Guest Commentary

Jack Granatstein

The Longest War

(Editor’s note:  Afghan war was Canada’s longest overseas combat mission, twelve years. Some 40,000 Canadians served. Casualties numbered 2,229. Yet 2016 research by the Department of National indicated just two years after the mission ended, 21 percent of Canadians surveyed were aware the military had withdrawn from Afghanistan. Only fifteen percent considered the mission “very successful”. Military historian Jack Granatstein in an October 4, 2011 interview with Blacklock’s publisher Holly Doan described Canada’s longest war. Following is a transcription of his remarks)

Of course 9/11 was a profound shock on the public psyche. Seeing those planes hit the towers, the huge ball of flames – those were I think the most powerful images I have ever seen. To see the great rolling wall of debris and dust moving through the streets of New York – it was simply extraordinary! The imagery is still powerful.

But in terms of everyday life? The war had no impact on 99.99 percent of Canadians. I do not see that there is a huge consciousness of 9/11 and its impact. I expect Canadian Muslims would have seen a sharp reaction against them.

There are more Muslims in Canada now than there were in 2001. There are more hijabs on the streets now than there were in 2001. I think there was a pretty benign response at the time, considering Canadian troops were fighting in Afghanistan, a Muslim country, killing and being killed by Muslims.

I don’t have the slightest doubt most Canadians did not support the war in Afghanistan enthusiastically. I also have no doubt they supported the troops. It was astonishing to me to see people waving flags by the Highway of Heroes. I can’t put my finger on what it was that made that happen.

It was as though Canadians decided they owed homage to the troops. That’s the appropriate word, I think, homage to those who fought and died for them. Many Canadians carried on without paying any attention to the Support Our Troops campaign, but what was significant was that a Support Our Troops campaign sprang up at all in Canada for the first time since 1945.

Canada is not a militaristic country. We have this tiny army. But soldiers, sailors and airmen when ordered must put their lives on the line, and most Canadians I think realize they’re doing it to serve our interests. They do their jobs, and their jobs are dangerous. For this un-militarized country, the reaction was startling.

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