This has been a horrible month for the Canadian military in Afghanistan. Not only have our boys and girls had to say goodbye to some dear friends and colleagues, but they must now sadly watch as men and women play politics and try to leverage the blood of our fallen to their own advantage.
While I do not agree totally with the way the Conservatives have handled the latest controversy, I absolutely disagree with the political grandstanding which some of the other parties have participated in. To be sure, this in not a party issue, as all our politicians from all parties usually seek to extract as much mileage as they can from most events.
I must take specific offense to some of the statements that have been made, and some of the accusations that just aren’t true and are intentionally misleading. Instead of welcoming our four fallen sons home, some have sought to further undermine the government.
I, for one, do not agree with the media being barred from the arrival of our soldiers’ remains. Were it simply the request of the families of those men, then I would unequivocally support the move. In fact, some of the families have come forward stating that they feel this new policy deprives their fallen children of the respect they deserve and also deprives Canadians the chance to mourn their loss.
Politicians who are against this policy have a right to be heard. I am in no way trying to suggest that open debate is wrong. However, when truth is mixed with half truths, then there is an agenda to gain an advantage from this situation, and that is just deplorable.
Take Ujjal Dosanjh, the former Liberal Health Minister and now Liberal defence critic. His accusation that Mr. Harper is trying to import George Bush’s policy of hiding our losses is disingenuous and has no basis in fact. As we all know, the Liberals love to find any and all occasion to slight our American neighbours and especially their president.
Consider, however, that the American policy of barring the media from the funerals of soldiers has absolutely nothing to do with George W. Bush. It has been an ongoing policy for years regardless of whether there was a Republican or a Democrat in the White House.
As well, many MP’s have stood up to decry the present government’s decision not to lower the flags on the peace tower to half mast every time we lose a soldier. The lowering of the flag only on Remembrance Day for all of our fallen has been a tradition for decades. Not until Paul Martin was this changed. While many of us feel that the flag should be lowered for each soldier, that would show more respect to some of our fallen than has been shown to others.
It is for this reason that the decision was made to revert to the previous policy which again was followed by many leaders over a span of many decades regardless of political affiliation. The Canadian Legion has come forward to state that they agree with the government on this matter. The Canadian Legion has been one of the most active organizations in support of our men and women in uniform, as well as the many veterans that we are graced with.
If they, speaking on behalf of our soldiers, support this decision, then that is good enough for me, and it ought to be for all Canadians.
As for the claims that our government is trying to lessen the media impact of our losses as to preserve Canadian support for our mission in Afghanistan, there is nothing wrong with that. Again, while I disagree with the decision to bar the media, there is a need for the Canadian government to keep its word and to fulfill its role in Afghanistan. We have all seen the media at work when it comes to the military. They are onboard with support until soldiers start to die and then they begin to publicly ask why we are there and whether or not we should remain. This is not how foreign policy is made, nor should it be.
We as Canadians must come to realize that our soldiers are not mentally incompetent. Every man and woman who signs up for duty in our armed forces realizes that they may eventually make the ultimate sacrifice. In a perfect world that would never be necessary, but since it isn’t perfect we are in need of armed forced to ensure a stable world for our children. I am just thankful that we have such people in our midst.
When we as Canadians begin to get squeamish as the body count grows, we undermine the mission itself. It encourages the enemy to step up its attacks knowing full well that they can mount an opposition through the weak minded citizens of our countries. When we cower at the cost of freedom we become those weak minded citizens, and when we encourage the enemy to ratchet up the carnage a few notches, we cause the deaths of more of our own.
Should Canadians turn against all that Canada has achieved in Afghanistan, then those who have laid down their lives have done so in vain. All of the progress that has been achieved will be for naught.
I believe that the government’s motives in the latest controversy were noble, even though many of us just don’t get it. Perhaps if the media would refrain from attempting to sour Canadians against our mission, then maybe the government wouldn’t be forced to make tough, albeit bad, decisions.