Refusing to acknowledge the costs of war

A week-long series in the Toronto Star reveals some of the true cost of Canada’s war in Afghanistan.

Friday’s article (Bruce Campion-Smith & Allan Woods, “Tories’ secret Afghan casualty list reveals intensity of combat,” Toronto Star, 5 November 2010) describes how the Conservative government and the Department of National Defence have refused to talk about the injuries of Canadian troops. The article also suggests that members of the military and the government have at times misled Canadians about their assessment of the situation in Afghanistan.

The policy of releasing the number of injured soldiers only once a year — on Dec. 31 — has obscured the intensity of fight facing Canadian soldiers, as well as the nature of the sometimes life-altering injuries. It has also given Canadians back home a mental buffer against the numbing realities of war — soldiers who fight hard also get hurt.

The article cites previously secret military documents to describe some of the many injuries in 2009.

The policy of withholding information about Canada’s injured soldiers is of concern because it hides the true face of the war.  More than 450 Canadian soldiers were injured in Afghanistan in 2009. These soldiers often face long recoveries, and sometimes mental health issues.

Some soldiers complain that hiding the wounded prevents them from being recognized and celebrated for their physical sacrifices on behalf of Canada. In hospitals across the country, they are suffering and recovering alone and in silence, something that can contribute to their frustration, breed resentment and lead to mental health problems.

US Defence Department photo

Tags: Afghanistan, Defence policy, Wounded