Professing the Crusade: Shedding Light on Come from the Shadows
by C. L. Cook - Gorilla-Radio.com
November 23, 2011
I recently interviewed Terry Glavin, author of 'Come from the Shadows: the long and lonely struggle for peace in Afghanistan.' The book is a treatise arguing a necessary continuation of the decades-old war the "West" has waged against "Islamists" and "fascists" in Afghanistan.
The link to an audio file of the interview is here, and square brackets indicate the time where a given quote can be accessed. Glavin's segment begins at [35:30].
Terry Glavin is a Canadian, particularly concerned with Canada's continued contribution to 'The Mission' in Afghanistan. He uses that nation's abject suffering at the hands of the Taliban as justification for the largely unrecorded occupation force slaughter of civilians in their thousands through night raids, drone missile attacks, deaths in custody by torture, (at the hands of Afghan police, military, and the internal security apparatus) and summary execution of suspect "militants." His mission, he claims, is to speak for Afghanistan's women, bringing them universal suffrage and equal rights.
Glavin told me the book was likely to be upsetting and confusing for a lot of readers, saying,
"there's gonna be a lot of people it's gonna really hurt them a lot; it's gonna sting." [43:10]
"Sting," Glavin says, because Canadians have been made "enfeebled in their understanding on Afghanistan," enfeebled because in his view, "voices and the views and the positions of brown people are ignored and overlooked..."
Here Glavin refers to the hurt his Canadian readers will experience as he disabuses them their comfortable preconceptions, and not that of Afghans continuing to be "hurt" by a reproduced Vietnam-era Phoenix Program-styled counter-insurgency.
The program has, according to a recently leaked report from the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), killed as many as 3,000 Afghans in a period of ten months spanning 2010-11; almost 1600 of those, more than half of the reported deaths, being civilians.
Glavin similarly expresses little concern for victims of so-called "Hit Teams," American soldiers discovered killing civilians for sport, and marking their triumphs with body part trophies, just as in Vietnam. Nor does he express a concern for the abuses and excessive violence the burgeoning corporate mercenary armies operating within the borders visit upon the population with minimal accountability.
The jacket flyleaf says Glavin is recipient of "more than a dozen writing awards, including the Hubert Evans Non-Fiction Prize and the British Columbia Lieutenant Governor's Award for Literary Excellence." It's unlikely however he'll receive any awards for Come from the Shadows, a bare-faced polemic, defying even the most basic journalistic impartiality standards. But to be fair, Glavin is an assured propagandist whose craft is honed by his day job as a creative writing instructor at the University of Victoria, and recently secured gig as columnist for the establishment Ottawa Citizen newspaper.
Explaining his approach in an interview with the UVic student newspaper, The Martlet, Glavin told reporter, Brandon Rosario,
"I could have interviewed [the Taliban] anytime I wanted... but that's something I won't do, I confess I am a partisan."Adding,
"If I had the opportunity I'd call in the fucking drones, make no apologies for it."
This sentence really cuts to the core of the book with its monotonous iteration of the entire, vile retinue of anti-Muslim sentiment we've become all too accustomed to seeing paraded in the media since September 2001. Though he insists his primary concern is for the development of democracy and universal human rights for Afghans, he seems entirely inured to the human cost the military intervention fosters. His unrepentant willingness to "call in the...drones" allows he make no apologies for the knock-on effects of those attacks.
As a 2010 report reveals, drone-launched missiles kill more than one innocent for every two targeted individuals. Another investigation, covering a period ending in September of 2011, puts the lie to recent CIA claims not one civilian has been killed in drone attacks, citing dozens of cases of just that, and brings into question the true identities of those "insurgents and al Qaida" members killed.
That those targeted are done so based on the flimsiest of evidence, without the benefit of a judicial process, and certainly no chance to mount a defense, too seems entirely appropriate to Glavin, the self-regarding defender of democratic principles, and champion of the introduction of universal rights for Afghanistan. These high-minded principles we're assured will one day be enjoyed by the survivors of those currently experiencing the terror of night raids on one side and insurgent bombings on the other.
