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Canada’s military… is Sweden next???

We have fairly suddenly become a nation of Hawks. War is good and it is necessary. Wave the flag mightily. Buy the best of the best for the troops.

Support the troops, dammit!

Our identity as brokers of peace and the keepers of peace is perhaps forever gone.

Behold the new Canadian militarism. It’s everywhere.

Hardly a week goes by without the government gushing about our troops, or bowing to a DND wish. It has become politically incorrect, practically unpatriotic, to question the military. Our government’s Afghanistan propaganda makes it sound like it was mission accomplished. And everyone is expected to be gung-ho on the war in Libya.

The government is moving ahead on the purchase of the zillion-dollar F-35 super jets which yet another study has just criticized, saying they’re unsuitable unless we’re trying to build a Pentagon-styled war machine. We now take a harder line in the Middle East than virtually any other country. We’re seldom heard on the disarmament front. We’ve lost our traditional honest broker standing at the United Nations.

The first thing on the itinerary of Prince William when he arrived was a visit to the tomb of the unknown soldier. Our smallish foreign aid output is increasingly tied to military adventures – war projects as opposed to long-term development. The military is for the first time starting to take part in our citizenship ceremonies. Our foreign policy is now, arguably for the first time, to the right of the United States.

For a country that has long prided itself on a reputation as a peacemaker, it’s a remarkable turn. Hawks of the western world? Who would have thunk it?

For some time now, the Harper government has appealed to Canadians’ sense of loyalty and patriotism in order to advance its own policies. Keep ’em waving the flag, they say, and we can pretty much say or do whatever we want.

Lawrence Martin – in always excellent way – discusses how the military has been elevated to some type of super-institution in and of itself. Says Martin:

In the broader context, Harper’s glorification of the armed services appears to fit his goal of stirring a new Canadian patriotism. Canada Day was an example as crowds of unprecedented size, displaying hero worship for non-heroes, turned out to cheer on the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. As Harper beamed, Prince William spoke in superlatives about the work of the Canadian forces in Afghanistan.

Appeal to the base instincts and the insane purchase of those lemon fighter jets will be overlooked. We have to protect the troops! Are you against the troops having the best equipment? They say. Or like the bumper stickers say (and it ain’t a good policy unless it can be described on a bumper sticker)

If you’re not behind the troops, feel free to stand in front of them…

The Harperites love these bumper stickers. And dyed-in-wool conservatives love the military and Harper is at their lead.

Understand that despite the fact I am a pacifist, I acknowledge the need for the military in some circumstances in today’s world. And indeed, many of those who serve in the military deserve the respect of Canadians – especially those who perished in that ridiculous quagmire called Afghanistan. But I am very much against the glorification of the military. For example, having a military presence at citizenship ceremonies is in my mind completely ludicrous! The subtle support of our troops that has been the tradition of we Canucks has been something I have always been proud of.

Not so subtle anymore.

Of course, this begs the question: what will Harper do to keep the military front and centre in people’s minds now that the combat mission is over? Let’s see… those damned Swedes have been a bit cheeky lately… c’mon, my military friends… whaddya think???




When did Canada become so militaristic?

So tomorrow is Remembrance Day, right smack in the middle of Veterans Week.  In the past few weeks, there have been interviews with ex-soldiers on CBC and elsewhere. Rick Hillier’s book is doing well. Afghanada is a radio serial on the MotherCorp and by all accounts is listened to by, if not legions of CBCers, at least a battalion or two. I’ve caught a couple of episodes… good stuff.

Don Cherry cries on the air every Saturday night when a soldier falls.

Red ribbons are everywhere. Many wear red on Fridays. There are public debates on whether the Feds should make Remembrance Day observance mandatory by businesses and schools instead of voluntary, as they are now.

When did this augmented sense of militarism happen. Did I miss the memo? Veterans Week? How long has that been around?

Any reader of this blog will know that I am very much a peacenik. I do not believe in war. At all – with VERY few exceptions.

I do not believe in the military, but know that at this stage of human evolution, military forces will continue to exist for a long time to come.

I do not diss soldiers and certainly wish them well but do not believe in what they do. I admire that they believe that their job is important and that they willingly put their lives on the line in this belief… I simply don’t share their beliefs.

And the fact that my point of view and those of others like me is becoming increasingly marginalized really disturbs me. Canada as a quiet peacekeeping nation was tolerable for a peacenik like me. Canada as a boastful, über-patriotic, militaristic, American-like nation is not.

But how and when did this happen?

It is generally agreed that there has been a marked move to the social right of the political spectrum in this country. The current government in particular, with it’s roots in western social conservatism, has been actively supporting a guns and god agenda. The more that a citizenry feels allegiance to the “flag”, the more likely it will be to turn a blind eye to policies that they may otherwise find distasteful. I’m not saying that Harpy is completely behind all of the renewed rah-rah, but he is a keen strategist who is seizing upon the rightward shift and the tangential increase in support for things traditionally supported by the right – e.g., the military.

There is also the lingering 9-11 effect. I think Canucks, like our southern neighbours, felt more than a bit threatened by the events of that day. We retreated into a comfortable cocoon where we called on the comforts of bygone years to assuage our fears. We, even a bit, looked to the folks holding the guns to protect us from the perceived threat. And when we were not hit by a terrorist plot (at least not yet), we gave an appreciative nod to the cops and the military for a job well-done.

I find that as I age, I am becoming more set in my ways when it comes to my basic belief systems.  For example, I feel much more strongly now than in my 30’s that opposition to war in almost any case is a morally just stance and that there is almost NO moral justification to take up arms. Too much suffering – both by those actively participating in a conflict and by those caught in the cross-fire (civilians) – and, IMHO, to little morally justifiable end.

I do not think we should be engaged in foreign conflicts and believe that it is a completely unnecessary waste of young and talented lives. I mourn these men and women while simultaneously condemning the governments that sent them into harm’s way.

Again, I do not demean these brave folks. But what about those men and women who also put their lives at risk for their country or community? What about the cops? Firefighters and other emergency professionals? Do they not at least merit equal treatment? Many die in the line of duty in acts that are moral and just by any measure. There is seldom ambiguity – especially in the case of firefighters.

I know I’m going to catch some flak for this post. Yet the main reason I have a “blog” is to express my unsolicited opinions and ideas openly and freely and I should not be held back by the prospect of being flamed.

And yes, I will wear a poppy. But only on November 11. And while I am silent for that minute or two, I will think about John Lennon’s words in the hope that no more young Canadian lives are lost in a place where we really shouldn’t be:

“Give peace a chance.”