News Highlights – 16 Apr 12

  • Afghanistan (1a)  Following Taliban attacks on Kabul and other spots, with the Taliban taking credit here (links to non-terrorist site), Foreign Affairs says all Canadians (including troops) are accounted for.  If it’s like the last attacks in Kabul, we’ll have to wait a few days before we hear details about what the troops have been up to.
  • Afghanistan (1b)  Foreign Affairs on latest attacks:  BAAAD Taliban!
  • Afghanistan (1c)  Former OMLT’er Bruce Ralston points to some decent commentary about the latest attacks in Kabul (as well as the progress on using musical instruments to build Afghan military capacity)
  • Afghanistan (2)  Author Noah Richler explains rationale behind latest book “…. With What We Talk About When We Talk About War, a book about how society talks itself into, through and out of a conflict that uses Canada’s participation in the war in Afghanistan as its example, the question, “Do I have a right to write this?” was more grave. Although the book is not a judgment about the conflict, I was well aware that I would be writing about the language of heroism that Canada used to support its war effort and a train of events that has seen 158 Canadian soldiers and four civilians die, with no practical knowledge of the military or my having been to Afghanistan. It hardly mattered that this fact was likely to be pounced upon by my arguments’ detractors; the fella I needed to convince was me. The case I made before my court of one was that I was writing the book for the vast majority of Canadians, like myself, who depend on what they learn from others for the views they take on. More importantly, the politicians and military who send a country’s young men and women into conflicts — and then the coterie of journalists and academics who cheer them on — almost categorically do so without ever having made the visit themselves. There’s no need. The cause is de facto “just” and anyone who dares question the “warrior nation” is clearly not patriotic. Bluster counts for a lot, and in Canada there was plenty ….”
  • Canada working helping central America become more secure  Prime Minister Stephen Harper (yesterday) announced an important new initiative that will bolster Canada’s efforts to address security challenges in Central America …. Managed by Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada, the Canadian Initiative for Security in Central America (CISCA) will focus on: police training; border security; enhancing regional dialogue; strengthening justice and security institutions; promoting human rights; supporting conflict resolution and reconciliation processes; and preventing and intervening in cases of violence against vulnerable groups, such as women and youth. Projects funded by CISCA will be implemented through Canada’s Anti-Crime Capacity-Building Program (ACCBP) and the Stabilization and Reconstruction Task Force (START) ….”  More from the PM’s Info-machine here, and from mainstream media here.
  • The federal government says it will spend $8.1 million in an effort to strengthen search and rescue response across Canada. Defence Minister Peter MacKay announced in Halifax (yesterday) that the money would go to new life-saving equipment and tools, awareness programs and the development of virtual training. MacKay says the funding reflects the government’s commitment to boost search and rescue capabilities ….”  The CF Info-Machine’s version of the announcement here.
  • Way Up North  The Arctic is likely to attract “substantial investment” over the next 10 years, possibly up to $100 billion or more, says a new report prepared for Lloyd’s of London, the world’s leading specialist insurance company. But given the high-risk nature of investing in the Arctic, this figure could be significantly higher or lower. The “rapid and disruptive change in the Arctic environment” means the prospects for investment and economic development are uneven, says the 60-page report, called The Arctic opening: Opportunity and Risk in the High North. Political support for development will continue to represent an uncertainty for businesses seeking to invest in Arctic projects, the report predicts. Making money will also be difficult because everything will cost more, especially insurance. And, all across the Arctic, climate change will create new vulnerabilities and present new design challenges for infrastructure, the report’s authors found. So, it will remain “challenging and often unpredictable” to develop the Arctic. “One thing that stands out most clearly from this report is the significant level of uncertainty about the Arctic’s future, both environmentally and economically,” said Richard Ward, the chief executive officer of Lloyd’s, in his introduction to the report ….”
  • Canada reportedly participating in big training exercise near Scotland  “A massive military exercise involving troops from across Europe and North America will get under way off the west coast of Scotland. Joint Warrior will see warships, submarines and aircraft take to the west coast of Scotland for a two-week training exercise. The exercise is held twice a year to prepare forces from the UK, US, Denmark, Norway, France, Canada, Germany and the Netherlands for events and active service. The event is aimed at creating a task group capable of being deployed to worldwide incidents such as last year’s war in Libya, as well as testing the ability of the Armed Forces to cope with events such as a terrorist attack on the Olympics ….”
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (1)  Column“…. The venerable doctrine of ministerial responsibility was examined anew by Justice John Gomery in his report on the Sponsorship scandal. To paraphrase, ministers are responsible for everything that goes on in their departments. If something big goes wrong — and if it is something the minister knew, or should have known about, or if he failed to take action to prevent it — the minister should resign. If the doctrine means anything, MacKay should resign.”
