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Vimy Ridge To Afghanistan: The Lie Remains The Same

Ninety years ago Canadian soldiers went over the top at Vimy Ridge in France during that great waste of life in the twentieth century known as World War One. There was nothing honourable or noble about that war – at least in World War Two you had the Nazi leaders of Germany as a canker that had to exorcised from the earth – it was just the last stuttering gasps of the Empires of Europe.

If we think our political leaders today our callous and stupid, and there is no denying they are, even George Bush jr. would be hard pressed to match the inbred stupidity of those folk who allowed a whole generation to be destroyed under the guns of France. Canadians like to bleat how our soldiers attacking the guns at Vimy Ridge in 1917 was a coming of age for our country. Yep it proved we could be as stupid as anyone else and knew how to spend the lives of our young men as ably as the next country.

Yep we had the balls for slaughter so that made us a country just like our former colonial masters the British and the French, or our new economic master the Americans. It sure is something for us to be proud of isn't it? So proud that we built a huge monument in France so on the ninetieth anniversary we can celebrate how many people were cut to pieces by machine gun fire.

My idea of a memorial for the fiasco that took place from 1914 – 1918 is to erect a huge plaque saying that this was a futile waste of life that accomplished nothing except set the stage for all the wars for the next hundred years . Out of that war came the mess that is the Middle East right now, the horror that was the ethnic cleansing of the Balkans, and the Treaty of Versailles that ended World War One gave Hitler an excuse for war.

On the weekend of the ninetieth anniversary six Canadian soldiers were killed in the first pointless war of the Twenty-First century – Afghanistan. Their personnel carrier was blown to shit and back by a homemade bomb buried in the dirt on the road. The six soldiers were killed instantly while two more were injured, but it looks they'll pull through.

I wonder if the Canadian press will get tired of printing the headline, "The Most Canadian Soldiers Killed In Combat Since The Korean War". This is the second time they've written it in the last four months and both times it's been because one of those road side bombs had blown the crap out of a convoy. (We don't count accidents like when the Syrians shot down some Peace Keepers on the Golan Heights in the 1990s or when the American National Guard twice used Canadian troops for target practice in Afghanistan because they can't tell friend from foe. I'm sure telling parents that their child was killed by friendly fire makes them feel all warm and fuzzy inside about their allies, I know that's how I feel)

I can't remember how many "The Most Since Korea" was last time, it's getting hard to keep track of things like this when there is a steady trickle of deaths. Although come to think of it they do seem to come in clumps. A few months will pass and there will be no fatalities, casualties sure, but no deaths, then all of a sudden, as if making up for lost time there will be a series of them.

Either it means that there has been increased activity on the part of the Taliban, or it means the Canadians have moved into an area where they are more active. Either way it seems the result is the same. Dead soldiers.

What I find is interesting is that the Taliban were supposedly defeated before Iraq was invaded in 2003 – almost four years ago, and a new government was installed. Our troops were supposed to be helping to rebuild the country, yet here they are being killed by people who our government call the Taliban. Were they all really hiding in Pakistan, Iran, and wherever else they have armed camps.

Or, as is more likely, did they simply blended back into the scenery again. Went home to their villages and waited for the new government to prove itself as corrupt and ruthless as they were before the Taliban took over last time. You see there is an unpleasant truth we haven't been told about the current "democratically elected" government in Afghanistan.

Do you remember one of the reasons that were cited for going to war in Afghanistan? To free women from the oppressiveness of life under the Taliban, where they were treated like so much chattel and were denied basic human rights. So why is it that nothing has changed for women at all in Afghanistan? Where is there much vaunted freedom? Why are girls still not going to school, and women still scared to go out on the streets, even in major cities like Kabul, without being fully covered in traditional garb?

It's because the current government are only different from the Taliban in that they accept American weapons and food and present a veneer of respectability so that the press buys the lie of change occurring. Did you know that until people understood how bad the Taliban were they were welcomed as liberators when they overthrew the same people who are power now?

