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A Line in the Sand: Canadians at War in Kandahar

by Captain Ray Wiss

Captain Ray Wiss is a hero. An emergency-room physician in his late forties, Wiss has twice volunteered to leave his practice and family to participate in four-month rotations on Canadian Forces’ forward operating bases in Afghanistan’s dangerous Kandahar province.

Written during Wiss’s second rotation, A Line in the Sand, like 2009’s FOB Doc, takes the form of a diary. Brief entries record Wiss’s daily reflections on his work and the varied lives of our soldiers, our Afghan allies, and the civilians for whom both fight.

For interested Canadians, there is now a wealth of diverse first-hand accounts of the war in Afghanistan, providing great insight into the professionalism and extraordinary heroism of those we have put in harm’s way and the trying conditions under which they fight. Readers who enjoy the frisson of such recollections, or admirers of FOB Doc looking for more of the author’s candid, casual style, will enjoy A Line in the Sand.

While there is no doubt that Wiss is a hero, like all heroes he is flawed. Though candour is something to be admired in a diarist recording his truth, the reader’s opinions be damned, Wiss often strays from frank honesty to cringe-inducing bravado in the entries illustrating his status as combat veteran and warrior. Further, his rather disingenuous position that the long-term solution in Afghanistan is educating the locals in the value of liberal thought bears shades of mission civilisatrice, a position unbecoming of a self-proclaimed social justice activist.

Wiss’s goal is to bring the battlefields of Panjwayi, Zhari, Arghandab, and Shah Wali Khot to the Canadian national consciousness. This is a challenge, given a public mostly disengaged from the war and a federal government seemingly intent on keeping it that way. But perhaps it will be heroes such as Wiss who finally surmount these hurdles.


Reviewer: Michael Clark

Publisher: Douglas & McIntyre


Price: $34.95

Page Count: 432 pp

Format: Cloth

ISBN: 978-1-55365-592-3

Released: Oct.

Issue Date: 2010-9

Categories: History