Living With War Today

Dispatches from Elwood Redding:

Living With War In Canada
by Elwood Redding, Canadian Free Press (7/7/06)
    In the winter of 1842, the British army began a retreat from Kabul, Afghanistan with some 16,000 troops and citizens running for the safety of the garrison 90 miles away. A week later one horseman stumbled into camp - he was the lone survivor.
    In 1979 the Soviet army poured across the Afghanistan border. Ten years later 14,500 Soviets and a million Afghans were dead and not much was settled.
    Since the fall of 2001 and the wake of the World Trade Center horror, Canada's military commitment has steadily increased. Now Canada's troops are walking the same paths as those British and Soviet troops - the same paths as the U.S. troops of Operation Enduring Freedom who toppled the Taliban government in the autumn of 2001. Canada's contingent in Southern Afghanistan is 2,300 strong. To date 16 Canadian troops and diplomats have been killed in military conflict.
    Earlier this year Canadian forces undertook a significant role in southern Afghanistan with the 2,000 soldier strong Task Force Afghanistan which is stationed around Kandahar.
    Additionally, and according to Canada's Department of Foreign Affairs, Afghanistan has become the single largest recipient of Canadian bilateral aid. Makes a fella wonder why.
    It's also pretty well known here in Canada's capital that Canadian secret special forces have been operating alongside American special forces in recent months. You know that Canadian troops have done their share of killing in Afghanistan.
    I don't know how the rest of Canada feels but this Canuck reckons that all of these facts pile up to put a target on our backs. And I'm not comfortable with that. Canada needs to get back to peacekeeping - not war-making. We don't need to be Living With War - summer's just too short for that!

The Cost Of Freedom Paid In Fallujah's Blood
by Elwood Redding, Canadian Free Press (7/15/06)
Just east of Winnipeg.
    It's about 1400 miles from Toronto to Winnipeg and once you get out there on the Trans Canada Highway north of Lake Superior, it's a helluva pretty ride. Makes you happy to be alive and free in a country where a person can drive 1400 miles without worrying about getting pulled over to the side of the road and strip searched - if you're lucky - by heavily armed and fully charged US soldiers.
    Makes you wonder how many Iraqi families actually drive anywhere anymore. Or how many have been torn apart in this ham-handed Bush government effort to give the Iraqis and the Afghanis, and everyone else in an oil-producing zone their freedom. After all it is about freedom isn't it? Used to be about weapons of mass destruction, remember? Then it was about deposing Saddam the nine-headed, worse thing since Hitler, monster, correct? And now it's about the precious gift of Bushian democracy and freedom for all Iraqi and Afghani people - you'll thank us for shooting your father later - right?
    Who's kidding whom here? Life in Iraq sucks now! But how would we possibly know? We're mostly watching news stories that come from embedded journalists - this week's oxymoron - those hardworking women and men of the media who do the stories that the military brass allows. You've seen it over and over again - the one about our brave men and women out there risking their lives to bring Iraqis and Afghanis the precious gift of freedom. And it's all bullshit!
    The War in Viet Nam turned around when ordinary Americans grew sick of the pictures and photos of bodies and horror and heartbreak. Remember the little girl running up the road from the napalm– her clothes burnt away, her flesh burning. Remember the South Vietnamese General shooting a suspected enemy in the head at extremely close range? Remember the victims (some 500 in all) of the Mai Lai massacre piled up like rubble or Lt. William, Bill to his friends, Calley who took the fall for an out-of-control war machine called the American military? Remember the last troops off the roof at the US Embassy in Saigon?
    What image do we remember from Iraq? None so dramatic as those mentioned. Thanks to our embedded journalist we ride around in aromoured vehicles seeing the grave danger our brave troops face everyday in Iraq. Oblivious to the fact that everything that happened in Viet Nam is happening in Iraq only 100 times over.
    Where was the evening news in April of '04 when a huge US military force attacked the city of Fallujah, population 300,000, just west of Baghdad. They bombed Fallujah from the air for 8 weeks before unleashing the final horrible barrage - an onslaught that included artillery and mortar shells employing white phosphorous, "Willy Pete" to our brave troops. White phosphorous burns the flesh off of anyone unfortunate enough to be within 150 yards of the detonation point. It's way worse than napalm, which became an internationally prohibited strike weapon along with other similar chemicals after the horrors of Viet Nam sunk in. But I guess those lessons are long forgotten now. White phosphorous, the military argues, is used to illuminate the target and thusly falls outside the ban. What kind of man looks for loopholes in a weapons ban?
    7,000 Iraqis were killed at Fallujah - most of them civilians. Wounded men in the street were executed at close range by American troops. Women and children were incinerated in their beds by "Willie Pete". 74% of the city's homes were leveled along with 6o schools and 65 mosques and holy shrines. Hospitals were also hit and destroyed. Snipers, ordered to shoot anything moving, pinned the citizenry down preventing escape. There was a slaughter at the center of the inferno. Now the dogs of Fallujah are infected from eating decomposing human flesh. The children who survived can't be left alone outside. All of this in the name of freedom.
    At Falcon Lake, just east of Winnipeg, I saw a timber wolf. He trotted to the side of the Trans Canada Highway, waited for my old Oldsmobile to pass, then crossed the road and left my rearview.
    I wish I could give someone from Fallujah a backstage pass to the CSNY Freedom Of Speech concert. Just so someone from there would know that we're not all the same.
    To learn more about the Massacre At Fallujah go to this website:
    It features documentary footage shot by an Italian crew in the aftermath of the Massacre at Fallujah. It's not always easy to look at. The truth can be funny that way.

