Afghanistan And Canadian Support
Suggestions met with approval from families.
Norma Greenaway, Canwest News Service Published: Wednesday, January 23, 2008
OTTAWA -- Maureen Eykelenboom takes umbrage at those who suggest the real reason she supports continuing the mission in Afghanistan is because she cannot bear to think her son Andrew died in vain when he was killed in a suicide bombing on Aug. 11, 2006.
Eykelenboom says her reasons for backing the mission go beyond the death of her son, and she is heartened to see that John Manley and his panel are on the same page as she is.
"I would not say because my son was killed, and other soldiers were killed, we need to stay," she said Tuesday from Victoria. "That isn't a reason for staying. We should stay because that's the right thing to do."
Eykelenboom said she agrees with the Manley report's blunt assessment that the status quo isn't working and it's time for NATO to get in there in a bigger way and do the job properly.
Eykelenboom's take was shared by some family members of other fallen soldiers. Several applauded the key recommendation that Canadian Forces stay in Afghanistan beyond February 2009, but only if they get new helicopters from the Canadian government and are joined by at least 1,000 soldiers from another NATO country by February 2009, the date the current mission expires.
They also gave a thumbs-up to the panel's conclusion the troops should continue to play a combat role as that role refocuses on training Afghan soldiers and police.
"John Manley gave one heck of a report," declared Ben Walsh, whose son Jeffrey was killed on Aug. 9, 2006, in a shooting incident for which a fellow Canadian soldier has since been charged.
"In effect, he said s--- or get off the pot," said Walsh of Regina. "He's right. Why double our death rate if other countries are not interested in helping out?"
Jane Byers, who lost her son David in a suicide bombing in 2006, said "NATO needs a kick in the ***," but the mission's future shouldn't be made contingent on NATO providing 1,000 new troops. "I'm hoping that we stay on or else my son died for nothing," she said in interview from Espanola, Ont.
Byers said she has no doubt about how her son would react to the report if he was still alive. "He'd be saying, 'Yes, let's stay.' " I know he'd be saying that," a sobbing Byers said over the telephone.
Tim Goddard says his daughter Nichola would say the same thing.
"She would be adamant that we have to stay until the job is done," he explained in an interview from Calgary.
Capt. Nichola Goddard was killed on May 17, 2006 -- the first female combat soldier to die on the front lines in Afghanistan and the first Canadian woman killed in action since the Second World War.
Goddard said he hopes Manley's report will help ensure an informed and vigourous debate among members of the public and parliamentarians before MPs are asked to vote on the future of the Afghan mission sometime this spring.
Jim Davis, whose son Paul died in an armoured car crash in 2006, said Canada cannot afford to cut and run in Afghanistan.
"If you want to sit at any negotiating table around the world, you have to walk the talk," he said from Bridgewater, N.S. "If we pull back, I don't see why the rest of the world should listen to what we have to say."
Davis also said his support for the Afghan mission has been longstanding -- and preceded his son's deployment there.
Like Eykelenboom, he says people are wrong to link his support for extending the mission to his son's death.
"I think about that," Davis said, "but I don't believe I would ever, ever think of putting another soldier's life in danger to justify my son's death."
© Times Colonist (Victoria) 2008