Friday, October 07, 2005

Gordon O' Connor MP. Bloody Genius!

Sometime in the future I am visiting with the Canadian Forces in Afghanistan.

I never told anyone because when I agreed to go I agreed, for security reasons, to keep my mouth shut. I have never been good at the “following orders” thing but when someone is armed I tow the line pretty quick. This morning however I read on Bourque that the Conservatives have no problem talking about the trip and surprise surprise they are outraged.

In the Sun chain of newspapers the Conservative Defence critic Gordon O'Connor has blasted the Department of Defence for allowing “civilians” into a war zone.

May I suggest that as a former Brigadier General he should know that wherever there are Canadian troops stationed there are civilians. Canadian civilians do much of the important support work for our men and women in uniform. I’ve been fortunate enough to meet with hundreds of members of the Forces who risk their lives ever day doing their job. Likewise, I have met the civilians who work side by side with our troops, and they do it in war zones.

And as far as people like me? Civilians whose skills are woefully limited to strumming a guitar or telling a joke, we have been making these trips since world war one.

It’s called entertaining the troops. It’s not a great sacrifice on the entertainer’s part; in fact it’s a great privilege. A few years back Tom Cochrane, Damhnait Doyle and I were lucky enough to visit Canadian Forces Camp Julian in Kabul in December. We set up a stage in a mess tent and did three shows of stand-up comedy, Christmas Carols and rock and roll. Show-biz folk love a captive audience; we will gladly travel across the world and visit a war zone to find one.

If Canada as a nation is going to have troops positioned abroad, in harms way, members of the Canadian Forces and their families have to know that the country stands with them.
Mr. O’Conner is not sending that message.

In the Sun article Mr. O’Conner seems to indicate that his real problem with the idea of "high profile Canadians" going to Afghanistan comes from a desire to protect families. He is quoted as saying: “How are they going to explain to the families if some of these people get hit by bombs when they're over there?"

I would suggest they would explain it in the same way they have had to explain such occurrences in the past. I would also respectfully suggest to Mr. O’Conner that as an adult civilian, I’m allowed to make my own decisions concerning the risks I take in my own personal life. And don’t worry in the event of an accident; the tax payer will not be on the hook. I have signed my release form and it is crystal clear on that point.

For the time being the Tory position is that visits to Afghanistan be limited to “Defence Department officials and politicians who oversee the forces.”

I can’t speak for business leaders and athletes but I can speak for entertainers. If Mr. O’Conner ever becomes Canada’s Minister of Defence and he bars civilian entertainers from visiting the troops but encourages politicians to do so, he had better be prepared to put on a pair of heels and a dress and learn to sing for his supper.