The tradgedy of black and white thinking……Aug. 1 2007

There is an email going around the internet. There are actually two versions – one American featuring a Sergeant Steeley, and a Canadian one featuring a Canadian soldier with the same name. I suppose Sergeant Steel is too obvious. The emails are circulating to boost support for the troops abroad, and to do so, urges everyone to wear “something red” on Fridays.

This is the version of the email I received:



Last week, while traveling in Canada on business, I noticed a soldier traveling with a folded flag, but did not put two-and-two together.

After we boarded our flight, I turned to the soldier, who had been invited to sit in First Class (across from me), and inquired if he was heading home. No, he responded. Heading out, I asked?

No. I am escorting a soldier home.

Going to pick him up?

No. He is with me right now. He was killed in Afghanistan. I am taking him home to his family.

The realization of what he had been asked to do, hit me like a punch to the gut. It was an honour for him. He told me that, although he

didn’t know the soldier, he had delivered the news of his passing to the soldier’s family and felt as if he knew them after many conversations in so few days. I turned back to him, extended my hand, and said, Thank you. Thank you for doing what you do so my family and I can do what we do.

Upon landing in Canada the pilot stopped short of the gate and made the following announcement over the intercom.

“Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to note that we have had the honour of having Sergeant Steeley of the Canadian Armed Forces join us on this flight. He is escorting a fallen comrade back home to his family. I ask that you please remain in your seats when we open the forward door to allow Sergeant Steeley to deplane and receive his fellow soldier. We will then turn off the seat belt sign.”

Without a sound, all went as requested. I noticed the Sergeant saluting the casket as it was brought off the plane, and his action made me realize that I am proud to be a Canadian.

So here’s a public Thank You to Our Military Men and Women for what you do so we can live the way we do.

Red Fridays

Very soon, you will see a great many people wearing RED every Friday.

The reason, Canadians who support our troops used to be called the “silent majority.” We are no longer silent, and are voicing our love for God, country and home in record breaking numbers. We are not organized, boisterous or overbearing.

Many Canadians, like you, me and all our friends, simply want to recognize that the vast majority of Canada supports our troops. Our idea of showing solidarity and support for our troops with dignity and respect starts this Friday — and continues each and every Friday until the troops all come home, sending a deafening message that … every Canadian who supports our men and women afar, will wear something RED. It could be just a small RED ribbon.

By word of mouth, press, TV — let’s make Canada on every Friday a sea Of RED, much like a homecoming football game in the bleachers. If everyone of us who loves this country, will share this with acquaintances, co-workers, friends, and family, it will not be long before Canada is covered in RED and it will let our troops know the once “silent” majority is on their side more than ever, certainly more than the media lets on.

The first thing a soldier says when asked, “What can we do to make things better for you?” is … “We need your support and your prayers.”

Let’s get the word out and lead with class and dignity, by example, and wear something RED every Friday.





Here is a link describing how this mythical email began







(Photo by Sgt Marc Lacourse, Canadian Forces Combat Camera)
“01 June 2007, Ottawa, Ontario – Chief of the Defence Staff General Rick Hiller addresses a throng of many thousands on Parliament Hill at the culmination of a 5-km Red Shirt Walk/Run…”

What the Afghans get:




Leaving aside the issue of how and why this email is going around, what is troublesome is the inference that if one disagrees; one just doesn’t “care”. This kind of black and white thinking is incredibly dangerous. George Bush used the tactic successfully with his statement “You are either with us or with the terrorists” Discussion closed, send the troops and let’s get happy ramping up military profits.

I decided to respond to the email, even while I was suspicious of its roots.

My response:

Aug. 1 2007

Hello all,
I was distressed on the receipt of this email. How could one NOT feel deeply about this story? I care deeply and I also dissent. Canadians should NOT be in a combat role in
Afghanistan. Canadians are fighting on behalf of a corrupt and criminal American government. The issue is far too complex to fall back to a red ribbon campaign. To care for our troops means to get them the Hell out of Afghanistan – it is an American/Russian and Pakistani mess they should clean up.

The UN has finally taken action in Darfur and we have limited means now to play a meaningful role in a UN operation there, because we are tied down in Afghanistan.

For those who wish, please read the following text written by Tariq Ali. It is an excerpt from The
London Review ofBooks: for the full article. I know it’s lengthy but we MUST see the world as it really is if we are to truly change the world into a safer place. To do that requires more than sound bites on CTV.


Here is the excerpt:

In 1977, when Zia [Zia-ul-Haq, President of Pakistan] came to power, 90 per cent of men and 98 per cent of women in Afghanistan were illiterate; 5 per cent of landowners held 45 per cent of the cultivable land and the country had the lowest per capita income of any in Asia. The same year, the Parcham Communists, who had backed the 1973 military coup by Prince Daud after which a republic was proclaimed, withdrew their support from Daud, were reunited with other Communist groups to form the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA), and began to agitate for a new government. The regimes in neighbouring countries became involved. The shah of Iran, acting as a conduit for Washington, recommended firm action – large-scale arrests, executions, torture – and put units from his torture agency at Daud’s disposal. The shah also told Daud that if he recognised the Durand Line [“… imposed on the Afghans in 1893 to mark the frontier between British India and Afghanistan and which divided the Pashtun population of the region.”] as a permanent frontier the shah would give Afghanistan $3 billion and Pakistan would cease hostile actions. Meanwhile, Pakistani intelligence agencies were arming Afghan exiles while encouraging old-style tribal uprisings aimed at restoring the monarchy. Daud was inclined to accept the shah’s offer, but the Communists organised a pre-emptive coup and took power in April 1978. There was panic in Washington, which increased tenfold as it became clear that the shah too was about to be deposed. General Zia’s dictatorship thus became the lynchpin of US strategy in the region …”