Throw Your Hatred Down
by Elwood Redding, Canadian Free Press (8/10/06)
from the middle summer
    I like the heat. The simmering heart of summer when things get so hot you just have to stop. No matter what you're doin' you just have stop. I like stop.
    The past week has been a stifler - everything stopped. So I dusted off the bunny ears and watched some TV. Up here in Canada it was mostly funerals and deathwatches for young soldiers. The brass calls it repatriation. You probably remember the scenes from back when U.S. television used to show dead soldiers coming home. The piper pipin' Amazing Grace, soldiers marching slowly with the coffin held high, officers and families looking somber, everybody drenched in what passes for dignity at military funerals. I hope people feel conviction growing as we watch this conveyor belt of dead kids who should be doin' something else. Not getting buried!
    6 more Canadians have died in Afghanistan so far this month. That's a total of 25 formerly vital, healthy, young and strong young people dead since our troops ventured into that country. Most were blown to bits by suicide bombers. I'm sure their deaths count for something - although I don't understand what. They were in Afghanistan because the current Canadian government, led by Stephen "George W" Harper, wants to make a significant contribution to the war on terror. A war that doesn't seem to be going very well. I feel we'd be making a lot more headway if Canada's troops just stopped. Threw down their weapons and started building schools and roads and repairing broken water lines. That's what we used to do. We used to understand when things had to stop. It's one of the reasons people out there in the world respect our country. Respect that's starting to fade.
    Another Canadian soldier died recently too - he doesn't show up in the 25 mentioned above. He was stationed in Southern Lebanon with a United Nations observation team made up of officers from Australia, China, Finland, Austria and Ireland. His name was Major Paeta Hess-von Kruedener and his mission was to observe and maintain the integrity of the border that separates Israel and Lebanon. A few weeks ago the Major sent an email to CTV News and said, " ... Please understand the nature of my job here is to be impartial and to report violations from both sides without bias. As an Unarmed Military Observer, this is my raison d'etre ... What I can tell you is this: we have on a daily basis had numerous occasions where our position has come under direct or indirect fire from both artillery and aerial bombing. The closest artillery has landed within 2 meters of our position and the closest 1000 lb aerial bomb has landed 100 meters from our patrol base...". On July 25th an Israeli shell hit the observation post he occupied with four other UN Peacekeepers and they were all killed. Paeta Hess-von Kruedener, a man called The Wolf by his friends, died upholding the concept of peace. That I understand.
    In 1957 Lester B. Pearson won the Nobel Peace Prize for instituting the concept of an international Peace Force under the direction of The United Nations. One year later he became the Prime Minister of Canada and this country built a 50-year tradition of sending military forces to world hot spots to soothe the anger and try to get the opposing sides to throw their weapons down and just stop. We became very proficient at it and we need to get back to it. Canada's forces in Afghanistan need to stop, to trade in their camouflage for peacekeeper blue. Canada needs to stop and rethink this War On Terror direction we've taken. We need to volunteer our forces to go into Lebanon and help restore reason to that blinded-by-hate world. We need to help make the killing stop.
    Major Paeta Hess-von Kreudener deserves nothing less.
    His entire email can be read at: CTV.CA
Hawks and Doves and Skunks and Deer
by Elwood Redding, Canadian Free Press (7/10/06)
Highway #7 - somewhere between Ottawa and Toronto.
    It's middle-of-the-night dark, the moon is red, I'm sitting at the side of the road backwards and I think I just hit a deer or something – it could have been a skunk. I swerved hard and here I am. The mosquitoes are big and hungry and ferocious and clearly Canadian. Drawn to the laptop light. But in spite of the slapping I'm infused with a spirit that's been a long time sleeping - same thing I felt back there in the 1960's on the planet Revolution when we all seemed so much more together and focused and smart – it must have been the music I heard a few hours ago at the CSNY Freedom Of Speech concert. My ears are still happily buzzing.
    I'm feeling a real sense of brotherhood right now. Considering the undeniable realities of common parenthood that connect Canada and the USA. We have the same parents right? We came to the new world together, right? Listen to the same music, eat the same food, drive the same cars, watch the same movies the same TV and live in the same house, right? I reckon that makes us brothers and sisters by simple birthright.
    Don't get me wrong here, we're really proud of the USA – you are our big brother. You're powerful and big and strong and you look after us and we love you. But you're scaring the crap out of us.
    Maybe we should have said something during the Vietnam War when you marched off to protect the world from the scary monsters. But we trusted you and kept silent. You were so sincere and filled with such a sense of purpose back then. Of course it all went south and you've spent the past 40 or so years trying to forget the whole thing – like a bad marriage – and refusing to learn from your mistakes. Now you're in it again. Up to your ass in the swamp of Iraq fighting another unwinable war against more scary monsters.
    So here it is brother - straight from the centre of this Canadian's heart. You've let a bunch of robber barons steal your country and convince you that the only issues carried forward from the Vietnam War (you lost) are whether or not US troops are wholeheartedly supported and whether or not the President is unconditionally followed – right or wrong. Anyone speaking out against these thugs, who stole and lied their way into office, is ridiculed and marginalized by illegal prescription pill-popping lap dogs like Rush Limbaugh. That's the same model used to build the Hell's Angels and the Bandidos and the Cripps and the Bloods isn't it? They operate on the same basic principal of mindless devotion to the gang and to the leader no matter what, right? Maybe America has turned into a street gang – The Bushwhackers – flying the colours of the pinstriped suit. So I gotta say it brothers and sisters – consolidate your feces. You're not saving the world from scary monsters – you're killing people – no one loves you any more- except for us and some very rich Saudi Arabian potentates. Throw the moneylenders who are leading you to ruin into the streets. Just stop it!

