I hate how some Canadians are reacting to what Cpl Anthony Boneca apparently had to say about his last tour in Afghanistan. I hate that it divided his friends and family. And that his Dad felt he had to defend his son's reputation by issuing a statement.
But what really ticks me off is the jingoistic nonsense coming from those who portray it as some kind of left wing media plot to smear the honour of the dead corporal. And question the morale of our soldiers over there. I understand what this soldier is saying. And I'm sorry he lost his friend. I just don't think he needs to defend him.
Anthony Boneca doesn't need any defenders. He did his duty, he signed up for two tours in Afghanistan, he never let his fellow soldiers down, he fought bravely, and died fighting for his country. He may have been a reluctant hero. But he's a hero anyway.
So nobody should try to cover-up what he said. Or try to make it sound like something shameful. Or turn it into a partisan political issue. Or try to make it all rah rah rah. Armchair generals and chickenhawks talk like that. Heroes don't. They can say what they want.
Having said that, I should also add that I've never met a soldier with any army anywhere who didn't bitch. I think it's a way of coping with boredom and tension. Soldiering and bitching go together like ham and eggs. Or whatever that yellow shit is they serve in their cafeterias. So put that into the mix.
But I found it interesting that Boneca complained about being exhausted and about what he called the "Kandahar weight loss program." And that Christie Blatchford in an excellent pay to read Globe report came across evidence of the same thing:
"These soldiers are near exhaustion or would be if they stopped long enough to notice. Many have lost between 25 and 35 pounds since arriving."
Maybe I'm wrong. But to me it just might be more evidence of what I've warned about all along. We're trying to do too much with too little. The coalition doesn't have enough boots on the ground to protect rebuilding efforts properly. And still go after the Taliban. And it's been that way since the Americans invaded Iraq and all but forgot about Afghanistan. What good is it if we control the day, if the Taliban control the night?
The British have been having quite a debate about their military in Afghanistan.. And they're doing something about it. But we can't even send our Afghan force more helicopters let alone more troops. I know we've got a great bunch of soldiers out there. I know you can push them pretty hard. But you can't win a war like this one on pride and guts alone.
If you don't believe that, read this story. It's long and quite opinionated. But since the writer knows Afghanistan and was almost killed there a couple of weeks ago, I figure she's earned the right to that opinion. Just like our dead soldier....
In the last weeks of his tragically short life Anthony Boneca desperately wanted out. He apparently felt that he had somehow been misled. That his reserve training hadn't prepared him for the rough combat of Afghanistan. I don't know if anything can prepare you for something like that. I don't know if other reservists over there feel that way. But Boneca did. He took a bullet in the neck. So his views must count for something. To treat them as something shameful, dishonours him and our country.
While supporting our troops we need to keep asking questions about why we are fighting that war, and how we are fighting it. Jingoism and Afghanistan are a bad mix. And the surest way to turn a noble mission into a bloody mission impossible.
But we can worry about all of that later. The mournful sound of the bagpipes is drifting over Trenton again. I see that Anthony Bonseca has finally made it home. We should just thank him for his sacrifice, and celebrate his life. I know I will.
Because for me reluctant heroes are kind of special.
And somehow very Canadian too...