“As we now know, plans (a ‘bear-trap’, in the words of the US national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski) were laid to destabilise the PDPA, in the hope that its Soviet protectors would be drawn in. Plans of this sort often go awry, but they succeeded in Afghanistan, primarily because of the weaknesses of the Afghan Communists themselves: they had come to power through a military coup which hadn’t involved any mobilization outside Kabul, yet they pretended this was a national revolution; their Stalinist political formation made them allergic to any form of accountability and ideas such as drafting a charter of democratic rights or holding free elections to a constituent assembly never entered their heads. Ferocious factional struggles led, in September 1979, to a Mafia-style shoot-out at the Presidential Palace in Kabul, during which the prime minister, Hafizullah Amin, shot President Taraki dead. Amin, a nutty Stalinist, claimed that 98 per cent of the population supported his reforms but the 2 per cent who opposed them had to be liquidated. There were mutinies in the army and risings in a number of towns as a result, and this time they had nothing to do with the Americans or General Zia.

Finally, after two unanimous Politburo decisions against intervention, the Soviet Union changed its mind, saying that it had ‘new documentation’. This is still classified, but it would not surprise me in the least if the evidence consisted of forgeries suggesting that Amin was a CIA agent. Whatever it was, the Politburo, with Yuri Andropov voting against, now decided to send troops into Afghanistan. Its aim was to get rid of a discredited regime and replace it with a marginally less repulsive one. Sound familiar?

From 1979 until 1988, Afghanistan was the focal point of the Cold War. Millions of refugees … settled in camps and cities …”

“Weapons and money, as well as jihadis from Saudi Arabia, Algeria and Egypt, flooded into Pakistan. All the main Western intelligence agencies (including the Israelis’) had offices in Peshawar, near the frontier. The black-market and market rates for the dollar were exactly the same. Weapons, including Stinger missiles, were sold to the mujahedin by Pakistani officers who wanted to get rich quickly. The heroin trade flourished and the number of registered addicts in Pakistan grew from a few hundred in 1977 to a few million in 1987 …”

“As for Pakistan and its people, they languished. During Zia’s period in power, the Jamaat-e-Islami, which had never won more than 5 per cent of the vote anywhere in the country, was patronised by the government; its cadres were sent to fight in Afghanistan, its armed student wing was encouraged to terrorise campuses in the name of Islam, its ideologues were ever present on TV. The Inter-Services Intelligence[of Pakistan] also encouraged the formation of other, more extreme jihadi groups …”

“With the elevation of Mikhail Gorbachev in March 1985 it became obvious that the Soviet Union would accept defeat in Afghanistan and withdraw its troops. It wanted some guarantees for the Afghans it was leaving behind and the United States – its mission successful – was prepared to play ball. General Zia, however, was not. The Afghan war had gone to his head (as it did to that of Osama bin Laden and his colleagues) and he wanted his own people in power there. As the Soviet withdrawal got closer, Zia and the ISI made plans for the postwar settlement.”

There are many, many resources to help us understand the realities of the world – realities which are rarely black and white, perfectly right and easily understood. I asked myself what would Afghanistan be like today if Canadians, for instance, had offered support to the Afghan communists to draft a constitution and eventually hold free elections – before the USSR, Pakistan and the U.S. ran the country and its people into the ground. Communist or not, it was, briefly, an Afghan solution for foreign corruption. We now know the results of all that happened since the “bear trap” was laid………..

So, this is the way the world works folks. Canadians need to take a lead at the UN again, and denounce imperialism whether it is Russian, American or Martian. We must stand opposed to intolerance and war and stand FOR peace and love of one another. Ask yourselves how it is possible to order up billions of dollars in ice-breakers and tanks at the snap of a finger, yet it takes years to get one hospital or affordable housing built. Let’s change the way the world works.

Paul Chislett




To wear a ribbon in the hopes that things will change is to subscribe to a culture of victimization; a culture where supposedly free and intelligent people do not recognize the power we have to make meaningful change in the world.

We think of dictatorships as imposed externally. What about dictatorships of the mind, in which we bind ourselves with red ribbons to the idea we are powerless? We can bring all armies home if people would exert the political will to do so. In this country we have a better chance to do so than in war-ravaged Afghanistan



Filed under Afghanistan, Human Rights, Justice for 911, propaganda, State Terrorism, Tariq Ali

2 responses to “The tradgedy of black and white thinking……Aug. 1 2007

  1. Hey, remember when red meant “commie” and Friday was fish day? What a load of nonsense. They will try anything to sucker folks into supporting the failed war! What pisses me off is that I will now have to avoid wearing red on Fridays…

    The scientifically impossible I do right away
    The spiritually miraculous takes a bit longer

  2. Jack Neilson

    One glaring problem with this e-mail.
    Canadian troops do not “come home” in this fashion (American troops do). In Canada they are transported to the airbase in CFB Trenton, then to the coroner’s office in Toronto and thence onward. I support Red Fridays but do not see how passing an e-mail originating in the U.S. and changing the nationality to “Canadian” is in any way appropriate.

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