When Justin Trudeau brought Canada's CF-18's back from Iraq, Canadians might have thought that our armed forces personnel were out of harm's way. But, Tom Walkom writes:
On Thursday, a senior general acknowledged that, over the last few months, Canadian special forces operating in northern Iraq have become increasingly involved in front-line skirmishes against Daesh fighters.“The mission has changed,” said Brig.-Gen. Peter Dawe. “We are more engaged on the line … the risk has increased.”
The truth, whether the government wants to admit it or not, is that Canada's soldiers are in harm's way:
Both the current Liberal government and the Conservative one it replaced have gone to great lengths to assure Canadians that Iraq is not another Afghanistan. So these semantic debates over the definition of word “combat” have taken on great political meaning.The Conservatives used to say shooting in self-defence was not real combat.Under the Liberals, the military brass is engaging in similar linguistic contortions to avoid the dreaded word.According to one, Canadian troops have to be the “principal combatants” to engage in combat.According to another, combat only occurs once soldiers have crossed an imaginary line on the battlefield.
In Iraq, it's always been hard to distinguish the difference between enemy and ally:
But in the real world of war, the differences become blurred — particularly when the battle lines are fluid.Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish forces don’t trust one another. Moreover, as the Financial Times reported last week, the fissures that have always existed within these three major groups are beginning to widen.It’s not that long ago that rival Kurdish parties in northern Iraq were involved in a murderous shooting war with one another.
So let's stop fogging things up with semantic distinctions. Canada is at war. Our troops are in the middle of it. In war, soldiers and sailors get killed.
Image: Michelle Clelland Toronto Star