[Marxism] Families of some Canadian soldiers speak out

Darrel Furlotte darrel.furlotte at gmail.com
Wed Oct 25 17:43:55 MDT 2006

Military families speak out
Say they are against Afghan mission

Allan Woods
CanWest News Service

Monday, October 23, 2006

OTTAWA - Families of some Canadian soldiers say the escalating body count in 
Afghanistan, and lack of success the international community has had bringing 
security to the Afghan people, has convinced them the Harper government should 
pull Canadian troops out of the war-torn country.

This is believed to be the first time Canadian military families of those 
serving in Kandahar, or set to be deployed there, have publicly expressed their 
anti-war sentiments.

In exclusive interviews with CanWest News Service, parents and siblings say they 
are concerned about the dangerous fighting with the Taliban. They are also 
unsettled by the war-focused nature of the mission, and see no end goal that 
will define when, and under what conditions, Canadian troops will come home for 

''I am completely opposed to my son being used as ground fodder for an 
undisclosed reason,'' says Chris Craig, from Victoria. ''I want to know why 
we're there. The arguments that have been thus far presented don't do it for me. 
They do not explain why my son and his friends should be maimed or killed in a 
far-away country.''

Craig's 28-year-old son, a corporal who has served in Kabul and is set to go to 
Afghanistan again in February, has attended the funerals of four fellow Canadian 
soldiers. He has been a pallbearer at two of them.

Similarly, the fighting in Afghanistan hit too close to home for the 22-year-old 
sister of a young soldier from Burlington, Ont., when his close friend, Pte. 
Josh Klukie, 23, stepped on a booby trap and was killed Sept. 29 in Kandahar's 
Panjwaii district. 

''My eyes have been opened,'' says the young woman, who asked that she not be 
identified for fear it could cause problems for her brother. ''When my brother 
joined the military, he was a peacekeeper. Now he's killing off Taliban in 
Afghanistan and it's just opened my eyes and I don't agree with it.''

The families have come forward at a time when the mission is causing deep 
divisions in Canada.

A poll conducted by Ipsos Reid in late September found public backing for the 
war had rebounded after it fell during the summer months, with 57 per cent of 
Canadians in support of the use of combat troops in Afghanistan.

The survey suggested public support has an expiry date, with 51 per cent of 
respondents saying Canada should withdraw its troops when the current military 
commitment ends in 2009, regardless of the level of success achieved.

In recent months, the families of dead Canadian soldiers have tended to express 
support for the war.

Indeed, the most vocal segment of the Canadian population which includes much of 
the military community, as well as Prime Minister Stephen Harper have insisted 
Canada should not abandon its efforts in the country.

The other side, which includes the military families who have now come forward 
to express concern, has come to the conclusion that Canada's presence in 
Afghanistan and particularly in the more dangerous Kandahar province is 
misguided, is causing more problems than it resolves, and must come to an end.

Craig, 60, says there is an inner conflict that military families who feel the 
way she does are struggling to deal with: how to support the soldier and oppose 
the war.

''The guys my son knows feel totally empowered by their families. They also know 
their families want them out of there, so this is a really unusual thing 
happening in Canada. Families are speaking out against this and they're saying 
'I love my son or daughter, I hope they're safe and I want it over,''' she says. 
''How can you not be at odds?''

Paul Short, the father of a 25-year-old army medic who will be sent to 
Afghanistan next February, said he erected a flagpole on the lawn of his home in 
Bay Roberts, N.L., this summer and put up the Canadian flag.

''I'm looking out at this flag poll, this beautiful, proud flag poll with the 
Canadian flag on it flying half staff and I'm constantly reminded of the young 
people who are dying over there, and in my opinion, needlessly,'' he says.

''With regards to my son going in February, I'd trade places with him in a 
minute. I'd go over without any training just to take his place.''

He says he told his son several weeks ago, ''If you do not want to go, then 
don't go refuse to go and your parents will back you 100 per cent.''

''He didn't answer me,'' Short says.

The dissenting military families came to light after a call last summer by New 
Democratic Party Leader Jack Layton to pull Canadian troops out of the counter-
insurgency mission in southern Afghanistan a position for which Layton has been 
pilloried on Parliament Hill.

''I have never voted for the NDP in my life. It's just that the Liberals made a 
mess of this a while back, then Stephen Harper picked up on it. I don't know 
what happened when Stephen Harper took over. It just went to hell in a 
handbag,'' Short says.

''It's all right for Stephen Harper to say that that's the price you pay when 
you go to war, but that affects so many lives. Just because that person's life 
ended it doesn't mean that everybody else is not suffering around them. Stephen 
Harper don't seem to realize that.''

Layton says military families have important concerns that have not been heard 
in the debate over Canada's role in Afghanistan. He says it is a ''nuanced'' 
position that needs to be heard.

''I think there is something particularly poignant about the opinions of these 
families, which isn't to diminish the view of military families who are taking a 
different perspective on it,'' he says. ''They're like Canadians except they 
have an even deeper connection that is as intimate as it gets.''

Military experts have echoed criticism of the mission, but they are quick to say 
it is a ''simplistic'' idea to pull Canadian troops from Afghanistan and risk 
creating a power vacuum that will be filled by Taliban militants.

However, right now Canadian troops spend about 90 per cent of their time engaged 
in combat and just 10 per cent on reconstruction and humanitarian efforts, while 
a winning formula should be the opposite, according to Walter Dorn, a professor 
of peacekeeping at the Royal Military College. Dorn teaches majors, generals and 
combat commanders who have served in Afghanistan.

''It seems to me that for every person that we kill, we create relatives and 
associates who increase the level of hatred and we're sowing the seeds for 
future attacks,'' he says in an interview from New York, where he is working 
with the United Nations. ''If you don't win the hearts and minds of the people, 
you'll lose.''

awoods at cns.canwest.com

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