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Home Columnists Salim Mansur Selfless soldiers fight for strangers

Selfless soldiers fight for strangers

The most famous lines in the English language commemorating our fallen heroes were penned by Laurence Binyon. Binyon saw the carnage of World War I, and his words remind us for whom the bells ring on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month every year on Remembrance Day.

Those lines from Binyon’s poem For the Fallen read:

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:

Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.

At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

We must not merely grieve for our fallen heroes. We must also have the courage to celebrate as we wear poppies in remembering how our heroes never faltered in defending the freedom we carry so lightly every day.

Across Europe and North Africa, and in distant places in Asia and the Pacific, our heroes lie buried in marked and unmarked graves as quiet sentinels of freedom in those lands.

It is rare in history to find soldiers on missions to secure freedom and peace for people whose lives are foreign and mostly unknown to them—as our soldiers are in Afghanistan.

It is in helping others struggling against tyranny that free people pay their debt for the most precious gift secured by their fallen and living heroes.

Yet in the midst of great demands made on our heroes, we find rancour among us.

We see demagogues and the wilfully blinkered cynically tarnishing the missions of securing freedom in Afghanistan and Iraq, even as they contort themselves into hypocritically denying that they are criticizing our troops.

But those who have gained freedom by the soldiers’ sacrifices know full well that tyranny in their lands would not have been demolished without the arrival of soldiers from far away.

Here is Omar Fadhil in Baghdad confiding on his weblog ( on hearing the Iraqi court delivering last weekend’s verdict of death by hanging for Saddam Hussein: “I was overwhelmed with joy and relief as I watched the criminals being read their verdicts. For the first time in our region, tyrants are being punished for their crimes through a court of law…

“I’m still receiving words of congratulations in emails, phone calls and text messages from friends inside and outside the country. These were our only means to share our happiness because of the curfew that limits our movement… This is a day not only for Iraqis but a historic day for the whole region; today new bases for dealing between rulers and peoples are found.”

I recently read the words of a Gulf Arab cited by Fouad Ajami in The Foreigner’s Gift, a priceless account of Iraq’s deliverance into freedom by American and allied soldiers.

Following the June 28, 2004 ceremony of handing power to Iraqi representatives by Paul Bremer, head of the Coalition Provisional Authority, this Arab wrote: “History will record how a superpower went to free a people only to slip out in grace without fanfare. Only America can do that: put its might and spill the blood of its sons and daughters to save a nation from its own evil, without asking for anything in return.”

Canadians are also engaged without fanfare in Afghanistan, selflessly and at great risk trying to heal a land made wretched by cruel men.

We honour them all, and those who stain their sacrifices or doubt their missions must know our heroes who “shall grow not old” watch us—and they, joined by us, will not be deceived.


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