Wednesday, August 6, 2008

The myth of justifiable motives

Canadian involvement in the war in Afghanistan is based on a collection of untruths. Young men and women are sacrificing their lives in a war that our leaders compare to the Canada's involvement in WW I and II. Marjorie Cohn points out that not only is the war in Afghanistan an illegal one, but also an unnecessary means to an end that would be better served through diplomacy.

End the Occupation of Iraq - and Afghanistan by Marjorie Cohn

The article below underscores why the justifications used by the Canadian government for the Afghanistan war are fallacious.

Freedom, Justice And Human Rights Versus Islam In Afghanistan
By Donald B. Ardell

There are many threats to liberty right here at home.These threats exist despite centuries of democracy, a constitution with a treasured bill of rights and all manner of additional legal safeguards. In some ways, it seems a distraction from the challenges before us in this country to become concerned about and involved in seeking to prevent human rights abuses in distant, strange lands with very different cultures This is particularly so in a country like Afghanistan, where freedom, human rights, democracy, civil safeguards and basic justice have no foothold. Who would expect human rights to be respected in a fanatically Muslim country of backward, warring tribes, a place from which sprang the horror of the Taliban? I would not – would you?

Yet, American taxpayers have been supporting all these rights and safeguards for Afghans since we invaded that country after 911. We invaded to destroy the religious barbarians who, among other offenses beyond the pale, were believed to be harboring Osama bin Laden and other lunatic jihadists. We had to deal with our enemies in that country who viewed us all as infidels to be destroyed. As part of our response, we not only fought against and removed the Taliban but also leaned on the natives to adopt an Afghan constitution that incorporated American-style freedoms, safeguards for basic liberties and adoption of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Alas, getting the people of Afghanastan to incorporate such rights and freedoms into their value systems steeped in religious fanaticism has not been easy – and probably never was a realistic goal.
Which leads to mention of the case of Sayed Pervez Kambakhsh, a 23-year-old journalism student sentenced to death a few months ago for the victimless crime of blasphemy! I’m not making this up.
It seems the poor fellow insulted Islam. Hard to believe but there it is. What a country. Mr. Kambakhsh’s insult leading to the charge of blasphemy was downloading material offensive to certain religious clerics. The material apparently contained statements that the Qur’an and the Prophet Muhammad oppressed women. Duh. Good thing that kind of offense is not a capital crime in this country. The unfortunate infidel Kambakhsh was taken to an Islamic court, charged with a litany of “crimes” (e.g., “un-Islamic speech and activity, socialism, rebelliousness and improper instigation of religious debate”) and found guilty - of blasphemy. The punishment? Death.

Human rights groups in this country, including the Center for Inquiry, are trying to save Mr. Kambakhsh from the imposition of the sentence. They are appealing to the country’s leaders to honor the Afghanistan constitution. That is, the document we more or less imposed on this theocratic society. The Afghan constitution makes freedom of expression inviolable and guarantees every Afghan the right to express thoughts through speech, writing, illustrations as well as other means. Well, that’s all well and good, but the religious authorities don’t take such secular affirmations very seriously. Nor do they care much for the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, though the country has signed on to that, as well.

Efforts are underway to get signatures on a petition for mercy for Mr. Kambakhsh. The petitions will be sent to the nation’s president, Hamid Karzai. The Free Inquiry petition notes that the accused was “tried without legal representation by a private Islamic court, and was accused of doing only what any promising student should do - independently seeking information, and stimulating discussion among classmates. If Afghanistan is to be a free, open society, it cannot allow religious orthodoxy to trump free inquiry among its citizens, and it certainly cannot impose deadly penalties on those who dare speak out. Such charges are an affront not only to the basic political and legal structure of Afghanistan, but to the freedom and dignity of its citizens as well.”

The president is then urged to “condemn this injustice and to secure the immediate and unconditional release of Mr. Kambakhsh.” Well, I signed the petition at the Center for Inquiry website and I urge you to do the same. Maybe such expressions of concern and good will can save this particular victim of religious intolerance. However, I suspect that, given the mindset that infests the Islamic world, the prospects for this student and others who take Western-imposed documents of freedom and human rights too seriously are very bleak.

The case of Mr. Kambakhsh and the power of religion in so much of the rest of the world is all the more reason to celebrate our own freedom this coming weekend during the Independence Day festivities and every day thereafter – and do all we can to vote out of office Republican zealots who themselves would make blasphemy a criminal offense, though probably not a capital one. But then, if Bush had another term, you never know.

Donald B. Ardell, Ph.D. publishes the ARDELL WELLNESS REPORT

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