Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Human Conquest

One never quite thinks of humanity in terms of military personnel. They are trained and taught to battle. To recognize their enemy and to make every effort to destroy that enemy's intention to win the conflict they are both engaged in. That may once have represented reality, but it no longer quite does at all times in all instances. For one thing, military combatants from enlightened, First World countries are generally people who have received a substantial education before enlisting.

As enlisted men and women their education is further advanced by exposure to a degree deemed appropriate to history, culture and what led up to the conflict they are dispatched to far from their own geographies. These are no longer wars of yore, when two adjoining countries met in battle to determine which of them would attain possession of contested land. Or where one ideological, political or tribal group would defeat the other, leaving one in thrall to the other.

These are interventions by democratic nations of the world, mostly under the auspices if not the direction, of the United Nations. The purpose being to offer protection to civilians, while attending the main objective, to ensure that combative oppressors be constrained in their violent bids for a military campaign of supremacy. In the process of which, civilian life is fraught with real danger. All the more so when the situation realizes the opposition of different cultures, ethnicities, religions.

So when, in Afghanistan, a Canadian officer was informed by their men that young rural Afghan boys were busy nearby their own stations, digging up unexploded ordnance, rusting mortars, bullets and bombs left over from the Red Army assault and occupation of Afghanistan, to offer them for sale to the Taliban insurgents, he merely shrugged and commented that "They have to make a living somehow".

Canada's presence in Afghanistan began as an invasion, a conflict, a mission to destroy the governance of the Taliban over the Afghan population. This was, of course, secondary to the primary purpose of removing the Taliban because of their solidarity with al-Qaeda, their refusal to hand over Osama bin Laden and his militias to the Americans whose intention was to bring him to justice for the atrocities of 9/11.

Having initially ousted the Taliban, the operation became one of temporary occupation, to install a civilian government of Afghan patriots (which didn't work out quite as anticipated since the government of Hamid Karzai brought war lords into the new Parliament, with blood on their hands, and riches from growing and selling opiates, and general corruption reigned supreme) and begin to help the country organize a governing infrastructure destroyed by decades of war.

Years of battling a spring-resurgent insurgency, IED deaths, building of schools and medical clinics gave way to a final withdrawal of foreign troops now in the near offing. As Canadian troops are finally withdrawn, a small number remain for the purpose of training the Afghan national police and the military. And those who work with Afghans to transfer technical knowledge and techniques see their counterparts in purely human terms.

Those who are adept because they have had the experience of receiving an education, are numerate and literate and readily adaptable. And those of an earlier generation incapable of reading or writing, and who are yet of a practical mindset, slower to learn, but willing enough. And those who formerly were teachers and even under the Taliban urged those whom they taught to think for themselves. Their despair at the large numbers of untaught Afghans whose experiences have dulled their brains and their initiative.

The quiet appreciation and slow but sincere companionship to be realized as communication takes place between human beings, not necessarily Canadians and Afghans, but people who speak of and compare the differences between their backgrounds, their culture, their social circumstances and their personal lives. A stone-age society under religious constraints as compared to a modern, 21st-Century, technically-advanced democracy.

The process which brought one foreign country's troops to another country's geography results on occasion with the bridging of gaps in our common humanity.

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