News Highlights – 8 Sept 11

  • Libya Mission (1)  Missed him by >>THAT<< much.  “Just as we’d always suspected, if more wryly than with alarm: the rat was in the cellar. Moammar Gadhafi did indeed bivouac in the basement of the posh Rixos Hotel — compulsory Tripoli lodgings for foreign journalists through months of the stalled Libyan revolution — confident that NATO planes would not bomb that location. “Absolutely,’’ confirms Lt.-Gen. Charles Bouchard, the Canadian in command of Operation Unified Protector, formal name of the interventionist NATO mission mandated by the United Nations Security Council. “He was there,’’ Bouchard told the Star during an interview this week at Joint Force Command headquarters here. “It’s not a secret anymore. He could drive in a golf cart through the tunnels that stretched all the way from (his compound) Bab al-Aziziya, under the zoo next door and into the hotel. That’s how he would appear out of nowhere, disappear, and pop up somewhere else.’’ It might also explain why reporters were held hostage at the Rixos for five days by Gadhafi loyalists, even as the capital was falling to surging rebel forces a fortnight ago ….”
  • Libya Mission (2)  “…. with the military mission apparently mostly over, any extension requires a goal for the end: calling back the fighters and the warship when the last major Gadhafi strongholds are gone.”
  • Canadian pilots taking part in Exercise Bold Quest in Indiana. Fighter pilots often have seconds to decide whether to open fire, and this month they will train at Camp Atterbury to know how to make that choice. The post, in southern Johnson county and northwestern Brown County, is hosting a major NATO training exercise involving pilots and soldiers from Germany, Finland, France and 11 other countries. The allies will train on how to avoid shooting at troops who are on their side and use high-tech sensors that allow them to distinguish friend from foe, Navy Capt. Kent Davis said. Residents who live nearby should expect to hear the roar of fighter jets and the whir of helicopters both day and night when the training exercise starts Thursday, Maj. Lisa Kopczynski said. More aircraft than normal will fly over Camp Atterbury through Sept. 25. Pilots will practice using radar that warns them not to bomb or shoot at troops from other countries who are assisting in combat or on peacekeeping missions, Davis said …. “
  • What’s Canada Buying? (1)  “…. The Canadian Forces (CF) are looking to replace all current types of pistols in use with a newer weapon and is gathering information on the Price and Availability of weapons and the number of potential contenders as part of its planning and budget process. Personnel from all services of the CF will use these pistols for self-DEFENCE. The GSP will replace the 9mm Browning High Power (HP) and the 9mm Sig Sauer Model 225 pistol ….”  More details available in bid package here (PDF via re:  what the CF is looking for, as well as a projected timeline (Requests for Proposals expected to be issued summer 2015, with pistols expected to be purchased Fall 2015).
  • What’s Canada Buying (2)  Honkin’ expensive long-range thermal weapon sights“…. The Department of National Defence has a requirement for a compact, lightweight, weapon-mountable thermal imager that works in conjunction with the optical day sight to provide target detection and recognition in the thermal band at long range.  This capability will be referred as a Long Range Thermal Weapon Sight (LRTWS) system. The LRTWS system will also serve to complement other optical handheld observation devices.  You are hereby notified that the Government of Canada intends to negotiate with FLIR Systems Ltd, 25 Esquire Road, North Billerica, MA, who manufacturers and possesses the intellectual property rights as the OEM for the ThermoSight™ S150 (links to PDF fact sheet), part number #26986-201, commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) Long Range Thermal Weapon Sight (LRTWS) system.  Deliverables:  Forty-nine (49) cryogenically cooled sensor, thermal video channeled single bodied systems, including accessories and remote control systems …. An optional twenty-five (25) units including accessories and remote control systems …. Total estimate cost of all deliverables:  $7,350,000.00 CAD HSTI ….”
