Sunday, January 29, 2006

Decorum

Babble on.

I'm not normally one to tell other people what they should or should not write about on their own sites. It's none of my business, and I'd get my nose out of joint if they tried it with me.

But since a number of folks don't seem to be able to keep away from an open debate about exactly how courageous MCpl Franklin's recent actions in Afghanistan were, I'm going to go out on a limb here.

Both groups - for awarding him the VC, and against - are misguided. Those for the award sound like a bunch of cheerleaders, with little understanding of or respect for the standards applicable to the Victoria Cross. Those against the award, no matter the strength of their arguments, don't seem to grasp that when their point boils down to "He's brave, but not that brave," they sound churlish.

In my humble opinion, there are precisely two groups of people who have any credibility discussing this issue in public: those who have been decorated for bravery themselves, and those on the Canadian Decorations Advisory Committee who have the unenviable task of deciding which decorations go to whom. You'll notice that both groups have remained entirely silent in this unseemly debate.

Ask yourself why that might be. And then take their hint, applaud MCpl Franklin's bravery, and keep your opinions on exactly which medal he should or should not receive to yourself.

Babble off.

18 Comments:

At 12:12 PM, Blogger wonderdog said...

Uh, for the record, I never said MCpl Franklin was "not that brave," or suggested that he was "not brave enough." Frankly, I find that suggestion insulting.

I wrote that the Toronto Sun and it's blog allies are agitating for something that the facts don't support, and should give it a rest.

 
At 1:19 PM, Blogger Andrew said...

Damian,

There's a huge difference between saying that MCpl Franklin is "brave, but not that brave" and pointing out that the VC might not be the appropriate award for the circumstances (as reported) and then suggesting alternatives.

I usuaully agree with everything you write, but I think you're missing the mark by a wide margin this time.

 
At 1:44 PM, Blogger GenX at 40 said...

I would only say that if the basis for our nation's highest decoration is a system that is explicable to only the past recipients and a few on a clozed committee then it must follow that the award of these decorations could only be a mystery to the public and therefore of diminished importance as a lesson to us all.

That should never be so, with respect as always, public discussion on the meaning of the decorations and the appropriateness of their award in specific cases always make sense and serve the civic good.

 
At 12:48 AM, Blogger chip said...

And very few people in this country understand how an economy works, so voters should put a sock in it and let a panel of economists determine what gets spent when.

 
At 9:27 AM, Blogger BBS said...

"He's brave, but not that brave,"

I certainly didn't come away with that impression from either Andrew's or Wonderdog's post.

A discussion of the criteria has helped raise many peoples understanding of the VC and other awards.

One other thing, what did silence do for the PPCLI soliders involved in the Medak Pocket battle? To this day, most Canadians would stare at you blankly if you mentioned Medak. That too is a sad thing.

 
At 11:01 AM, Blogger drvsvs said...

The VC (or SMV, MMV) is an incorrect award unless the act is in the presence of the enemy (I don't know if this includes after the enemy has been eliminated). I think the correct award based on the circumstances would be one of the three bravery awards not dependent on the presence of the enemy, namely the CV, SC or MB.

 
At 11:25 AM, Blogger KnightofGoodMrIronMan said...

I couldn't agree more

 
At 11:32 AM, Blogger Danté said...

Personally, I'm a proponent of giving him the VC - I think his actions merit it. Thats my opinion.

As for any action meriting the VC being required to have occurred in the presence of the enemy, I say sure, he did what he did in the presence of the enemy - in fact, he was surrounded by the enemy - a piece over here, a piece over there...

Well, whether or not we give him the VC, he at least deserves something.

 
At 11:46 AM, Blogger Babbling Brooks said...

I find it incredible that my new visitors continue to miss the point of my post: I don't care what medal you think the man should have.

Parsing this man's efforts to determine which medal he should have and which medal he shouldn't is distasteful. He's exceptionally brave, and he will undoubtedly receive a decoration for that bravery, but that will neither add to nor detract from his courageous actions.

Far better to praise the man's courage than to try to measure it.

I thought I had been clear about that, but apparently not.

 
At 6:05 PM, Blogger Christoph Dollis said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 7:01 PM, Blogger Christoph Dollis said...

I agree with your sentiment, Damian.

However, the problem with your suggestion that no one talk about it is that the process for awarding medals in Canada has been perceived (by Canadian soldiers) to have been politicized.

In particular, under the Liberal government who often didn't want to acknowledge Canadians involved in actual combat (for only one example, the Medak Pocket), my recollection from talking with former Airborne Regiment soldiers in 1996 during my basic training was that they were angered that Somalia Medals that had been promised them hadn't arrived because of political delays.

I was truly amazed by descriptions of Paul Franklin's behaviour that day. When I heard about it, I chose to post my thoughts on Steve Janke's, a.k.a. "Angry's", blog on January 16, 2006, which may have started the discussion.

