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Martin Forgues August 9, 2012
No one can say you don’t have principles - you risked your life to defend them.
One can, however, ask why you invoke your military past to defend… exactly the opposite of what you, as a former soldier, should be resisting?
Why defend tooth and nail, with injunctions and opinion pieces, individualism and the digging of socio-economic trench lines?
Could it be that you, with your comrades in arms in the movement of “socially responsible” students (you are no longer among them but you were), have become cannon fodder for people who advocate the eradication of the public sphere and the hegemony of private interests?
“I went to Afghanistan so that children could go to school. And now I can’t go to school”, you said on any soapbox that would have you, from the very conservative Prince Arthur Herald to the radio wasteland of the Old Capital [Québec City], not forgetting the pundits on the pseudo-libertarian - but really crypto-conservative - network Réseau Liberté-Québec. This same network, just like Sun News which it promotes, tries to convince the middle class to blame their problems on those who are already recoiling from the vicious attacks of the ever more savage neocapitalist beast, the beast that those same pundits would like to unleash outright on a global scale.
Former corporal Proulx, tank driver on the dangerous roads in the south of Kandahar province, says he went to war so that the weakest in that society could hope for a better life. How can he then be a flag bearer for the promoters of social and economic Darwinism?
You openly admit to having fallen for the official discourse’s spin that would have us believe that nearly 160 Canadian soldiers fell on the battlefield of Kandahar not to stabilize a region torn by civil war, not to stop the advance of radical Islamists and their drug lord allies, not to consolidate or even to maintain our relations with the North Atlantic Alliance… but so that children could go to school.
That’s a noble naivety, idealism even, that can’t stand up to the facts. But that’s not what I find most disturbing.
When a publication like the Prince Arthur Herald - that nonetheless is entitled to its opinions - relays through social media a tweet from a blogger which lumps together “Laurent Proulx, hero of Afghanistan” and the “green squares” in a bizarre symbiosis of ideologies, the veteran that I am - though no braver than any other - can only express a profound unease.
It’s already insulting to hear talk-radio hosts, who admit to producing their shows while hung over, shamelessly remind listeners of your status as a veteran while they jabber away about the social crisis. But worse, it creates the grotesque and false impression that the green of the green squares is the green of the uniform.
It seems that not only did you fail to grasp the main issue of this war we fought so far away from home, but that you also seem to have forgotten the greatest lesson of military life, one that is learnt the first time boots are laced up, a long time before baptism by fire and even before that rite of passage for recruits when they feel the cold metal of their first assault rifle.
Alone, we are nothing. Adversity is overcome by teamwork.
Arguing for the recognition of an individual right over the wishes of your community - students - is the first denial of the army’s collectivist logic that kept you alive on the roads of Kandahar.
It baffles me that you have made yourself the public face of a fringe group of students that supports a vision of society that keeps people like those of Afghanistan in despair, crushed first by the barbarity of the Taliban and the merciless rule of theocracy and now by corruption and crony capitalism.
Heroism in war, the real kind, is not to fight for someone else’s cause nor is it to receive an honour as a member of a unit - collectively earned though you made it your own in public statements. It is to fight for your brother on the left and your brother on the right. That is what our predecessors did on the beaches of Normandy during a war that was much more easily justified than our own.
Laurent, stop invoking the Afghanistan war as your motivation for your current fight. I don’t believe that our brethren died or were wounded in body and spirit so that Afghans could pay to go to school. Don’t let others use your military past and stand up to the blowhards who insult it so often with mindless ideology. Question those governments who send thousands of men and women into harm’s way when winning the war was not even the objective of the mission.
And ask yourself if, given the decline of social solidarity and the rights of communities for the benefit of a destructive ideology with its illusory promise of individual freedom, there isn’t a real cause to fight for.
As for me, I prefer the freedom that we give ourselves collectively to that mirage of “individual” freedom, the one they make flash before my eyes while they use my back as a table for the meal they stole from us.
With respect. Adsum.
This open letter is from Martin Forgues, independent journalist and former Sergeant in the Canadian Forces (Bosnia 2002, Afghanistan 2007-2008).
Translated from the original French by Translating the printemps érable.
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