News Highlights – 4 Mar 11

  • Canadians continue to GTFO LibyaA Canadian military transport made it to Malta safely on Thursday with another 31 evacuees and more flights were planned as a botched Dutch rescue operation underscored the perils of western military actions in Libya. A spokesman for Canada’s overseas headquarters said 14 of the passengers aboard the Hercules aircraft were Canadians and the rest were foreign nationals. The plane returned from Tripoli without incident, said Maj. Andre Salloum. As of Thursday, the Foreign Affairs Department said 327 Canadians, including those on the military flight, had found their way out of the Libya crossfire. The Harper government dispatched a frigate, HMCS Charlottetown, this week to take part in a possible blockade to enforce sanctions ….”
  • Commentariat on Libya (1): “…. the (HMCS) Charlottetown could turn its attention to ill-defined humanitarian relief operations or to the enforcement of a potential international embargo against the Libyan regime. Whatever the ultimate mission, it will likely come as a surprise — just as much of one as the decision to deploy the warship …. How Canadian assets could be used to alleviate the exodus from Libya or to deliver relief supplies remains to be seen. But clearly, Ottawa is committing to stay on the job long after its primary objective of securing Canadian lives is met. This is commendable, and not just from a humanitarian point of view. It also sends a strong signal to our European allies that their interests are vital to us …. The rapid downfall of Col. Moammar Gadhafi is the best way to prevent a full-blown refugee crisis inside and outside Libya. Whatever Canada can do to help tip the scales — short of direct military intervention — is worth doing.”
  • Commentariat on Libya (2): “…. The West should tread carefully in Libya. While it is tempting to imagine the country’s conflict as a simple struggle between good and evil that can be brought to a speedy and decisive conclusion, the reality is more complicated than that. Aggressive intervention might easily end up doing more harm than good.”
  • Commentariat on Libya (3): Canadians who believe that their military’s primary purpose should not be to fight wars, but fervently want their troops to only be Boy Scouts, should be pleased by Ottawa’s evolving commitment to the crisis in Libya.  With China, Russia, Turkey and Germany having already strongly rejected any kind of military intervention – which could result in unpredictable and unwelcome outcomes – the West will have considerable trouble gathering a coalition of the willing to enforce a no-fly zone over Libya. But western countries want to be seen to be helping in other ways.  So, just in time to give the Harper government a wee bit of an election boost, Canadian sailors and air force personnel will be drawn into international humanitarian operations in the Maghreb.  Canada’s part in potential Libyan humanitarian operations are to be much smaller than what its armed forces did in Haiti after last winter’s earthquake. But there will still be a feel-good factor ….”
  • Interesting pointIt’s curious, how the most vocal opponents of military spending go quiet whenever boats and planes and superbly trained soldiers suddenly come in handy. Where were the critics of Ottawa’s C17 purchase last January, when these massive air barns were deployed at a moment’s notice to transport aid into earthquake-struck Haiti? And where are they now, as Canadian Forces aircraft based in Malta and JTF2 special forces troops work to extract Canadians trapped by the fighting in Libya? What will critics of the government’s proposed CF-35 jet fighter purchase say if, as now appears possible, Canadian Air Force jets are involved in enforcing a no-fly zone in North Africa, to protect innocents from Gadhafi’s warplanes? Here’s what they’ll say: Not much, for the duration of the crisis. Then, when the smoke clears and the planes are back at CFB Trenton, they’ll start again with the mantra that spending money on warriors and their gear is needless and wasteful ….” Not ALL vocal opponents of military spending are staying silent – more here.
  • Canada’s post-military legacy in southern Afghanistan may well rest on the slender shoulders of Haji Hamdullah Nazak.  The 32-year-old governs the district of Dand, a relative model of stability compared to the violence and intimidation that permeates other regions of Kandahar province.  But as the Canadian military gradually shifts its focus away from patrols and towards packing boxes for a training mission said to be “Kabul-centric,” Nazak frets over the possibility of lost progress.  “I’m a little bit afraid of that,” Nazak says through a translator. “If they stopped helping us, assisting us in this major purpose, we will face some challenges, problems.” ….”
  • Meanwhile, opposition to the war in Afghanistan is higher in Britain and Canada than the United States, with at least 60 percent against it, a poll indicated Thursday …. Almost two-thirds, 63 percent, of Canadians said they oppose the war, while only 32 percent support it, a new low. Last year, 47 percent supported the war.   Albertans were most likely to back Afghan operations, but even there only 43 percent said they support it. In Quebec, 75 percent oppose the war.  Vision Critical, based in Toronto conducted the poll on line from Feb. 22 to Feb. 28, surveying 1,022 Angus Reid Forum panelists in Canada, 1,006 Springboard America panelists and 2,019 members of Springboard UK. The margin of error is 3.1 percentage points for Canada and the United States and 2.1 points for Britain.”
  • A parliamentary committee tasked with vetting documents related to the abuse of Afghan detainees could make the secret material public within the next two weeks, according to the Liberals. Amid mounting pressure from the Bloc Quebecois and New Democrats, Liberal defence critic Dominic LeBlanc suggested a report by the three-judge panel of legal experts advising the team of MPs should be available within a “week or two” along with “a considerable number of the documents” themselves. His comments come a day after Bloc Quebecois leader Gilles Duceppe issued an ultimatum. Frustrated the uncensored documents still haven’t been released despite promises they’d be ready in January, Duceppe vowed to pull his two MPs from the committee. “The process has become bogged down and I don’t understand why,” he said ….”
  • Bye bye old subs“…. The Department of National Defence (DND), has a requirement for the removal, dismantling and disposal of the Oberon Class Submarines Olympus and Okanagan, and an option to dispose of a third, Ojibwa …. A bidders’ conference chaired by the Contracting Authority will be convened at HMC Dockyard, Jetty NL, Dartmouth, Nova Scotia on March 23, 2011 @ 0900 ….”
  • F-35 Tug o’ War:  Steven Staples’ top 10 list on why Canada shouldn’t buy the F-35.
  • Operation: Western Front (OWF) – a very special initiative organized by mission commanders and philanthropists Warren M. Spitz and W. Brett Wilson to raise awareness and funds for military causes – has collected a stunning $1.5 million in sponsorship and donations. The funds will be donated to various military programs – including Outward Bound for Veterans and Canada Company, a charitable, non-partisan organization that builds a bridge between business and community leaders and the Canadian Military Forces, including providing scholarships to surviving offspring of fallen Canadian Forces personnel. The funds will support a variety of other needs – from medical support to childcare and financial aid – and will be directed through Canada’s True Patriot Love Foundation ….”
  • Conservative MP pitches softball question to Minister in House of Commons on what government is doing to help veterans in Quebec (giving Minister a chance to bash the Bloc). “I would like to thank the hon. member from Lévis—Bellechasse for his excellent work and his concern for veterans. Our government is listening to the regions of Quebec and to veterans. We introduced Bill C-55 in the House, and it will serve as the enhanced new veterans charter and will help our modern-day veterans, who may come back wounded from Afghanistan. Unfortunately, the Bloc is still not co-operating as we would like, but we still hope to pass this bill before the upcoming budget ….”
  • Federal Crown prosecutors do not have to hand over a complete set of photographs used by French police to link former University of Ottawa professor Hassan Diab to a Paris terrorist bombing. Diab’s lawyer Donald Bayne had asked for the photographs to be entered into the record of the case, but federal Justice Department lawyers acting for the French government resisted. Only nine of 33 “mug shots” shown by Paris police to witnesses 30 years after the bombing have been used as evidence by the prosecution. All nine are of the 57-yearold Diab at various stages of adult life ….”

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