Here's a case study in the process by which a government can take a menace to society, put him in a uniform, and ship him halfway around the world where he can be a menace to some other society until he gets himself killed there and comes home a national hero.
Either sheer ignorance is sheer bliss, or Daniel Dale of the Toronto Star had to be very, very careful writing the story of Darryl Caswell.
Under the headline "Loved son a family's loss, a nation's hero", and with the sub-title: 'Why didn't he get one more ticket?', Daniel Dale's ode to a national disgrace begins this way:
Darryl Caswell took out a loan to buy his baby, a Honda CBR600RR sport motorcycle painted orange. He didn't spend $13,000 to drive slowly.At least Daniel Dale is upfront about the fact that Darryl Caswell was just the sort of fellow you'd avoid if you wanted to live a long and healthy life. Unfortunately, some other people were not so lucky.
Near Bowmanville [Ontario], his home-town, and near Petawawa [Ontario], where his Royal Canadian Dragoons were based, Caswell careened through the streets, sometimes in excess of 150 kilometres [93 miles] per hour, seeking thrills, courting danger, "this orange blur," his stepmother says, on dark, small-town nights. Darryl being reckless. Darryl being Darryl.Darryl being Darryl? Seriously? That's it?
"Careening through the streets" of a small town "in excess of 150 kilometres per hour"? Please!
He was a menace to society. He didn't care if he killed himself.
He didn't care if he killed anybody else, either.
Families of innocent people killed by "thrill-seeking", "death-defying" assholes like Darryl Caswell mourn in every city and town of any size, yet their grief is never immortalized like the grief Canadians are expected to feel for this "national hero".
In the summer of 2006, Caswell got a speeding ticket – another speeding ticket – riding the bike near Peterborough. His superiors, unamused, issued a warning: one more ticket, no more Afghanistan.Why do they give maniacs tickets for repeatedly driving more than three times the speed limit in a residential area?
Why don't they just throw them away and lose the key, before the maniacs kill somebody?
Because they have a better use for maniacs like Darryl Caswell.
Caswell burned his tires. He put the Honda in storage. At the end of January 2007, he deployed to Kandahar.Caswell was headed to the war. And that's why his superiors were unamused.
"Caswell's gonna kill somebody", they must have thought. "Let's make sure it's not one of ours."
On the home front, more than a year later, his father is still deep in denial.
"They said, `One more speeding ticket, you won't be able to go on the mission,'" says his father, Paul. "You wonder, why didn't he get one more ticket?"It couldn't be any other way. Parents who raise maniacs are always in denial.
Paul Caswell, 49, is a conveyor belt inspector and repairman. He has worked for 30 years at Bowmanville's Goodyear plant. He speaks plainly, grieves quietly. But he has questions, "the what-ifs."
He is a father still trying to accept, more than a year later, that his son was in that country on that patrol in that vehicle on that road at that moment.
In 2004, Darryl worked at Goodyear for six months. For a young man who needed speed, factory work was numbingly mundane. He joined the army. Less than three years later, he was in Afghanistan. Less than five months later, his body was transported home.And isn't that just perfect?
"Why couldn't I have kept him at Goodyear? Why didn't he want to stay there? Good job for me all these years," Paul says. "Just wasn't for him, all black and dirty. He was doing what he wanted to do, but you ask yourself, `what if?' You hear there was supposed to be a minesweep that day. Minesweep was supposed to go down and clear the path first. But it got behind or broke down or something, so they went anyway. And that's when Darryl hit it, and that was the end of it. You'd think today's technology – you can check out your backyard on Google – why can't they be watching those guys and see when they're burying bombs and stuff?"
Paul now rides the Honda.
Darryl Caswell's grieving father -- who apparently hasn't progressed to asking why Canadian troops are occupying a nation halfway around the world, which never attacked Canada, or any other NATO country, and never planned to do so -- now drives his late son's suicide machine.
And he wishes his country could establish 24/7 wall-to-wall surveillance in Afghanistan, so more maniacs like Darryl don't get killed there. Seriously.
Daniel Dale's tale turns to Caswell's brother, Logan, who was celebrating his 12th birthday when he got the bad news about his brother's death in Afghanistan.
The phone rang at the Caswells' comfortable Bowmanville house on June 11, 2007, Logan Caswell's 12th birthday. Trooper Darryl Caswell, Reconnaissance Squadron, 2nd Battalion, Royal Canadian Regiment, had promised his little brother he would call.It's a horrible thing, and you have to scream with him.
