In the graveyard of empires

Musings on Kipling, war and the futility of Afghanistan

I don’t know Mr. Graham Goodwin, but reading his heartfelt letter (The News, Jan. 20), it appears we may be kindred spirits; certainly like-minded on the futility of invasions in Afghanistan.

Indeed, that country became a graveyard to imperial ambitions for the armies of Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, Great Britain and the Soviet Union, among others.

On the very day Mr. Goodwin’s letter was printed, four French soldiers of NATO Forces were assassinated and 16 injured by an Afghan soldier under their training — a stark reminder that Canada still retains a training force of about 1,000 military personnel, after pulling out of combat duty in Kandahar last year.

Mr. Goodwin mentioned that the reference to Rudyard Kipling in my previous week’s letter had inspired him and stated  he “wrote to Harper and Lunney telling them to get out of Afghanistan. Instead, they extended it for another two years. More blood on their hands.” He was not alone in writing to Ottawa at that time. In March of 2008 I e-mailed MP Lunney, asking him to read a poem I attached  —  “IF…” by Rudyard Kipling  —   before voting that evening to determine the withdrawal date from Afghanistan.

Having no acknowledgment from his office, I will never know if he received or read the Kipling classic which begins: “If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs…”

The poem ends with “And — which is more — you’ll be a Man, my son!”

Kipling’s poem was written as a lesson in life” for his son Jack, who was killed in the First World War. The great poet and author never really recovered. Mr. Goodwin’s letter expressed similar sentiments about his friend’s mother never recovering after her son was killed.

When will they learn, indeed?

Bernie Smith





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