Yep that's what our soldiers are giving their lives for, a regime that is as oppressive and repressive as the Taliban. Why do you think so many villagers give support to the Taliban? At least they are honest about who they are. Sometimes the devil you know is better then the alternative. At least with the Taliban they knew exactly where they stood, even if it was in hell.

But our politicians, especially Canadian Prime Minister Steven Harper, one of the most duplicitous people to ever enter politics, aren't going to tell you any of this. They are just going to tell you about soldiers making the supreme sacrifice, paying the ultimate price, and all the other euphemisms they have for saying they got blown to shit and died a horrible death thousands of miles away from home for no good reason.

Of course the timing couldn't have been better these poor schmucks getting killed this weekend if Steven Harper had planted the bomb himself. There were all the dignitaries assembled at the memorial to the great waste of humane life at the beginning of the Twentieth century and everyone was ready to talk about ultimate sacrifices anyway. This was actually a gift from the Gods for Mr. Harper and his gang. What a perfect way to tie the two circumstances together and gain some sentimental support for a war that is becoming more and more unpopular at home.

Canadians have been told from their first history class how important Vimy Ridge was in our growth as a nation and that the soldiers who paid the ultimate sacrifice there did so for freedom and democracy. Now ninety years latter they're still off in foreign lands paying the price for the very same ideals. The same qualities that made them heroes at Vimy Ridge are making them heroes in Kandahar.

Well I have to give Mr. Harper credit for getting it part right. It's true that Canadian soldiers are still dying overseas, and yes it's true it's for the same reasons – just not the ones that government is giving. In both cases, Vimy and Kandahar, France and Afghanistan, there were, and are, no good reasons for Canadians to be dying.

In 1914 we went to War as a subject of Great Britain; we had no choice because they controlled our foreign policy in those days – they were at war so were we. We didn't fight for Canada; we fought for King and Empire. This time around we went to war because America did. We're not fighting for Canada over in Afghanistan, we're fighting to clean up a mess the American's made back in the 1980's when they armed the Taliban in the first place.

The Canadian government has the gall to say that the people of Canada are only against the war in Afghanistan because they don't understand how important it is. Excuse me, I think they have that backwards – the people of Canada are against the war in Afghanistan because they do understand how unimportant it is.

We're over there propping up a government which is as bad as the one it replaced, maybe even worse because they could start fighting amongst themselves at any time over who is in charge. In the meantime we're wasting valuable manpower and equipment that could be used for peacekeeping missions if places like Darfur, Ethiopia, Somalia, or anywhere in the Middle East.

Or even better our army could do what it does best and be over in the Solomon Islands helping the people to recover from the tsunami that left the island's population virtually homeless. Or they could be travelling through Africa setting up medical relief stations in some of the places hardest hit by AIDS. I'm sure army issue condoms are the toughest on the market for preventing the spread of disease so they would be a boon in Africa. Not to mention the fact that our people are superb at coordinating activities in areas to see that the maximum good is done with minimum strain on resources.

Can you imagine what field hospitals dispersed through some of the hardest hit areas of Africa could do for the people of those areas? Think of what would happen if they co-ordinated with on the ground aid agencies for the distribution of not just medical supplies, but household goods that are so essential for preventing the spread of AIDS and other diseases.

But no, that's not sexy enough for our politicians; they want to be able send young men off to die in noble causes because it makes them feel important. Anyway if you send people off to treat AIDS they might give out condoms and that according to our government is wrong. It might encourage people to have sex or something equally obscene.

What they don't get is that they are committing the biggest obscenity around. When they stand up in a war memorial that's been built to honour the people who were sent needlessly to their deaths ninety years ago and talk about the ones who they've sent to their deaths all that it tells me is that they haven't learned anything.

I was angry when I started writing this article and now I'm just sad. It's heartbreaking that young men and women continue to be sent off to die for causes that don't exist by people who continually betray the faith placed in them to lead us with integrity. Our leaders put so much energy into teaching us who our enemies are so that we can go out and kill or be killed.

Wouldn't it be nice for a change if they put that same energy into teaching us how to like people instead? When they start doing that then they might be worthy to stand up in front of us and talk of honour and nobility. But not now, not as long as they equate it with death, killing, and hate.

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