Friday, May 11, 2007

Words to Kill By

It is past time that we look closely at the language that old men use to betray our children and send them to war.

A call to war so often begins with our leaders declaring that we as a nation have a “job to do.” That something as profoundly destructive and disruptive as war should be considered as pedestrian as a “job” is perhaps why this quickly evolves into a “mission” which is not to be questioned. That job-mission we are told is to defend freedom/democracy/our way of life/our values or “fighting them over there and not in our streets” -- as ridiculous an idea now as it was during the Vietnam War.

Who are the “them” that we have to defend against? Our leaders are quick to dehumanize and objectify them – “scumbags, a cancer, fascists, evil-doers, terrorists.” It is much easier to kill a scumbag terrorist rather than a person who is also on a “sacred mission” as defined either by his or her own equally remote and power-driven elite, or -- more likely -- the desperation born of being the target of state terror.

And what is the difference between a freedom fighter and a terrorist? The Contras murdered and pillaged in Nicaragua for years – yet according to the US government who organized and funded them, they were freedom fighters, and the western media seldom questioned this perversion of language.

The words of our leaders truly betray us when we Canadians attempt to debate our “commitment” to the “mission” in Afghanistan. To “stay the course” as the government tells us we must do is to see more of our young people killed and maimed – and each death is, in turn, a rationale for continuing. Thus we must “show resolve” and not “dishonour their sacrifice.” To remove our troops from this dubious mission is to “cut and run” or “not support” them; such is "not the the Canadian way.” Yet have we really internalized our national poem In Flanders Fields to that extent that we are "breaking faith" with the dead if we alter course? Have we really travelled so short a moral distance in 90 years that such jingoism still has currency?

Do our leaders – be they Liberal or Conservative – really lose sleep over the rights of Afghan girls to attend school, or the treatment of minorities in that chaos of a country? I remain skeptical. What then is the hidden agenda for our sacred mission? Many of us can only guess that it is to placate the US government -- for what economic or political gain that might entail. Then there is also the seldom-mentioned pipeline that US oil companies were desperate to build, and then the Taliban government reneged on.

We Canadians must ask the question -- as more and more Americans are doing: Are our troops really fighting and dying for oil companies and neo-conservative ideologues?

As Canadians we would be well advised to be wary of empty and banal slogans (“freedom is on the march”) and worry when our prime minister echoes the Bush Administration(“we won’t cut and run”).

Be very worried.

There is a gift we can give our children: to take a critical view of authority – and to never trust the ‘official story.” It is either incomplete, or a lie. Look at the hidden agenda (who benefits) and question everything – especially the “job missions” that will be asked of us.