Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Death of a soldier

I published this in the paper last month. I share it now because yesterday, London's first soldier to die in Afghanistan was laid to rest here (more background here and here.) Trooper Mark Andrew Wilson was 39. He leaves a wife and two sons, 17 and 11. I can't stop thinking about his family, about his 11-year-old son who no longer has a father. About my 11-year-old son who does, simply because I chose to pick up a pen for a living while another man alternatively chose to risk his own life.

I thought it would be appropriate to post this now, because the consistent pace of Canadian dead (now up to 42) from a conflict whose basis is murky even on a clear day begs us to question the why behind the sacrifice.

Note, you can easily replace "Canadian" with "American", and substitute in "Iraq" wherever you wish. This is an issue that sadly knows no national limits, a pain that touches too many lives in communities that already live with enough hardship. I don't take sides in the issue as much as I feel compelled to serve it up for discussion. We'll see where it goes from there.
Task in Afghanistan ignores a duty here
Published Tuesday, September 19, 2006
The London Free Press
By Carmi Levy

Many of us have driven cars that spent more time being repaired than on the road. We eventually realized any more investment would be a waste of money, so we cut our losses and just let them go.

Canada lost another four soldiers in Afghanistan yesterday. A bicycle-riding suicide bomber attacked them as they reportedly handed out candy to children. It makes me wonder if our mission there has passed that shadowy point of no return.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said last week Canada owes it to the people of Afghanistan to "help them finish the job." But she didn't say precisely what that job was. She failed to define what success means in this land that breeds terrorists and stubbornly clings to its opium-producing economy.

I'm not sure we owe anything to people who may not want to be saved. I think our government owes it to the people of Canada to define how much we're willing to sacrifice before we decide the so-called "job" may never be possible to complete.

Your turn: War (actually, this war.) Our involvement in same. Please discuss.


Anonymous said...

Yikes-a-hooey, Carmi. This is a heavy question. I hate these wars and I feel sick to my stomach whenever I hear of another death. The Taliban is back in control. Bin Laden is who knows where. What was the point? And when/how will it end?

Shan said...

Another sad loss.

As for your article, I take issue with the first sentence of the last paragraph. There are many people who want be saved and need to be saved. The problem is, there is a net loss in lives. By attacking the problem at the surface, our countries ignore the root problem (hatred of US foreign policy) which breeds terrorism.

I could live with being in the dark if we were headed towards a solution, but we are not.

Linda said...

As the wife of an American soldier, I worry about the time he will head off to war. Thus far, we have been BLESSED that he hits units that have just rotated BACK from Iraq, so we haven't had to deal with this issue. But, as he only has 6 years before he can "officially" retire, I have a feeling it is inevitable that he will deploy. And it scares the hell out of me.

I want my children to have their father for a LONG time. His dad died when my hub was only 21. It's STILL hard on him, and I can't imagine what it must be like for so many other children out there who have lost a parent.

I don't believe we were right in going into Iraq. But we can't leave now, because everything will fall apart. If we leave, the war will follow us to our home turf. Better to be fighting it away so that we can continue to enjoy the freedoms we have been GRANTED by all those souls lost.

The war is hitting closer to home as I hear names of soldiers whose spouses I knew. Before we left Germany, there were several units deployed...they're returning soon, but with many losses under their belt. I cry knowing that some of my friends will not see their spouses again...that their children will never really know daddy or the sacrifice he made.

I could go on and on, but I'd better not. Best left unsaid.

Karen said...

Carmi, I have so many of the same issues that you have with this war. I understand more why we went than why we're still there and yet to leave now would leave so much work there unfinished. On the other hand, every soldier that I've ever heard speak on this topic says we're doing the right thing. I don't know the answer, but the cost is so very, very high.