  • Afghanistan (1)  Interesting, especially in a city with an infantry unit based there.  “I received a news release recently that really bothered me. It had nothing to do with Alberta politics or the two leadership races now underway for the Liberals and Conservatives. It had to do with a dinner this Saturday to honour the 157 Canadian soldiers killed in Afghanistan during our combat mission there. The dinner will be attended by Alberta Lt.-Gov. Donald Ethell and hear a keynote address by Maj.-Gen. Jonathan Vance, who commanded coalition troops in Kandahar province for nine months. However, according to the news release, the event was “in jeopardy of cancellation.” Simply put, not enough people had bought tickets. The dinner had room for 500 and would financially break even with 350 – but only 60 people had bought tickets when the news release crossed my desk. “We’re surprised that we’ve sold less than 60 tickets to an event dedicated to honouring the brave men and women who have died while serving in our Canadian Forces,” wrote the event organizer, Mike McMurray. “We need to sell at least 300 more tickets to the gala dinner or we’re going to be left with little choice but to cancel the event. We simply can’t put on a poor show for our troops or the families of our fallen soldiers that we’ve invited.” ….”
  • Afghanistan (2)  Another “combat mission wrapping up” story, this time about Canada’s helicopters in theatre.
  • Stuart Langridge, R.I.P  The mother of a soldier who took his own life at the Edmonton Garrison hopes a public hearing will answer the questions she has had for more than three years. After several suicide attempts, Cpl. Stuart Langridge hanged himself in March 2008. The young soldier suffered from severe depression and post-traumatic stress disorder and struggled with substance abuse after he returned from a six-month tour of duty in Afghanistan in 2005. On Tuesday, the Military Police Complaints Commission called a public hearing into his death ….”
  • The Leslie Report/CF Reorg  One ex-officer’s view of what should happen, presented without comment. “…. Canadian politicians have a history of economizing on the backs of the military — the most flagrant example being Pierre Trudeau soon after he became PM and seemed eager to disband the military and withdraw from NATO. The regimental system saved the quality of our army in those days. Rather than maintain large conventional units, the Canadian army seems ideally suited to becoming something like the British SAS — highly-trained individuals able to function in small units or larger units, doing clandestine operations or open combat ….”
  • Someone’s unhappy with Canada’s “Royalizing” the CF and other highlighting of Canada’s military history“…. History belongs to everyone equally and as such is–or should be–open to unfettered enquiry and defended against deliberate distortion. To borrow a medical metaphor, history constitutes the genes that make up a citizen’s “cultural DNA.” Unfortunately, cultural DNA is vulnerable to “genetic engineering.” In the hands of an ignoble government, historical images and events can be manipulated to serve political objectives …. Behind the propaganda curtain of “restoring” Canada’s military pride and tradition is the appropriation of military history to justify the sort of aggression honourable Canadians gave their lives to defeat.”
  • 9/11 Plus Ten (1)  PM (apparently) to declare 11 Sept a “National Day of Service”, while Canada’s Defence Minister prepares to speak to a memorial forum in Washington today.
  • 9/11 Plus Ten (2a)  “…. Prime Minister Stephen Harper says the biggest security threat to Canada a decade after 9/11 is Islamic terrorism …. Harper says Canada is safer than it was on Sept. 11, 2001, when al-Qaeda attacked the U.S., but that “the major threat is still Islamicism.”  “There are other threats out there, but that is the one that I can tell you occupies the security apparatus most regularly in terms of actual terrorist threats,” Harper said. Harper cautioned that terrorist threats can “come out of the blue” from a different source, such as the recent Norway attacks, where a lone gunman who hated Muslims killed 77 people. But Harper said terrorism by Islamic radicals is still the top threat, though a “diffuse” one ….”  More on this one here, and some discussion at here.
  • 9/11 Plus Ten (2b)  Controversial clauses expanding the powers of police to combat terrorism are going to be reintroduced by the new Conservative majority government, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said in an interview with CBC. Harper said for the first time since the Tories took control of the House of Commons the government plans to bring back measures in the Anti-Terrorism Act that expired in 2007. “We think those measures are necessary. We think they’ve been useful,” Harper said of the expired parts of the act. “They’re applied rarely, but there are times where they’re needed.” ….”
