When Canada went to war in Afghanistan twelve years ago, self congratulation was in the air -- and journalism did not serve the country well. Jeffrey Simpson wrote in yesterday's Globe and Mail:
The early coverage was largely ahistorical, gung-ho, a big group hug for the Canadians – a travesty of journalism, really. What Canadians needed then was a clear-eyed analysis of the country and its history, an understanding of its regional antagonisms, an appreciation of the daunting, even impossible task Canada and its government – to say nothing of the entire North Atlantic Treaty Organization – had signed up for in that forbidding, post-medieval place.
The Chretien government began the mission. But it was the Harper government which used it to rebrand Canada as a warrior nation. Moreover, the mission allowed the asthmatic Stephen Harper to play Douglas MacArthur. And, when the truth contradicted MacArthur, it was the truth which surrendered.
The Globe's Graeme Smith revealed the Afghan prisoner whitewash:
Canada’s government lied about many aspects of the detainee affair, insisting that Ottawa didn’t know what was happening or that Afghan authorities were examining all allegations of misconduct – despite memos from Canadian officials on the ground saying that wasn’t so.
In his book, The Dog's Are Eating Them Now, Smith recounts the story of the Canadian mission to Afghanistan. Simpson writes:
How the West, including Canadians, unintentionally made things worse is a textbook case of cross-cultural misunderstanding and hubris. The West will tell itself heroic stories, then forget about Afghanistan.
Our soldiers did what they were asked to do. They made the swamp bigger. But the people who put them there have not been held to account.