Sunday, June 24, 2007

Support Our Troops

Those little "we support our troops" stick-ons caused a mini flap in Toronto last week. The Mayor - a socialist type from way back, wanted the city to emphasize that, whatever powers that be had authorized the application of said stickers to public vehicles in the big smoke, were to ensure that they would be removed after the permitted year was concluded.

That was until 4 soldiers were killed riding an ATV on a resupply mission. The motion was amended, in the light of patriot love, to be an indefinite affixation and a possible extension to other public vehicles - police cars, streetcars, garbage trucks and works vehicles, etc.

Jim Coyne, who I don't think is particularly pink in his outlook, wrote a piece about getting all 'knotted up' about this matter.

I think his position eminently sensible. He pointed out that plastering on a bumper sticker, on somebody else's vehicle, is not a particularly meaningful demonstration of support for anything. The involvement in the Afghanistan 'war' is not something that was wildly popular with Canadians. It is something that was foisted on us by Mr. Chretien's and Harper's governments and which the latter has tried to give he old American 'spin' about patriotism and a war to free somebody from themselves and educate little girls. Needless to say, the ordinary infantryman, or Canadian, had little or no input. The fightin' war was a political decision and will eventually be dealt with as such.

Meanwhile the military had an opportunity to do what they've been training to do and some jumped at the opportunity. From a time when they were definitely being short-changed by government, they've been restored to their darling position as 'defenders of the nation' and freedom fighters. Not to mention that new equipment will be rolling-in gangbusters. The CAF is being 'robustly' reinforced, and an expanding army is good for career soldiers. Afghanistan ties up about 2500 Canadian personnel every 6 months. At that rate it would take some 12 years for every Canadian serviceman to do a stint on the ramparts - as the C in C would like them to do. Meanwhile, there are enough who don't go, and who won't be going, to stay behind as a rah-rah section for those who do. In Afghanistan, while it is dangerous, it is significantly more dangerous to be on the sharp end - those outside the base area wire - roughly 20 percent of the force - especially, it seems, during the break-in, and draw-down periods, or in proximity to Americans, who have a ' wild west style ' bloody-mindedness in dealing with Afghanis. In short, the Canadian military is getting an opportunity to engage in some fairly low-cost and fairly safe bang-bang for the first time since Korea.

I think that most Canadians support their soldiers. There aren't as many support the 'war'. But we're in a vicious sort of circle now with young Canadians being killed in combat, not in accidents, or in peace-keeping work. Now the 'urge to victory' is abroad, otherwise the deaths will have been 'in vain'. Never mind that that 'urge' has at best a 60% chance of eventuating in the next decade and will, during that time, require further sacrifice of young Canadians' lives. There 's every bit as much evidence from history to indicate that the 40% chance of failure might come to pass. Although, by that time, the notion of the degree of 'vanity' will have to sit, until it's scrutinized by historians.

As far as the stick-on ribbons go, they're a sop to conscience. Most Canadians don't know a soldier and wouldn't go out of their way to get to know one. We've got lives to live, and, like our friends to the south, we're doing our darnedest to make sure nothing interferes with that. $5 for a sticker is a small price to pay to seem patriotic.

At the same time, Canada claims to be a multicultural country. The rhetoric going with the war does little to divert attention from Muslims here: it's a war against Muslims - never mind that many are on 'our side', they all get tarred. I passed a newly-building mosque in Toronto to-day, every window in the place was smashed. There's little love for Muslims, particularly if you're 'supporting our troops'.

Acting public servants need to remain apolitical on the job - for their own good. If they want to put stickers on their own cars, no problem. If they want to count me in, by plastering public vehicles, they should ask me, or my elected reps, first. My patriotism, or my politics, shouldn't be prejudged or second-guessed by those I help pay, and that might include the army, too.

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