Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Did you forget that we're at war?

Since the start of Canada's armed invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, 143 Canadian soldiers and 4 Canadian civilians have died. You can see their names and faces by clicking here. To put that in perspective, that's the largest number of Canadian Forces killed in a mission since the Korean War (1950-1953). To put that into better perspective, between 13,372 and 32,969 Afghan civilians have died —either as a direct or indirect result of the war— since 2001 when Operation Enduring Freedom began. That means that by using the most conservative estimate of Afghan civilian casualties (13,372) and comparing it to total casualties amongst the Coalition Forces (1,617), we get a ratio of ~8.3 to 1. That means for every one Coalition soldier killed, ~8.3 civilians got their lives stolen from them. What efficiency! It's amazing what months of training and the most technologically advanced weapons available can do to an unarmed, unarmoured and unsuspecting populace. Keep in mind, Coalition soldiers (the good guys) signed up to murder for pay voluntarily and were voluntarily paid (WITH OUR FUCKING TAX DOLLARS) to murder by their country's government/military industrial complex/war profiteering corporations. Those Afghan civilians, if given a choice, would most likely have chosen to avoid becoming 'collateral damage'.

"Yeah, yeah. We've heard it all before. What's your point? Why not tell us something new? Something novel? Something fun? Something entertaining?"

Because nothing matters quite as much as the fact that we are at war. Perhaps its main rival for the title of Shit You Should Put Down Your Latté and Think About for One Fucking Second is the fact that we are so numb to the war that we can carry out our lives without being bothered by it. When is the last time you talked to someone about the war? And I mean really talked about it, not just tsk tsking about the handful of Canadian Forces soldiers that died that week. An important topic of discussion could be the fact that dead Canadian soldiers get no less than seven articles about them whereas dozens of dead Afghans are lucky to get a one paragraph blurb. By 2011 (when Harper has pinkey swore that we'll leave Afghanistan), approximately $11.3 billion of our tax dollars will have been squandered on the war. People gripe about how much money was spent on the H1N1 pandemic scare, but that was only $1 billion! And it was meant to save lives!

Don't think it's any easier for me to talk about this war stuff than it is for you to read it. Every time I hear about another dead body (regardless of nationality) as a result of this completely unjustified clusterfuck of a war it hurts. I literally ache. My head pounds and my guts tie themselved in knots. Writing about it is even worse. The pain is worth it if I can shake a few people from complacency and make them as angry as I am.

Now that we're all good and pissed off, what can we do about it? You can march in the Peace Walk, or, better yet, help organize/promote it. That's a good place to start. You'll learn a little about the challenges we face on the road to achieving peace in Afghanistan and in the rest of the world. You'll meet your fellow bleeding-heart citizens and can cry on each other's shoulders or shout angrily in unison. Demonstrations of this type are largely symbolic acts, but it's a fine place to start.

Next, you can decide to never vote for a Liberal (they got us into the war) or a Conservative (they kept us there) for as long as you live. There's a whole hell of a lot wrong with both parties, but if you want to hang your hat on one issue then the war is a worthy choice.

Next, go to consciencecanada.ca and read about what else you can do to help stop the war.

Finally, talk about it. Bring it up in every day conversation with the people you would interact with anyways. Try it for a day. Try it for a week. Sure, it will be awkward. Maybe even embarassing. But shouldn't we feel awkward, embarassed and utterly ashamed of the blood that coats our conspicuously idle hands? To feel anything less would be inhuman.


  1. Your blogs are always very well-written and passionately stated, Rob, but I think this situation is a hell of a lot more complicated than just war = bad. I have to say that while I am obviously no fan of war, I do wholeheartedly support our mission in Afghanistan, and here's why: the Taliban were a horrifically oppressive and violent regime and ... See Morethey must never be allowed to return to power. They will never voluntarily give in because they are on a mission from God, the worst kind of mission. The only way they will ever be dismantled is if the standard of living for the average Afghani citizen is raised to the point where they won't feel that they have no other option but to support the Taliban, who are exploiting the poverty of the land in order to further their own agenda. Without any support from the general population, combined with foreign and domestic military resistance, the Taliban's resources will be cut off and they will find it impossible to continue operating. The citizens of Afghanistan must also be protected from the violent attacks of the Taliban in the meantime. The government of Afghanistan must also be reformed because it is corrupt and everyone knows it. What Canada is doing in Afghanistan is helping to reform the government and develop its military to the point where it will be able to resist the Taliban on its own in the long run and create long-term security for the people. They are also helping to set up schools and provide food aid, and encourage the farmers to grow crops other than poppies so that they will have sustainable agriculture and not continue to sustain the illegal drug trade. These, to me, seem like completely worthwhile goals. You know, just sayin.' :P

  2. Hi anonymous,

    You may be correct in your statement that the general case against all war is often oversimplified. But it is important to understand that what we have in Afghanistan is not just a military operation, but an indefinite war with imperialist undertones. If we're there for nation building, who's next? Somalia, Rwanda, Yemen?

    The current mission in Afg. is still not at all well defined in terms of what success would look like. More schools? The cost of sending one (US) soldier could fund the building of thirty schools. A stable central government? Afghanistan has never had one, much less a viable one. End of the drug trade? Karzai's VP happens to be a trafficker.
    So yes, worthwhile goals. Achievable? Perhaps not.

    I'm not suggesting that we leave this instant, but I think it's at least time for an exit strategy, before we end up getting our butts whipped like the USSR did.

    I think you are right in that we need to keep war in the conversation. After so many years of war, it is easy to see why there is complacency from the public of the aggressor countries, but it doesn't make it any less wrong. To continue the war would require not only increasing human costs, but a continuing monetary investment.
    The US, for one, can afford neither. And yet for all the talk from the right/center about the need to cut spending, "defense" (the Wars) never comes up on the chopping block.