Originally uploaded by Mic2006.
Though I digress from my usual discussion of rocks and travel I feel it necessary to illuminate an obscure snippet that I stumbled upon in today's Toronto Sun (June 13th 2006). It was a small column way back on page 5 writtten by John Cotter of the Canadian Press ("2 Canuck Soldiers Shot in Taliban Battle"). Why back here? I asked myself. Is this not front page news? What is on the front page?
Well bless my soul, it's another crowd pleaser. Heather Mills, former wife of "Sir Paul McCartney" in the somewhat seedy position of being accused by various sources as once having been a high class prostitute. According to a former companion she was a greatly sought after escort while in her 20's and she had supposedly entertained a Saudi Prince along with a companion for $2000 apiece. Is this even true? Should the alleged story pass for front page news?
Now in my opinion the world has it all wrong, the injury of Canadian soldiers in combat (Afghanistan) is a news event. A supposed sex scandal is not front page news; it might be libelous entertainment, but its not news.
So, I would like to put the topic in perspective and hopefully add some understanding to the situation. According to John Cotter, the Canadians made "contact" with Taliban fighters during a sweep of farm fields west of Kandahar. Small arms fire soon escalated to artillery strikes and air support. The help came in the form of a British Harrier that dropped a 450 kilo bomb. The two Canadian soldiers who had been wounded in the exchange were immediatly flown from the scene and remain in serious condition.
I have included a photo of the aftermath of an airstrike by two British Harriers that I had observed in the early 1980's. Though the photo was only taken during a "demonstration of firepower" it still came as a nasty shock. John Cotter says that the aircraft "screeched in". That is a massive understatement – they throw you to the ground with an earth shattering roar.
The harrier is great for infantry ground support, it flies low and has the ability to hug a hillside. In the picture above I had no idea that the jets were coming over until they had flashed past, the sound being so intensely loud and sudden that it literally left me senseless. The approach of a jet in such circumstances – low and fast with live munitions is totally terrifying.
I am usually pretty quick with my camera but in the time that it took me to recover my senses and throw my lens up both planes had fired their rockets into the obstructing hillside and blasted their way out of the picture. What you see is the result of the first rocket hitting – a drifting mushroom of smoke and the second rocket, a black streak starting from the spot where it had been fired and approaching the hillside at a deadly speed.
I suppose my point is that a little paragraph in the paper translates to real events (sometimes) that have life altering consequences for those who live them. An air strike is just a sentence but it means everything to the people who called for it and it is possibly the worst experience in their entire life for those on the receiving end.