Monday, January 28, 2008

Canada at War: History repeats itself

Warning: This is an intensely political post!

Within Canada, there has been a lot of debate on whether Canada should be in Afghanistan after 2009. For the record, I 100% support our troups being deployed in this country with the goals of keeping the Taliban from re-surging and helping build a free an independent Afghanistan. Our army is made up of professional soldiers, not people being drafted. I am proud of what they represent as peace keepers. The only Caveat is that what has been reported in the general media about the conditions pre and post invasion are roughly true, which I do believe in this instance they are.

For those of you who do not think Canada is a force to be reckoned with militarily, look back to WW2 and WW1. Canadians have a long history of running to the aid of those who are in the most dire needs. Most of my friends and others who I know here are willing to give up their lives for something we see as crucial to world peace. In WW1 and WW2, Canadian forces played a crucial part by taking on the toughest of the tough challenges that others either wouldn't do or had failed at. In World War One, Canadians succeeded in taking Vimy Ridge despite catastrophic loss of life. To portray the adds, here is the text from the official Canadian government archives:

Vimy Ridge was a key to the German defence system. Rising 6l metres above the Douai Plain, it protected an area of occupied France in which mines and factories were in full production for Germany. It was a linchpin covering the junction of the main Hindenburg Line and the defence systems running north to the coast of the English Channel. Since capturing the Ridge in October 1914, the Germans had been building fortifications to add to its natural strength and dominance.

The slopes of Vimy Ridge favoured the defenders. Because the incline on the west was gradual, many of the Canadians would have to attack over open ground, where they would be prime targets for artillery, machine-gun and rifle fire. They would face three main defensive lines, consisting of a maze of trenches, concrete machine-gun strong points that had hedges of barbed wire woven around them, and deep dug-outs, all linked by communication trenches and connecting tunnels. As well, there were vast underground chambers, some capable of sheltering entire German battalions from Allied shells.

The Commander of the Canadian Corps, Lieutenant-General Sir Julian Byng, planned an assault on a front of seven kilometres by all four of his divisions abreast. To reach their final objectives on the far side of the Ridge, the Canadians would have to capture the commanding heights of Hill 135 and Hill 145, which formed its crest. By April 12, 1917 the Canadians controlled the entire ridge, at a cost of 10,602 casualties (3,598 killed and 7,004 wounded).

During the Second World War, Canadians again suffered heavy losses for a nation that was young and not part of the original conflict. We were there!

Ross Munro of The Canadian Press, assigned to cover the Canadian troops in Britain, went ashore with allied shock troops storming the Dieppe beach on August 19, 1942, to get this first-hand story of the war's biggest commando raid.

"For eight hours, under intense Nazi fire from dawn into a sweltering afternoon, I watched Canadian troops fight the blazing, bloody battle of Dieppe. I saw them go through the biggest of the war's raiding operations in wild scenes that crowded helter skelter one upon another in crazy sequence. There was a furious attack by German E-boats while the Canadians moved in on Dieppe's beaches, landing by dawn's half-light. When the Canadian battalions stormed through the flashing inferno of Nazi defences, belching guns of huge tanks rolling into the fight, I spent the grimmest 20 minutes of my life with one unit when a rain of German machine-gun fire wounded half the men in our boat and only a miracle saved us from annihilation."

Now we are at a third cross roads of our military history. Once again, Canadian troup's have been deployed to the worst areas of a military conflict. In this case it is South Afghanistan. As reported by Reuters:

"European allies' refusal to deploy to Afghanistan's dangerous south and east has opened a rift with Britain, Canada, the Netherlands and others which, along with the United States, have borne the brunt of Taliban violence."

So far, 78 Canadian soldiers and a diplomat have died since Ottawa deployed troops to Afghanistan in 2002.


Simple - a society can be judged by how it cares for the weakest members who are unable to care for themselves. Throughout world history, Canadians have generously donated their resources to people from other countries in times of peril. It is a cultural norm to help your neighbor in Canada. Many of us see the global community as an extension of our own communities. When people who cannot defend themselves against tyranny need help, we are there. If the cause is just, we tend to pitch in. Note that we carefully avoid Iraq due to it being deemed an illegal war by the majority of Canadians.


First - world peace. Yeah - this is an idealistic goal but it isn't that what everyone wants? However, to get there, evil must be confronted. The Taliban cannot be allowed to murder with full impunity. The citizens of Afghanistan must be given the right not to be killed. The Clash song "Know your Rights" is relevant here. If I may quote "Number 1: You have the right not to be killed! Murder is a crime!"

NATO nations - please help us here. We helped you in two world wars. Millions of young Canadians lost their lives in the cold, icy Atlantic waters, on the slopes of a foreign land and wherever we were called. We answered your call for help. No we need you.

Our mission in Afghanistan runs out in 2009. Our government has asked for other nations to help in rebuilding the country. We need to help women achieve the rights they deserve there. We need to provide people hope and a future. Peace and prosperity cannot be achieved if the Taliban return.