure at civilization's edge is sheer insanity.