(Incidentally, what is happening in Afghanistan is in Glavin's view neither a war, nor an occupation; just as the invasion wasn't an invasion, and the US and NATO did not defeat the Taliban.)
Glavin frequently dismisses people whose opinions he disagrees with as "polemicists," even while denying his own, admittedly "partisan" book is polemical. He contends, it's possible to be both partisan and fair. That may be true if one makes an honest effort to include voices and views differing from prescribed positions, but he fails to make that effort. Instead, Terry lambasts outspoken former Afghan MP Malalai Joya as being "worse than a joke," maintaining his friends in Afghanistan's liberal left regard her with something "between pity and contempt." He refers to Joya as a puppet, saying she has become; "[S]ome kind of marionette of comfortable, rich, white people in the NATO capitals." Which of these fortunate few are pulling Joya's strings was not made clear in my interview with the author, and a perusal of the index of his book fails too to enlighten on the point.
Having interviewed Malalai Joya myself, I find his low opinion, (or the cited, supposed opinions of the entirety of Afghanistan's "left liberal, secular reformist, intellectual community," a polyglot the unified opinion of which Glavin claims to represent) passing odd for a man who professes to be primarily concerned for the rights of Afghanistan's women folk. I find it stranger still a man with Glavin's obvious burning hatred of the Taliban renders so poor an account of a woman who herself describes them as "depraved and medieval."
In her 2009 memoir, 'A Woman Among Warlords: The Extraordinary Story of an Afghan Who Dared to Raise Her Voice', (derided by Glavin without irony as a "polemical auto-hagiography") Malalai Joya writes,
"Dust has been thrown into the eyes of the world by your governments. You have not been told the truth. The situation now is as catastrophic as it was under the Taliban for women. Your governments have replaced the fundamentalist rule of the Taliban with another fundamentalist regime of warlords. [That is] what your soldiers are dying for."
Glavin agrees, we in the West are not being given a true picture of the situation in Afghanistan, though he believes "worse than a joke" Malalai Joya is merely a "rock star," someone he says is only "dimly remembered" in the native country she "left." Trusting the testimony of Sabrina Saqib, a former colleague of Joya, while ignoring the woman herself driven from the Parliament, survivor of numerous assassination plots, (and at least four actual attempts) Glavin allows Saqib deliver the coup de grace,
"Malalai Joya has only some repeated sentences she keeps repeating, nothing new. You can listen to Malalai Joya once and record it, and repeat it."
But, you won't hear much of Malalai Joya's message repeated in Come from the Shadows. Instead, Joya's courage and contribution to her native country is tossed off, and she denigrated as a "bit part" player whose message he compares to a needle placed on a vinyl record that effectively "drowns out everything else." Glavin does include a solitary quote, taken from one of Joya's many speaking engagements in Canada, Europe, and the United States.
In the single citation, taken from her address to the Canadian National NDP Convention in 2006, Joya tells those gathered,
"The situation in Afghanistan and conditions of its ill-fated women will never change positively as long as the warlords are not disarmed and both the pro-US and anti-US terrorists are removed from the political scene of Afghanistan."
It's an unequivocally clear statement, given by a woman who has a considerably greater understanding of the need for the emancipation of women, and men in that country than the author's single-minded determination that foreign military involvement is the only way forward. She is no impediment however to Glavin's self-confidence, as he blithely trots out his four guided trips to Kabul and environs as lending his opinion the gravity of a latter-day Lawrence. Ignoring reality, he dismisses Joya entirely because she does not provide in her speech a road map out of the quagmire, while accusing any who listen to her as being fantasists blinded by a fiction he calls "Absurdistan."
