2010-06-27

Matthew Good wants our soldiers back from Afghanistan. He just doesn't know why

Mr. Melissa Auf der Maar has a new post up about the most recent deaths of Canadian Forces soldiers in Afghanistan. Try not to giggle uncontrollably as you normally would in a Matt Good post, and read:

I want them all back, all 150 of them. What purpose did their deaths serve today? We’re due to leave next year, and nothing of significance is going to transpire in that time. These two fine Canadians were doing their duty, just as the other 148 were. They don’t make policy, they follow it. Their blood is on the hands of the government and it is on ours for being too dismissive of the subject, too passive, too eager to be swayed by the glorification of the rifle and the cannon.

This is not the Second World War. Our military men and women have nothing to prove. Only those that govern this country have the power to place their lives at risk, and by doing so must be held responsible for their deaths. And so do we all for putting them in power or refusing to stand up when they make decisions that place our fighting men and women in harms way without a damn good reason.

The conflict in Afghanistan is not a good enough reason. Six years ago it was considered blasphemy to claim as much. Six years later those voices that claimed it blasphemy have fallen drastically in number. I wonder why.

Only the soldiers themselves know the reality of the situation, and most will admit that they are fighting for each other more than any cause. As a Canadian I am disgusted that they’ve been placed in that position. As a Canadian I have duty to say as much, no matter how unpopular an opinion it might be.
I'm confused, is it an popular opinion "those voices fallen drastically", etc. etc. or is it an unpopular one? And this "Canadian duty" is a dangerous path for anybody to base argumentative legitimacy on.

Yet Good's comparison to WWII is a notable one. After all, had Good been alive in 1938 he would have stood in progressive solidarity with his good buddy Hitler. Only in retrospect do the Goods of the world decide if a war was 'worth' fighting for. Their calculus is always confusing (cf. 19 million suffering in South Vietnam), yet still oddly predictable.



As for the soldiers themselves, I was out for drinks with one this weekend, and ironically enough this exact subject came up. Though the (recently retired) solider in question never set foot in Afghanistan, he was in Bosnia in the aftermath of the Battle of Medak Pocket, so he's been in his own share of hot war zones. More importantly though is his relatively recent time in the Service, and his account of the opinions of soldiers regarding our combat operations in Afghanistan. They generally fall into three categories.

There are those who believe, as Matt Good does, that the entire Afghan operation is a joke, that they shouldn't be there, and its a shame that Canada is even involved and we should have stayed away so the Afghan people could enjoy their beautiful culture.

The largest group, however, is fully in favour of Canadian operations there. Basically every female soldier is in this group, likely meaning that the recently deceased Kristal Giesebrecht is amoung them. The women are particularly interested in the fate of Afghan girls in their tribal and Muslim culture, and the hope of this group is that Canadian troops stay in Afghanistan at least as long as they have remained in Cyprus. With this long-view vision, there may well be a number of deaths as the violent Muslim warlords are loath to relinquish their power and dominance over the weaker sex that they intend to keep weaker. The Afghani people, in particular their young girls, deserve better than what they have gotten under the Taliban and their ilk. So goes the argument of this largest group, which means that the very soldiers Good is so worried about fundamentally disagree with him. They are of course saddened by the loss of life, and worry about the futility of the mission if it truly ends in November of 2011. They don't forget, of course, its the socialists and cowards and progressives in the Layton/Good camp who pushed so hard for this end of operations. The NDP thought it a victory at the time, though their defense critic was quick to suggest military operations remain once the concern of Afghani women started stabbing at the NDP's bleeding hearts.

There is, of course, a third group of soliders. I leave it as a reader exercise to identify them and their very different motives for agreeing with Matthew Good that the soliders lives were wasted. Hint: their argument makes far more internal sense than his.