By Jason Menard
In light of the recent flap regarding the Department of National Defense’s demand to bring down a “Support Our Troops” billboard, one thing has been taken for granted – that all Canadians are on board with the idea of support.
I, for one, respectfully withhold mine. In the end, I respect our troops and their efforts – but I can’t support their war. And by lending my support to our troops, I’m tacitly endorsing their efforts – as anathema as they may be to me.
I suggest that we, like the DND when faced with media pressure on this issue, do an about-face and change the mantra to “Respect Our Troops.” At the very least, that’s what they deserve. Support, respect – it may seem like nothing more than semantics, but like Elvis sang, “words are all I have to steal your heart away.”
Am I less patriotic due to the fact that I won’t utter the words support? Does that make me admire our soldiers any less for the rigors they face on a daily basis? No. But that’s not a display of support – that’s me showing my respect for their activities.
Unfortunately, any sort of commentary against the sentiment of “Support our Troops” will bring vociferous opposition and brandings of anti-Canadian. That’s far from the reality. True patriotism doesn’t mean blindly following the will and expression of our leaders. True patriotism comes from questioning every action that our nation takes and making sure we’re the best country we can be.
Why is military exempt from this criticism? Environmentalists go into each and every action with the best intentions, but their efforts and practices are subject to intense scrutiny. Disagreeing with David Suzuki doesn’t make you a closet industrialist willing to rape and pillage the earth for your own misbegotten advancement. So why are any words uttered against our military presence in other countries likened to treason?
We can respect our soldiers and appreciate their efforts to — quoting an overused sentiment – fight for our freedoms. But does that appreciation write a blank cheque for any and all military actions? I’m afraid not.
Canadians can be proud of their military and peacekeeping history. And, for some, our role in Afghanistan is a signal that our international presence still has some meaning. But, for others, our role in a foreign dispute is questionable. The Afghanistan situation is ripe for scrutiny, in light of the history of conflict in the region. When Soviet tanks rumbled through the streets of Kandahar, where were the North American forces? Tiptoeing a line and supporting the Taliban behind the scenes.
So, although many of the arguments that justify our current involvement in Afghanistan were there then – such as the oppression of the people, we didn’t make any move until it was politically appropriate to do so (and we wouldn’t run the risk of escalating Cold War sensitivities). For that reason alone, our involvement is questionable.
Simply put, a just war is just at any time – not just when the political environment is right.
Can each and every Canadian look deep inside their hearts and know, without any shadow of doubt, that our involvement in Afghanistan is the right thing? Can we really believe that war – and lets be real, this is peace-making, not peace-keeping – is the best answer to the region’s problems? If there’s a shadow of a doubt anywhere in your mind, how can you lend your wholehearted support to the effort?
And if you shout from the rooftops to support our troops, is that not what you’re doing. The argument that we’re supporting our soldiers, not necessarily the war doesn’t hold water. “Our soldiers” are involved in a war. Their actions are defining the combat as it takes place – one can’t be removed from the other.
That’s why I’ll respectfully withhold my support from our soldiers. But that doesn’t mean I don’t respect their efforts and admire them for their determination and their willingness to lay down their lives for the cause. I just hope they believe more in the cause for which they’re willing to make the ultimate sacrifice than I do.
Respect Our Troops. Now that’s a sentiment that I could get behind 100 per cent.
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