7.12.06

For Sale: 1984 Toyota Tercel--Needs Work

This evening I skipped dinner to catch up on my sleep.
I had more to say on that subject, but then I realized that I was talking about my napping habits and wanted to slam my face in the rear door of a 4-Door 1984 Toyota Tercel. So I will save my face, my pretty, pretty face.


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Not to get overly political here, for politics are exclusionary, and hillbilly superheroes are quite the inclusive lot. But...

I witnessed a report of some sort somewhere or another about Canada's involvement in the war in Afghanistan. It wasn't anything new or of note. It was rather regular reporting about the latest
dad who died and then something about how Steve Harper's Tory government asked NATO for an expanded role in the mid-East offensive (many surprised looks when NATO obliged its eager volunteer). This was not really surprising at all, it is more Harper being Harper. But it is supremely disapointing. Another dad died today because Steve Harper felt it crucial to prove to NATO that Canada could fight a frivilous war to prove that we can pull our weight in that more-popular-everyday hobby of warfaring nations, the incomprehensible (later it was reported that a Canadian General feels that Canadians just don't get it, and it is the medias fault), unpopular, unwinnable, pointless mid-East war. As though we were desperatly trying to compensate for the harm the effeminant Liberals caused our precious psyche. As though a war to compensate for Steve Harper's small...mind is a right honourable continuation of the long standing nation-building tradition held so close to the hearts of Canadians. I seemed to misplace my undertanding that this country is all about stuffing democracy and nationhood down insurrgent and sectarian throats like ink stained fingers stuffing ballot boxes in wildly successful mock elections to put the final nail in the coffins of...well...a lot of people.

We are at war.
We don't know why.
We don't get it.
The terrorists win.
It's the media's fault.
Ration gravy and french fries and cheese curds.
Ration lead pipes and tin pots.
Ration common sense.
So Steve can not be intimidated by the size of his friends' enormous...hearts, minds. Or death tolls?
General was right.
We don't get it.
We aren't peace-keeping.
Or peace-building.
We are killing.
And being killed.
Please will someone tell us why.

The death toll is 45, and counting. Many more wounded. 45 might not seem like much. 3,000 is many more. But aspiring to prove you are as much a man as your cousin from Texas is one thing. Aspiring to match his death toll is another.

Canada is a powerful nation. Canada does have a role to play. Canada can make a difference. Canada also has limited military resources. You simply cannot fight all the battles, and you certainly cannot waste your energies on battles that are misguided, misunderstood, muddled, and possibly both pointless and fruitless. You need to pick your battles. Not just the ones you know you should win. Those are the easy ones. But also some you are not sure whether you will win or not, but you know damned well that they are worhtwhile in even attempting. Can someone please explain to me the worthwhileness of Canada's costly foray into Afghanistan as has been expanded in order for Steve Harper to pander to his faulty principles and desired friends.

Pandering for aesthetic's sake is unacceptable in any form. But when it costs people their lives it is reckless, dangerous, and (dare I say) murderous. It does not do the men and women who are willing to serve, or have served, the country and ideas they love any honour, rememberance, or justice to frivilously endanger their lives for such faulty or mis guided reasons. All it does is a disservice to the memory of those who sacraficed their lives for a calling they felt worthy. Harms way for he sake of harms way, for the sake of image building, is wrong. Dead wrong.

Glyn Berry, a Canadian diplomat wrote in 2004:

Perhaps because of Canada's traditional openness to international engagement, our strong belief in the rule of law in international relations, and the importance we accord to international institutions, we have been more inclined than many to take up causes which relate to the need to remember that no state, government, or institution has a legitimate rationale for its existence apart from the interests of the individual human beings for whose benefit they are supposed to act. [source]

He championed the cause of fighting for the cause of making the world a better place. Not just for the cause of looking macho on the international stage. He worked to bring an end to atrocities like the ones that took place in Rwanda (and currently Sudan) through international diplomacy and carefully considered utilisation of coercion and force where needed. In 2005, while he was the political director of the Khandahar Provincial Reconstruction Team. A role in which he did much to broker an understanding between different local leaders in order to improve the conditions of Afhanis. On January 15, 2006 a convoy he was travelling in was attacked by suicide bombers and he was killed. His son Gareth, in his eulogy, said of his father, "He was a man who was convinced he was doing the right thing, and hopefully able to change the world if ever so slightly in the right direction. That man was my dad. I hope we can make him as proud and happy as he made us." (Read a lengthier excerpt from the eulogy here).

I first heard Gareth Berry's eulogy on CBC Radio when I was driving around aimlessly one night and it brought tears to my eyes. Not just the loss of a good diplomat leading a noble cause and fighting a well thought out, thoroughly considered battle. But at the loss in the voice of his son. His loss was not the loss of a family of their husband and dad, it was the loss of a country of a small, but significant, part of an idea that we have built ourselves around and sustained ourselves with. It was similar in nature to the loss of well meaning men like Romeo Dellaire and Stephan Lewis as they fought and fight fights they lost or are losing and may not win, but hey fight anyway. With all they have. These men's prinicples are true. These men's principles are not created in order to keep up with the Joneses. There is nothing false about these men's principles, about these men's purposes. They are wholeheartedly for the improvement of humanity as a whole. Not for their election chances or for the service of the their blatantly and fatally flawed (proven time and time again) panderous principles.

Steve Harper cannot be blamed. He is only doing what he thinks is right. He is only governing according to his deeply held principles. The problem is that his principles are flawed, if not dead wrong. A leader of principle is only as good as the principles with which they adhere to. As Bush has shown in the south, and as Harper is recreating in the North, flawed and faulty principles make for flawed and faulty leaders. Which is bad when it means that people's rights are being infringed upon (i.e. same sex marriage is back on the books). Which is catastrophic when people are being killed.

We owe more to the memory and family of Glyn Berry. We owe more to the memories and families of the military men and women who have died fighting on our behalf in Afghanistan. We owe more to the memories of the men and women who have gone before, fighting for noble ends through difficult means. We owe our heroes more than this. We owe ourselves more than this. Otherwise all we are left with is disgrace in the face of a counter-intuitive war. We absolutely must do our part. But our part is to pick our battles and contribute in a manner with which we can be most effective. Our part is not to take what few forces we have, spread them as thin as we can, just to fight for some cause that has become so convoluted and muddled since the outset that we just don't get it anymore.

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Many pardons. That tangent grew into a magnificently large and sky-scrapping bean stalk. That happens every once in a while.

You must do me one favour. You must go here and look at this. It is the most amazing piece of literature I have ever laid eyes on. You simply must.

Guten nacht.

2 comments:

Tricia said...

So, 45 Canadians have died in Afghanistan? The U.S. is fighting the same misguided war in Iraq, but our death toll is almost 3,000.

P.S. Dayton, WA is a really boring town. I'm sure that guy was just keeping himself busy.

morganeliasmurray said...

Iraq is a differnet kettle of fish completely. Comparisons of Iraq and Afghanistan end at climate and general vicintiy. Afghanistan might be the right war for someone, but Canada's role in it is wrong for Canada. And antithetic to everything Canada has been founded and built upon. Whereas Iraq is a disasterous situation for the United States, but is comprehensible to a certain extent, in some cases even predictable. War often is, in hind-sight at least. The American death toll is alarming and devastating. The Iraq war is a catastrophe. My discussion of Canada in Afghanistan by no means means to detract from the US war in Iraq, nor it's scope or tragic cost.

As a Canadian we need to pick our battles, as I said. Right now Afghanistan is our primary foreign concern. It is our misguided foray into machoismo wars on terror. It is my primary concern. Had Canada gone into Iraq, I am sure my rambles would look an awful lot different. As it stands Afghanistan is our conflict headed down the foreseeably unneccessary and futile path.

Regardless of passport or flag patch killing and/or death on any sort of scale is unacceptable. Especially if the justification for such things is so flawed. One young Canadian, American, Iraqi, Afghani, or otherwise is too many. 45 is too many. 3,000 is way too many. Hundreds of thousands is incomprehensible. Volume does not add anything other than volume. 1, 45, 3,000, or more. The only difference is the number of voices that should urgently work to stop such atrocities in the name of mythologies and other delusions from happening.