Thursday, April 16, 2009


I have been meaning to read Christie Blatchford's book Fifteen Days: Stories of Bravery, Friendship, Life and Death from Inside the New Canadian Army for awhile now. I got a copy for Christmas. I started reading it on Tuesday and it had me close to tears within the first 60 pages - there is a passage on page 52 that moved me in ways I had not expected:

The scene is the return of Ray Arndt's body in August 2006, Darcia Arndt was in tears and shock and told to look out of the car and watch the hearse as it left the base. She did not want to do this
But Darcia did what Johnson asked. She forced herself to look out the window. Outside the fence around the base, along the road were knots of people standing silently, as there would be knots of people on overpasses along the 401 highway to Toronto.

I've been to Trenton for a repatriation ceremony. Those people were there then. They are always there, clutching Canadian flags, weeping, standing straight. They line up outside the fence, they can see and hear almost nothing of the somber service on the tarmac, they wait uncomplainingly for hours in rain and cold. I met a man there who had come to every repatriation ceremony and then one day nearly came for his own son's - his boy, a soldier serving with the 1st Battalion, the Royal Canadian Regiment, had just been injured and was in Germany, soon to come home.

"There were civilians saluting - saluting the police, the military police, saluting us - as we drive by. It was like, wow, what respect," Darcia remembers. "I realize why now, and I'm not mad at him (Johnson) anymore."
Christie Blatchford is one of the great writers of reportage, a format that I really enjoy and the major reason I read Granta for many years. The stories of the soldiers are compelling and brings life to the world of the military.

I remember meeting a soldier from the PPLCI last summer on the Sayward Forest Canoe Route. I had a chance to talk with him and what he said is very similar to what is on Christie Blatchford's book.

I know there are many out there that want the Canadian troops out of Afghanistan. I am a pacificist and my desire is to see an end to all of killing of humans by any other humans, but I can not get behind the anti-war movement. The anti-war movement is not a peace movement. Here is a press release from MAWO about the recent illegal and unprovoked killing of Canadian soldier Karine Blais:
Mobilization Against War & Occupation (MAWO)
Statement on Latest Canadian Soldier Killed in Afghanistan
April 16th 2009

Mobilization Against War & Occupation (MAWO) continues to condemn the illegal and brutal Canada/US/NATO occupation of Afghanistan, which for over 7 years has denied the Afghan people to their basic rights to life, dignity and self-determination. The occupation forces have not only killed over 50,000 Afghan people in this criminal and unjust war, but is also taking the lives of young soldiers who have been convinced to fight in this war.

On Monday April 13th, 21 year old Karine Blais became the 117th Canadian soldier killed in Afghanistan, and the second women of these 117 deaths. Her death was quickly followed by statements made by her godfather, Mario Blais, who told reporters that "I think she did this for absolutely nothing" and said he thinks Prime Minister Steven Harper should "get the troops out of there as fast as possible."

This godfather’s comments reflect the sentiment of the majority of people across Canada, as well as the over 14,000 signatures from the Lower Mainland on the MAWO Canada Out of Afghanistan petition.

Many young men and women like this soldier are convinced by military recruiters that they are going to Afghanistan to help women and children, or to stabilize and reconstruct the country. Reality in Afghanistan is a different story. The best help for women, children and all people of Afghanistan is the end of the occupation of their country.

Women’s rights and health have only gotten worse in the 7 years of occupation. Women now have the second highest rate of maternal mortality in the world, and have a level of domestic violence that has gone up 40% between March or 2007 and 2008. Suicide and self-immolation by women is also on the rise, as reported by the IRIN UN agency. Women’s rights cannot be expected to improve under occupation, as the Canada/US/NATO backed government has proposed new laws further diminishing women’s rights. The new law signed by President Karzai applies to Shia Muslims, and legalizes the rape of women by their husbands, limits women’s movements outside the home as well as other restrictions. This shameful law is put in place by the puppet government that the occupation forces have installed and supported in Afghanistan.

The situation for children in Afghanistan is also deplorable. Due to high levels of unemployment and poverty brought on by the occupation, as well as older family members killed by war, children are forced to work in order to survive. In Kabul alone, there are 50,000 to 60,000 street children as reported by UNICEF.

As for reconstruction, one only has to read the news to see that the occupation forces aren’t constructing clinics or schools, and rather they are bombing villages and homes.

As long as the occupation continues in Afghanistan, the body bags of many young Canadians in combat boots will return to Canada. As we learn from the statements of the godfather of Karine Blais, these young people are doing this for absolutely nothing. In support of both the people of Afghanistan and here at home, MAWO encourages all peace-loving people to get involved in antiwar events and actions, to demand an end to the Canada/US/NATO war drive in Afghanistan.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
MAWO ~ Mobilization Against War & Occupation
P 604.322.1764 || F 604.322.1763
So all the western troops should be pulled out of Afghanistan, then what? Are the people at MAWO convinced that life will be better in Afghanistan if the troops leave? How about the fact that the people in Afghanistan over and over say they want the western troops in the country to protect them?

Life is tough enough in the country, but I can not image what would happen to women if the western troops pull out.

The reality is that the western troops are the first foreign troops in Afghanistan at the request of the government and not an occupying force. The western troops are the first armed force of any kind interested in supporting the development of a functions civil society.

The conflict in Afghanistan comes from the small set of immoral leaders of armed sects in the country. If they would simply stop killing people the war would end. The call from the anti-war movement should be focused on the gang leaders who use guns to gain power and wealth from the hard working people in the villages. The western forces are combating a clearly evil group of people, calling for them to leave is to give in and surrender to a group of people that have evil in their hearts.

As a Quaker I believe there is that of God within everyone. Killing a person is a direct attack on God. The people killing the Canadians in Afghanistan are doing is in direct opposition to all major faiths in the world, not only Quakerism. Specifically what they are doing is against the tenets of Islam and they are not faithful Muslims.

How do we stop them? How do we protect the people they prey on and force to live in misery? How can be abandon them to a hell that is worse than anything ever seen in Canada? Do we not have a responsibility as humans to come to the aid of the oppressed? How many people need to die in Afghanistan before the anti-war movement will support ending the conflict?

As of now 117 Canadians soldiers have died in Afghanistan, not all of them in combat. The soldiers seem to know why they are there and see the benefit on the ground for the people from the Canadian troops. The soldiers see it as a war against evil, a war to protect the men, women and children of Afghanistan for oppression. It seems to be most clear cut mission Canada has sent troops on since World War 2.

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