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Our Solders' Role
22/06/2004

The Ottawa Sun has an article about a soldier who speaks out (anonymously) against Paul Martin's policies towards the Canadian Armed Forces. I read through it this morning and then took another look after I read what Bob had to say about it on Canadian Comment.

Bob seemed to interpret the soldier's comments in a different way than I did. He focuses on the issue of funding, and making sure the Canadian military is sufficiently well prepared to do what is asked of them. In that respect, I do feel a soldier's opinion is valuable (although I'm not willing to base my decision solely on the opinion of one anonymous guy).

However, more significantly, I didn't read the article in the same way that Bob did. I saw much more criticism from the soldier about what our military's role should be:

The soldier was reacting to a front-page newspaper story he read on the weekend in which Martin, during an interview, attacked Conservative leader Stephen Harper's plans for the Canadian military. Martin, according to the article, saying Harper would impose a warlike "ready aye ready" philosophy that is out of vogue in today's Canadian society.

"I went ballistic. Harper never served, either, but he's a hell of a lot more understanding and realistic as to what the armed forces should be than that ignorant fool Martin. As for outdated, it's old Martin who's outdated. What does he think the role of Canadian soldiers is? To hand out candies? Carry toy guns? Just sit around and watch? Being trained and ready to fight and kill the enemy in the defence of freedom is what soldiers willingly do.

"Men and women aren't forced to sign up, they sign up because they're willing and want to be warriors, and somebody tell Martin they're damn fine people, not thugs like he makes it sound. He insults every soldier in this country as well as their families."

The soldier slammed the Liberals' anti-Harper ad on TV portraying him as a warmonger. "The Canadian soldiers jumping out of armoured personnel carriers and attacking with their weapons -- just what the hell is wrong with that? They're soldiers, for krissake. Does the scene turn Martin's weak, little, stomach? Does he hope Canadians will puke with disgust over it? If they do, then we're a nation of pussycats and in real trouble.

And this, I feel, is entirely illegitimate.

Any soldier can think whatever he or she wants about what our military is supposed to be for. However, that doesn't matter one bit. Our military's role is to serve the interests of Canada as guided by our government.

If the electorate, our Prime Minister, his cabinet, and parliament want our military to focus on a peace-keeping role, then I don't care one bit whether this soldier likes it. Yes, his thoughts about our ability to carry out the mission can be valuable. However, he doesn't get the right to judge what the mission should be or what the role of Canadian soldiers should be. Sorry.

The same thing would be true under a Harper government. Whatever Harper chooses to use our military for, I would want the decision to be made in the public forum, in parliament, and in the Prime Minister's Office. Professional advice is welcome in terms of how our goals can be acheived, but the goals are set by the people.

(The Commander-in-Chief of the Canadian Armed Forces is actually the Governor-General. But that really means the Prime Minister and cabinet.)


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