The Canadian combat mission in Afghanistan is finally over. After nearly a decade and 157 deaths, most of our soldiers are coming home.
As a pacifist, I have such mixed feelings about the whole “support our troops” attitude that is typically American but has begun to infiltrate Canada in recent years. There are a lot of fine people in the military — none of my family or close friends, but several former students of mine, and I believe that they’re doing their best to serve their country. I don’t believe that supporting our troops or celebrating the courage of individual soldiers is the same as supporting every war our politicians choose to send them to. I think Canadians have probably done some good in Afghanistan but I’ve never been wholly convinced this was a war we should be fighting in the first place. Mostly, it’s because I support our troops — as individual young men and women — that I worry about the effects upon them of the situations they’re sent into, and the damage they bring home with them.
For many years my favourite anti-war song was Eric Bogle’s classic “And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda” and I still think it speaks volumes. Lately a more current song has been circling round and round my head whenever I hear about our troops withdrawal; I think it has a similar message to that old classic, but one that speaks more harshly to the situations our soldiers face in modern warfare rather than 100 years ago. The video is powerful too. Warning: may be offensive to some, in which case, perhaps don’t click on it.