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Lest we remember

The Conservatives have stopped the Liberal tradition of honouring the deaths of Canadian soldiers overseas by flying flags at half-staff only on DND buildings. Gordon O'Connor, Minister of Defense announced that we've "returned to the 80-year tradition of remembering all casualties of war or operations on one day -- Nov. 11", which I was surprised to learn we weren't doing already. What the hell was I doing every year up to now? Or was he saying that we are returning to limiting the tributes of our military dead to Nov. 11?

As other bloggers have noted, this change in policy comes at a time when Canadians have been warned to expect greater losses in Afghanistan, and therefore is noteworthy. Does this mean we are hiding the costs of this foreign engagement at an important time, or are we simply making consistent rules, as the Conservatives suggest? Personally, I don't think that it is a real big deal, it's not like the Conservatives have ordered the media to not cover military funerals or to cease publishing pictures of coffins like the Americans have. But it is interesting.

We have a few members of the armed forces past and present that comment regularly here, and one that posts. What do you guys think of this?

I feel for fallen soldiers as much as the next guy, but lowering the Parliament flag for overseas deaths is a problem for two reasons.

1. In a serious war the flag will never fly high. Imagine WW2, it would have been at half mast for 5 years straight. Not exactly the best way to stir the hopes and passions of a nation during war time. Constant reminders of death and sacrifice are not the way to build morale at times of war...

2. Being in the military is a dangerous career, whether you are serving overseas or at home. Why are the deaths of those overseas worth recognizing, but not those who were to die in say, a helicopter crash in Nova Scotia?

I'm torn on this issue... I can see reasons the Liberals started lowering it, and agree with them... BUT, I also see why the Conservatives would want the older tradition to be carried on, and agree with them...

I do think that the flag on Parliament should be at FULL mast as much as possible, and only lowered for the most serious of reasons. That flag represents the state of the entire nation.

I'm glad that DND flags are lowered for any military deaths.

It's funny how no one ever talks about the world wars being the wars to end all wars, or the end of the cold war bringing in an era of peace - did I miss something? Are we now assuming war is inevitable and lets get on with it? Why would we assume our flags will be at half mast all the time unless we have decided to be a nation inovolved in warfare not peacekeeping?

Personally I think the conservatives are bordering on war-mongering but don't want to pay the political price - moving us towards 'death as usual'. But since all they can talk about is their pathetic five priorities, I guess we won't know what they are thinking.

A good decision by the Conservative government to return to the long standing tradition of flying the flag at half mast for deaths of VIP's. I am a Soldier and am not offended by the reversal of the previous governments policy on this, they were the ones who broke tradition. Its ironoc to hear the Liberals whine about the Conservatives decision as if they care about members of our Armed Forces, having been in for 20+ years it has been the Liberals who neglected, ignored and let rust out our Armed Forces. Their apparent concern for the welfare of soldiers and honouriing the fallen is shocking considering th edid NOTHING like this for us in the past. Medak was even acknowleged as having happened until 2000 something.

As for post # 2 by Susan I think you have missed something its called "REALITY". Wake up and smell the coffee Susan and drop the "peacekeeping" BS, it never worked and the nails went in its coffin in the Balkans. Better do some reading on our current deployment in Afghanistan which was NEVER A PEACEKEEPING MISSION FROM DAY ONE, the first Canadians were engaged in combat opearations only and since then we have diversified our approach into the "3 Block War" approach but unfortunately the Taliban don't like this. Susan and those that share similiar viewpoints better snap out of their Utopian fantasy world because unfortunately things are not very nice out there in other parts of the world and we Canadians have the responsibility to assist and unfortunately it will be dangerous work (also better do some reading here on the history of Canada in conflicts of the 20th centuary).

Thank you all for your comments. I did a stint a number of years ago in the reserves and have a brother and friends currently in the reg force, so military issues are close to me. The fact that the Liberals lowered the flags likely has to do with the fact, as a couple of you have hinted we have not had many military dead and in various periods of our history the flag would be down every day - and as Pete says, this would not be good for morale in important times. Also, I think that the Liberal government (and the Tories before them) cut funding and direct support to the military so drastically that token visual hints of support were offered in the place of cold, hard cash. That's just political cynicism.

