January 24, 2014

Canadian involvement in Afghanistan is folly

Posted by WARREN PERLEY – Editor, BestStory.ca
Writing from Montreal

More than one month before the Taliban launched a January 17, 2014 suicide attack on civilians in a Kabul restaurant killing 21 people, including two Canadians, BestStory.ca contributor Jeremy Kuzmarov wrote a scathing analysis of Western involvement fighting the Taliban in that Asian country. "Western economic interests fuel dirty, covert war in Afghanistan"

Kuzmarov, a former Montrealer who is now a history professor at the University of Tulsa, says the NATO intervention of more than 12 years is propping up a system of warlords, drug smugglers and corrupt politicians to the detriment of civilians.

He points out that unemployment in Afghanistan hovers around 60 percent, child mortality is among the worst in the world and that fundamentalist warlords continue to deprive girls of education, forcing between 60 and 80 percent of them into marriages against their will.

Kuzmarov is not the only expert questioning Canada's role in the Afghanistan war. Six days before Canadian accountants Martin Glazer of Gatineau, Quebec, and Peter McSheffrey of Ottawa were among the 21 killed in the horrific Taliban suicide bombing and gun attack, Globe and Mail correspondent Doug Saunders wrote a piece in that newspaper under the headline: "Was our Afghan saga useless - or worse?"

Saunders concluded that NATO's counterinsurgency effort to build infrastructure institutions and better lives for ordinary Afghans has failed, citing United Nations figures released the week before that show severe malnutrition has increased by 50 percent or more in that country since 2012, although it is still not as bad as in 2001 before NATO intervened.

Saunders also reported that in early January 2014 Afghanistan's human rights commission released statistics showing that between March and September 2013 there had been a 25 percent increase in violence against women, who are still suffering abuses similar to those endured during the Taliban era.

As an editor with many years of experience at major media companies, I take note when a seasoned and respected reporter, such as Saunders, essentially reaches the same conclusions as Kuzmarov, himself a respected academic who wrote a 2012 book showing the connection between clandestine policing during the Cold War and the continuing war on terror, including the link to large-scale human rights abuses.

What it tells me is that BestStory.ca is on a good track as a serious, long-form journalism site when it recruits academics with profound knowledge on a given subject to write journalism-style pieces in their fields of expertise.

Of course, it takes motivated intellectuals, such as Kuzmarov, who are willing to develop reporting skills to go along with their analytical abilities. Kuzmarov is just such an individual. He accepted my suggestions to interview officials who could comment on the war in Afghanistan, including former interim Liberal Party leader Bob Rae.

The result is an impressive 4,995-word story which combines some original reporting with insightful analysis based on many citations from previous articles, studies and books. An academic with Kuzmarov's research abilities and in-depth knowledge of the subject is ideally suited to put such a complex subject into context for our readers.

Of course, when I checked out Kuzmarov's writing background in Montreal, it came as no surprise that he should take to reporting like a duck to water. I learned that during his student days at Dawson College in the mid-1990s, he was, in fact, a reporter at the student newspaper called The Plant.

"We called him The Sports Guy," recalls filmmaker Karen Cho, who studied at Dawson at the same time and also worked at The Plant. "He was one of the best writers in the journalism class…a super bright guy."

When he wasn't studying or writing sports articles, she recalls her friend, "The Kuz", would engage in multiple games of Scrabble, for which he had a passion.

Kuzmarov himself recently told me that during his early student days he had aspirations of becoming a professional sports reporter, but decided to focus on academe when the advent of the Internet began to gut traditional media business models.

Writing is in Kuzmarov's DNA: his grandmother, former English literature professor Ann Weinstein, wrote an intriguing review in June 2013 of Greg Bellow's biography of his father, Saul Bellow, in which she managed to weave in fascinating details of her lifelong relationship with the famous author.

So when people ask me where I find journalists for our site, I can honestly say there are many talented people around us who have writing skills and just need the editing and graphics infrastructure we offer at BestStory.ca in order to shine on the journalism stage. Jeremy and his grandmother, Ann, are among them, for which we give thanks.

Published: DECEMBER 2013
Western economic interests fuel dirty, covert war in Afghanistan

Writing from Tulsa, Oklahoma

Like a loyal NATO partner, Canada has followed the U.S. into combat in Afghanistan under the guise of building a peaceful civilian society through financial assistance and training programs for the Afghan military and police. But all it has done is prop up a system of warlords, drug smugglers and corrupt politicians, bleeding the Canadian treasury of billions and bringing our young warriors home in body bags or shattered in body and spirit.

4,995 Words | 15 Photos | 1 Illustration

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