Canwest News Service ran an article on July 2 titled “Beer,doughnuts help troops celebrate Canada Day.” The story wenton to tell about Canadian troops in Afghanistan having a specialBBQ and two beers apiece to celebrate our national holiday.

It brought back memories. Just over 40 years before, in thesummer of ’66, I was a young Marine in a forward position in asand pile just north of Tam Ky in South Vietnam on a combatoperation named Kansas.

It was hot, very hot, and what wehad to drink was river water. We got the water by driving abig water trailer into the river with its top open and let it fillup. We poured in some foul-tasting chemicals to kill the bugsand then it sat in the sun. Tasty stuff when you are thirsty — lukewarm toxic waste.

The high point of the operation came one day when helicoptersarrived with an ammo resupply and enough cases of ice coldCoca-Cola for two cans per man each. I have had some greatdrinks in my time, but those two cans of Coke in thatsweltering heat hit the spot more than any other, even if theyweren’t beer. And there weren’t any Tim Horton’s doughnutseither.

Things have changed between now and then: corporatefranchises in the combat zone, cell phones and on-line chattingwith the folks at home and other amenities of the new century.Forty years ago contact with home was via the postal serviceand letters took a week or more each way. Doughnuts camefrom the mess hall on the rare occasion that they made them.

One thing remains the same, however; a bad war is a bad warno matter what century it is in. Of course, there is no suchthing as a good war except for those who have fecal matterwhere their brain should be or for sociopaths who belonglocked away somewhere out of harm’s way. There are onlywars that you cannot avoid and those that you can. Most areones that you can, either because you started them or pushedsomeone else into starting them for you.

Afghanistan, likemost of the wars of the last 50 years, is one that could andshould have been avoided. All of the beer and doughnuts inCanada won’t change that or make up for the lives that arebeing wasted there in a needless and foolish endeavour.

The same article that told of the beer and doughnuts alsomentioned that our base in Kandahar has been rocketed 21 times.The last time one of our soldiers was severely wounded. And,in the past week offensive operations by our forces haveclaimed the life of one young trooper and have seen severalothers wounded. From all appearances it looks like things willbe getting worse before or if they ever get better.

The youngman who was killed was certainly no fan of the occupationaccording to a number of news stories. His girlfriend’s family reports thathe was disillusioned with the mission and wanted to leave. TheMinister of Defence, of course, reports that morale among thetroops is “fantastic.” What else would you expect him to say,true or not?

As the war drags on one can expect that there willbe more disillusionment as reality sets in, although thegovernment no doubt will continue to tell us how great thingsare. The light, after all, is always just at the end of the tunnel.

Although the government may never tell us anything but goodnews from Afghanistan, it appears that they are gettingprepared for troubles in the ranks. A report on CBC last monthdetailed how medical staff at Forces trauma centres areobjecting to a new policy that requires a personality test forsoldiers seeking aid for stress-related injuries. Such tests, it isclaimed by some professionals, will scare people away fromseeking help because of the stigma that might attach.

Stress-related disability pensions, it also reported, are at an all timehigh, about five times greater than five years ago. One benefitto the government in scaring people away would be to reducerising costs.

Things are not so rosy with the allies, either. Afghanistan’sPresident Hamid Karzai has criticized the major military offensives ofthe U.S.-led coalition, saying that they are killing too manyAfghans and that they do not address the root problems of hiscountry.

In addition, a number of articles in the press indicatethat the Taliban are gaining strength in the country again, andone British general has said that more troops are needed. Onewonders how many? Vietnam started out with a few advisorsand eventually expanded to half a million before the generalsand politicians came to their senses.

The Paris-based Senlis Council, a think tank which focuses onglobal drug policy and has about 40 people in Afghanistan,issued a report in June that said that the Afghanistan missionwas doomed to fail because of U.S. policies that were fuellingthe resistance.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper said otherwise,then took his hat in hand and scooted off to Washington to suckup to President Bush. Perhaps instead he should have stayed athome, learned more about history, and devised a plan towithdraw quickly from the Afghan mess before any moreCanadian lives are needlessly wasted.