Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Afghanistan? What’s that?

Heard anything from Afghanistan lately?

 If you follow Canadian news media, probably not much.

Canadian soldiers have ended their combat role in Afghanistan, but some are still there, pursuing the worthwhile goal of trying to help Afghans build a civil society that will survive after they leave.

Canadians need to hear more about what we are doing there. We need to understand what we have achieved in the decade in which 158 members of the Canadian Forces and four Canadian civilians have been killed.

There has been one recent piece of news: The father of Sgt. Marc Leger, one of our first soldiers killed there, now wonders whether his death means anything.

And Gwynne Dyer, one of our clearest-thinking columnists, told Canadians this week, “The Taliban is obviously winning the war in Afghanistan now.”

That’s a sobering conclusion, and one that Canadians need to discuss.

But while most news media are backing off, it’s heartening that journalists and the soldiers themselves are creating documentaries and publishing books about this most important story of our time.

Canadian Press reporter Murray Brewster has published The Savage War: The Untold Battles of Afghanistan, a detailed, dramatic and thought-provoking account of his 15 months over several years on the ground.

Lt.-Col. Mike Vernon, a soldier and former CBC journalist, has released Desert Lions, a 60-minute documentary. Although the doc has received the approval of the Canadian Forces, it is not mere government propaganda. Its soldiers are real people with real frustrations and fears.

In addition, we are seeing more books written by the soldiers themselves. March Forth by Trevor Greene and Debbie Greene recounts the slow recovery of Trevor Greene, horribly injured in Afghanistan in 2006. On April 7 I reviewed it in the Winnipeg Free Press.

In 2002 we sent our soldiers to Afghanistan with noble rhetoric and, I think, noble intent. The results have been less than satisfactory.

Our news media need to keep exploring this story.