Sunday, September 25, 2005

The Toronto Sun's Peter Worthington Writes: "Still no justice for Stopford"

For those not quite in the know, there was once this Warrant Officer, Matt Stopford, who served in Croatia many years ago and came home with a slew of ailments.

A little while afterwards, an inquiry found out that a whole bunch of reservists tried to poion him because they viewed him as "too gung ho".

It was then that the Warrant decided to seek some sense of justice.

"It's no longer a question of compensation, but one to expose wrongdoing," says Stopford, who in 1994 returned from UN duty in Croatia blind in one eye, with internal organs so damaged that even the Mayo Clinic could offer little help.

Six years later, the army informed Stopford that his own men had been trying to poison him. An investigation confirmed that some 30 people in the chain of command knew of the poison attempts, but no one told Stopford, or tried to stop it.

The problem with modern volunteer armies is that many new enlistees view their employment as glorified summer camp.

Take, for example, the reservists who tried to frag the Warrant. When they joined his regiment, the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry (PPCLI), what were they expecting? Were they expecting a romp in the forest in during the day, followed by a night of boozing and whoring? Or were they expecting a life-changing experience?

If you take away the Warrant's current struggles, what you're left with is a slowly growing malaise in this volunteer military service, with recruits confusing employment with commitment, and superiors desparate to enlist and retain anyone with a pulse and a smile at all costs, regardless of competance.

If you take away Matt's plight, you still have a group of cowards who have gotten away with murder, and a beaurocracy unwilling to pursue them for fear of a public relations backlash.

Being commited to military service includes accepting all the risks involved with the job, including getting killed or maimed - something that Cindy al-Shaheed refuse to accept, by the way. Anyone who thinks otherwise should consider another line of work, because this is the reality of warfare.

What Matt Stopford should've realised was that the charges who tried to kill should never have been put in uniform and sent out in the first place.

That is the saddest reality in this drama.

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