S. Brian Wilson had only been in Vietnam for six weeks when he was ordered inland to examine targets hit by his own US Air Force. His life was never the same after he witnessed the results of strikes on four villages. Eight hundred bodies lay smoldering or dead, most were women and children, and he struggled to keep from vomiting while some of these poor rural innocents continued to burn. They would be recorded as Viet Cong enemy and proof that they were VC was that they were at the receiving end of American weapons.
I was on the other side of the world at that time, totally absorbed in myself and my studies. I vividly recall the carpet bombing of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia brought to us on the evening news. I don’t remember much of what I thought about the carpet bombing. Could I have believed in my ignorance and simplicity that good guys were fighting bad guys?
About 1979 two young boys were playing in the Curragh in County Kildare at a site used for military training, when a bomb exploded. They arrived at Temple Street Children’s Hospital in Dublin. I remember seeing one of the boy’s groins stripped bare of skin, tendons and vessels exposed bright and shining.
The young pediatric registrar who was my superior, cried unconsolably that afternoon when the boys were pronounced dead. Their deaths in fact were not directly related to “The Troubles” which had raged north of the border in Northern Ireland since ‘69. By 1980 Ireland was awash in physicians and so with my wife and young family, we made a break for Canada, not sorry to leave behind the seemingly unending radio reports of car bombings and sectarian murders.
It was then I read accounts of the American war in Vietnam including Chickenhawk, authored by a helicopter pilot who described being close to suicide on return to the USA, while he tried to cope with the unspeakable acts he had witnessed. It seemed to me that the good guys were not easy to distinguish after all. But clarity approached on reading the life of Gandhi and learning the central importance of truth and non-violence.
This year for two weeks I found it possible to live on water alone in an effort along with other peace and justice advocates, to raise public awareness about the Canadian government’s plan to spend $77 billion on the lifecycle cost of 88 new warplanes. My hunger was suppressed during the fast knowing that nearly quarter of a million people in Yemen have been murdered, whereas I would return to work and good food.
My wonderful Canada, no longer a good guy, supplies weapons to Saudi Arabia, one of the main belligerents in the war on one of the poorest countries in the world.
Opposition is growing to our government’s plan to award a contract next year to a weapons dealer for the 88 bomber jets. These are not designed to defend Canada but rather to join in more US and NATO wars of aggression and domination.
Could Canada bring forth MPs who could envision trade with the US by means other than through craven abandonment of all integrity and decency. To retain our biggest and neighbouring trading partner, it is not necessary to continue in a predatory and shameful military alliance.
But to date the journey to Ottawa for MPs seems impossible without a set of blinkers in this regard, for all but a few. They do not carry all the blame, for to some extent, we ourselves groom them.
Isn’t it possible to send some MPs to Ottawa who place principles above the goal of retaining or acquiring power for their political party? Jody Wilson Raybould affirmed it is possible.
This July newspapers carried the story that more than a hundred prominent Canadians had signed an open letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau urging him to scrap the plan to purchase ‘useless’ fighter jets and instead use the tens of billions of dollars improving Canadian lives. That can be done through wholehearted climate action, providing safe water sources to First Nations and economic development, education and good health-care for all Canadians.
It cannot be done while partnering with the US in massacring villagers with new warplanes.
Some Canadians will care. Be one of them by telling others and by grooming your MP to care.
Dr. Brendan Martin, Langley
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