Second Thots

Sometimes one has to step back, take pause, and have some "second thots"

Sunday, September 24, 2006


Milking the deaths of Canadian soldiers

Four Canadian soldiers were killed by a suicide bomber in Afghanistan on Monday, September 18. Nearly seven days later, it's still front page news. There is something wrong with this picture.

We are constantly being told of the bloody toll this mission has taken on our soldiers in Afghanistan. Yet I can't help but think that this perception is in part the result of over-the-top media coverage of every single casualty inflicted upon Canadian forces in battle. And, yes, this is battle we're talking about here. As unfortunate and heartbreaking as it is for most Canadians, there will be casualties.

This is not to minimize the significance of these deaths. The purpose here is balance, context, and perspective.

29 Canadian soldiers have died since undertaking the current mission in the violent region of Kandahar. The mission started eight months ago back in February. That's about a rate of between three and four soldiers killed per month.

I bet that if you asked Canadians how many of our soldiers are dying a month, they'd give you a much higher figure. Why? Because based on the coverage we're getting of each and every death, the casualty rate sure seems a lot higher than what it actually is, doesn't it?

When the soldiers die, it's front page news. The next day, their personal stories are front page news. After that, the ramp ceremony with the coffins in Afghanistan is front page news. The trip of the coffins coming to Canada is then front page news. Then, when the bodies are repatriated in Canada, it's front page news. Next, we get front page news of the various private memorials and funerals staged for the individual solders that have fallen. And, in between, we get all kinds of depictions of never-ending death and debates about the purpose of the mission.

Think about Iraq for a second. America is reaching 2,700 GI deaths in that conflict over a span of about 3 and a half years. That's about 65 deaths per month. Can you imagine the American media giving the deaths of their fallen the kind of coverage we've given ours? That's all they'd be covering 24/7 on all the cable news networks. There would be no time for anything else. And let's not even get into the casualty rates of wars Canada has participated in that far exceed that of Iraq. Did we spend days and days covering each of the deaths of soldiers in those conflicts? Of course not.

Should the deaths of Canadians soldiers be covered? Absolutely. We owe an immense gratitude for the sacrifice of each and every one of them, and we should mourn them in our own way. Should these casualties be milked to death by the media like they have been? I don't think so. It so skews the events of the war that it undermines the serious efforts being undertaken in Afghanistan. Let's cover the war as it should be covered, not as though it's a media spectacle to be capitalized upon for all it's worth.

I agree, considering there were 630 homicides in Canada last year.


To me, this is largely due to the misconception driven by the media, and portrayed by the previous governments that we don't have "soldiers" we have "peacekeepers", and "peacekeepers" don't die. Which, of course, is incorrect. Some Canadians still don't realise this because the deaths of our soldiers on previous missions was not widely publicised. In addition, the dangers of our previous missions was not made known to Canadians via the media or the previous governments.

I believe there is a population of Canadians who truly believe that these are the first casualties we've suffered since Korea.

This leaves that portion of Canadians without the proper context with which to measure the human cost of our foreign policies.


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