"I was waitin' for that call," Logan says. "Waitin' and waitin'..."
But Darryl, 25, was not on the line. The call was not for Logan.
While leading a supply convoy north of Kandahar City, the Coyote reconnaissance vehicle Darryl drove had struck an improvised explosive device. Less than two months before he was to return home, he was dead.
"I just thought to myself, it had to happen on my birthday," Logan says. "I didn't even cry. I just screamed."
But even as Logan Caswell was screaming, the word was being passed down from Ottawa: "We've lost another psychopath; fire up the tribute machine."
Darryl's body, like the bodies of the 56 Canadian Afghanistan casualties before him, was flown to the military's base in Trenton, then driven west for an autopsy in Toronto. His family trailed the police-escorted hearse to the coroner's office, Paul and his wife, Christine, at their "lowest," Christine says, Darryl's death "finally real," their devastation mitigated only by the throngs of people who lined Hwy. 401 overpasses, wearing red and holding flags, to pay their respects.The military propaganda machine couldn't have better representatives than its very own victims:
For all but two of the repatriation convoys since Darryl's, Paul and Christine have stood on an overpass themselves. They wear red. They hold flags. From above, they watch strangers re-enact their nightmare.
"It's hard when we go, because it brings everything back," says Christine. "But we go because we know what it meant to us."
Christine, a vivacious 46-year-old with blue eyes and blonde hair, married Paul in 1993. This Saturday afternoon, she wears a red Support Our Troops shirt, three pro-troops wristbands. A heart pendant, pictures of Darryl and Logan inside, hangs around her neck.The families must go through hell; that's a given. So their pain is assuaged by the most vicious of fiction.
This fiction is a phony salve that leaves a permanent infection on the surrounding communities. And the disease spreads through intense government PR efforts which drive propaganda such as the piece we are now reading.
She can smile, now, when she flips through the Darryl photos she has placed on the coffee table of their family room. ("He loved his turkey and dressing. Darryl was meat and potatoes." "He was small but he was mighty. Strong as an ox." "Him and his dad, boot camp graduation. Darryl loved that photo. They had a special bond.")Sick? This is way beyond sick!
She can laugh, now, when she tells Darryl-being-Darryl stories. ("Logan, remember when Darryl chased the chicken?")
"I'm getting to that point where I have a lot of good memories," she says. "I don't cry as much. Logan was getting sick of me crying."
Unfortunately, it is becoming more typical all the time.
The death of a soldier is unlike the death of anyone else. Darryl, a life-long daredevil, might well have died pursuing a private adventure. But he died in Kandahar, in a war of choice he deeply supported but millions of Canadians oppose.A war of choice? Whose choice?
Have we sunk so low that our governments can now start, or join, foreign wars that are opposed -- on solid moral grounds -- by millions of people, yet perfectly ok for those who choose to fight, and who are called national heroes for doing it?
We have, you know. You bet we have.
We have sunk a lot lower than that.
And so the Caswells' loss, so deeply personal, was also both public and political, a subject for introspection and a catalyst, like 96 other soldiers' deaths since 2002, for national introspection. Darryl, their son, was now a national hero. For months, there were plaques to receive, ceremonies to attend, politicians to meet, interviews to do.Some might be asking themselves questions like, "How long must this go on?"
The answer appears to be "Forever. The endlessness justifies the meaninglessness."
In November, Bowmanville High School honoured Darryl, a graduate, in its Remembrance Day ceremony. In May, a street in a new Bowmanville subdivision was named Darryl Caswell Way. Later in May, his name was added to Bowmanville's cenotaph.It's all great! It's great for the town to be assosicated with a dead menace to society -- as long as it was a foreign society.
"It's all great," says Paul. "Everybody has just been great. It's a great honour for the town. But it gets to be – we didn't really have a chance to have down time, to grieve normally. We didn't have a whole lot of break, with the town, the media and everything. We tried to be good with the media, get his name out there, let 'em know. But we've gotta get on with our lives, get some normalcy back."
It's great for the family of the dead thrill-seeking menace to be feted all over the place. But enough is enough.
Framed photos of Darryl used to hang throughout the house's main floor. "Too much," says Christine.I cannot disagree with that sentiment. I only wish Christine knew how true it was.
They moved the photos to a corner of the basement. They seek a better balance between remembering and forgetting.
"You don't want people to forget about him," says Christine. "He's our son. We don't want anyone to forget about him, or who he was as a person. But we're at a point where we've gotta heal."