    p.s. Another Canadian soldier was killed yesterday in Afghanistan – the 17th so far. His name was Tony Boneca and he was a corporal from Thunder Bay. He died in a farmer's field just west of Kabul. Osama Bin Laden is still at large.

Mideast Vacation In The Killing Zone
by Elwood Redding, Canadian Free Press (7/25/06)
from somewhere in the bush
    I've been laying low this past week. Vacationing in the warm embrace of family and familiar ground. Mostly hanging in a hammock in the breeze at this little cabin-in-the woods where I've grown - no satellite tv, no internet, no cell-phone, no mindless meetings. Just lots and lots of radio and reading and watching our children play right there by the lake where I played a longtime ago. Wondering what I'm going to tell them about this world we're handing over.
    I've been thinking about another vacationing Canadian family too. A family from Montreal. The el-Ahras family headed by Ali, a 36 year-old pharmacy owner and his wife Amira. A few weeks back they took their young family back to its ancestral home in Lebanon to meet their people. A dream trip for Ali and his parents Ahmed and Haniya who eagerly decided to go along. Lebanon can be so beautiful in the summer. The family was extremely proud of the four children - all growing up strong and free in Canada. There were 3 girls - Saja was 8, Zeinab was 6 and the Salam was one month shy of a year. Their son Ahmad was only 4 and looking forward to school. Imagine how excited the children must have been as the trip unfolded.
    The bombing started on the 12 of July. Israel's government was fed up with Lebanon's government - remember Hezbollah was elected by the Lebanese - for failing to return two Israeli soldiers captured in a cross-border raid. For 5 days the el-Akhrasa family huddled together terrified in the basement of Ali's uncle's home in Aitaroun- some 30 miles south of Beirut. On Sunday, July 16th the house collapsed and Ali el-Akhrasa's family - from Montreal, Quebec, Canada - was killed. All of them. His wife, his children, his mom and his uncle. 8 people killed. Ali hung on for a few days in hospital while the Israeli bombing continued. Then, with his heart shattered, he let out a horrible little sigh and died.
    Right now there are 600,000 people in Lebanon trying to escape the Israeli bombardment. All are on the run and desperate. 40,000 of them are Canadians. So far nearly 400 Lebanese and 40 Israeli's have been killed.
    I can see my 13-month old son playing in the sand. His 11-year-old big brother is playing with him - they're both laughing. Ali's children won't do that anymore. They were crushed by a house that was hit by a shell that was loaded by a young Israeli soldier who also has a mom, a dad, a family and an ancestral home.
    Canada's Prime Minister, Stephen "George W" Harper proudly stood up at the G-8 summit in St. Petersburg and, leaning heavily on a statement from the Bushwhacker camp, supported Israel's right to defend itself. He said this on the very day before the el-Akhrasa family lost 8 of its members. Imagine if 8 of your own family members were deemed to be so disposable. The world being shaped by this bogus coalition of bully states is taking shape. And it just sucks.
    Does anybody else feel like we're standing on the edge of a world war? Does anybody else feel like we've been here before? Does anybody feel like sitting the next election out? I hope not.
    Step up and mark your X on a ballot. It's the least you can do.

Mideast Vacation Video: quicktime / windowsmedia