The young man who had stood up to speak about his life as a Canadian soldier was suddenly unable to do it. He was trying, but no sound would come out. His eyes were dull, fixed on nothing, blinking back tears.
His audience, a university class, was confused. They had expected a patriotic tribute to the Canadian forces, and were instead confronted with a broken spirit.
This young man had served in the Balkans. When he was finally able to tell his listeners what it was like to fire a gun and hear his bullet kill another human being, how memory and painful questions haunted him, they, too, were unable 'or unwilling to speak, and, as one, quietly left the room.
On this occasion, the reality of war collided with mythical expectations. Too bad Canada's blood-thirsty press corps never gets to meet real soldiers.
There are a few, of course, whose education and imagination equip them to challenge the fundamentalist militarism of our time. Eric Margolis, who. appears in Sun Media newspapers and at foreigncorrespondent.com, comes to mind. So do the Globe and Mails Paul Knox and Rick Salutin. But these are peaceful tourists in hostile territory.
For the most part, Canada's elite media appear capable of only two attitudes toward war: over-the-top sentimental exploitation (like the coverage of the deaths of four Canadian soldiers by American friendly fire); and a relentless pounding on the drums of war, endorsing as many deaths as necessary. That these two attitudes are contradictory and transparently hypocritical is not, apparently, a problem for Canadian editors.
The national dailies feature an endless parade of top brass of the Canadian Armed Forces and their demands for more money and enthusiasm, so they can, according to the National Post, "show the country what they can do."
The venerable Globe and Mail criticizes the Bush camp for failing to organize its case for a war against Iraq, and, at the same time, unblushingly lambastes Jean Chretien's Liberals for hesitating to fall in line.
One of Canada's largest independently owned newspapers, the Winnipeg Free Press, echoes its eastern colleagues: "Iraq Foes Lining Up," it trumpets: "Two Dozen Nations Willing to Help in Conflict" It's a reprint from the Dallas Morning News, and no countries other than Britain and …