Mullah Omar, the still wanted former leader of the Taliban regime. What they explicitly and repeatedly have called for is the creation of a worldwide caliphate essentially based on eighth century principles, as seen through an extreme, brutal and violent form of Wahhabi Salafist militant jihadi Islam.
Let me make a distinction here. As the secretary of state responsible for multiculturalism in our cultural communities, I believe that the vast majority of Canadians, virtually all Canadians, are able to make a distinction between the vast majority of Canadian Muslims and those who observe Islam throughout the world, and the small extreme fringe who seek to pervert Islam to advance their own violent ideology.
The point is this. The critics of the Canadian mission in Afghanistan, under the auspices of the United Nations in a coalition of some 36 other nations, would have us believe that we are there as hostile belligerents in some kind of a civil war context, and that our enemy seems to be a somewhat legitimate expression of Pashtun nationalism, and that if we could only sit down and understand the tribal aspirations and the competing nationalisms, we could all sit around and work things out. This is a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of the struggle.
Those whom our troops and others under the auspices of ISAF are confronting in Afghanistan do not seek peace. They seek out conflict. They do not regard peace as a virtue. They do not regard the cessation of hostilities as an objective. Their objective is the construction of a worldwide caliphate, and for their purposes, they would like that to begin again in Afghanistan.
We need to understand the mentality by listening to their own words. The man who is most responsible for the planning of these attacks against Canadians and others from Afghanistan, Sheikh Osama bin Laden, I think on three separate occasions, has explicitly identified Canada as one of his principal enemies.
This country and the good peaceful people of Canada did nothing to offend Sheikh bin Laden, Mullah Omar, or their like-minded allies.
The 23 Canadians who went to work, or went to visit family, or boarded flights that day, September 11, 2001, they were not enemies of any religion, of any people, of any country, of any nationality, of Pashtun nationalism, or of Islam in Afghanistan. They were peaceful loving mothers, fathers, husbands and wives who simply were trying to go about their business.
The same is true of the aid workers and diplomats who put their lives on the line every single day in Afghanistan for Canada and other countries across the world. They are not seeking out conflict. They are risking their lives to help save the lives of others, to ensure that Afghanistan does not yet again become a failed state where these sorts of attacks can once more be planned. The people who seek to drag Afghanistan back into the eighth century, back into the metaphorical dark ages, do not seek peace.
One of the things that most infuriates me in this debate is when I hear particularly members of the NDP refer to the strategy of the Canadian Forces in Afghanistan as being characterized as “seek and destroy”, and that we must stop the “seek and destroy” nature of the military mission in Afghanistan. That is an obscenity.
Our troops are not there to destroy anyone. They are there to protect innocent people. Yes, occasionally that does require the use of force, but as often as not our troops in Afghanistan who have been the victims of casualties were not even engaged in active offensive posture combat. They were delivering aid. They were the troops who were delivering notebooks and pencils to Afghan children in a village when a suicide bomber arrived. They were people like Lieutenant Trevor Greene, now Captain Trevor Greene who was struck on the back of the neck at a sit-down shura meeting with tribal elders in March 2006.
Captain Green was not engaged in a seek and destroy mission. He was engaged in precisely the kind of peacekeeping that the NDP exhorts ought to be the centre of our mission in Afghanistan. He was sitting down in a small tribal shura in a village in rural Kandahar. As a sign of respect to the village elders, he removed, at the risk of his own life, his helmet. That is a metaphor for the role of Canada in Afghanistan. It did not stop some fanatic who seeks violence and not peace from striking Captain Greene on the head in an effort to kill him because he was an infidel, because he represented an effort to move the people of Afghanistan to a condition of basic respect for human rights and human dignity.
After the attacks that I have spoken about, after these 23 Canadians and thousands of others were killed, the United Nations took action. In fact, on the next day, September 12, 2001, the United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 1368, which expressed the readiness of the United Nations to take all necessary steps to respond to the terrorist attacks and to combat all forms of terrorism in accordance with its responsibilities under the charter of the United Nations.
Subsequent to that, the United Nations Security Council passed resolution 1373 and resolution 1386, all of them under Chapter VII of the UN charter, authorizing the establishment of the International Security Assistance Force to assist the Afghan interim authority in the maintenance of security in Kabul and the surrounding areas, et cetera, and the renewal of those authorities in resolutions 1413, 1444, 1510, 1563, 1623, 1659, 1707, 1746, and resolution 1707 most recently.
Why do I mention those specifically? Because again and again we hear the repetition from the NDP and friends of theirs in the loony left that this is some kind of a hostile, unilateral “invasion of Afghanistan”, without multilateral authorization.
Let us not forget that what the NDP and the Bloc Québécois are really trying to do is get Canada to withdraw unilaterally from a multilateral mission. These two parties and many other observers say that Canada should end its participation in a UN-mandated multilateral mission.
Either we believe in multilateralism and walk the talk or we do not, but let us be clear. The position of some in this House is that Canada should withdraw itself, and I think permanently damage its credibility in the councils of nations of the world, by saying that we are no longer a reliable partner in multilateral security and peacemaking.
It is not only the UN Security Council. As members know, of course, we are there at the invitation of the democratically elected government of Afghanistan. The six brave women members of the Afghan parliament who joined us here in Ottawa last week reminded us that we are there at not just the invitation but the exhortation of the citizens of Afghanistan, particularly its women.
Former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan said that the ISAF mission in Afghanistan is “the single most important international security mission in the world today”.
Ban Ki-moon, the current Secretary-General of the United Nations, said in a recent op-ed:
Almost more dismaying is the response of some outside Afghanistan, who react by calling for a disengagement or the full withdrawal of international forces. This would be a misjudgment of historic proportions, the repetition of a mistake that has already had terrible consequences.
He went on:
Our collective success depends on the continuing presence of the International Security Assistance Force, commanded by NATO and helping local governments in nearly every province to maintain security and carry out reconstruction projects.
Finally, he said:
The Afghan government has far to go before it regains control of its own destiny, but that day will come. It is hard work. There is little glory. It requires sacrifices. And that is why we are there.
This is not a member of this government speaking. This is not a member of the Canadian Forces speaking. This is the Secretary-General of the United Nations.
I would like to ask certain members of this House, who pretend to be champions of multilateralism, how they can possibly look at themselves in the mirror when they want Canada, for all practical purposes, to withdraw from what the United Nations Security Council and Secretary-General have said are the sine qua non of international security. The credibility of the United Nations will fall or stand by the success or failure of the mission in Afghanistan.
Let us be clear. The entire concept of multilateral cooperation in international security is being put to the test every day in Afghanistan.
If we pull out, not only will we be abandoning the women and children of Afghanistan to the tender mercies of the Taliban, not only will we be giving a moral and practical victory to those violent extremists who seek to impose a vicious theocracy on many parts of the world, and not only will we be doing a dishonour to the memory of those Canadians whose lives were taken by those attacks planned on 9/11, but we would be saying that Canada has lost faith in the United Nations and multilateralism as a basis for solving international security challenges.
In closing, I implore all members of this House and Canadians who value Canada's role in the world and believe that we owe it to these 23 Canadians to stand proud with our men and women, our diplomats, our aid workers and our forces, to let them finish the job.