Right now, just hours after someone detonated an improvised explosive device and killed four Canadian soldiers and one Canadian journalist in Afghanistan, I’m reflecting on words Canada’s defense minister spoke back in March. Reacting to the pseudo-apology of a Fox News host who’d belittled Canada’s military, Defense Minister Peter MacKay said the vast majority of Americans “have nothing but respect and admiration for the Canadian forces and their families.” But do we? Or are we more like comedian Doug Benson, a guest on the same insulting Fox broadcast, who laughed and said, “I didn’t even know that they were in the war.”
A Google search just now failed to turn up any polling data that would disabuse me of my fear that most Americans are as oblivious as Doug Benson when it comes to the 138 Canadian soldiers who have died in Afghanistan. According to icasualties.org, only the U.S. and the United Kingdom have lost more soldiers there. I didn’t know that. Nor did I know what icasualties.org spells out: that 11 Australians, one Belgian, three Czechs, 30 Danes, seven Estonians, one Finn, 36 French, 34 Germans, two Hungarians, 22 Italians, three Latvians, one Lithuanian, 21 Dutch, four Norwegians, 16 Poles, two Portuguese, 11 Romanians, one South Korean, 26 Spaniards, two Swedes, and two Turks have died while deployed in Afghanistan.
Keep those body counts and nationalities in mind if you choose to read a December 23 post called “If America Wasn’t There Everyone Would Die.” It’s by Greg Gutfeld, the same Fox host who told Canada back in March that it was “not my intent to disrespect the brave men, women and families of the Canadian military, and for that I apologize.”
Nobody detonated an IED today and killed Greg Gutfeld. Or Doug Benson. Or me, for that matter. So let’s get back to talking about Canada.
As it happens, Vancouver Sun columnist Vaughn Palmer was on the radio here in Seattle today. This was before news of the IED that killed four Canadian soldiers and 34-year-old Calgary Herald reporter Michelle Lang. Palmer said this on KUOW this morning:
The great moment at the beginning of the decade was the outpouring of genuine feeling in Canada following the 9/11 attacks — an enormous crowd gathering outside Canada’s parliament buildings to express support and genuine affection for the United States. … In terms of Canadian history, Canada had gone 50 years without being involved in a serious war as a combatant. You have to go back to the Korean War to find Canadian troops fighting overseas … And Canada just went straight into the war in Afghanistan, and then initially just sent a few hundred troops under American command, and started sending our own troops under our own commanders over, and then took on the very difficult job of being the partner in the war in the southern part of the country where things were pretty dangerous.
It was in that “pretty dangerous” part of Afghanistan that the journalist and the four soldiers died today. All of us, me included, would do well to notice and appreciate the sacrifices of our allies up north. Let’s get it through our heads that those of us who will never wear America’s uniform and will never set foot in Iraq or Afghanistan are not somehow honorary members of the U.S. military who get to strut around boasting about how much more mighty “we” are than those 138 dead wimps up in Canada.