Thursday, 23 August 2007

"After the First Death There Is No Other:" Two More from Canada Dead in Afghanistan

In 1946 Dylan Thomas published an enigmatic poem, "A Refusal to Mourn the Death, by Fire, of Child in London." The poem was written after the German fire-bombing raids, and I have long puzzled over it. Did Thomas mean that repeated deaths remove the horror of individual deaths? Or that our outrage should begin with the first death and continue unabated thereafter?

Whatever Thomas's intentions, some time ago--toward the end of the Vietnam war--I decided that I must interpret the poem in the latter fashion. Two young soldiers from the Royal 22nd Regiment were killed Wednesday: that makes three in a week. With them went their Afghan interpreter: I have no idea how many Afghans have been killed this week. This is terrible news, and unfortunately just another bit in an escalating mountain of bad news about Afghanistan.

Unlike the case of the invasion of Iraq in 2003, there were good arguments for intervening in Afghanistan in 2001, and for a time it seemed that the multi-national force was making a difference. But things have gone very wrong. We obviously are not winning the hearts and minds of Afghans. A cynic would say that the major accomplishment has been to convince the Taliban to encourage opium poppy growing, even though they had one time had eliminated it.

This mission must be re-evaluated. We must support our troops by bringing them home. To do otherwise is truly outrageous.

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