"That was one of my first choices, just to fire the big guns and see (stuff) blow up," said the grinning Small, whose thick Newfoundland accent confirms his origins in Main Brook, N.L., a tiny community of 350 on the island's northeastern tip.
"It was pretty cool, so I said, 'Oh yeah, let's do that.' It's a big rush to fire the big guns. That's why I like it."
(Canadian soldier, 19 year-old Mitcheal Small quoted in a Canadian Press release and appearing in Yahoo! Canada News on April 29th, 2007)
A lot of cars in the USA have a sticker attached in the rear that's in the form of a yellow ribbon with "Support the Troops" as its text. That sentiment is also expressed here in Canada as a nod to the "brave boys" fighting over there "to make the world a better place for the people of Afghanistan." As is usually the case, especially in time of war, the soldiering career is held up as a noble and brave profession, and its practitioners as the best of the best of citizens, to whom we all owe a great debt.
In the case of Mitcheal Small--quoted above--I'm not so sure that such accolades are in order. If he was speaking seriously, he was telling us that he chose to enlist and go to Afghanistan because it would give him an opportunity to wreak massive destruction, to "see (stuff) blow up." I would be interested in knowing which kind of soldier--the brave and noble citizen or the young man with a fetish for big guns and explosions--predominates in the Canadian military. My experience is limited in this area, but one young man who went from a high school in which I was teaching to the Canadian Armed Forces came back to the staff room full of the piss and vinegar of Mitcheal Small.
I don't support our troops, but I would support any effort to get them out of Afghanistan for retraining. It's not right that our young men and women should be rewarded for nurturing a "patience, hell . . . I'm gonna kill something!" attitude toward the world. I like a good explosion as much as the next guy, but I'm restrained from giving it rein. War removes the restraints and says that the love of the big guns and the havoc that can be created through their use is a good thing. I wonder if Small has already discovered that while he's blowing up "stuff," he may well be scattering the entrails of Taliban and civilians alike across the Afghan wasteland.
I believe that the NATO effort in Afghanistan is futile. Forces like the Taliban may well be suppressed for a time, but if our troops come home in, say, five years, they will most certainly creep out of the woodwork to continue where they left off. What I resent is the corollary to "support our troops," which says that expressing a negative opinion about our soldiers efforts in Afghanistan undermines their effort there and gives aid and comfort to the enemy. I'm being unpatriotic to boot, I'm told.
I can live with that. But let's stop kidding ourselves about the nobility of our cause in Afghanistan. We're sending boys and girls over there who know little about the culture and its history, and who are in the armed forces for a variety of reasons, including the opportunity--apparently--to blow stuff up.
Meanwhile, all the stuff Small and his colleagues have blown up, will have to be rebuilt.