I did this understanding that the final decision on awarding a medal should be an internal process; yet I believed that since the awarding of Canadian military medals had become so politicized and timid, MCPL Paul Franklin would never get a fair shake at official acknowledgement of his deeds without a public discussion.

At any rate, I was expressing a personal opinion.

Since I wrote that initial posting, I have gained more information and after this article by Michele Mandel appeared in the Toronto Sun, I wrote Michele this email:


> Sent: Fri 1/27/06 9:57 AM
>
> From: Chris Dollis
> To: Michele Mandel
> Cc:
> Subject: Michele, about Paul Franklin

> Dear Michele,
>
> That was a great article about Master Corporal Paul
> Franklin.
>
> I chuckled when I read it because you were actually
> quoting me since I was the original writer of Steve
> Janke's quote.
>
> Steve Janke's Blog Archives
>
> As I later discovered in conversation, for a technical
> reason and through absolutely no fault of his own, a
> counterargument can be made that MCPL Franklin may not
> be eligible for the Canadian Victoria Cross (VC)
> because:
>
> 'The Victoria Cross "shall be awarded for the most
> conspicuous bravery, a daring or pre-eminent act of
> valour or self-sacrifice or extreme devotion to duty,
> in the presence of the enemy". For the purpose of these
> decorations, "enemy" is defined as a hostile force,
> including armed mutineers, armed rebels, armed rioters
> and armed pirates. Canada does not have to be at war to
> acknowledge the existence of an enemy which fits this
> description. It is broad enough to encompass Canadian
> involvement in UN peacekeeping operations.'
>
> Source: Veterans Affairs...
> Victoria Cross
>
> While MCPL Franklin was a casualty of an enemy attack,
> I am not sure if he could be eligible for the VC or
> another award because the extremely devoted and heroic
> acts may not have been performed in the presence of the
> enemy. A military investigation is appropriate to
> determine that.
>
> In the event that MCPL Franklin does not qualify for
> the VC (and I would be thrilled if he does), he would
> be a strong candidate for Canada's second highest
> military award for bravery, the Distinguished Conduct
> Medal (DCM), or another award, the Military Medal (MM).
>
> Source: Veterans Affairs...
> Distinguished Conduct Medal
> Military Medal
>
> I do agree completely, though, that his actions were
> amazing.
>
> You can leave that original quote attributed to Steve
> (unless there's a journalistic requirement to change
> its attribution) since he recognized its value and
> brought it to the world. I wanted you to know that I
> wrote that to establish my bona fides in order to
> ensure that you would read this email!
>
> Oh, and one last thing. Here's something else I wrote
> on the subject that you may want to consider for
> background. I'm not concerned with whether you use it
> or quote me or whatever.
>
> Canadian Combat Forces in Afghanistan
>
> Warmly,
>
> Chris
>
> Chris Dollis


Michele was kind enough to reply and thank me for the additional information.

We're all learning.

The reason I wrote that initial post and the reason I feel very strongly that it's good to have a public discussion about this is because few people in Canada, including myself, understand what the military faces on a day-to-day basis and how much important work they do. I believe it's appropriate to talk about this. I also was concerned that without some public involvement, the tendency of the military and/or the politicians overseeing the military might be to downplay what seem like utterly heroic actions.

I feel that having a hero recognized, and not just any old hero, but a military hero, is good for Canada.

Let's not forget that when I wrote that we were in the middle of an election campaign where our Prime Minister had ordered our forces into a combat area to aggressively patrol alongside our allies, then promptly began questioning the loyalty and reliability of our troops (the infamous Liberal “soldiers attack ad”) and attacking our largest ally (through several of the other Liberal attack ads), which was treating our combat casualties.

If I am wrong and the awarding of medals by the Canadian Decorations Advisory Committee (note its composition) is no longer subject to unwelcome political interference that tends to decrease our soldiers' morale, I am happy.

Whether my understanding or point of view is "correct" in all this, Damian, you are exactly on point that the facts behind any potential award must be soberly investigated and weighed first. This protects the integrity of the system.

I respectfully disagree with you, however, that only appointed board members and former award recipients may speak about this. In my humble opinion, it’s important for the country and we all have the right and duty to speak our minds on important matters.

 
At 8:17 PM, Blogger chip said...

''I find it incredible that my new visitors continue to miss the point of my post: I don't care what medal you think the man should have.''

It's probably not that they're missing the point, but rather that they don't care that you don't care.

Blog readers don't exist to serve your whims, just like military medals weren't created to be worshipped in silence by a timorous public.

 
At 11:46 PM, Blogger Babbling Brooks said...

Chris, I appreciate the time and effort you've put into a response here, and I recognize that you've made some valid points. Let me clarify my own position, because I think we share some common ground that might not be obvious.

I think calling for more recognition for the sacrifices made by our soldiers, sailors, and airmen in the line of duty is a worthy endeavour. And I have absolutely no objection to expressing the opinion that a decoration would be an excellent way to recognize individual sacrifices.