Derek - what is Medak?

Unfortunately, Susan, I think Derek is right about the continuation of war, I don't know what has to happen to make the world a peaceful place; the best hope I can see is to minimize it as best possible. Of course, with people like Derek that can't make a simple point to a complete stranger without sounding like a total asshole, war is but an inevitable extension, no?

I have only been into this blogging thing for a few months, and only reading them a couple of months longer, but my experience has been that the right wing blog communities are populated by blowhard jerks that can't say anything in a civil manner. I'm not sure what it is that makes them so angry, maybe latent adolescent self-hatred or something, but it leaks over into this little blog from time to time. Susan, you should see the comments from my post a couple of months ago on Rachel Corrie - there are some real idiots out there.

For the record, I want more people from all political stripes posting here, that's why I have kept it totally open - I don't moderate the posts and haven't yet deleted anything aside from duplicates. However, I'd really like it if we can keep it civil, as if you were talking to a friend with whom you disagree. (If you find yourself saying "I don't have friends that are that stupid", then don't post here; I won't miss you.)

"In a serious war the flag will never fly high. Imagine WW2, it would have been at half mast for 5 years straight."

Repeat ofter me, this is not WWII. If the casualty rate in Afghanistan ever returns to WWII levels, we will have much bigger problems than flying flags.

Now are the Cons refusing to continue with what the Liberals started because they suspect it will get worse and don't wnat a public symbol or is it simply because the its something the Liberals did and they simply hate the Liberasl and anything they did that much?

It still smacks of politics to me.

Derek, Pete, why is our Conservative government freezing the military spending oked under that last Liberal government - for new equipment, helicopters and the heavy lift aircraft? Do you think it might have something o do with tweaking the bid to be more favoura ble to one of Gordon O'Connor's old friends from his days as a defence industry lobbyist?

Sorry but I don't see the Conservatives being any more military friendly than the Liberals.

And lowering the flags on the Peace Tower to half mast is something we should do to honour our soldiers and remind us of the high cost we must pay to make the world a better place.

Well I was a little harsh in my reply to Susan's post but attitudes and beliefs like hers are not based on the realities of what is going on in troubled parts of our world. The internet/blogsphere only helps perpetuate these Utopian fantasies about how to achieve world peace rather then help foster realistic debate on what needs to be done.

Susan's comments inferring Canada's international role for our Armed Forces is "peacekeeping" is another MYTH that has also been perpetuated by the "left" and has lttle basis is actual historical fact. Very few UN "Peacekeeping" missions have been successfull in stopping fighting, genocide, famine, etc. In fact most missions have been dissmal failures (ie) Congo, Rwanda, Bosnia or a great waste of time and money (ie) Cyprus. Even the first great "peacekeeping" success (Suez Crisis 1956) was due more to the USA threatening to dump all its British Pounds in its reserves which would have devestated Britains economy and made them back off. Like it or not Canada has been a formidable country on the battlefield since Confederation and this is where our military has earned its reputation as being fierce fighting force that the enemy feared.

Getting back to the flag issue I still believe we need to return to the tradition that worked for us for years even through terrible wars and lets get away from politicizing and "overanalyzing" every (unfortunate) death of a Soldier. We know the risks and November 11th is the day for all to pause and pay respect.

Ooops I forgot to explain what Medak is, here is a fiarly good story about it or simply google "Medak":


I guess you've all heard by now that the media will not be allowed at the base when the fallen soldiers return to Canada - so, a la Bush no photos. I wonder how the families feel about this - maybe they would like other Canadians to share the moment with them - if only through the media. One thing for sure GHarper won't be asking Canadians what we think.


I came down kind of hard there myself - sorry. I want to make sure that everyone here feels comfortable that everyone that wants to post here feels free to do so.

I think that you are over-analyzing Susan's statement a little bit. I read from her post a reflection of the upset that many people have thought since the end of the Cold War, I'm sure. If she pops back in maybe she can clear that up. I remember the "era of peace" stuff from 1989, too, and it hasn't metastacized except as a concentration on profit by western governments.

