Most of us who woke up last Sunday morning to hear the news that two Canadians were among the 13 international citizens and eight Afghans killed by a terrorist bombing in Kabul, Afghanistan, were immediately seized by the thought, “What in heaven’s name have our troops accomplished there anyway?”.
These two were not combat troops. They were not part of Canada’s NATO-led force that is just now ending its 12-year commitment to drive the Taliban movement from influence in that remote country lodged between India and Russia.
They were two civilians, professional accountants, and they were in Kabul to simply measure and account for some of the activities of the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) in Afghanistan.
And there they died violently, along with a 11 other civilians from a variety of nationalities who were in Afghanistan to do routine civilian jobs associated with their various countries’ contributions to helping this nation and its people throw aside the social burden the Taliban regime would impose, and impose it with full backing of the Al Qaeda guerilla Muslim terrorist organization.
We know the Taliban/Al Qaeda hitmen targeted a restaurant patronized by foreigners in the capital city, Kabul, because a communiqué from the Taliban organization announced this shortly after the raid.
In their odd logic, the action was taken in retaliation for a military skirmish between the Afghani military (not NATO forces) and some Taliban/Al Qaeda guerilla fighters in another part of the country earlier the same week.
The Taliban’s understanding of what we might think of as “tit for tat” defies understanding by any thoughtful person, just as, in our own country, the actions of failed engineering student Marc Lépine, when he gunned down and murdered 14 female engineering students at Montreal’s École Polytechnique 25 years ago this fall, was somehow justified in his addled logic as just retribution for wrongs he felt had been visited on him.
This is a Canadian example with which all of us are familiar and it serves to illustrate the parallel logic of the Taliban strategists who set about the action that left two innocent Canadian dead in a foreign land.
We must grieve for the families of Peter McSheffrey from Ottawa and Martin Glazer from Gatineau, Quebec just as we are called to grieve each December for the families and lost lives of the 14 women killed by Marc Lépine.
There is one considerable difference between our responses to these heinous acts in Canada a quarter century ago and in Kabul late last week: we have never grieved for Canada in the Montreal massacre example because we remain horrified that such a thing could happen in our country. Rather, the remembrance of this terrible antisocial event reinforces our national resolve to have no tolerance for violence against women.
But we must grieve for the people of Afghanistan who will have to go on fighting back against the terrible Taliban and the twisted logic this guerilla organization would once again use to make decisions should they regain political sway.
We noted earlier that most Canadians, when they heard the news of the deaths by terrorist bombing, would have thought almost immediately, “what have our troops been doing there for the last 12 years anyway, if something like this can happen?”.
Our troops are leaving Afghanistan; have nearly all come home. Since 2002, a total of 158 of our military personnel have lost their lives there, many more have suffered permanently disabling physical injuries and countless others will carry the emotional burden of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) for the rest of their lives as a result of their experiences. Suicides among combat-weary troops are common and, in fact, Canadians learned Monday of two more lives lost recently in this tragic way.
So, in light of the cowardly bombing that took the lives of still two more Canadians, has anything been accomplished through our participation?
We have to think that our soldiers’ brave efforts have not been in vain. Far from it.
The NATO alliance of forces of which we have been a part have allowed the Afghani people to democratically elect a government which, although far from perfect, still replaced the Taliban regime which had for some years managed to darkly control events that affected ordinary Afghani citizens through intimidation and a narrow interpretation of Muslim teachings that denied girls an education and interfered with, of all things, the efforts of public health officials trying to vaccinate children against the polio virus.
Certainly there is a vein of corruption that runs through the current elected administration.
But it is what will come next and then after that that is important for the people of Afghanistan, now that they have tasted the freedom that democracy can bring, and will be bound to demand ever purer strains of the same thing.
Soon, it will be exclusively their own police and military forces dealing with Taliban incursions, and it is the good work of our Canadian troops and their NATO allies that have, slowly and surely, made this possible.
The deaths by terrorist attack last weekend of the two Canadian citizens and their international colleagues is tragic.
But surely this will help to strengthen the resolve of the Afghan authorities to rid their country of the people and the organizations that support and encourage them whose view of the world is so abhorrent to reason, logic, common sense and human understanding, just as the Marc Lépine example has steeled Canadian to be far more vigilant against the abuse of women.