  • 9/11 Plus Ten (3a)  Canada’s national security spending skyrocketed in the post-9/11 decade and it may be time to start cutting back, said a report released Wednesday by an Ottawa-based think tank. “The government has created a national security establishment in Canada,” Steven Staples, president of the Ottawa-based Rideau Institute, told a press conference. “A decade after the attacks of 9/11 it’s time to re-evaluate whether we should continue the high level of national security spending.” In total, Canada devoted an additional CAN$92 billion (US$93 billion) to keep Canadians safe, the report said ….”  More along this story line here and here.
  • 9/11 Plus Ten (3b)  Calculating what it cost Canadian taxpayers to respond to the Sept. 11 terror attacks has proven to be a difficult task for the Rideau Institute. The left-wing think tank has released a report that concludes $92 billion in new military, public safety, foreign affairs, and other spending since 2001 is linked to creating a post-9-11 national security establishment. Still, report author and economist David Macdonald admits it’s not easy to draw a clear line between the spending and al-Qaida terrorism that shook the world. “I suppose we could argue about whether (the spending) would have happened anyway,” Macdonald said. He insisted at least part of the justification for the spending was due to “the 9-11 agenda.” Candice Hoeppner, parliamentary secretary to the public safety minister, agreed some increased spending was tied to dealing with Afghanistan and the U.S. Homeland Security, but not all of it. “It also has to do with trade,” said Hoeppner. “It has to do with the movements of goods and services and individuals.” ….”
  • 9/11 Plus Ten (3c)  Want to decide for yourself about the latest cost estimates?  Download the Rideau Institute report here (12 page PDF) – news release here.
  • 9/11 Plus Ten (4)  Columnist Gwynne Dyer’s view on whether Osama Bin Laden won. “…. So bin Laden dug a trap, and the United States fell into it. In that sense his strategy succeeded, and the guerilla war that ensued in Afghanistan did much to turn Arab and Muslim popular opinion against America. (The invasion of Iraq did even more damage to America’s reputation, but that really wasn’t about terrorism at all.) In the long run, however, bin Laden’s strategy failed simply because his project was unacceptable and implausible to most Muslims. And the most decisive rejection of his strategy is the fact that the oppressive old Arab regimes are now being overthrown, for the most part nonviolently, by revolutionaries who want democracy and freedom, not Islamist rule.”
  • A showcase moment in the history of Canadian diplomacy – the topsecret spiriting of six Americans out of Tehran during the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis – appears destined for blockbuster treatment in Hollywood. At least three years in development, the spy thriller Argo will focus on how CIA agent Tony Mendez – played by Ben Affleck, who also directs – plotted with Canada’s ambassador to Iran, Ken Taylor, to rescue the trapped Americans by having them pose as Canadian location scouts for a fake movie supposedly being shot in Iran. Another Hollywood A-lister, George Clooney, is producing and acting in the film. Like the Affleck-helmed film that started shooting last week in Los Angeles – and which will also be shot in Washington and Istanbul – the title of the bogus movie in the CIA-hatched scheme 32 years ago was Argo ….”  The Internet Movie Database listing for Argo is already up here.  For more details from the horse’s mouth, so to speak, the International Spy Museum in Washington, D.C. interviewed Mendez on the rescue (as well as a couple of the hostages), and shares the interview on podcasts here and here.
  • Saskatchewan airfield named after D-Day Spitfire pilot – Flight Lieutenant (Ret’d) Barry Needham was a young man when he flew four sorties over the beaches of Normandy, France, on D-Day during the Second World War. As a member of 412 Transport Squadron, he flew with some of the most celebrated wartime aviators in history, including Charley Fox (known for strafing the staff car of Field Marshall (Erwin) Rommel from his Spitfire) and American John Gillespie Magee, author of the celebrated poem “High Flight”. Although F/L Needham has attended several squadron functions over the past few years, it was the most recent event in his hometown of Wynyard, Sask. that has the 90-year-old veteran more than a little choked up. Wynyard recently named its unmanned airfield the W. B. Needham Field in a ceremony that included tributes from the Commander of the Royal Canadian Air Force, Lieutenant-General André Deschamps, the commanding officer of 412 (T) Sqn, Lieutenant-Colonel Eric Philippouci, and Major Chris Strawson, chief multi-engine instructor at 3 Canadian Forces Flying Training School, Portage-La-Prairie, Man. who has become quite close with F/L Needham in recent years ….”

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