Last week, I wrote a piece in the Georgia Straight about the war in Afghanistan and the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver:
"The 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow were boycotted in protest of the Soviet Union’s invasion and occupation of Afghanistan. Then–U.S. president Jimmy Carter announced the boycott in February 1980, and Canada and dozens of other countries soon followed suit ... Thirty years later, it is the United States, Canada, and the other NATO countries that are occupying Afghanistan. Instead of a boycott, the Vancouver 2010 Olympics are being used to promote militarism in general and Canada’s role in the occupation of Afghanistan in particular."
It's now fair to speculate that the Games have been used even more cynically -- as cover for a massive new NATO offensive in Afghanistan that has already claimed many Afghan civilians' lives. Operation Moshtarak, with Canadian Forces participation, was launched in the southern province of Helmand on Feb. 12, the day of the Opening Ceremonies in Vancouver. And it has already taken its toll on Afghans, as reported in the Globe and Mail:
"In two days, coalition troops have killed as many as 20 civilians in five separate incidents in two Afghanistan provinces. Three men were shot and killed after being individually mistaken for insurgents; five men were killed in an air strike on Monday after Canadian-commanded troops erroneously thought they were planting bombs; and as many as 12 civilians were killed in a high-profile rocket attack a day earlier, the details of which remained unclear amid varying accounts yesterday."
This military offensive in Afghanistan, the largest in nine years of war, makes a complete mockery of the commitment to a so-called "Olympic Truce" made by the Vancouver Olympic Committee (VANOC) and the Canadian government. John Furlong, VANOC's CEO, said this from the rostrum of the United Nations in October 2009:
"The Games are an opportunity for all of us to uphold sport as an inspirational means to promote a culture of peace among nations and people everywhere ... Just like every athlete is held to account on the playing field where the values of respect, fair play and inclusion must prevail, we urge all UN member states to observe these values individually and collectively as we welcome the world to the Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games in February and March 2010.”
Following Furlong's speech, Canada and the 191 other UN member states passed, by consensus, a resolution to uphold the values expressed by the Olympic Truce movement. Like so many beautiful words on paper in this world of inequality backed by the might of empire, the Olympic Truce is meaningless. Or worse. It has been used, together with the spectacle of the Games, to deceive and distract from the state violence being perpretrated by the host country, among others, in occupied Afghanistan.
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