Tidbits from Both Sides of the Fight News Highlights – 18 Apr 12

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  • Afghanistan (1a)  Marc Leger, R.I.P.  The father of Sgt. Marc Leger, one of four Canadian soldiers killed in a friendly fire incident in Afghanistan a decade ago, now wonders whether his son’s death was “worthwhile.” The Canadian soldiers were killed on April 17, 2002 when U.S. Air Force jets mistakenly attacked their unit. The Canadians were training at Tarnak Farms, the former al Qaeda compound located near Kandahar. The deaths came just two months after Canada sent its first combat troops into Afghanistan. Ten years later, watching news reports of Taliban insurgents attacking Kabul and of the deteriorating security situation across the country, Leger’s father now questions why his son was sent there. “You almost have to wonder, the 10 years that Canadian soldiers were there, was it really worthwhile?” Richard Leger said in a CTV News Channel telephone interview. “I’m starting to really, really understand that Marc’s death will not be worth it.” ….”
  • Afghanistan (1b)  Canada’s Afghan war became ‘real’ 10 years ago with its first casualties – Pat Stogran was in his tent and had just laid his head on the pillow when the radio crackled with the first word his troops had been mistakenly bombed. It was April 17, 2002 ….”
  • Afghanistan (1c)  “It was ten years ago today that four Canadian soldiers were killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan, and civilians and military members alike paused Tuesday to remember the first four Canadians killed in Afghanistan. Sergeant Marc Leger, Cpl. Ainsworth Dyer, Private Richard Green and Private Nathan Smith died on April 17, 2002 on Afghan soil, at the hands of U.S. pilot who was later convicted of dereliction of duty. The troops, all members of the Third Battalion Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, were firing weapons at a training range in Kandahar, when the pilot mistook them for hostile forces and dropped a bomb on them ….”
  • Afghanistan (2)  “Global News this evening reported on the multi-city attack perpetrated by the Taliban over the last 24 hours in Afghanistan. Midway through their segment, a professor from Simon Fraser University named Andre Gerolymatos is shown sittng in front of a shelf of books, making the following no-frills assessment of the attack: “It demonstrates that effectively the United States and NATO have lost the war in Afghanistan.” This is a bold statement about a single attack in a very long war …. In democracies, where public opinion impacts the foreign policy behaviour of states, the media’s coverage of foreign policy issues is a crucial determinant of political responses to crises in foreign lands. The media knows this, and as such, should take seriously their responsibility to truthfully and accurately transmit information to the best of their abilities. This means taking care in matching the expertise of commentators to the issue at hand, no matter how much extra time it takes to check out credentials and credibility.”  Hat tip to Mark Collins for pointing me to this one
  • Afghanistan (3)  Amid increased U.S. focus on its future in Afghanistan, one ally that has left the war, Canada, is still chewing over its past. Canada’s experience in Afghanistan has forced a sea change in the way the government and public view their military, even as Canadians increasingly question whether the war was worth the costs and Ottawa plans to slash its military budget. The country’s sacrifices in Afghanistan have reinforced the bond between the military and everyday Canadians. Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government, embracing that shift, has been calling for a more forceful Canadian military presence overseas and showering veterans and service members with a new measure of acknowledgment. Even amid this new shift, the government has said it would cut around 7.4% off the defense operating budget over the next three years amid wider belt-tightening ….”
  • Afghanistan (4)  Remember this Canadian webmaster/journalist who died as a guest of the Pakistan Taliban?  The CBC is sharing obtained documents it says shows some elements of the work being done to hunt the woman down:  “Last year, while Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs publicly insisted it was trying to aid a Canadian held for more than two years by the Taliban, it was privately telling the RCMP to stop investigating the crime. Beverley Giesbrecht, a former businesswoman from Vancouver, was abducted in November 2008 while working as a fixer and journalist in Pakistan after she converted to Islam and adopted the name Khadija Abdul Qahaar. In May 2011, the Department of Foreign Affairs revealed to CBC News that it believed Giesbrecht had died in captivity sometime in 2010, but a spokesperson added that it was continuing “to pursue all appropriate channels” to determine what happened. Documents obtained by CBC News through an access to information request, however, show that months earlier the department not only believed Giesbrecht was dead, but had told the RCMP it didn’t need to investigate (PDF) ….”
  • Way Up North (1)  Rumours of a deal between Canada and Denmark over who has sovereignty over Hans Island have been overstated, Denmark’s ambassador to Canada says. “There was a report that we’d found a solution,” Erik Vilstrup Lorenzen said this week in response to media reports the island would be split between the two countries. “There is no solution but there are several options on the table. It’s difficult to say when (it will be solved) but it will be not for many years, that’s for sure. When it comes to Hans Island, it is serious stuff for both of us.” He explained that once negotiating parties come up with specific models, those models will then have to go to the political level for endorsement. He did say, however, that the “dispute” continues to be well managed ….”
  • Way Up North (2)  “Canadians could be forced to wait until 2030 before a UN commission gets around to evaluating this country’s claim to millions of square kilometres of natural resource-rich Arctic Ocean floor. Such a delay would hinder plans to explore and exploit the treasure trove of oil, gas and other mineral riches that lie at the top of the world and endanger efforts to peacefully resolve overlapping claims with Russia and other states. It would even threaten Canada’s chances of success as the majority of officials currently working on the claim would have long since retired. The problem is highlighted in a recent Foreign Affairs report that examined the progress federal government scientists have made in mapping and analyzing Canada’s extended continental shelf. Canada already exercises control over seabed resources within an economic zone that extends 200 nautical miles from the country’s coast. But under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, a country can secure rights to seabed territory reaching far beyond that limit if it can prove that a portion of the ocean floor is geologically linked to its continental shelf ….”