They really do have to heal -- not just from the loss of their son but from a lifetime of propaganda.
They know nothing. They've been through all this and they still have no clue.
And that's why their government can take advantage of them the way it has.
And that's why they're continuing the tradition.
Three months or so after the phone call, Logan had his room painted in camouflage, a mural of his brother driving the Coyote armoured vehicle on the wall opposite his bed.Creepy is right! This is creepy on a generational scale. And it's so American.
Framed photos of Darryl sit on his shelves. Darryl's T-shirts hang amongst his on his rack. Beneath his television, there are the shoot-'em-up video games he and Darryl played for hours, the ones he can't bring himself to play alone.
For several months after Darryl died, Logan slept on the floor in the basement recreation room, near the pool table, or at the foot of his parents' bed. "I have a chair in my room," he says softly, "and all I saw every night was him sitting, playing video games. Creepy. I don't really believe in ghosts, but..."
Canadians used to pride themselves on not being Americans, and not being like Americans, either. At least some of them used to.
Canadians used to pride themselves on being peacekeepers. Sorry about that, cold friends! This is the post-9/11 world, you know. You're all Americans now!
The family couldn't handle the rebellious kid but maybe the Army could. And maybe that was a good deal, for them, for a while:
As a teenager, Darryl lived in Bowmanville with Christine and Paul and in Sarnia with his mother Darlene and younger sister Jolene Cushman.This is a public service message for parents of unruly teenagers:
In high school, Christine says, he was sometimes a handful – an angry kid who had trouble following rules he did not create himself. He drank. He skipped school.
But he matured dramatically, perhaps never more noticeably than after he joined the military. "We couldn't believe the change when he completed basic training. ... He was so obedient, so sharp, very disciplined, well-mannered," Paul says. The man whose arms were covered by tattoos, who drove his 14-tonne Coyote so fast his comrades called him "Ricky Bobby," the name of Will Ferrell's deranged NASCAR driver in the film Talladega Nights, now told Christine how to fold laundry.
See what they can do for your young psycho in Basic Training: they can teach him to act obedient, sharp, disciplined, well-mannered ... and they can even make him fold laundry!
They need to train him in obedience so they can get him to do what they want him to do: go overseas and kill and maim people he otherwise would never have even heard of.
Some soldiers need to be trained to overcome the fear of death. Darryl Caswell apparently wasn't one of them.
Some soldiers need to be trained to overcome the fear of killing. Darryl Caswell apparently wasn't one of them, either.
The Army loves guys like Darryl Caswell. All they had to do was whip him into line, teach him how to fold his laundry, teach him how to obey orders, and ship him out.
The lucky ones come home without the box, of course. Instead they come home physically wounded, or psychologically ruined, or both.
It's a horrific waste of human life; and that's not even counting the damage they inflict!
And all for a lie. Or a pack of lies.
To the end, Darryl thought of himself [...] as a work in progress.And now all that remains is the private grief and the public adulation.
Only in Afghanistan did he "find" himself, he wrote in his last journal entry, dated June 7, 2007. He had not yet shed his "dark shadow," he wrote in an earlier entry; he was not yet able to show people his "true self."
But he was close, he wrote June 7, and closer than ever to being the man he wanted to be. He had a new appreciation for life in Canada and for his family's love. He had a new desire to start a family of his own. He was going to walk the streets of his country with a newfound "sparkle and glow."
"It's like everything I do is new, and my life has been reborn," he wrote. Four days later, it was over.
Paul says he tries to keep busy to keep his mind off his son. Christine says she thinks about him from morning to night. Too often, she says. A little less and things would be easier.It really is very sad -- but not in a way this Toronto Star report would ever actually tell you.
But a little less is hard. Hwy. 401, 1,500 metres from home, is the fastest route to work. When the weather is nice and she is not running late, Christine takes Hwy. 2 instead. The Highway of Heroes makes her cry.
One of the comments posted on the Star website got it just about almost right, in one respect, anyway:
My sympathy to the family who lost a loved one. Your son was doing very necessary and noble work in Afganistan. It's hard for Canadians to really understand the work being done in Afganistan because it is not really covered by the media. Thank you to our troops for representing Canada in such a positive way internationally. I'm proud to be Canadian.There's a nugget of truth in there, and even though it's in nega-talk, it applies to both Canada and the United States:
It's hard for anyone to really understand the war crime in progress in Afganistan because it is not really covered by the media.
So let's take a look at some of the things the media won't tell you:
Afghanistan has never attacked Canada.
