Monday, August 20, 2007

Afghanistan: The Sad and the Funny

I don't know what it is about me...that even when I'm sad I always find something to laugh about. Even in Afghanistan.

The sad part was the death of Simon Longtin.

The death of every Canadian soldier depresses me...especially since I honestly believe our mission is doomed.

But since I'm an Anglo Québécois living and working with a bunch of French ones this one hit the bunker like a TOW missile. As they watched RDI's extensive coverage I thought the French guys would be angry and start denouncing the war. But instead they were really quiet. Especially Sébastien my companion...even I couldn't figure out where he was.

So all I could do was try to make sure that they didn't see some of the comments in the Globe where some freaks were going on about how Quebecers were cowards...and only thought of themselves....and how they PRAYED for the day when we could get rid of them.

The Globe editors eventually delected the comments and closed ALL comments on stories about the death of Simon Longtin. But what does it say about some of the people in this country that they couldn't hold back their anti-French bigotry for just one day?

And on the anniversary of the Dieppe raid where French and English fought and died together as they have in so many other places....

Isn't THAT sad?

So I was glad to find an Afghan story I could laugh about.

First the nectarines were handed over, then the watermelon. By lunchtime, the three Afghan National Police manning a traffic checkpoint had amassed a pleasant lunch from the “donations” of passing villagers stopped and “screened,” ostensibly for weapons or contraband.

“I don't want you to do that,” said Lieutenant Jocelyn Demetre, newly arrived in Afghanistan with Quebec's famed Vandoos – the Royal 22nd Regiment. Pointing to the watermelon, Lt. Demetre admonished: “That's extortion.”

Mahman Qasim, the police section commander at Shah Woli Kot who hadn't bothered to don his uniform, rejected the young Canadian officer's admonishment. “We only take from friends, and they're happy to give,” he said, before slicing open the watermelon with a bayonet.

Isn't THAT funny?

God bless our decent French Canadian boy scouts. God save the Afghan Police.

Which reminds me....that God plays a big role in this new Afghan National Army ad.

But like everything else in Afghanistan, I'm just not sure it will work....

Uh oh....never mind the thieves and the scoundrels of the Afghan Police. Here comes the Afghan Army and the former suicide bombers...

Gimme that watermelon or I'll blow you up!!!

Oh boy....when you don't want to cry you laugh.

You know I wish I could believe that the whole damn Afghanistan mess COULD work...and our noble ideals really could become reality.

And that the evil bastard religious fanatics who don't hesitate to kill innocent children could be vanquished forever. So the poor Afghan people could live in peace at last.

So I didn't have to feel that Simon Longtin ...of Quebec AND Canada...and all the others... died for nothing.

But I don't...and I do.

Isn't THAT sad?


Terry Glavin said...

Hi Simon. Great post. But I thought I should try to cheer you up a tiny bit about Afghanistan.

Here goes.

I don't expect Canada will be able to do all that much for "the whole damn Afghanistan mess" either But we've already made a great contribution to parts of the mess. We should be proud of that, and thankful to our soldiers for that, and hopeful for our Afghan brothers and sisters because of that.

As in:
"1. Millions of girls are back in school with 400,000 new female students starting school for the first time this year; 2. Over 100,000 women benefited from micro finance loans to set up their own business; 3. Over a quarter of parliamentarians are women; 4. Over 7 million girls and boys are in school or higher education; 5. 83% of the population now has access to medical facilities, compared to 9 percent in 2004; 6. 76% of children under the age of five have been immunized against childhood diseases; 7. More than 4000 medical facilities opened since 2004; 8. Over 600 midwives were trained and deployed in every province of Afghanistan. . ."

And lots more here:

So for all our faults and failings, and for all the Harper government has bollixed so many aspects of the "mission", let's not forget that so far, our soldiers have not died in vain. Our solidarity with the Afghan people has already meant a lot, for so many ordinary Afghans. Personally, I think it has been worth it, even if all those things we've helped accomplish do seem so small and irrelevant, all these miles away.

Cheers, buddy.


Simon said...

Hi Terry....yeah you know I think you're right.I'm always looking for the big picture in this fragmented world...but sometimes I forget that picture is also the sum of its parts.The statistics you quote are pretty impressive...and if our soldiers helped build just one school or clinic I guess they didn't die for NOTHING...since that's more than most people achieve in their lives.
As you know my frustration comes from the way the mission has been so fucked up from the beginning...thanks mainly to the Americans... The botched opportunities, the Iraq diversion, the Pakistani Veil Dance...the lack of troops and resources etc.
But when I saw Simon Longtin's coffin being unloaded today...and I saw his brother also a pvt. carrying his coffin trying not to cry...I don't think I could say they died for nothing again...but unless something changes...I still think the mission is a disaster...