Malalai Joya at least made a mention in Glavin's book. The Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan, (RAWA) didn't even rate that; not a single line. I asked him about that occlusion during our interview. Unsurprisingly, Glavin thinks little of RAWA, saying they have "[M]ore members in Santa Barbara than in all of Afghanistan." They too are in his view, "a joke." [45:50] Likewise, the Afghan Women's Mission goes without recognition. In fact, for a man who professes a lethal devotion to women's rights, feminism is entirely absent the index. And, Glavin has a curious male-chauvinist literary tic; he repeatedly uses terms like "high pitched" and "hysterical" to describe those guilty of following any line other than his own, with no apparent ken of their offensiveness.
I asked Glavin who, then, he turns to for credible news and opinion on Afghanistan. His answer was, essentially, "no one." In lieu of references, he asserts; "At least I paid the Afghan people the courtesy of visiting their country a few times..." as though that were enough experience "in the field" to dispel the notions of hide-bound foreigners using only telephones, computers, and libraries to inform their hopelessly remote opinions. [46:45]
But it is not only Rawa and Malalai Joya who are hopeless jokes, and worse. Glavin manages too to smear Canadian career diplomat, Richard Colvin, calling him a "whiner" for his part in the coming to light of what in Canada became known as 'The Detainee Torture Scandal'. [57:07] (Terry denies a scandal existed; no torture, or even testimony alleging such a thing. [57:02]). The case of Canadian soldiers handing over prisoners to Afghan soldiers and police for systematic torture was, according to the author, so much ado about nothing. He told me,
"Everyone wants to talk about the Detainee Scandal. I tell you, the people in Afghanistan laugh about this." [58:00]
The UN, as Terry should know, find it less amusing. In a report released just last month, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan concluded nearly half of the detainees they interviewed had suffered torture, and they confirm many of those incarcerated had been turned over to their tormentors, the National Directorate of Security (NDS) or Afghan National Police (ANP) forces for national security crimes by international forces.
Kathy Kelly, an American co-ordinator for Voices for Creative Non-Violence, who has worked in Afghanistan for extended periods with youth especially, recently reported from Kabul,
"Even though high commanders in the ranks of the US JSOC acknowledge that 50 percent of the time the night raids and drone attacks "get" the wrong person, (Washington Post, September 3, 2011), the US war planners have steadily escalated reliance on these tactics."
She recounts the deaths of three students, killed by ISAF in a case of mistaken identity, the abduction of the single surviving "fighting age" male, and his family's frantic attempts to find him.
Fascists figure big in Come from the Shadows; they appear in many guises, and in my interview with Terry Glavin, I tried without success to find his definition of fascism and its adherents in the modern context. I believed it important because Glavin claims the right to kill them. [48:05]
He told me,
"I grew up in a culture where killing fascists was no vice." [55:02].
I'm sure he was referring there to his dear old Da, or perhaps Da Da sent across enemy lines somewhere in Europe in the 1940's, or perhaps shoring up as a member of the International Brigades to fight Franco in Spain in the thirties. In the book, Glavin compares the members of NATO and ISAF fighting Afghans to those volunteers battling Franco so long ago, claiming the Taliban are those fascists reincarnate, (replete with Nazi provenance). But, he says the same of many "Islamists" in many lands, and it begs the question, "Just where does the crusade against the "fascists" end?"
In the book, Glavin gleefully kicks at the recently deceased leader of Canada's NDP party, Jack Layton, and in our interview he wondered aloud how the NDP came to hold the same position on Canada's withdrawal from Afghanistan as the "crypto-fascist" Taliban?
This crypto-fascist creep seems the real crux of Terry Glavin's effort with Come from the Shadows, and as the world gears up for another propaganda assault designed to once again usher us into a full scale war, much broader this time than even those serial efforts already seen over the last ten years, the more light shone on it the better.
Postscript: Terry Glavin featured on Rex Murphy's November 20th radio program Cross Country Checkup for the full two hours. There, Rex allowed he fulminate fully his fascistic phantasmagoria. You can listen to him repeat the same tropes heard on my show with Rex here.