Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Paying our troops lip service

"Support our Troops"

It slides easily off the lips, even of those whose support is more show than substance. The lips keep moving, mouthing 'support' but when it's politically expedient and might damage the Conservative government, support turns to implied accusation. Of course we support our troops although we are standing up in the House demanding action on their complicity in the torture of Afghan detainees. Of course, it isn't our soldiers we blame -- it's the government.

The pleas across the House of Commons for relief for the detainees must burn the ears of our soldiers. They bind their wounds, send home their fallen friends in boxes, and then listen to the opposition parties preach about right and wrong in a part of the world where friend and enemy wear the same clothes and trust leads to death, but you trust anyway.

Our troops hear evangelizing about 'human rights' in a country where the detainees in question would ensure 'human rights' never exist. Still these soldiers treat the detainees -- murderers and maimers of friends and comrades -- they treat them with kindness and dignity.

Stephane Dion said it was "shameful" that the Canadian government is knowingly turning over Afghan detainees despite evidence of torture. "We cannot send human beings to torture even though they are the enemy. We cannot."

The laugh of it is that the people who play by no rules, are dictating them.

It's right to take stock of our mission. It's right to carry the values of our nation into warzones. But is it necessary to accept responsibility for the treatment of detainees, in their own country, at the hands of their own countrymen?

Opposition MPs, most of whom have never served, prattle on about the Geneva Conventions and warn of our troops participating in 'war crimes' because of treaties signed in the wake of wars fought by more modern nations than this one where our troops serve. Those nations attempted to give war the artifice of refinement by imposing 'rules'. These were grown up countries making an effort to police themselves in the dirty, but seemingly inevitable business of war.

Our soldiers must shake their heads. It isn't enough to do their own jobs well; they are being expected to impose the ideals of developed nations, like prisoners' rights, honour and justice, in a country that barely meets the definition of civilization.

Torture is wrong. But unlike the countries that signed on to the Geneva Conventions, Afghanistan is a fledgling nation with no history in recognizing human rights let alone prisoner rights. Though it might be difficult for our elites to stomach, imposing our value system on them from outside is not going to change their worldview. It won't stop the torture and it won't stop the insurgents. Afghanistan must develop a social conscience from within the way Western nations have. A forced social conscience is an illusion. It might make us feel better, but it won't allow for real change and real stability will never happen.

Canadian soldiers set an example in both strength and compassion every day. In time, hopefully, the Afghanis will choose to follow that example, or be forced to change by a population ready adopt more Western-friendly values. In the meantime, blame and accusations are unhelpful. It ignores the realities on the ground.

Is it wrong to condone torture or to turn a blind eye? The simple answer is yes, but there are no simple answers. Not when your friends are going home in boxes and the enemy doesn't abide by conventions.



Anonymous said...


Candace said...

Well said, as always, C.