  • Way Up North (3)  APTN’s take on Operation Nunalivut
  • What’s Canada Buying?  Wanted: someone to “develop supporting Intelligence concepts and implementation plans, coordinate implementation and provide advice to staff in the planning, development and operationalization of unique Special Operations Forces (SOF) Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) in support of the Canadian Special Operations Forces Command Headquarters (CANSOFCOM HQ)”  More in bid document extract (5 page PDF) here
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (1)  In Norway, Norwegian government officials are now admitting that the huge costs of replacing the country’s current fleet of F16 fighter jets will likely cut into state funding for schools, health care and transport programs. The government may decide to trim its order, from 52 of the new F35 jets to 46 ….”
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (2)  In Turkey, “With the cost of the US F-35 fighter jet project increasing on a daily basis, Turkey wants to be part of the manufacturing process, which could greatly cut costs – The Undersecretariat for Defense Industries (SSM) has made an offer to the United States for greater Turkish involvement in the manufacturing of the Joint Strike Fighter F-35, which would cut the cost of the project by around $3.5 billion ….”
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (3)  In the U.K., Prime Minister David Cameron has chosen to revert to ordering the F-35B Short Take-Off and Vertical Landing (STOVL) variant for the UK’s future aircraft carriers after the move was recommended by military chiefs, it has been reported. Cameron is said to have resisted the decision after naming the carrier variant F-35C as the government’s preferred option in 2010’s Strategic Defence and Security Review, but the estimated £1.8bn cost of converting the under-construction Queen Elizabeth class carriers to operate a catapult launch system was reportedly deemed unaffordable. When the carriers were designed, the then-Labour government had specified that the F-35B would be used. The Financial Times said that senior British military officials have already told their French counterparts that the UK’s carriers will now not be converted to operate ‘cats and traps’, and thus cannot be made interoperable with French aircraft ….”
  • Stuart Landridge, R.I.P.  The Military Police Complaints Commission has received a request from Col (ret’d) Michel Drapeau, counsel to Sheila and Shaun Fynes, to show excerpts from a video made on the day Cpl Stuart Langridge committed suicide. Col (ret’d) Drapeau has indicated that he intends to have the video shown in the open Hearing on Thursday, April 19, 2012. Ms. Richards, counsel for the subjects of the complaint, has indicated that she objects to showing only extracts of the video and that if such extracts are shown, she will request that the entire 34 minutes video be shown. Commission counsel intend to request a publication ban on the video. Mr. Stannard, Commission Chairperson, will hear submissions on the proposed publication ban on Thursday April 19, at 9:30 at the Commission’s offices at 270 Albert, 10th floor, Ottawa. Media organizations who wish to make submissions to the Commission regarding the proposed publication ban may do so in person or by submitting them in writing to the Commission ….”
  • A young woman who was sexually assaulted by a former Canadian navy medic during a physical exam when she was a recruit is suing the Department of National Defence and her assailant. The aboriginal woman, who was 17 at the time, is seeking $1 million in damages for sexual assault, battery and negligence. She also claims the Defence Department failed to follow up on previous complaints involving her assailant. A statement of claim contains allegations not yet proven in court. James Wilks, a former petty officer second class, is currently serving nine months in jail for sexual assault and breach of trust relating to crimes committed in London and Sarnia, Ont. He is facing new charges in connection with medical exams performed between 2002 and 2009 at a naval reserve unit in Thunder Bay, Ont., and at the Canadian Forces recruiting centre in London, Ont ….”  More here
  • Defence Minister talks to Belgian think tank about Canada’s track record  “The Honourable Peter MacKay, Minister of National Defence, spoke in Brussels, Belgium today at the Royal Higher Institute for Defence – a think tank associated with the Belgian Defence Ministry. He took the opportunity to highlight Canada’s longstanding track record of commitment to NATO through the provision of robust expeditionary operations ….”
  • Following a decade of explosive growth, the super-secret Communications Security Establishment Canada has emerged from the Defence Department to become a stand-alone federal agency, a change that will force it, for the first time, to inform Canadians of at least some of its activities. CSEC, whose powers include the ability to sometimes eavesdrop on Canadians without their knowing, has largely escaped the axe as the federal government chops budgets. Where some departments face cuts of 10 per cent, CSEC will be pinched by just two per cent this year and the agency will see no layoffs. CSEC has more than doubled in size since Sept. 11, 2001, when it had about 900 staff. In the ensuing decade, the national signals intelligence and cybersecurity agency has grown to 1,950 staff, and its budget has gone to $350 million in 2012 from $140 million in 2001. As a result, critics say CSEC needs more rigorous civilian oversight to protect Canadians’ privacy. “It’s frankly a very slim oversight, without much staff,” said Liberal Senator Colin Kenny, a longtime watcher of the intelligence community ….”
  • No indication of Bloomberg sharing the obtained letter, so no way to know what else is there.  “Canada’s plan to allow foreign companies such as VimpelCom Ltd. to increase their stakes in the country’s telecommunications providers poses a “considerable risk” to national security, Public Safety Canada warned. “The security and intelligence community is of the view that lessening or removing restrictions from the Telecommunications Act, without implementing mitigation measures, would pose a considerable risk to public safety and national security,” Daniel Lavoie, a senior official with Public Safety, said in a letter to Industry Canada. The letter, which was marked “secret” and dated Feb. 25, 2011, was obtained by Bloomberg News under Canada’s freedom-of- information law. Industry Minister Christian Paradis announced plans last month to allow foreigners to own up to 100 percent of telecom operators with less than 10 percent of market share by revenue ….”

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