“Our Latest Fallen Soldier”

“Today they kill us. Tomorrow they kill you.” That was one of the more stirring slogans shouted by some of the at least 10,000 marchers in Kabul, Afghanistan, just a few hours before the pipes began trilling and the dignitaries began laying their wreaths for the Remembrance Day ceremonies at the National War Memorial in Ottawa.

The Kabul demonstration was a sobering reminder that the gallant cause for which 158 Canadian Forces members gave their lives in Afghanistan was not won when the last contingent returned home last year. Nor did that cause begin for Canadians only 12 years earlier, with the first deployment of Joint Task Force 2 in the weeks following Al-Qaida’s attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C., on Sept. 11, 2001.

It’s an older, civilizational struggle. It recognizes no borders and allows no innocent bystanders. It pits the liberty of the individual and the legacy of the Enlightenment against theocratic barbarism and police-state totalitarianism, and it is a rare thing for a Canadian to articulate that understanding of the war now underway around the world with such moral clarity as has 32-year-old John Robert Gallagher from Wheatley, Ont.

Gallagher, formerly of the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, was killed last week in Northern Syria while fighting alongside Kurdish partisans against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). In an essay he wrote before setting off for Kurdistan in May, Gallagher explained why he was going. “We are all on the front lines of this conflict, whether we know it or not,” Gallagher wrote. The war is unfolding not only in faraway places, but is also a terror that is enfeebling “cartoonists, satirists, publishers and booksellers, news media and educators” in Western countries.

Gallagher took particularly careful aim at “pacifists and the appeasement left,” and ridiculed the faddish preoccupation in Canada with “Islamophobia” as something that is, as often as not, a surrender to the very fearmongering the term’s deployment purports to strike a pose against. It is a posture that reflects “a deep contempt for the character of immigrant Muslims,” rather than the respect that Muslims deserve as individuals capable of making their own rational choices. …

Gallagher was a proud Canadian, wholly unapologetic about the “Canadian values” we have traditionally professed to espouse and mercilessly contemptuous of the the bourgeois intellectual masochism he saw as supplanting those values: “Because of our beliefs, we live in the most racially inclusive, sexually liberated and anti-imperialist society which has ever existed in human history, and to teach young people anything different is a criminal act of intellectual violence.”

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