The indispensable Terry Glavin writes in Canada’s National Post that this time around, in Afghanistan, the Canadian Left is largely missing in action.
This is not just “George Bush’s war.” This is a liberation struggle. It’s a war of resistance against clerical fascism, against the most unspeakably brutal kind of misogyny, against tyranny, slavery, illiteracy and oppression. Over the past six years, poll after poll has provided unequivocal, empirical evidence that the Afghan people want us there to help them win this fight. And the people are winning.
In 2004, only one in 10 Afghans had access to medical services. Now it’s eight in 10. Three out of every four children under the age of five have been immunized against childhood diseases. There are millions of girls attending school now. More than 100,000 women have begun their own small businesses with micro-loans administered by the World Bank — that sinister institution we progressives are supposed to despise.
Afghanistan is now an embryonic democracy, and one of every four Afghan MPs is a woman. Just a few years ago, Afghan women weren’t allowed out of doors unless they were accompanied by a man. Under the Taliban, you weren’t allowed to watch television, but now there are seven national television stations, and all sorts of little newspapers, and 10 universities.
Last November, 10-year-old Alaina Podmorow got together with 18 of her fellow Grade 5 pupils in British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley, and they raised enough money to pay the salaries of five Afghan schoolteachers for a whole year. How is it that in doing this simple thing, Alaina and her young comrades, in the space of a few weeks, made a greater contribution to the liberation of the Afghan people than the combined efforts of the NDP, the Canadian Labour Congress and the Canadian Federation of Students, over the past seven years?
It’s a long story. It’s at least partly because cultural relativism has eaten away at the principle of universal rights — which was once the bedrock of left-wing politics –and a crude and paranoid anti-Americanism has come to serve as a substitute for rational, progressive analysis. By Sept. 11, 2001, the politics of solidarity had been eclipsed by the politics of the counterculture, and so the main ranks of the left settled into a comfortable and familiar Sixties’ narrative: It’s the Third World vs. American empire.
I’m reminded of George Packer’s compelling account of Senator Joe Biden’s visit to a school in Kabul shortly after the fall of the Taliban, who had prohibited schooling for girls.
When the visit was over and Biden started to leave, a young girl stood ramrod straight at her desk and said, “You cannot leave. You cannot leave.”
“I promise I’ll come back,” Biden told her.
“You cannot leave,” the girl insisted. “They will not deny me learning to read. I will read, and I will be a doctor like my mother. I will. America must stay.”
As Biden put it in a recent interview, the Afghan girl was telling him, “Don’t fuck with me, Jack. You got me in here. You said you were going to help me. You better not leave me now.”
I only wish some of our “resistance”-supporting western leftists could have been there in Biden’s place. I’d love to know how they would have responded to that Afghan girl.
Further update: The Afghan Schools Trust provides funds and teacher training for educating girls and boys in a remote part of the country. (Via Alec MacPherson.)