via David Warren:
In [Afghanistan], we have played a modest but distinguished role. Even if our government has not, our soldiers in that theatre of war have recalled Canada’s finest martial traditions, in some wonderfully aggressive campaigns. Our scandalously under-equipped and under-manned units have taken casualties proportionally higher than our allies -- but more to the point, they have inflicted casualties far out of proportion to what they have sustained.
It has been a mostly thankless task, for them. Their accomplishments have been almost entirely ignored in Canadian media back home, while their losses have been prominently reported. In the last fortnight, for instance, I was aghast to be unable to find, anywhere in the mainstream Canadian media, mention of our soldiers’ part in one major, obviously heroic operation.
Their instruction was to escort a 200-tonne hydroelectric turbine -- too large for any helicopter to lift -- on a five-day journey across Taliban-infested territory to the Kajaki reservoir in Helmand province. The expedition, led by the British, and including Australian, New Zealand, and American troops, as well as Canadian and Afghan, was under attack throughout the journey. The turbine was successfully delivered, intact.
This expedition required elaborate planning -- with special forces moving ahead of the 100-vehicle convoy to identify and target enemy positions. It involved the largest mine-clearing operation since the Second World War -- done entirely under fire or the threat of fire. And in the end it was so successful, that only one allied casualty was sustained -- a British soldier with a broken pelvis. At least 250 Taliban had to be killed, in the course of making the delivery.
Granted, I am getting old, and my news judgement and journalistic values are from another century. To my mind, readers would not be bored by such a story. They might even be exhilarated to learn just what our boys (and a few girls) are capable of achieving. The British press certainly covered this expedition. Even the leftist Guardian headlined, accurately: “Coalition troops brave minefields and Taliban attack to bring electricity to 1.8 million Afghans.”
No direct reporting on that mission, here. But when three Canadian soldiers were killed in an ambush, near Kandahar a few days later, there were big black headlines, and the usual parade of grief, with outriding sound bites to sell a cheap defeatism.
(Search Google to review years of media “coverage” like that. Alternatively, search out the remarkable Internet journalist Michael Yon, if you want to know about what is happening in Helmand.)
My question for today: How do we even begin to discuss the Canadian military commitment to Afghanistan during this snap election campaign? What do “the people” know about it? (According to a summer Decima poll, “two-thirds of respondents … say they want Canadian soldiers to leave Afghanistan by February 2009.”)
The larger question is, how do we meet the real (as opposed to fanciful and imaginary) security challenges of the 21st century, with attitudes like this?