Support our troops!

Posted on October 18, 2007
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            Do you walk to work or take your lunch?

            Do you support our troops or want to bring them home?

            The second question is as much a non sequitur as the first.

            Does supporting the troops mean keeping them in harm’s way on the say-so of people with political rather than national security or moral objectives?

            I get very frustrated with people who ask why Canada sent troops to Afghanistan in the first place.

            After Al Qaeda attacked the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001, a huge majority of Canadians were devastated and outraged. Whatever differences we may have with Americans on a day to day basis, they are the best neighbours a giant can be. We share more basic principles with them than with most of the rest of the world. Even in their own interest, they have done a tremendous amount for us over the years.

            It was in their own interest to carry most of the freight in the cold war against Soviet communism but it also meant we lived under their umbrella with very little cost. We are, with them, among the original North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) allies.

            There was no doubt that the Taliban government of Afghanistan sheltered and protected Al Qaeda.

            What would we have done but join the UN-sanctioned, NATO invasion?

            Our troops have gallantly supported us in that endeavour. To date, 71 of their members and one diplomat have died.

            The question now is, when is the war over? When can we remove our young people from harm’s way with honour?

            That is a question we, as a nation, should be considering every day.

            It isn’t our job to occupy Afghanistan. We cannot force their choice of government upon them. Democracy can only exist where people want it to exist and can muster the internal strength to create and maintain it.

            Does that will and ability exist in Afghanistan? Will it anytime soon?

            Or is the alternative to the Taliban a mosaic of warlords and religious sects with no interest or allegiance to our democratic ideals?

            If that is the case, supporting our troops would mean getting them the hell out of there as quickly as possible.

            Neither does supporting the troops mean doing what they say we should do or they want to do. Most of them are testosterone-charged young men. That’s not an insult. I was one myself once and wouldn’t have missed it for the world. However, it is not the only qualification for decisions about making war.

            Those who die in battle “do not grow old as we who are left grow old,” but they’d certainly have liked to have had the chance.

            One of Cadogan’s laws is that, to go to war, you must be over the age of 65 and have a note from your mother.

            To me, supporting our troops means only betting their lives and bodies when there is a very clear reason and objective for doing so.

            It does not mean being willing to fight any battle to the last drop of their blood for a nebulous goal.

            This is such an important issue that it should be divorced totally from party politics. All party leaders should agree to make our national decision a free vote.



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