A reader in Canada tipped me to another open letter, this one written by a Canadian officer in response to the Taliban. It appeared on Thursday in The Ottawa Citizen:
George Petrolekas: A letter from Canada- - - - - - - - -
In response to the Taliban’s recent threat-filled ‘letter to the Canadian people,’ a Canadian officer has a few choice words
An open letter to the Taliban:
You purport to speak for Afghans and Afghanistan yet your only questionable legitimacy comes from the barrel of a gun, the slaughter and intimidation of innocents supported by the profits of the opium crop that you protect. You do not answer for the night letters you send, the people you behead, or the villages you hold hostage whose only crime is that they do not agree with your views.
And yet you dare say that we come to kill your innocent, equally forgetting the deaths of thousands of innocents committed by your fellow travellers in crime; so conveniently forgetting the slaughters of Bali, Madrid, London and New York City. Your words may sound high and mighty, but your actions and deeds betray the truth of what you are: a movement committed to the enslavement and servitude of those whose voices cannot be heard. You revile America forgetting that it gave you more food, flour and wheat than any other nation while you were in power; what did you do for the Afghan people?
People you have fooled say that Afghanistan was more secure under your rule. But what is security under an institutionalized cabal that “legally” kills, amputates and disfigures those who do not agree with it?
You kill the defenceless, and those who come to give hope, simply because they are foreign, and you do so not as men, but hiding behind the disguise of women, or using women and children as shields, or using those who have lost the ability to think to carry out your crimes. And in doing so, you defile the very words of your God and his prophet. How can the prophet feel peace in the face of your cowardice? You have killed more Afghan men, women and children by your bombs and attacks than any other nations combined. While we may have killed innocents by accident, those deaths pale in comparison to the thousands you have killed by design. God may forgive us the loss of those souls; he will never forgive you.
You condone the poppy, protect it, encourage it, tax it, and sell it. Yet the damage to your own countrymen is not of importance. A country that could once feed itself now cannot, and in the wake of the opium trail there are hundreds of thousands of new addicts in Afghanistan, and greater numbers in Pakistan, Iran, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and all the other republics that border you. Your selfish lust for power does not even respect those of your own religion.
You ignore the voice of the Afghan people as expressed in votes that your own intimidations could not suppress. The United Nations supervised those elections. They were more closely watched and safeguarded than almost any other elections in history; and people not only voted with their hands on a ballot, but with their feet in travelling miles for the first opportunity afforded them to at least have a voice in their affairs.
You speak of respect in the community of the world and the community of nations, yet it is you who ordained the destruction of the Buddhas of Bamiyan. These were not yours to destroy, they were the legacy of humanity and its existence on this planet, but as always, you turned a deaf ear and a blind eye to anything that does not ascribe to your views. You kill doctors, teachers and aid workers, making a mockery of the words “God the merciful and compassionate.” Your deeds make you the ultimate apostates, your actions are the ultimate heresy.
And even in the face of such cowardice, lies and betrayal of the Afghan people, the hand of peace has been extended to you time and again with the simple request that you denounce violence and intimidation. But no, that does not serve your needs, which are among the vilest ever seen on this planet: simply to ply a nation back into servitude.
And so, we are in Afghanistan to give voice and protection to those whose voices cannot be heard.
If Afghans truly wish us to leave, we will do so. We are not an occupying power. We have never attempted to impose our religious or political values on your nation. We accept Afghanistan as an Islamic republic. We accept that democracy will not and may never be like the way we practise it and that freedom of speech and religion will not be like ours. But we do assist that vast majority of Afghans who believe that a girl has a right to go to school, that a village, a district, a province and a nation should allow its people to have a voice in their own affairs.
And in the face of your threats, you will also find that we are made of sterner stuff as are the Afghan people who only wish to live lives in some semblance of security. Liberty does not come freely and ours has been a steep price to pay, and that gives us no joy, but we pay that price in the fervent belief that to not do so is to consign a nation and a people to a darker fate at your hands. And thus we will continue until you are no more.
If those Afghan voices tell us that we should leave, then we will. But we will never leave them alone to face the threats and killings that so brutally demonstrate what you are, because you do not and never have spoken for the Afghan people. And with God’s help, you never will.
George Petrolekas was involved in the Afghan mission from 2003 to 2007, representing Canada at NATO’s operational headquarters in Afghanistan.