Wednesday, April 26, 2006


Canadian Conservatives hide fallen soldiers

I don't know what the Canadian public could have been thinking when they put a Conservative government in power last January. Maybe it was the leakage of right-wing TV propaganda across the border from the U.S. Surely it couldn't have been that piss-ant-sized "Sponsorgate" scandal that the Liberal Party got itself into—I thought the Canadians had better sense!1 In any case they're getting what they paid for.

Beth Duff-Brown of the AP reports,

Canada's new Conservative government banned the media from showing live images of the flag-draped coffins of four Canadian soldiers when their bodies were returned Tuesday from Afghanistan, angering political opponents and some families.

The government also has stopped lowering flags to half-staff outside Parliament each time a Canadian soldier is killed, prompting Liberals to accuse Prime Minister Stephen Harper of trying to play down the growing human cost of the Canadian mission in Afghanistan.

Fifteen Canadians have been killed, including Cpl. Matthew Dinning, Bombardier Myles Mansell, Cpl. Randy Payne and Lt. William Turner, who were slain in a roadside bomb blast Saturday in southern Afghanistan in the deadliest attack against Canadian forces since they deployed to Afghanistan in 2002.

The media learned Monday that they would be barred from the evening ceremony, a decision that mirrors Bush administration policy blocking media coverage of the coffins of slain service members arriving in the United States.

Privacy—for the government

Like the Pentagon, Canadian Defense Minister Gordon O'Connor cited privacy concerns as a reason for the media ban.

"When the bodies return to Trenton, where the families receive the bodies for the first time and they come face to face with the reality that their loved ones are dead, this is for their private grief," O'Connor told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. on Tuesday. The four bodies are the first returned to Canada since the Conservative government took office.

"It is not about photo-ops and media coverage," Harper told the House of Commons, which engaged in a raucous debate. "It is about what is in the best interests of the families."

Of course what would be in the best interest of the families is that such a stunning loss be recognized by the nation. And some families are saying so—

The families of at least two soldiers said they were disturbed by the media blackout and the lack of lowered flags.

Dinning's uncle told the CBC the family believes the government is trying to cover up the growing casualties in Afghanistan and was disturbed they were not informed of the decision to cancel what had been a public ceremony for the returning war dead.

The CBC has been broadcasting live the repatriation ceremonies for each soldier killed in Afghanistan.

Richard Leger, father of Sgt. Marc Leger, who was killed in Afghanistan in 2002, told the CBC on Tuesday that the nationally televised return of his son's coffin helped his family to heal.

The first Canadian soldiers to die since the Korean War were killed by an American. What a fucking waste!
Sgt. Leger was one of four Canadian soldiers killed by a U.S. pilot who mistook their live-ammunition exercise for a hostile attack. The soldiers were the first Canadians to die in combat since the Korean War.

"I think Canadians need to see this, every Canadian. It says we care about these soldiers," Leger said, as tears rolled down his face.

Amen. So why the media blackout?

Canadians - the majority of whom applauded their government for declining to join the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq - are increasingly concerned about the human toll in Afghanistan.

The 2,300-strong Canadian force took over control of Kandahar from U.S. troops in February.


1Keith Jones of WSWS correctly observed,

The stench emanating from the Liberal government is strong, but working people should not allow the smell to overwhelm their critical faculties. Big business, through the corporate media, is seeking to manipulate this scandal to serve its own ends.

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