If an American leak says it’s true, then it must be. That seemed to be the attitude of the bulk of the Canadian media last week when it was revealed that a US military bureaucrat had logged the deaths of four Canadian soldiers in 2006 Afghanistan as being the result of so called friendly fire.
Instead of being the starting point for a story about Canadian soldiers being killed in a so-called friendly fire incident, the story was that the Canadian military had lied when it said the men had died in a gun-battle with the Taliban. Basically for two days Canada’s military leaders were asked why they’d misled the public about how the soldiers died. It was only on Day Three that it seemed to occur to reporters that the bureaucrat who filled in the log, one of 75,000 documents released by WikiLeaks, might have got it wrong. Now, common sense would have suggested that the log should have been taken with a pinch of salt from the get-go. Honestly, what are the chances of four friendly fire deaths being kept secret for almost four years? A number of Canadian soldiers were involved in the battle in which the four died and we’re supposed to believe that not one of them spoke up: that no former colleague told the families of the dead how their loved ones really died. At any given time there are a number of Canadian journalists embedded with the military in Afghanistan. Are we supposed to believe that the ones there at the time were incompetent or complicit with the military's lie? The media coverage of the leaked friendly fire report certainly caused the families of the four soldiers – Shane Stachnik, Frank Mellish, William Cushley and Richard Nolan - some distress. Basically, they were being painted as naïve for taking the military’s word about how the men died. Too many Canadian journalists are, literally, suckers when they hear the words “cover-up” and “leak”. Common sense and good journalistic procedures are cast aside and they don’t care who gets hurt. I think the fact that no soldiers have come out of the woodwork in the past week declaring that they're glad the truth has finally come out about it being a friendly-fire incident says a lot.