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Tidbits from Both Sides of the Fight

MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – February 5, 2013

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  • Mali (1)  Canada’s ambassador to the European Union is expected to stay quiet during a major meeting in Brussels (today) where the international community will be gathering to discuss the situation in MaliAmbassador David Plunkett will be among those from 45 countries as well as the United Nations, African Union, the Economic Community of West African States and the World Bank talking about ways to bring peace and stability to Mali.  But Plunkett will not announce any increase or expansion to Canada’s role in the country, which has largely involved providing humanitarian assistance and deploying a heavy military transport aircraft to help France move troops and equipment into the West African nation.  A government source said Canada will continue to watch developments in Mali, where Islamic militants are on the run in the north of the country, and may make further contributions in the future, including financial support for the African-led military force poised to take over from  French troops who have routed the militants.  “I don’t think we expect this will be a short game,” the source said, noting elections to return Mali to democratic rule won’t be held until July.  However, all indications remain that the government is not interested in getting dragged into the conflict ….”
  • Mali (2a)  Columnist on the fight ahead  “…. While France’s initial military objectives have been met, it is evident that the crisis in Mali is the tip of a much larger regional powder keg. Like stepping on one side of a water balloon, pushing the Islamic Maghreb and Tuareg separatists out of Mali has only built up pressure elsewhere.  Even with the addition of 3,300 troops promised by the Economic Community of Western African States, the Malian security forces will be hard pressed to hold the French military’s gains on their own.”
  • Mali (2b)  rabble.ca column’s take  “…. The west has been in perpetual war with Muslims of all kinds ever since 9/11, never quite winning. As the Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald has reminded us, Mali is the eighth country in the last four years where western countries have killed Muslims. Shouldn’t the aim in Mali be to determine realistic goals before we kill again?  In the meantime, Canada should be a generous humanitarian donor to Mali’s refugees and displaced people ….”
  • Mali (2c)  Another writer aching for the days of the blue beret (question:  can the peace be “kept” if both sides haven’t agreed yet to stop fighting?)  “…. Within the next few weeks, the U.N. Security Council may well authorize an U.N.-led peacekeeping mission to stabilize Mali after the French-led combat mission ends. The success of the peacekeeping mission will turn, in large part, on whether well-trained soldiers from the developed world are involved.  It’s a mission tailor-made for Canada; one that Pearson would undoubtedly have embraced.”
  • Mali (3)  More on whazzup in Mali here (Google News), here (EMM Explorer) and here (France’s defence ministry’s daily update in French)
  • Syria  Can you spare a few bucks to help someone (allegedly) wanting to fight the good fight?  This from kijiji (also here if previous link doesn’t work):  “I am a ex cdn soldier with experience looking for sponsorship so I can go train and fight with the Free Syrian army. I need to gather about $10,000 for the mission to be successful.”
  • Joshua Caleb Baker, 1985-2010, R.I.P.  It was an emotional day of testimony inside the trial of a former Canadian Forces Commander.  Retired Warrant Officer Paul Ravensdale pleaded not guilty to six charges including manslaughter in death of Corporal Joshua Baker. The 24-year-old died during a training accident in Afghanistan in 2010.  Four other soldiers were injured.  Those soldiers testified for the first time Monday.  They told the military court on Feb. 12, 2010, the only thing standing between them and the C-19 they were learning to use was their body armor. The prosecution says Ravensdale should have never let that happen.  They were standing out in the open when two C-19 land mines, also known as claymores, were set off during a training exercise.  Cpl. Joshua Baker was killed when shrapnel from one of the explosions backfired.  The commander, now retired Warrant officer Paul Ravensdale has pleaded not guilty to six charges including manslaughter and breach of duty ….”
  • Need info on the foreign bases that aren’t really foreign bases?  This from the CF Info-machine, just updated about a week ago.