As always you have engaged our brains and our hearts.

keda said...

i disagree with all these wars. they were started under false pretences.. or at least were nothing to do with stopping terrorism and have made everything worse rather than better.
the terrorists are still out there missing and recruiting more displaced people.

and on top of it our forces are being martyred and murdered daily by our careless leaders.

i'm even more distressed as to pull out now would also leave civilians and the people who really want peace in most cases worse off than they were before.

we've made an almighty mess and there seems to be no decent way out of it.

what makes me sadder still is that many supporters of the wars condemn those of us who speak against it as not supporting our troops.
this is such bile.
i support our troops wholeheartedly. and i am in their debt always for putting their lives on the line for us all. what i do not support is their leaders throwing away their lives so needlessly.

there needs to be more discussion, listening and work by our elected officials, and representatives and less pointless sacrifice of people with families who are actually doing their jobs.

big subject sweetie. sorry for my ranting.

Anonymous said...

I have said as of late that the sound of bagpipes makes me unnerved, because every night on late night radio, it seems, that a death of a soldier is the first course served up in news reporting.

I saw Peter Mansbridges One on One with Hamid Karzai not long ago, and I wrote about it as well. I am all for the support of a nation and a people who "want" (key word here) want to be saved, as you raised the issue in your writing.

I wrote about the three point approach to doing this as was outlined by Karzai. Economy, Reconstruction and Security. But to what end?

I was raised in an abusive home by a father scarred by Viet Nam, so I know what war does to soldiers first hand and their families as well. I know fellow classmates here at Concordia who serve in the military and are on deployment as we speak. I support them because we are all human. Isn't it right to be supportive of individuals and maybe not the mission or the motive of that mission or the faint hope that - that mission will be a success?

But the Afghans (read:Taliban) are methodic in their killing - they have a system that Canadians have not cracked to date. If a nation is to be saved, then action must first come from within. We CAN blame Pervez Musharaff (Pakistan)for the lack of cooperation to stop taliban from crossing borders and reupping weaponry and manpower.

I am not a man of war, because I know how it destroys human life both in the theatre of war and back at home. Although I do support the use of force when the liberty of OUR collective country/freedom is at stake. It's a fine line we walk in what we support and why.

If no one comes to the U.N. peacekeepers force as Canada has repeatedly requested and as of yet those requests have fallen on deaf ears, should we stay and incure further deaths OR do we pull out and say enough is enough?

What is more important, the safety of the Afghans or the safety of Canadian Soldiers. I believe loyalty starts at home then we can spread that thought globally. Once again, I wish that Hamid Karzais plan was workable, but today I don't think it is possible.

The odds are stacked aginst him and the soldiers trying to secure peace.

Why subject more families to the deaths of fathers, sons and brothers and sisters... should we cut and run and is that a moral and ethical choice Canada is ready to make? and be ok with it in the morning or the day after?

One question leads to more questions, I wonder when do we stop asking questions and decide once and for all what Canada stands for and just how far we are willing to commit human lives to the art of war in a region that is rife with opression and extremist practices and illegal drug economies.

It just does not look like a win - win scenario to me...

In the end, I would bring the troops home, let them all kill each other and in that mass killing they will elimate what is weaker and maybe then change will be possible. Or Not in the No Win Scenario...

(The Kobayashi Maru Scenario)

But to that end is genocide, an event the world has seen too much of and will continue to see as long as tyranny and extremism exists on this planet.

I should know I am studying the Holocaust this term and I am in the thick of Nazi Germany as we speak.

Those are my thoughts, sorry I was so long winded... I have alot to say on this issue as of late.


birdychirp said...

nothing original to add - am a pacifist but feel that as 'we've' started this there's some duty to see it through. But I am so glad that you and my husband and so many of our friends are not fighting out there.

Shephard said...

Hard to answer this without bias, and without letting my dislike for Rice interfere... As an American, I am saddened by our loss, and ashamed of the fact that allies are continuing to lose soldiers. And How dare Rice make that statement.

sage said...

I like your column! We do need to have a serious discussion about our involvement, not just the cliche's that we hear about "finishing the job"