Monday, June 30, 2008

GUEST POST: Matt Bin on "The Inconvenient Troops."

CC HQ cub reporter Matt Bin checks in with some thoughts.

A new report shows that Canada is not taking care of its wounded soldiers and their families. Oddly, this isn't mentioned anywhere in the gushing praise for the outgoing Rick Hillier -- a Liberal-appointed CDS who became the poster boy for the war on Afghanistan.

I've been saying since the start of our work in Afghanistan that the price of this war isn't tallied today, but starting ten years from now and carrying on to the end of this generation. We've sent thousands of Canadians into an intense war zone -- many of them reservists -- and we must bear the cost of dealing with the consequences of our little national adventure as great and as long-term as those costs might be.

If we don't actively and cheerfully bear those costs, if we don't care for the mental, physical, and emotional well-being of the wounded and their families for as long and as far as they need us, then we have failed as a nation. The "support the troops" brand of politicization, crude and inane as it might be, requires those who subscribe to it -- most notably our current government -- to actually put in place the infrastructure and mechanisms by which these troops are actually supported.

The military is doing better than it was, say, 15 years ago, when there was no individual counselling for returning peacekeepers and no treatment available for PTSD. But without the political commitment -- which in this case means money and effort -- to maintain the standard of living for wounded soldiers and their families at least at the average for other soldiers and veterans, our government has failed those soldiers. It won't be long, at this rate, before the Afghanistan mission's image is an aging panhandler -- similar to the image of Vietnam veterans in the USA today.

Our current government has already failed once -- an abject, tragic, and shameful failure -- to support our soldiers deployed around the world. Afghanistan is poised to become a much larger failure, whose consequences will be borne throughout Canadian society for many years to come.

-- Matt Bin


Anonymous said...

This is a work in progress Matt. The unfortunate reality is, that we have had no reason in the past to make it a priority politically.

Today, institutionally, we are struggling to do the right thing. As far as I know, wounded soldiers have not yet been released from the service for several years... To me, that is huge. To many of us, the uniform is much more then a job, it is being a part of something bigger (like a family). Now, I did qualify that with "as far as I know" so yes, it is possibile that there have been some releases. I do know personally three soldiers who have been handicapped overseas, and are now non-deployable, however they are still serving in uniform, and it is helping them immensly psychologically to remain a part of the "family".

Yes, we do have a long long way to go with the care of soldiers, not just in war time, but peace time as well. Peacekeeping operations have cost us a heavy price psychologically in the past, especially on more troublesome UN missions like UNPROFOR in Bosnia.

I hope that there is more work yet to be done in the care of my wounded brothers in arms... And it will take the strength of all, here and throughout Canada to ensure that the Government is held accountable for the health and well being of all Canadians sent into harms way (we must not forget the guys and gals from CIDA, DFAIT, RCMP and CSC who now are sent to the same places I am).

M@ said...

AM, great point in that CIDA, RCMP, et al are just as exposed to violence and personal danger as our peacekeepers are. They absolutely deserve the same regard and protection from the country, and I really appreciate you bringing them up. I wish I had thought to do so myself.

I understand the "family" mentality that the military fosters and maintains, and I understand the value that it brings to all our military personnel. But that is a secondary part of the picture, from the country's point of view. The personal cost is, currently, far higher than the country is paying, and that is the debt we need to resolve.

As an example, I know Yugoslavia veterans who pay their own way for counselling, and who need more than our government is willing to give. This is not right, and it will only get worse when the Afghanistan feces hits the proverbial wind-producer.

So I'm with you in demanding that our government -- no matter what their political stripe -- provide adequate care for our veterans, whenever and however they need it. And I appreciate your views on the subject.