Afghanistan has never attacked any NATO country.
The NATO mission in Afghanistan is based on more lies than you can count, even if you start counting as recently as 9/11. But the American subversion of Afghanistan has been going on for almost 30 years.
On July 3, 1979, U.S. President Jimmy Carter signed a presidential finding authorizing funding for a clandestine operation in Afghanistan, which was known as Operation Cyclone, also known as The Bear Trap.
Under Operation Cyclone, Americans working through friendly overseas cutouts recruited the baddest Islamic bad guys they could find, trained them in terror, gave them equipment, money, vicious primitive ideology and logistical support, and infiltrated them into Afghanistan via Pakistan.
Once in Afghanistan, the newly minted Islamic terrorists -- whom we called freedom fighters -- began to stage attacks on the Soviets just across the border. The idea was to lure the Soviets into Afghanistan, and bleed them dry. The devastation of Afghanistan, the incredible cruelty to be inflicted on the Afghan people, the horrible suffering they would endure for decades; none of these were part of the "equation".
The Soviets invaded Afghanistan in December of 1979. And they did terrible damage. Americans made sure the "freedom fighters" remained well-supplied, well-motivated, and well-supported. The Soviets continued to bleed. And the Afghan people continued to suffer.
In 1980, Carter lost his bid for re-election; Ronald Reagan took over in 1981 and opened the spigots. Freedom-fighters everywhere were welcome to unlimited American aid, as long as they were terrorizing communist countries, or countries that bordered communist countries, or countries in which people had heard of communism. The flow of money, weapons, and ammunition into Afghanistan increased dramatically -- and went on for years. And so did the suffering.
If ever America were to move -- hypothetically, of course -- in the direction of positive change, it would necessitate facing up to the reality of the most horrible crimes of our past, and fomenting terrorism surely must rank as one of them. Deliberately luring a second country into invading, occupying and destroying a third country ranks right up there, of course.
Much more has happened since then, of course. The "freedom fighters" we supported stopped being "mujahideen" and became "al Qaeda", and they turned against us, unless maybe they didn't, and either they did things or else they only got blamed for things that other people did. We may never know; but remnants of these Afghan freedom fighters appear to have been used by western intelligence against the Russians in Bosnia and Chechnya, and in other terrorist attacks as well ...
... including the most famous one.
And in October of 2001, without offering the world any evidence implicating Afghanistan in the "terrorist attacks" of the previous month, George Bush attacked Afghanistan, using war plans that were already sitting on his desk as the twin towers disintegrated, and then he dragged NATO into his war crime of naked aggression, and here we stand. All these years later, NATO continues to pound on Afghanistan, and the lie has become: We are needed there until we can stabilize Afghanistan.
But the truth of the matter is that Afghanistan has been a dangerous, unstable, terrorist-infested place for the past 30 years, precisely because the Americans have wanted it that way. The idea that Americans could somehow stabilize Afghanistan is absurd.
But that's ok, because the Americans don't want to stabilize Afghanistan anyway; now they want to own it. And they won't be happy until they do. But that will never happen, which suits them fine, because they are not in this war to win, only to fight. Fighting is more profitable, for those who don't have to do the fighting. And you know who won't have to do any of the fighting.
Instead, the killing and the dying are contracted out to young rebels who can't stand a day without a jolt and a half of adrenaline, to whom life means nothing, especially the lives of others. And when they come home in a box, they become national heroes.
A closing comment from the Toronto Star website encapsulates the insanity that has taken hold of us all, in one way or another:
Lest we forget...In case you didn't catch the logic, it goes like this:
People here disparaging the war against Afghanistan don’t have a clue about the history of the Afghan war-mongers. You have never been invaded by these people. But people who have suffered at the hands of the Moghals or Afghan kings ought to know. Why do you think Canada’s freedom isn’t challenged today? Just imagine if the Iraqi’s or the Taliban’s or any of the Muslim nations had the firepower the west has today, it would all be over for the western world. They would use every conceivable weapon to annihilate this world. That has been seen for 500 brutal years in South Asia. The British did rule south Asia but were never even a fraction as ruthless as the Islamic kings. So we ought to be grateful to these soldiers who are keeping us free for hundred more years to come.
We have to kill all the people in all the Muslim nations, even though they don't threaten us, and even though they can't threaten us; because if they could threaten us, then surely they would do so.
Such is "progress" in the Great White North.
Once the true north strong and free, now simply martys on the road to hell.
Happy Remembrance Day, O Canada.
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