Tag Archives: military

Williams Memories Should Be Burned – But Only Into Our Minds

By Jason Menard

By now most Canadians know the macabre story of Russell Williams, the former colonel who was in command of Canadian Forces Base Trenton and now finds himself in another federal establishment – Kingston Penitentiary.

Wednesday, they went to Williams’ former home in Tweed, ON to recover all military clothing, documentation, and equipment, in accordance with military rules. Yesterday, military personnel from CFB Trenton burned the aforementioned items. Today, I say they’ve made a horrible mistake. Continue reading

What’s in a Name? For Those at the Front, Nothing

By Jason Menard

World War III? An isolate skirmish? A regional conflict? Sparked in part by a Maclean’s cover story, much debate is going on about what to call the situation in Lebanon. While all descriptors may apply the most accurate description would be tragedy.

It just goes to show how far removed we are from actual conflict and its effects when we waste time and energy debating what the situation should be called. For average Lebanese and Israeli citizens, living their lives under the spectre of death from above, they remain unconcerned about nomenclature, preferring to focus on survival.

Just how far removed we are from violence was underlined with the recent arrest of Canadians plotting a terrorist action on our soil. Many in our country reacted as if the action was completed and lives had been lost. So too did the World Trade Centre attacks show just how sheltered an experience North Americans lived. Not to undermine the horrendous loss of life experienced on Sept. 11, 2001, but the sound of the Twin Towers collapsing echoed louder and longer in an environment previously devoid of that type of sound.

For people in the Middle East, gunfire, bombs, and destructions are just part of the everyday soundtrack of their lives.

We use words to categorize and control issues that we can’t fully wrap our heads around. We are incapable of accepting the immensity of a problem, therefore we’re compelled to create artificial boundaries with which we can contain an issue. If we can define it, we can conceptualize it. Unfortunately, with that description comes the minimization of the issue at hand.

Once we’ve defined the conflict, we can relate it to our experiences. If we determine this as a World War, then we can relate it to past conflicts on a global scale. However, if we maintain that this is nothing more than a more aggressive skirmish, then we are able to distance ourselves from the conflict.

Media doesn’t desensitize us – we have our own, internal defense mechanisms that do that. When the world reacts irrationally around us, we need to retreat to the security of our lives and rationalize the conflict for ourselves. And that’s one of the great powers that words hold – the ability to define.

But how we define this conflict also impacts how we will react. If conceptualized as a World War, then Canadian involvement would probably become more palatable to the majority of Canadians. Instead of being a region conflict, this becomes a cause for the world to rally around. If an Axis of Evil is defined, akin to the Germany/Italy/Japan collective of WWII, then the people world can unite against a common enemy. If clear and definite lines can be drawn to Syria and Iran, then the average citizen may accept involvement in a conflict against a greater enemy.

However, if we define it as a regional conflict, then the public may be more reluctant to risk Canadian lives in someone else’s local politics. If the battle remains between Israel and terrorist groups like Hezbollah and Hamas, then it’s harder to reconcile the idea of a massive global offensive against a small group of fundamentalists.

Yet, while we in the West grapple with the concepts of conflict, the fact remains that there are people suffering at the hands of unseen aggressors. Innocent Lebanese and Israelis, through no fault other than geographic location, are dying in a fight that is not their own. They are the pawns on the front lines in this geopolitical chess game that are sacrificed while the kings direct the battle from the safety of the back row.

That is why the word that best describes the current situation in Lebanon is tragedy. Despite what Prime Minister Steven Harper may say, there is no matter of nuance in this situation. The truth is written out in black and white, and as we dither about with words, the actions of others are having cataclysmic effects on the innocent bystanders who find themselves in the path of on-coming missiles.

The word is tragedy – and it’s only taking on greater significance the longer we wait.

2006© Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved

Respectfully, I Withhold my Support

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.

2006© Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved