Six Canadian Soldiers Died On Easter Sunday…
…when their LAV 3 rolled over a pressure-triggered “IED” while escorting a convoy in the Kandahar region of Afghanistan. Canada has had 2500 troops in Afghanistan since 2002. What takes this tragedy into the realm of irony is the explosion occurred while Canada was marking one of the worlds greatest military victories. Both events — the ongoing war in Afghanistan and the turning point of World War One at Vimy Ridge where Canadian soldiers broke the German line 90 years ago — are connected in a straight line by European hubris and imperialism from Sarajevo to Kandahar. From 64,000 Canadians dying in France to end WWOne to fifty-one Canadians dying in the desert of Afghanistan trying to recreate a country broken by Europe imperialism and neglect. What takes it back into tragedy again is Canadians are still dying over Europe’s refusal to take responsibility for its past.
By the second time America, Britain, Australia, New Zealand and Canada forced Germany to surrender, Europe had been at war with itself for twelve of thirty years. Thanks to Europe’s seeming inability to stop killing themselves nearly 70 million young men and another 30 million civilians had been slaughtered in barely three decades. Most of Europe’s cities and villages had been laid to waste, farms had been turned into battlefields for tanks. In every major city government buildings and vital archives had been razed to the ground. The industrial heart of Europe had been destroyed including the road and rail network needed to move manufactured goods from factory to customers. So much effort had been placed into mutual annihilation over so long a period Europe was on the brink of total collapse, by VE Day in 1945 the destruction had been so complete large parts of Europe resembled the Afghanistan of today.
Like Europe in the past, Afghanistan is a region of tribes with a predisposition for war. Unlike Europe, however, the last 150 years of Afghanistan warfare have been the direct result of foreign interference. In the 19th century it was Britain, from 1975 until 1990 Afghanistan was the central battleground for the Cold War between the Soviet Union and the United States, this was followed by ten years of civil war between American and Soviet backed forces which led directly to Afghanistan becoming the frontline for the “Global War on Terror” in 2001.
There have been two national Afghani governments in the past thirty-five years, one was a puppet for the Soviet Union, the other was the Taliban. One killed its citizens for conquest, the other out of lunacy, both were the result of Europe’s dysfunction.
The First World War started when Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated in Sarajevo from a bullet fired on June 28, 1914, by Gavrilo Princip, a Serbian nationalist dying from tuberculosis. There is no Second World War without the First, no Cold War without the Second, no Soviet invasion of Afghanistan without the Cold War, no Soviets means no Taliban. But those wars did happen, and that bullet is still killing today.
France, Spain and Germany have troops in Afghanistan, but refuse to use them. Instead their soldiers rarely, if ever, leave their fortified bases. These three NATO countries only just recently agreed to support Canadian troops — also operating under the NATO flag — if Canadians are overrun by the Taliban. But only if they’re given 48-hours to prepare themselves.
Canada has been asked by the first democratic government in Afghanistan’s history to help stabilize their fragile country and to bring to justice the criminals killing Afghani citizens. Canadians are not there to rebuild Afghanistan, the country has never had a national power-grid or system of roads and trains. Afghanistan, as the bastard child of Europe and the Cold War, never had the historical opportunity to build national railways and highways. Canada is in Afghanistan to help build a new country. Most of Europe, meanwhile, seem content to ignore the situation their governments created.
Even with all of the advantages of an educated people, a common ideology and culture, and American protection and financial support available after 1945, it still took four decades to repair Europe economically, nearly fifty years to repair it politically and only recently — after the Balkans War threatened to pull it all down again — has the framework been adopted in the European Union to ensure there is never a war inside Europe again.
Afghanistan can only count on two things at the moment: Canadian, British, Danish and American soldiers will continue to be there for at least another two years, and; the United States will provide the bulk of financial support for the foreseeable future. Beyond that the Afghani people are on their own against a fanatical enemy determined on reinstating a fascist government. Will Afghani women have the right to go to school, or will men be allowed to rape them or stone them to death over honour slights such as young women being outside without a male family member as an escort? That’s the line on which Canadian soldiers stand right now.
Along with the United Kingdom, America, New Zealand and Australia, Canadian soldiers liberated Europe from fascist extremism twice, then we protected Europe both from itself and the Soviet Union for the duration of the Cold War. Now these same countries and a few others have given the people of Afghanistan the same opportunity for a peaceful and democratic government as Europe was offered sixty years ago. The people of Afghanistan deserve more from The Powers which now rule the prosperous and peaceful Europe that was handed to them.
Ninety years ago the four Canadian Divisions, 100,000 Canadian soldiers, fought a pitched battle against Germany which no one thought Canada or anyone else could win. For months Allied troops had tried to take Vimy and failed. In a matter of days Canada took and held Vimy in a battle most historians believe to be the turning point against Germany. After the war the French government ceded the 250 acres around Vimy Ridge, where 10,000 Canadians were killed or wounded in that one tide-turning battle, to Canada. That soil, surrounded by France, is literally a sovereign piece of Canada. That’s what Canada, a foreign power willing to commit its soldiers to rescue Europeans from war and warlords, did for Europe. Twice. Just something to think aboot as French, German and Spanish soldiers play cards in Kabul while six more Canadian soldiers are put into the ground.