All at once. All on the same day. Killed by an "Improvised Explosive Device" placed near the side of an Afghanistan road. Between the time I started this entry and today, two more soldiers have died. Military spokespersons are denying that this spike in IED hits is indicative of a renewed spring offensive in Afghanistan, but we'll get to that later.
I don't like militaries. Most people on the Left don't like militaries. Militaries are intensely hierarchichal, authoritarian institutions, and they generally mould the minds of their prisoners into thinking that some asinine "way of life" (ie., "let ambitious businessmen rape the environment and get rich doing so") is worth fighting, killing, and dying for.
Of course, some can argue that militaries are also highly egalitarian institutions. They accept pretty much anyone, regardless of social status, and once inside, everyone is treated pretty much the same. (There's a debate in the US about this very issue. An example is the contention that black soldiers were placed in dangerous environments far more frequently than were white soldiers, during the Vietnam War. People on the Right, within and without the military dispute this.) Furthermore, rising through the ranks is supposedly based on merit, as opposed to the outside world, where social class has more impact on a person's prospects. That might very well be true. A lot of the leftists who were former military personnel mention that they saw the military as the one way out of the hopelessness and meaninglessness of poverty in Canada or the US.
That might very well be true, but they are still organizations dedicated to warfare and to advancing the aims of generally inhuman states. And they still seek to tear down the psyches of the people who join them, to make them effective killers for the state they serve.
Many people on the Left have a visceral dislike of military people as a group and as individuals. They see them as all as mindless cogs and thugs, at the very least complicit, if not actually enthusiastic about the atrocities their institutions engage in. While I disagree with this perspective, I see it as more understandable than the idol-worshippers who believe that all of our soldiers are a class above ordinary Canadians, and that we should all drop to our knees in gratitude for the "freedom" that our soldiers have somehow or other won for us, and which they continue to defend for us, threatened as it is, by the Taliban in Afghanistan. Curiously, the same people who worship "the troops" (up and until it's discovered that their favourite politicians have been found to have been cheating them, or have been carelessly wasting their lives in futile missions) and who decry the negative generalizations against them by some on the Left, enjoy very much making stupid generalizations about the Left.
Personally, I think that the individuals in the Canadian and US militaries (at least - that's the extent of my personal experience) are almost just like ordinary individuals anwhere else (perhaps there's a slightly more pronounced "conservative" trend among this segment of the population), and I will treat them as such. I know friends and relatives in the CF (mostly the Reserves) and they're all basically decent people. I knew two gentlemen in grad school who were CF, and while I never got to know their deepest, darkest secrets, I nevertheless came away from a couple of evenings of casual drinking thinking they were generally agreeable companions.
From some of my younger friends, I've noticed a greater confusion about what they want to do with their lives, and that is what directed them to the military. These were young men who were bored and unremarkable students, undisciplined and unfocused workers, who imagined that somehow, some way, the military might help to "straighten them out." (One of these fellows found that his attitude problems were greater than the CF could solve. I'm hazy with the details, but they seem to have expelled him and washed their hands of him.)
Basically, I regard members of the armed forces as decent individuals until I'm given a reason to think otherwise.
Which is why I deplore politicians who mindlessly, or stupidly, put Canadian soldiers in harm's way to curry favour with an off-balanced, crazed US government. I also deplore the fact that the politicians not only put these people into combat for such a lame reason, but also because they have made Canadian soldiers the protectors of an incompetent, thuggish regime that loses the loyalty of its people and which invites protest and rebellion.
Several people, researchers and NATO officials, have pointed out the miserable job the Karzai government and its Western backers have done at rebuilding Afghansitan. It is the thuggishness and incompetence of the Karzai regime that is bringing about the Taliban's resurgence. I have described this process several times in earlier posts. Western governments have been appallingly indifferent to the sufferings of the Afghan people due to our violence and thoughtlessness.
Who can dare say that they "support the troops" by mindlessly supporting this mission? Our "mission" in Afghanistan has condemned millions to starvation, hopelessness, and despair. If as a result, some Afghans join the resistance and attack Canadian soldiers, it is the mindless Canadian stooges who refuse to face up to the reality of the situation, who refuse to rationally see the connections between their political choices, the arrogance of Western imperialism, and the explosions that rip apart Canadian soldiers bodies, who are to blame.
"Canadian soldiers chose to do this job" is one of the groundless arguments made by supporters of blind loyalty to Canadian imperialism. It's not based in fact. Canadian soldiers agreed to be Canadian soldiers. Nobody who joined the armed forces in the year 2000 ever said: "If I get sent to Afghanistan to impose a puppet government on the people there I shall do so in full, enthusiastic agreement." They are in the military and they've agreed to go wherever it is they are sent and to do the job they are paid to do. If some, even many of them, think that the mission is sound, that's their business and they're welcome to it. But even if Hillier thinks it's his job to "kill people" first and foremost, he should be disabused of this idea. It's his job to follow orders. If the people of Canada, through a government more reflective of the actual opinions of Canadians comes to power, he will be told to bring the boys home and that will be that.
A visitor to this site has repeatedly accused me of demonizing Canadian soldiers. I have done nothing of the sort, and I don't expect that I ever will. What I have pointed out is that there are allegations of our soldiers beating their prisoners. This should be investigated. If it is true, the perpetrators ought to be punished. As I said recently in the comments section, we cannot pat ourselves on the back for being decent, humane, and wonderful, if we brush off allegations of beating prisoners, either because we want to believe it just can't happen, or if we don't care about the human rights of our enemies.
Furthermore, any shit-head argument that our enemies are inhuman and should therefore be abused is only evidence that the arguer is cut from the same cloth as the "inhuman" enemy. They act brutally because they think we're brutes, infidels, oppressors. We act brutally because they're "savages," fanatics, and terrorists. And on and on it goes.
The main argument against what Canadian soldiers are doing is the fact that they're forced to turn over prisoners to documented torturers (the US military and the Karzai government). Who can claim to "support the troops" when they wish to keep them in a situation where they have no other choice but to turn prisoners (who, remember, might have been simple peasants desperate to protect themselves from a rapacious, criminal regime) over to torturers. Contrary to what the imbecilic Gordon O'Conner says, the Red Cross has NOT been monitoring the treatment of prisoners. His ignorance or duplicity on this subject is testimony to his utter indifference about this serious crime.
This has been the deadliest week for Canadian soldiers in over 50 years. I dispute the claim that these two explosions are not signs of a coming, intensified spring offensive. Somebody has to plant these bombs. That they were not planted in the past, but are being planted in evidently greater numbers now is indicative of the growth of popular feeling against NATO and against our troops. Despite the warnings from many quarters about this growing ill-will, our governments have done nothing to improve Karzai's policies or even his ability to improve them. Those who profess to "support the troops" had best prepare their defences if the spring offensive turns out to be as bloody and fatal for Canada's soldiers as it seems to be shaping up to be.
If Canadian soldiers think they are doing good in Afghanistan, if they have actually done some small good at times, that's entirely possible, but it is also working against a tide of Western arrogance and indifference and, in fact, antipathy to the best interests of the Afghan people. Whether we like it or not, Canadian soldiers have been made into targets by Western governments that show by their actions that they do not care for the people of Afghanistan. The longer we leave them there the more will die. And I "support the troops" in my way, by calling for them to be brought home, and to never again be sent on such dangerous, futile "missions."
For an insider's account of the mess we've made in Afghanistan, and of the popular anger against it, check out this speech by Malalai Joya.