Where I draw the line is in agitating for a particular medal. Because once you start down that road, what you get is essentially a debate about the degree of a man's bravery.

I understand the desire to celebrate MCpl Franklin's courage, but how is discussing the extent of it edifying or informative? What purpose does it serve to dissect it ? And what makes us think we're qualified to weigh and measure it, even if it did serve a higher purpose than our own gratification?

I feel if that must be discussed, it should be left to those who must by duty (the Advisory Committee), or those who have the perspective of similar experience.

And Chip, here's my advice: get a blog. This one's mine, and I'll tell you to shut the hell up as I please. In fact, I'll randomly delete your sniping for the sheer exhilaration of it; I find the absolute power of being the final arbiter here in my own space intoxicating. I'm a small and petty man that way.

In short: if you don't like the way I treat my readership, then don't let the metaphorical door hit you in the ass on the way out.

 
At 12:59 AM, Blogger Christoph Dollis said...

Thank you, Damian, for taking the time to reply to my comment; I had a feeling you would and I mean that in a good way.

I understand your thought that by debating whether a military member qualifies for a given medal it may appear that we are discussing the degree of his bravery.

I don't feel, however, that that is what I'm doing by raising the question.

I think his bravery was just incredible. The man's leg was shattered and he tied a tourniquet around it then gave his fellow soldiers first aid. I'm not questioning the degree of his courage.

Truth be told, in addition to being in shock he was probably scared. Yet he acted.

There are all kinds of bravery and commendable action and they deserve recognition. It’s also not possible to give every person who has shown courage a medal.

As an example of a different type of commendable action that didn’t take physical courage, yet was lifesaving, consider the young Brazilian man who rescued a baby girl in a bag that was tossed in a river. He wasn’t sure what was going on, yet trusting in his instincts, immediately took action, strode into the river, and fished the bag out. A moment’s hesitation or indecisiveness would have cost a life and he didn’t hesitate.

As further evidence of this man’s action-orientated mindset, when he opened the bag and realized he had rescued a baby, he didn’t do what many other good people would understandably do and stand there in amazement, he instantly cradled the baby and rushed her to medical care.

By saying that the two men would qualify for different awards demeans neither man’s bravery nor decisiveness.

Damian, I think you might agree that some people are naturally interested in the Canadian military, its history, customs, and future. To people like myself and others who have commented on this by analyzing what if any awards MCPL Paul Franklin may be eligible … we don’t mean that if he doesn’t earn the Canadian Victoria Cross that that means his actions were less heroic. Rather, the VC and other military awards have specific technical requirements, which he may or may not have qualified for.

Yes, a board must determine this.

Yet in Canada like in other democracies, like it or not (and I have enormous respect for our military) we have civilian control and direction of our armed forces, which serve our country (and not the other way around!) and it is entirely appropriate for civilians to discuss, so as to gain a deeper understanding, all military matters including the specific actions of individual soldiers and recognition they deserve.

 
At 8:12 AM, Blogger GenX at 40 said...

I think I fully agree and somewhat disagree with the BBster on this one. I want the public debate but I do not want a publicly trial of the one individual or measure his degree of bravery as a person who will never be asked to do such an thing - and who has gone some way to avoid that responsibility by choice.

 
At 9:26 AM, Blogger Alan said...

Our military's system of rewards for bravery is inherently hierarchical - or we'd only have a single all purpose medal. Contemplation of the awarding of a medal necessarily invites a debate as to the degree of valour. Remove the hierachy from the medal system and there will be no necessity or opportunity for debate. Until then, the public will continue to accept the invitation inherent in the system to mull over the matter of just how brave the act in question was. Scolding them for doing so while maintaining a medal system that differentiates between various acts of bravery amounts to a double bind.

At any rate, getting Canadians, of all people, talking about muscular virtues like courage, duty and sacrifice rather than insipid "values" like "diversity" and "inclusiveness" can't be a bad thing.

OC

 
At 10:55 AM, Blogger Babbling Brooks said...

Perhaps the discussion is inevitable given the nature of the system, OC, as you say.

That doesn't mean I can't cringe at the effort, though. The 'he should get this one and not that one' dynamic is like nails on a blackboard to me.

 
At 2:47 PM, Blogger Turtle said...

I don't know what to say to you guys. I could never and would never try to comment for my friend Paul. This is purely my own opinion. This is all rehtorical. What purpose does this debate serve? Does it matter what, if any, medal Paul gets? If the answer in your head for either of those questions is more than one word each, you need to re-evaluate your own lives in these terms:
Imagine that you were driving a Gwagon that was attacked and blown up, had your leg blown off, but you survived. What would you want? The highest award the Canadian Military can offer? Or, would you be happy that you still have your Wife, your Son, Family, Friends, and, though it will certainly be different than what you've known before now, your life. It may be a simplistic view, but that's what would be important to me.

Chris M

 

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