Would you like it if the Government of Canada, knowing that someone was planning or conspiring to harm or kill you, did nothing?
Well, Garth Tolms an opinion writer in The Times (March 2, 2006) appears to think they shouldn’t go out of their way to prevent it.
Garth, in a rambling and disjointed column shares his perspective on why Canada should not be involved in the conflict in Afghanistan. Garth suggests that “[the people the Canadian Armed Forces are engaging] aren’t really our enemy”, and asks “what have they done to us”. He then admit that “a few Canuncks have been killed” but chooses to discount these deaths as evidence of attacks against Canada saying “…but that doesn’t mean it is an attack against Canada”.
Unfortunately for Garth, the deaths of Canadians as a consequence of fundamentalist actions does constitute an attack. Indeed, a threat doesn’t become a threat only when a threshold of Canadian blood has been spilled. Canada has already experienced more than a couple acts of terrorism on our soil. Further, there are several known incidents where terrorists have been prevented from completing assignments on our soil.
Garth then suggests that if we aren’t on Osama Bin-Laden’s “list” yet, “we will be soon enough… Thanks to General Hillier and our new PM”. Garth presents Canada’s involvement in Afghanistan as some sort of spur-of-the-moment decision since “our new top general has decided that we are a military and sometimes our job is to kill”.
Even a simple Google search would have revealed to Garth that Canada started mobilizing troops for deployment to Afghanistan around October 8, 2001 when Jean Cretien was still the Prime Minister.
Speaking in Ottawa, Chrétien said Canada is mobilizing some military units for the coalition, but said he wouldn’t provide detailed information that could endanger lives.
Canada has been participating in Afghanistan since (approximately) late 2001, and yet Garth pins our involvement on the new top general and new Prime Minister.
Garth further states that perhaps we are involved “because the US is our friend”, and then recommends that “we [should] just worry about our own borders and let the States do their own thing”.
I have no doubt that our proximity to the US, and our relations with them were certainly contributing factors to us deciding to join an international sanctioned coalition [Resolution 1267 (1999), Resolution 1333 (2000), Resolution 1363 (2001), Resolution 1388 (2002), Resolution 1390 (2002), and Resolution 1455 (2003) ] to move against the Taliban in Afghanistan. I would also suggest that since Canada has been the target of attacks or attempted attacks in the past we are not out line in wanting to participate in neutering the Taliban in Afghanistan for the defense of our own nation.
Garth’s final reason to not participate in Afghanistan is because our soldiers are now “politically correct and pampered” and “most of them can’t stand up to their own spouse, never mind an angry suicidal militant”.
Setting aside how insulting Garth’s last assertions were to our military, it should be pointed out that a Globe and Mail report from last week described the forces arriving this month in Kandahar as follows:
The 2,200 Canadian troops arriving this month have at their disposal an array of hardware and personal kit that, many soldiers say, makes them the envy of the international coalition in Afghanistan.
Garth’s attack on our military has no credibleness and only serves to demonstrate how little strength his argument has. His position simply does not stand when held up to the light of reason.
Radical fundamentalism is a growing problem in today’s world, and given that there have been both successful terrorist attacks and foiled plans of terrorism towards Canada, it would be irresponsible of our Government to not participate in a sanctioned action which should improve security for all Canadians in the long run.
I will leave the last words to Michael Den Tandt from the Globe and Mail:
Soldiers are soldiers. During three weeks in Kandahar, I heard occasional griping. I heard many expressions of fatigue. The group I stayed with in Kandahar had been there six months. They’d had enough.
I also heard, to a surprising degree, numerous expressions of idealism — an idealism that should give Canadian critics of this mission pause.
There was Capt. Kerri-Ann Iwanonkiw, a 26-year old with a brilliant smile, who spoke passionately about helping Kandahar’s girls hold their first-ever craft festival.
There was Capt. Francois Giroux — a man who on previous tours has witnessed horrors that most Canadians could not imagine — yet remains deeply optimistic about the military and its ability to project Canadian values.
There was Chief Warrant Officer Ward Brown, a soldier’s soldier and veteran of eight tours, whose voice broke as he spoke about the Afghan poor, and about the psychological burden that Canadian soldiers will take home with them, when they return home.
“I’m sure that there are young guys on their bunks, at night, that aren’t sleeping,” he told me.
Polls show that many Canadians remain unconvinced about the merits of the Afghan mission. The debate is sure to continue for months. It is likely to intensify when more Canadians are killed in action, which is likely.
Whatever the tenor of the debate, however, no one should forget this: Canadian troops in Afghanistan are not politicians. They are soldiers, all volunteers, doing an extraordinarily dangerous job because they believe in it. They are risking their lives to help people who desperately need help.
They deserve nothing less than strong, unqualified support.