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (2)  “As the political storm continues to swirl around the purchase of the F-35 joint strike fighters, the Conservatives have resorted to the age-old tactic of wrapping themselves in the flag and declaring their love for our troops. Regardless of the costs and multibillion-dollar accounting glitches in their procurement, the Harper government would have us all believe that (and I paraphrase for brevity) no price is too high to ensure that the men and women who wear the uniform will have the best possible equipment to defend Canada’s sovereignty, our core Canadian values and all things good in the world. In other words, anyone who questions the decision to purchase the F-35 must be either anti-Canadian or pro-evil. While such rhetoric may play well as a retort during question period or in a media sound bite, the sad fact is that rarely, if ever, have the Canadian Forces deployed on operations with the best equipment required ….”
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (3)  “…. As for reviewing the F-35 decision, we have the comforting luxury of time. As the prime minister now makes haste to argue, we “haven’t bought” a plane yet. In fact, because our current fleet of F-18 fighters is in good shape, though aging, we have two or three years in which to debate what kind of replacement aircraft, and in what numbers, we really need to match our long-term strategic need. A decision as late at 2015 could see first replacements for the F-18s begin around 2019. That span, if carefully managed, would allow us to hold the open and fair competition that many people now demand — one with performance requirements that are not “fixed” in favour of one manufacturer as the sole-sourced F-35 seemingly was ….”
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (4)  Meanwhile, Holland is eyeing buying fewer than originally planned (maybe driving the price up?)
  • What’s Canada Buying?  It’s not JUST the F-35 drawing the eye  “The decidedly curious way Canada goes about buying expensive military hardware has received a lot of scrutiny lately. Indeed, in his latest annual report, Auditor General Michael Ferguson pointed a blunt, accusatory finger at the defence department over its cynical, selfserving handling of the planned multi-billion-dollar purchase of F-35 stealth fighter jets. Regrettably, the cavalier approach to transparency and the use of our money by federal bureaucrats and their political bosses when they go shopping for military toys is an old, depressing story. More than a decade ago, I revealed similar shenanigans involving another high-priced military procurement. It didn’t involve a fleet of fighter jets, but a fleet of air-defence anti-tank armoured vehicles, known by their military acronym as ADATS ….”
  • Editorial:  “…. Positioning the Royal Canadian Navy for success involves a comprehensive and sustained effort if we are to confidently put ships and sailors to sea, when and where it matters to Canadians. The first priority is to maintain the Navy’s ability to successfully undertake operations anywhere in the world. This includes steps to better integrate the Regular and Reserve components of the Navy at sea and ashore. This enables the Navy to deploy in support of multi-national operations, such as anti-piracy missions, enforcing United Nations resolutions abroad, or joining other Canadian government departments at home to respond to threats such as irregular migrants, smugglers or international criminals in Canadian waters. As it has always been, the Royal Canadian Navy is “Ready Aye Ready” to do its duty for Canada.”
  • Is an “American nurse” taking advantage of vets who think they’ve been exposed to depleted uranium on operations?  “For nine months on a NATO policing mission in 1999, Eric Rebiere worried about what was carried on the wind. During a deployment to Kosovo, Rebiere was stationed in a building next to the hollowed-out shell of a former Serbian police station. “It was four or five storeys high. It had been taken out by one of these guided munitions from the NATO bombings,” Rebiere said. “It was obvious from the damage that the bomb had penetrated through two stories before exploding. “I was always concerned about DU because the wind was always blowing our way and we had our windows open.” Depleted uranium (DU) is a radioactive material contained in shells and bombs first used in the Gulf War in 1991. The government plays down any risk to soldiers from the substance, but it’s still considered one of the possible causes of unexplained illnesses, including cancer, that have affected many combat veterans of the Gulf War and subsequent conflicts. So when an American nurse arrived in Kingston recently, offering to test veterans for depleted uranium poisoning, it got the attention of local veterans — and raised the suspicions of a few ….”
  • Seven MPs took part Sunday in a remembrance service for Canadian troops killed during the liberation of The Netherlands almost 70 years ago. Despite the passage of so much time, nearly 400 residents of the community of Holten turned out at the Canadian war cemetery, east of the city of Apeldoorn. The service was meant to commemorate the sacrifices of the 48th Highlanders, a Toronto-based regiment which is now part of the Canadian Forces reserve. Known as “The Glamour Boys” throughout the 1st Canadian Division during the Second World War, the regiment saw extensive and bloody action in Italy and northwestern Europe ….”
  • It’s a learning experience Zach Muttart never could have gotten sitting in a classroom in Prince Edward Island. He and thousands of other Canadian students stood where First World War soldiers stood, the ground still rutted with holes from the shells that rained down 95 years earlier on Vimy Ridge in France. Instead, it was drizzle that rained down during the moment of silence that was held on this spot, commemorating the 95th anniversary of the battle that brought glory to Canada. Muttart is a Grade 12 student at Kin­kora Regional High School, in Kinkora, P.E.I.. He and almost 40 other students from the school took part in the 2012 National Remembrance Tour, which is operated by EF Educational Tours. There are 176 students at the school, which was the first rural high school in P. E. I. Muttart said the main memorial ser­vice at Vimy Ridge on Monday, attended by an estimated 5,000 students, a group of Canadian and French dignitaries, and many other observers, was full of “pomp and pageantry,” but a smaller ceremony was more moving ….”

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