Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Remembrance Day

"Lest we forget."

I have no problem respecting the memory of Canadian men who were sacrificed as soldiers in wars from 1914 to the present day.

I'm not so sure that Canadian freedoms were truly threatened in World War I. Obviously, Prussian militarism would have become a much stronger political force had the Germans won that war, but aside from a radical rearrangement of the balance of power in Europe, British imperial strength would not have been greatly affected. Democracy would surely have been diminished as an international force.

Aside from all that though, there's the reality of the horrible conditions that soldiers in that war were forced to endure, living and dying in squalor and terror. When Canadian soldiers did fight in that conflict they displayed noteworthy valour as even non-Canadian historical sources attest.

A Nazi victory in World War II would have been terrifying for the world however. A fanatical, nakedly racist, war-worshipping sect would have control of all of Europe and much of Asia, including all of its resources. To the soldiers who died to contain this monstrosity we owe undiluted gratitude. Canadian soldiers here also displayed heroism; in Italy, on D-Day, and in Holland. For the political masters in the West who aided and abetted the right-wing freak-show of Hitlerism, we owe undiluted contempt.

Korea was a political cluster-fuck from the beginning. The South was ruled by an authoritarian madman and a cabal of collaborators with the Japanese Occupation. The North was ruled by another authoritarian, though perhaps, one who might have had more credit with a larger proportion of the Korean people. Evidently, Canadian soldiers again proved themselves as brave and worthy soldiers in that conflict as well. (I say "evidently" as I've not read or heard of much about that conflict.)

At the present day, Canadian soldiers are fighting and dying in Afghanistan. You can search this blog for my opinions on that conflict AND about Canadian soldiers fighting in it. For those soldiers who honestly believe that they are doing good for the people of Afghanistan (and perhaps their responsibilities include defending a school where girls are getting the first educations that female Afghans have received in over a decade, or perhaps they're fighting genuine Taliban fanatics massacring innocent farmers who are merely cooperating with whatever force happens to be the power at the time) I can only say that I respect their opinions, but the wider picture to me appears to be one of US geo-political, imperialist strategy and overall arrogant indifference. To those Canadian soldiers traumatized by having witnessed the rape of children by our noble warlord allies, my sincerest regrets for what Liberal and Conservative governments have subjected you to. To those Canadian soldiers and their families who have suffered death or grave injuries, my deepest respect.

I would also like to mention one soldier, who, if not forgotten, his death did not receive the proper official response from the Harper government: Maj. Paeta Hess-von Kruedener was killed by an Israeli bomb during that country's illegal invasion of Lebanon. As a UN observer of the Israel-Lebanon border Hess-von Kruedener was in the thick of the fighting and his post had radioed Israeli forces several times warning them that their bombs were falling near them. These warnings were disregarded and Hess-von Kruedener and three other UN observers were killed. In response to this outrage, Harper could only make excuses for Israel and stupidly ask what the UN observers were doing there, observing, in the first place.

Finally, when we remember the war dead on Remembrance Day, we are also supposed to remember how terrible war is. The original Remembrance Day was not meant to reflect upon Canadian youth sacrificing their lives for foolish causes, but over time, a sense of the stupidity of war and the stupidity of the (mainly) old men who start them, has also taken root, and we are supposed to remember so that we do not lightly enter into destructive conflicts in the future.

Alas, when the final page is written on our Afghanistan adventure, it will be seen that yet again, too many Canadians allowed themselves to be deluded by the pseudo-humanitarian claims of politicians (politicians they would otherwise not trust as far as they could throw them) and by fantasies of military glory and killing "detestable murderers and scum-bags" and Canadian soldiers and innocent civilians have paid the price.

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