It was one of the most ludicrous laws proclaimed by Afghanistan’s former Taliban regime.
Now the same ban is being imposed for the leaders of the world’s richest nations, who once prided themselves on forcing the Taliban’s medieval religious police from power.
So hide your balsa wood and string, kids: the flying of kites has been outlawed anywhere near the fortified precincts of the G8 and G20 summits in Toronto and region later this month.
Evidently unaware of the searing irony of reviving the most laughable of the Taliban’s cruel proscriptions in the “civilized” West, Canada’s big-spending Harper government, the summit host, has pegged kites onto its long list of activities forbidden in the conference zones of downtown Toronto and leafy Huntsville.
There’s to be no rocket launching, no crop dusting and no aerobatic flying – and no kites.
Presumably the Harper government’s concern stems from the advent of suicide-kite technology, whereas the Taliban feared kite flying as a distraction from Islamic piety.
With the cost of the G-leaders’ gold-plated photo ops, lunches and dinners ballooning towards the $1.5 billion mark, it’s fair to ask whether Stephen Harper’s security mavens might economize by plagiarizing the Taliban regime’s kite-bashing lingo:
“The kite shops in the city of Kabul will be abolished and the flying of kites is prohibited. In case of violation the head of the family will be arrested and punished. By Order of the Religious Police.”
There’s no word yet whether the Prime Minister’s Office, arguably the most rigid message-controlling leadership in the G20, will go one better and ban fun from the normally law-abiding neighbourhoods now ringed by a $5.5 million security fence.
Banning fun was another Taliban specialty:
“In shops, hotels, vehicles and rickshaws, cassettes and music are prohibited. Music and dances are abolished at wedding parties. By Order of the Religious Police.”
What is certain is that the Harper government has outdone all previous G8 and G20 hosts in lavishing scarce tax dollars on the events.
The three days of summitry will cost more than double the $600 million haemorrhaged by Japan in hosting the 2008 G8. That five-star confab famously isolated Harper and his foreign tablemates from the reality of the Afghan war (see “Platinum Club World Leaders Ignore Afghan Carnage” posted July 14, 2008 on page 13 of Recent Stories).
While Kabul burned, world leaders dined in splendour.
This time around, the war is raging through a 32nd consecutive year of chaos and bloodshed. And as Harper preens for the cameras, his staffers and generals will be quietly preparing for next year's retreat of Canadian Forces from Afghanistan.
Coincidentally, the undoing of Canada’s military and diplomatic missions provided a grim counterpoint, this past week, to the Prime Minister’s costly grandstanding.
First came revelations by enterprising reporters at the Canadian Press detailing the Harper government’s shameless misrepresentation of Canada’s Afghan mission.
Rather than supporting Canadian troops by tackling corruption in the Karzai regime and countering Pakistan’s support for the Afghan Taliban, Harper and his ministers were obsessed with convincing voters that their country’s role in Afghanistan was simply that of a well-intentioned peace mission.
Front and centre in this P.R. exercise was Harper’s former ambassador to Kabul, Arif Lalani. Lalani’s exploits were first uncovered here at skyreporter three years ago (see “West’s Political Double-Talk” posted October 8, 2007 on page 16 of Recent Stories, and from November 24, 2009 “As Kabul Fell Diplomat Took Tainted Karzai’s Keepsakes” on page four.)
Next came a Toronto Star exposé of the hijacking of the Canadian sponsored Dahla Dam project north of Kandahar by the militia-cum-security-firm named Watan, whose gunmen take orders from none other than Wali Karzai.
Harper and his ministers shrugged off the alarming implications of the story, busy as they are setting out the silverware for their globetrotting guests.
Canadian troops have sacrificed their lives to secure the dam and its reconstruction, but the country’s political leaders dare not whisper about the project’s seizure by force of arms other than the Taliban's. That the Afghan president’s crooked brothers Wali, Mahmoud and Qayoom will take the spoils seems of no consequence to Harper.
And so, like kites, the grim realities of the Afghan debacle will be shunned during the G8 and G20 festivities.
The Prime MInister and his minions will be too busy pulling other strings, all at the taxpayer’s expense.