  • Libya  Curiouser and curiouser  There’s a kind of Mission Impossible vibe to the relationship between Cyndy Vanier and SNC-Lavalin, the Montreal-based international engineering giant enmeshed in allegations of corruption and consorting with dictatorsVanier, a Canadian consultant who worked for SNC-Lavalin, has been languishing in a Mexican prison for more than a year while a judge there decides if she was part of a plot to spirit Saadi Gadhafi out of Libya as his father’s dictatorship crumbled under a rebel onslaught in 2011.  According to CBC News, Vanier insists she was hired by SNC-Lavalin controller Stephane Roy, under orders from executive vice-president Riadh Ben Alissa, for a legitimate “fact-finding” trip to Libya.  Mexican authorities allege she was helping set up an exit route for Gadhafi, a senior commander in father Muammar Gadhafi’s regime, and smuggle him and his family into Mexico under false identities. Gadhafi eventually escaped to Niger, Libya’s neighbour, and has been given asylum ….”
  • Vets’ Ombudsman latest report“…. by not providing applicants with copies of documents retrieved and submitted to disability adjudicators, applicants are denied their participation rights and the right to a fair hearing, including the right to be aware of the information that will be considered by adjudicators (the right to disclosure), the right to provide their own information and to challenge the information available to decision-makers, and the right to determine the relevance of information provided to adjudicators. For these reasons, the current practice is procedurally unfair ….” - more from the media here and here.
  • The Government’s Response“The Honourable Steven Blaney, Minister of Veterans Affairs, …. launched the “Right to Fairness Implementation Plan” to cut red tape for Veterans applying to Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) for disability benefits.  The plan addresses the recently issued Ombudsman report entitled “Veterans’ Right to Disclosure: A Matter of Procedural Fairness.” It consists of new measures that will ensure Veterans and their families have a better understanding of the Department’s disability benefit application process for considering information and how that information is used to make a decision on their applications ….”  We’ll see ….
  • In other ombudsman news….  The Canadian Forces ombudsman says the Harper government has an opportunity now to help military families who’ve suffered huge home-equity losses by amending proposed legislation that’s before ParliamentPierre Daigle testified Monday before a House of Commons committee that’s studying C-15, the latest attempt in a decade-long struggle to overhaul the military justice system.  Since 2007, as many as 146 applications for reimbursement have been denied to military families for losses they’ve taken after selling their homes because of forced transfers to different parts of the country.  The problem could be solved by giving the country’s top military commander the full power to make one-time payments in grievance cases, Daigle told the all-party Commons defence committee.  “This is an unfairness that people serving this country are facing, and all we want is to solve this unfairness,” Daigle said in an interview with The Canadian Press following his testimony.  The legislation being studied by the committee has been before Parliament several times, in different forms, over the last 10 years without being passed ….”
  • HMCS Ville De Quebec is taking part in an composite training unit exercise (COMPTUEX) with the Aircraft Carrier USS Harry Truman, as a memeber of the 1st Combined Destroyer Squadron (1CDS) 1CDS members currently include USS Barry (DDG 52), USS Gravely (DDG 107), the German ship FGS Hamburg (F220), and the Canadian ships HMCS Ville De Quebec (FFH 332) and HMCS Preserver (AOR 510); USS Monterey (CG 61), USS Gettysburg (CG 64), and USS Kauffman (FFG 59).  COMPTUEX is a series of training scenarios designed to certify HSTSG as a deployment-ready fighting force capable of completing operations in overseas theaters ….”
  • Way Up North  Head’s up for military training in northeastern Ontario all the way up to Ontario’s James Bay coast  “Canadian Forces personnel from across Ontario will conduct military training in the vicinity of Cochrane, Fraserdale and Moosonee, Ontario, from February 8 to 26, 2013, as part of Exercise TRILLIUM RESPONSE 2013.  Soldiers and military vehicles, including snowmobiles, will be seen in these areas, as well as low flying aircraft including large transport aircraft and helicopters. Military vehicles can be expected to travel at reduced speeds and motorists are advised to exercise care and patience when encountering military vehicles and soldiers on foot or on snowmobiles. Soldiers will be using blank ammunition and pyrotechnics; loud noises may be heard ….” 
