Canada’s Bungled Afghanistan Evacuation No Cause for Boasting

August 30, 2021 Updated: August 30, 2021


If anyone in our government dared present the disastrously bungled evacuation from Afghanistan as cause for self-congratulation, you’d expect their tongues to cleave to the roofs of their mouths. But they’re not that kind of people.

A news story about this debacle the acting chief of defence staff called “heartbreaking” reported that, after the prime minister gave a Quebec City speech on Aug. 26 devoted to micro-bribing voters that ignored Afghanistan, he allowed in response to questions that it was a “very difficult day” though in no way his fault. After which you’d expect a hasty, embarrassed exit.

Instead, after chucking the buck into the trash, Trudeau thumped his chest: “The temporary air bridge that was put in place by the Americans over the past number of weeks allowed us to get out tens of thousands of people as an international community, and Canada will have been able to lift out about 3,700 people. We have taken as much if not more advantage of this temporary opportunity than just about any of our allies.”

What? You pick this moment to say we’re number one? Still, he is vain, shallow, and prone to off-script catastrophe. Surely once the handlers got hold of the issue a more contrite tone would emerge.

Hoo hah. Next day’s National Post said, “In a briefing to reporters on Friday morning, government ministers repeatedly praised the programs and special visas brought in for fleeing Afghans, saying they were ‘groundbreaking’ and that Canada was the first in the world to make such announcements — work, they said, that would not cease.” It then quoted Marco Mendicino, supposedly fit to be our immigration minister, saying, “We put them into operation very quickly … over the course of the last number of weeks. Canada has been a safe haven for Afghan refugees for years.”

Except when they really needed us and we literally left them in the sewage. Despite which ministers again emphasized “the largest airlift in history” as if begging a lift from Uncle Sam were a world-class achievement. Meanwhile, the Post noted, “Officials were unable to say this week how many permanent residents, Canadian citizens and Afghan allies remain in the country” which would surely embarrass lesser mortals.

So, about that contrition. “Our priority has been from the very beginning, and will always be, getting Canadians to safety,” Trudeau preened on Aug. 27. “Yes, there are thousands of Afghans to whom we owe a duty of care, and we are doing tremendous things to get them to safety as well.” Tremendous things. We’re the best.

What things? Telling them to shelter in place or flee prudently if necessary, and hoping they’d somehow escape the country on foot clutching their meagre possessions in one hand and their kid in the other? On which basis a person supposedly fit to be our defence minister called the government’s evacuation efforts “appropriate” and “quick,” while Mendicino upped the ante to “nothing short of miraculous.”

Commentators like Rex Murphy beg to differ about this nauseating mix of vainglory and chutzpah. After noting Maryam Monsef calling the Taliban “our brothers” (prompting the PM’s shapeless response “The minister has expressed her views and explained herself”), Murphy said that “at the core of this election … is the concept of honour. Canadian honour. That commitments we made as a nation, and substantiated by sending our young men and women in conflict… are now so abruptly and unconscionably terminated, and almost blithely so. It is also about … our character as a nation and how we are seen by those in other parts of the world.” As pompous nits drivelling about commitment to women and girls while ditching those who counted on us. Thus, “The handling of the Afghanistan crisis by the current government is a matter of national shame.”

Ah, but nay. It’s cause for puffing ourselves up about outdoing our allies and being so tremendous we’re nothing short of miraculous. Like Mick Jagger’s fellow rock stars, these people “don’t embarrass easy.”

Another National Post colleague, Sabrina Maddeaux, wrote: “While there were clearly issues outside our government’s control in Afghanistan, the most frequently cited hurdle was Canada’s signature toxic combo of incompetent bureaucracy, endless red tape, and lack of preparedness for anything but the most ideal circumstances.” She also fingered distraction due to calling a snap election. But that signature combo is the real issue.

Our problem isn’t that our government is so far from understanding the Taliban that a person supposedly fit to be our foreign minister told the CBC on Aug. 29: “There’s all sorts of leverage with respect to the Taliban, who are now confronting the fact they’re in charge and they’re going to have to make the country work.” It’s that they’re so far from understanding themselves that no evidence of pathetic, unfeeling failure can make them stop boasting even briefly.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

John Robson
John Robson
John Robson is a documentary filmmaker, National Post columnist, contributing editor to the Dorchester Review, commentator-at-large with News Talk Radio 580 CFRA in Ottawa, and executive director of the Climate Discussion Nexus. His most recent documentary is “The Environment: A True Story.”