The theory behind peacekeeping looks valid, however you're absolutely right, it has proven less good in practice. To me, it seems like it should work when the problem requires only cooling off time to resolve. However, I've not known political problems seemingly worth going to war over to be so ephemeral.

Thanks for the Medak link - I'll settle down for some reading this evening.

No media at the base? Ooh, this is starting to look a bit Bushian!

The media and Government sure played up the end of the Cold War as heralding in a new era of peace-right... when has there ever not been some type of conflict in human history. The last centuary was certainly no exception even during its last decade some of the worst conflicts and totalitarian, murderous regimes existed (ie) The Balkans war and the good old Butcher of Baghdad Saddam Hussein. The 21st centuary seems to be off on a good violent start. Peacekeeping never worked (Chapter 6 operations) as the inherent flaw is you cannot step between two forces with blue helmets on and hope to stop fighting by just being there or saying stop. Sounds ridiculous to state this but this is what some people think works and what we should be doing in Afghanistan, just read some of the vocal opponents comments to our role in Afghanistan and you will see they subscribe to the niave "Peacekeeper" theory.

Gone are the days of what some call "traditional peacekeeping" to end conflicts, to be more exact gone are UN Chapter 6 peacekeeping missions and even the latest UN mission in the Congo is under Chapter 7 which authorizes liberal rules of engagement (some might say this is almost authorization for warfighting). So again the facts are "traditional peacekeeping" has failed the people it was meant to help and caused us casualties. Personally I believe our current philosophy and the way we are employing our troops in Afghanistan is a more realistic, flexible and hopefully effective way of doing business. This approach is the "3 Block War" which is geared to operations within failed or failing Nation states whereas we may be doing 3 types of operations literally within a 3 block radius. The 3 elements of the 3 block war are: 1/Combat operations, 2/Stability & counterinsurgency operations and 3/Humanitarian aid and reconstruction. Can't do #3 very well without having achieved defeating the aggressor/enemy (#1) and achieving stability (#2). This is what is occurring in Afghanistan and unfortunately the Taliban are the reason we are involved in ongoing combat and counterinsurgency ops there, can barely do any aid or reconstruction work with them going around burning and blowing things up and murdering people. When will they be stopped, I don't think anyone can know for sure but if we back off from aggressively hunting down and killing the Taliban then we'll never be doing #3 all that much. It is the apparent lack of knowledge and unwillingness to accept these facts by some that causes such sharp reactions by others and actually threatens the success of the mission in Afghanistan if these "uneducated" viewpoints sway political will and/or encourage further attacks on our troops by the Taliban who perceive weakness in the Canadian public and will work to exploit it.

Lastly as far as no media present at CFB Trenton we really don't what the reason is other then what the media is reporting. The GWB references are a bit over the top. As far as we know the families of the deceased requested this or the deceased units did. Too be quite honest do the media really need to be there prying into every moment in what is a terrible tradgedy for the families. We know the stories and I'm sure there will be coverage allowed near or at any formal funerals or services for the 4 men, we do not need a media circus there.

Thanks for that, Derek. I have two questions, one about UN Missions and one Afghanistan. First, the UN. You mention Chapter 6 and 7 missions - is this document available on the UN website, and if so, what do I search for to get it?

Now Afghanistan - in the reading that I've done on the subject, it appears to me that the Taliban is largely a product of the jihadist maddrassas on the Pakistan-Afghan border, supported directly, though quietly by the Pakistani government for many years. Does this support continue and if so, what, in your opinion is the chance of long-term success for the NATO mission if Pakistan is not dealt with?

When did Canada declare war?
Did this just happen?
Are we waiting until PMSH is good and ready for us to know?
Another blog (soz, can't remember right now) poster said that if Canada were at war, then the flags would be at half mast for the duration.
What is going on with our dead and our flags?
Will there be a broadcast from the Palace on the Hill anytime soon?
Or would I be a fool if I just started investing in war goods now?

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