  • More on Jointex 2013  “In anticipation of a variety of potential future operations, the Canadian Forces are currently engaged in a series of training exercises they began planning three years ago, collectively named JOINTEX 13, which will prepare them to take on a leadership role in multinational expeditionary operations.  ““JOINTEX provides a predictable, repeatable, and adaptable means to learn and improve, allowing us the critical opportunity to play it out in training before living it out in actual operations,’” said Lieutenant-General Stuart Beare, Commander of Canadian Joint Operations Command.  JOINTEX will prepare the Canadian Forces to lead a Combined Joint-Inter Agency Task Force Headquarters (CJIATF), with 1st Canadian Division Headquarters at its centre, responsible for planning and conducting coalition full-spectrum operations with multinational military forces and both governmental and non-governmental agencies.  ““This training allows us to further develop our replication of the contemporary and future operating environments in the live, virtual, and constructive training domains – all at the same time and in multiple locations,”” said Major-General John Collin, Commander 1st Canadian Division.  While the majority of planning and coordination for the exercise takes place at Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Kingston, there are also approximately 1,000 Canadian Forces members taking part in the exercise through simulations across Canada because the exercise is computer-assisted ….”
  • Columnist on Ministers not getting all the information they need (or want)  “…. Canada needs a military, and it needs an effective, capable one. But that requires civilian oversight, as much for the military’s benefit as the taxpayers’. It seems increasingly clear that right now, we don’t have that. And it’s hard to see how that will change any time soon.”
  • Academic on what the Army should be preparing to do  “…. With instability throughout Northern Africa and the Middle East, the future of warfare looks likely to be dominated by insurgencies and failed states. Still, the war drums beating in northeast Asia over the Korean peninsula and the Diaoyu/Senkaku islands hedge against the possibility of a traditional state on state conflict marked by conventional capabilities. There are no easy answers to the question of what future Canada must demand its Army to prepare for. The Army clearly wishes to have as much capability it can get out of the state while Canadians might prefer to have only so much capability as we can afford. Hybrid warfare is a great concept to hedge bets, but one that doesn’t shed too much light on the space between those two positions, or on the hard decisions of deciding what Canada’s Army is for.”
  • Canada’s Defence Minister drops by Norway  “…. the Honourable Peter MacKay, Minister of National Defence, concluded a visit to Norway, during which he held bilateral discussions with his Norwegian counterpart, Minister of Defence Anne-Grete Strøm-Erichsen …. This visit provided both Ministers an opportunity to share insights and understanding on a wide range of issues and deepen Canada-Norway bilateral defence ties ….”
  • Columnist on how the navy spy trial could be drawing Canada’s eye from the real threat  “…. In this century, authoritarian regimes may be more interested in, say, the government’s deliberations over allowing a Chinese state-owned enterprise to acquire a Canadian oil company than in military intelligence. Stealing intellectual property may be a bigger catch than ferreting out double agents ….”
  • Note to headline writers:  is it “spying” when most of the information is out in the public domain?  The Mounties compiled a dossier on the Occupy Ottawa movement, scouring social media sites and even quizzing campus security after protesters held planning sessions at a university, newly released documents show Meeting notes show there were also plans to monitor the Confederation Park protest site using a camera mounted to the nearby offices of the National Capital Commission.  The camera is normally pointed at Ottawa’s city hall, the notes say. However, the NCC says it does not operate the camera and it did not use the device to monitor the protests from its offices.  The documents show NCC staff did keep close tabs on the makeshift encampment throughout the occupation, snapping dozens of photographs and reporting on the protesters’ activities.  Details about the surveillance tactics are only now coming to light, some 14 months after police ousted the Occupy Ottawa protesters from Confederation Park in late November 2011. It took the NCC until last week to provide documents in response to an access-to-information request from The Canadian Press ….”  No word on whether the documents are being shared, so no clue what else is there.
  • More on those OTHER squadrons that helped win the Battle of Britain (10 page RCAF Info-machine PDF)
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