Ah yes, the shame attack.

September 25, 2006

Gee, now there’s a surprise. If you do not support the troops by saying “They are doing the right thing” you are obviously against the soldiers and their families.

This is some kind of weirdo right wing logic that someone on their end really should explain some time.

Most people who want to bring the soldiers back want to do so because they don’t want to see them killed. How that is “against the troops” is something that only a certain kind of mindset can understand I guess.

Then there is the other favorite reason why people should continue to “support the troops” right wing style: Because they are having an important mission.

What that mission is changes day to day, in Iraq it was first the WMDs, then it was because Saddam is was a bad guy, then it was both, and then it was because they were bringing Freedom and Democracy to the country.

In Afghanistan it was first to get rid of the Taliban which supposely orchestrated the attacks on September 11th 2001, then it was that they supported Al Qaeda, now it is for “Freedom and Democracy”.

What those “support our troops by letting them stay in the country to get them killed” overlook is that no country ever “found” freedom and democracy when conquered by a foreign power.

Reality is that in all the cases where democracy is flourishing two things had to come together to make it work:

1. The Countries needed to be Nations.
2. The people needed to want democracy.

The problem with Afghanistan is that it is not a “country” in the way we understand Nations. There are tribal factions that live side by side, what is Afghanistan today is an artificial border created by Western powers during the colonization. The same was done in Africa.

Japan and Germany became democracies after WWII because they both fullfilled those requirements. Before Hitler took over Germany it was a democracy, he was democratically elected. Japan, although ruled by the Emperor had an understanding of Democracy due to it’s strong relationships with the West over the prior 100 years. Neither of this can be said for Afghanistan.

This alone is almost a gurantee that there won’t be any “normal” democracy. People in this part of the world don’t have an allegiance to a piece of cloth, they have an allegiance to their blood, and there is no election being held.

This is what the “You don’t support our troops” crowd doesn’t get. The troops cannot make a difference in this part of the world in the near future, it is doubtful they will have an impact in the next 20 or 30 years. Not because those people don’t “deserve” freedom (as I was accused by some zealot a couple of times ago as claiming) but because their definition of Freedom is a different one than ours.

If the NATO troops would withdraw from Afghanistan tomorrow Karzai and his government would probably be toppled before the end of the night, most likely by their own people.

If those flag waving troops supporters would actually truly care about the troops they would realize this, but it is not about supporting the troops, it is about supporting an ideology, the ideology that they are right no matter what, damn the bloodshed on both sides.


Someone posted a rebuttal. Here is my rebuttal to the rebuttal:

There is a distinction to be made. Web pages like the http://westernstandard.blogs.com/shotgun/2006/09/no_shame_from_t.html page complain about people who want to pull our troops out of Afghanistan. Other pages, like snowrunner’s https://snowrunner.wordpress.com/2006/09/25/ah-yes-the-shame-attack/ page can’t understand why some people see supporting our troops as a black and white topic:

“If you do not support the troops by saying ‘They are doing the right thing’ you are obviously against the soldiers and their families.

This is some kind of weirdo right wing logic that someone on their end really should explain some time.”
People like snowrunner are missing a simple point that makes this whole argument understandable. The soldiers volunteered to be in the military. I talked to a militia reservist a couple days ago who noted that the Afghanistan mission has both helped and hindered the recruitment of new troops. That is a good thing. Those that are for the mission chose to be there. It would be different if they were drafted, but they were not. They chose to support our government’s decision. They know the risk. They know they can die. They still choose to help.

This misses my point. It does not matter if they are there because they chose the profession or because they are there because they were drafted. Just because we have a “professional” army does not mean it is okay for them having losses. No one would expect a fireman to run into a collapsing building and trying to extinguish the flames, or a police man to charge a group of heavily armed guys in order to get killed. Sure, those ARE risks for the people who have these professions, but it does not mean that we as a society are allowed to sacrifice them for no good reason.

The minority Liberal government decided to send our troops to participate in the NATO lead mission. A change in government should not change our outlook on the war. We were told from the beginning that this is not like the missions in which we participated for the past 20 or so years. Did the dissenters not believe General Rick Hillier when he told us to expect some of our soldiers to die?

No, a decision shouldn’t change just because the Government changed, but a war is a fluent thing, and there are times when hanging onto something may not be the right thing.

People who want to bring the troops back don’t do this becaus they do not believe that these people are making sacrifices, but they are questioning if these sacrifices are in the best interest of Canada and the ones who make them. This is not a lack of support for the troops but rather the opposit. Blind flag waving may get a soldier killed, bringing them back home won’t.

There is another angle too. This is the information age. The Taliban can read web pages on the Internet just as easily as you and I. The more they see that Canadians do not support the war, the more the Taliban targets our troops. The more you cry out, the more you put our troops in harms way.

So your solution to this is that we forego one of the corner stones of democracy: Open discussion about issues that affect us all?

Like I said, the troops were send because of a democratic decision by our parliament. The mission was extended to 2009 this spring by another democratic decision. It is important for politicians to evaluate our progress to see when we need to send more troops and when we can/should bring them home. If you have an opinion on this, mail a letter to your MP. No stamp is required. That is an excellent way to practice your freedom of speech. Just leave it off the net and out of the papers; otherwise, you are helping the Taliban to decide to target our troops. Practicing your freedom of speech on the net or in the media requires you to take the responsibility for your actions.

