Canadian casualties in Afghanistan

It was a tragic week for Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan. Two soldiers died on Wednesday, April 11. Six others died on Sunday, April 8 — Easter Sunday.

fallen soldiers

The Globe and Mail provides brief biographies for each of the 45 Canadians who have died in Afghanistan here.

As some soldiers died, others were injured, including this man, whose name was withheld:

The soldier was trained in advanced first-aid techniques, and even with injuries to his legs and arm, he remained lucid enough to give his crewmates instructions about how to save his own life.

Responding to the week’s events, Liberal leader Stéphane Dion used the “q” word:

The Canadian military is heading into a quagmire in Afghanistan under the Conservative government, Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion warned yesterday. … “We have to tell NATO that in February, 2009, our combat mission in Kandahar is finished,” Mr. Dion said.

I suppose it’s good for one of the major political parties to represent the anti-war point of view. According to AngusReid, 46% of Canadians think the troops should be brought home without waiting for Canada’s commitment to end in February 2009.

I have argued (here) that Canadians should support the mission in Afghanistan. I haven’t changed my mind.

Canadians think they pull their weight internationally; arguably, that is no longer true. We seem to be living off past glories (the two World Wars, peacekeeping in the Pearson era). Funding for the Canadian military has been reduced by successive governments. We simply aren’t able to make much of a contribution on the world stage anymore.

Canadians may find it difficult to distinguish between Afghanistan (which provided safe haven for Osama bin Laden and other al Qaeda leaders) and Iraq (which was totally unconnected to 9/11). Admittedly, the two wars aren’t entirely separate, as the Telegraph comments:

[The Bush administration’s] preoccupation with Iraq led to neglect of Afghanistan, which has allowed the resurgence of the Taliban, a mistake for which Nato-led forces are now paying a high price.

counting the cost

Thus the Iraq error muddies the ethical waters.

At the outset of the Afghan mission, Canadians contributed willingly to the offensive against al Qaeda. But some now conclude that Canadians are dying because President Bush took his eye off the ball. He diverted his focus from Osama bin Laden to Saddam Hussein; from al Qaeda to his wet dream of a Muslim democracy in the Middle East.

For the same reason, other NATO countries are refusing to send troops to Afghanistan. 65% of Canadians believe we are shouldering too much of the burden of the NATO-approved mission.

And Canadians are sickened by other decisions taken in the “war on terror”:  the shell games with habeas corpus, the use of torture, the “rendition” of suspects to countries which practise torture.

The rendition policy has been well publicized here because of Canadian Maher Arar, who spent ten months in a Syrian prison, where he was tortured. The USA still has Arar on its no-fly list despite the findings of a Canadian inquiry which declared Arar innocent.

Honestly, President Bush could write a book on how to alienate friends and estrange allies.

Prime Minister Harper supports the mission in Afghanistan, but it’s a tough sell from a public relations perspective. Canadians are likely to line up behind Dion’s position as the Afghanistan death toll mounts and Iraq continues to spiral into civil war:  while the Bush administration shows contempt for fundamental human rights.


4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Jeremy
    Sep 28, 2007 @ 14:46:21

    I am doing a report of Canadian dead in Afghanistan and I was wondering if I could get a list of all 71 dead. thanks


  2. Stephen
    Sep 28, 2007 @ 15:00:24

    Hi, Jeremy. The Globe and Mail updates the site that I used for this post with photos and brief biographies for each person.


  3. Eileen
    Nov 08, 2007 @ 16:49:25

    Hey Jeremy,
    Go to this web site. I used it to make a bulletin board at school.


  4. Lance Taylor
    Mar 08, 2008 @ 01:46:04

    Sadly.. I am updating the count to 79 fallen tonight.


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