And this is were I strongly disagree: A democratic society needs an OPEN and HONEST discussion about the issues at hand. Sending letters to your MP is a good way of influencing their opinion but it does not replace an open discussion with people in the country who are voting as well.

The printing press always was one of the few technical inventions that allowed democracy to flourish, because it allowed ideas to be easily distributed. The Internet is just the next evolution. To disallow open discussion is to take a part of our democratic heritage away.



  1. I agree with most of what you write. The most obvious user of the ‘your not a patriot unless your with us and the troops’ was Hitler.

    I would argue that people need to be a nation more than a country.

    Both Germany and Japan saw themselves as a nation.

    I disagree that the Japanese “needed to want democracy”. They had been severely beaten, lost a deity and felt severely humiliated. This made an imposed change far easier than it would otherwise have been. (Germany had only been a democracy for a few years before it was abolished).

    Afghanistan has never been a nation and its people have fought amongst each for ever.

    Both Afghanistan and Iraq are relatively recent western creations.


  2. Oops, sorry you’re right. I meant to write Nation. I’ll fix this in a second.

    As for Japan. If the Japanese wouldn’t have wanted to change they wouldn’t have. But yes, only a total defeat allowed for this, so it was a bit of a catch-22 in that regard.

  3. “If the NATO troops would withdraw from Afghanistan tomorrow Karzai and his government would probably be toppled before the end of the night, most likely by their own people.”

    Two things, we have a volunteer army and Afghanistan would would probably be toppled by the Taliban — a small faction of their country. And neither the Iraq nor the Afghan mission changed. The afghan mission was to get rid of the Taliban and it is still against the Taliban. We are now trying to keep them out of power while the rest of the country rebuilds. You may wonder how much the Afghanis want democracy, but you could just look at high the voter turn out.

    And in your research into your post, did you note that many of the Taliban supporters are foreigners?

    John M Reynolds

  4. Hi John,

    the mission statement did change, it was about getting rid of the Taliban, once that was accomplished (in rather short order) it became a “bring freedom and democracy” to Afghanistan.

    How else did Karzai come back in? We (the west) picked a leader and dropped him into it and now we try to keep his Government in power.

    The Taliban would be back, for sure, but there was an interesting piece in yesterdays Globe & Mail where they were talking about WHY Operation Medusa was needed, the uprising happened in large parts by the people who lived in the area because the “democratic government” seems to be utterly corrupt.

  5. You are right. It all has to do with the Taliban. It went from Getting to Keeping them out. So, in your opinion, that one word is significant?

    Do you have a link the the G&M article?

    Oh, and I will agree that we don’t get enough information about Afghanistan to make truely informed judgements on the current state of affairs. This uprising was about what?

    It appears that Operation Medusa was the right way to restore order and security to the people who have been frustrated for decades by war and oppression. NATO troops are there to provide security from the Taliban, and the foreign terrorists who support the Taliban, so the Afghanis can rebuild.

    John M Reynolds

  6. John,

    unfortunatly I do not have the article, it was in the print edition and I haven’t looked for it online, my guess is it is behind a pay wall.

    The statements that were made by the Afghani was that the new Government and the Police were literally robbing the people, go into their farms and take their crop, or steal or motorcycle at a roadblock if they liked it.

    It also went into detail on why it got so bad, it seems there were two tribes in the area that never got along very well. The new Government then appointed a senior member of one tribe as the “head honcho” in the area and then things got downhill.

    It seems when the Taliban came back in people welcomed them because the robbing and stealing (and raping?) stopped and there seem to have been reports that they brought back the “good old tradition” of lopping off hands of thiefs. The end result was that a lot of farmers send their sons to fight with the Taliban to keep the Government out.

    If this portrail is right, then whatever briefe pause in fighting there is in Afghanistan will most likely be back, and worse, the “hardened fighters” that were killed were probably just the local farmers children.

  7. Thank your for your rebuttal to my post on my blog.

    “Sure, those ARE risks for the people who have these professions, but it does not mean that we as a society are allowed to sacrifice them for no good reason.”

    Those are risks the soldiers chose. The troops support the mission. If you don’t support the mission, you are not supporting the troop’s choice to participate in it.

    I am not trying to say that open discussion should be disallowed. It is needed. Have debates at the water cooler or coffee shop. Too few people talk about these big topics. We need more discussion. Even letters to the editor of local papers that the Taliban does not read is great. Just keep it off the Internet and out of the papers, or be willing to have more troops die because of your indiscretion. If you must use the Internet or national papers, then know the consequences and take responsibility for your actions.

    About the mission itself, we agree that if NATO forces left Afghanistan right now, then the Taliban would resume control. Do you forget how brutal the Taliban was? You seem to be saying that you do not support the mission. In your words, the mission is now for “Freedom and Democracy.” Are you saying that the death of Canadian soldiers is not worth the effort to give the power to the people of Afghanistan? Is it okay for us to pull out and allow thousands of Afghanis to die as a result? Or did you not like the original mission? Do you forget that, like Hezbollah attacking Israel from Lebanon, Al-Queada attacked the USA from Afghanistan on 2001/09/11? Do you not think that the recurrance of AQ training camps in Afghanistan would not be bad for Canada? In your opinion, what would be a good reason to “sacrifice” our troops?

    John M Reynolds

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