Tidbits from Both Sides of the Fight News Highlights – 19 Apr 12

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  • Khadr Boy (1)  The ask is in“Convicted Canadian war criminal Omar Khadr, who became a poster child for the excesses of the war on terror, is a significant step closer to leaving Guantanamo Bay with a formal request for his transfer to Canada now in Ottawa’s hands. But diplomatic wrangling persisted, with one source suggesting the Americans were “desperate” to send Khadr home, and that a reluctant Canadian government was essentially being strong-armed into taking him. According to the source, the Americans are “bending over backwards” to ensure Khadr’s exit from Guantanamo Bay and would have to “bend their way around a number of their own rules” to make that happen. “The U.S. needs to get rid of this guy for their own reasons,” said one source familiar with the file. “The United States basically asked Canada for a diplomatic favour and Canada previously agreed to look at a request of this nature favourably.” A spokeswoman for Public Safety Minister Vic Toews confirmed on Wednesday that the federal government was considering the request to take him off U.S. hands, which sparked an outpouring of mostly anti-Khadr reaction among Canadians ….” More from QMI/Sun Media, Postmedia News, the Associated Press, Agence France-Presse, the Washington Post, and the NY Times.
  • Khadr Boy (2)  CBC online poll so far:  57% say don’t bring him back, 38% say bring him back
  • Khadr Boy (3)  Sun Media editorial“If American soldiers had not saved Omar Khadr’s life, even after he killed one of their own, there’d be no bleeding hearts and drama queens urging the Harper government to immediately accept his application for transfer to Canada from a U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay. If Afghan soldiers had ruled the day following that gun battle with al-Qaida, the seriously-wounded Khadr would have now been dead 10 years, and his existence would have been all but forgotten. There but for the grace of Mohammed … Instead, the then-15-year-old Canadian-born jihadist, now 25, wants to come “home” as part of a plea bargain in the United States that saw him get eight more years imprisonment after finally pleading guilty to various charges that defined what he is, and what his al-Qaida-active family honed him to be. And that’s a terrorist ….”
  • The Kingston Immigration Holding Centre in Ontario, better known as Gitmo North, was quietly closed at the end of last year, saving the Canada Border Services Agency millions of dollars and bringing a sense of relief to the handful of men who were incarcerated there, Postmedia News has learned. The costly facility, which opened in 2006 in the aftermath of 9/11 to detain just four terror suspects subject to controversial security certificates, often has been likened to the U.S.-run Guantanamo Bay detention centre in Cuba, where prisoners of the Iraq and Afghan wars were sent. The Cuban facility is where Canadian war criminal and former child soldier Omar Khadr remains incarcerated and there’s been speculation he could be held at Gitmo North should his request for transfer to Canada go through. It’s a prospect, however, that now seems unlikely. “Following a review of the KIHC by the (Canada Border Services Agency) in 2009, it was decided that the facility should be permanently closed in order to allow the agency to better align its resources. Accordingly, KIHC was closed on December 31, 2011,” CBSA spokeswoman Esme Bailey confirmed in an email. “The CBSA has achieved approximately $2.5 million in annual savings by closing the KIHC.” ….”
  • Budget 2012 (1)  Some former members of the Canadian military say they’re being told the number of case workers dealing with veterans is being cut. Whitehorse veteran Dave Laxton was at his local legion when Veterans Affairs officials dropped the news that 100 front-line case workers, who help veterans get access to programs and services, are being cut across the country. Laxton has concerns there may not be capacity to deal with increasing demand as veterans from the conflict in Afghanistan re-adjust to life at home. “If anything I was hoping to see maybe a few extra client service people to help move these claims through the system that much quicker,” Laxton said ….”
  • Budget 2012 (2)  The military is boarding up an intelligence office on the West Coast less than two years after the navy argued it needed more surveillance in a region considered a prime thoroughfare for human smuggling. The Acoustic Data Analysis Centre at Canadian Forces Base Esquimalt, B.C., will close as part of a three-year drive to carve $1.5 billion from the budget of National Defence. Operations will be transferred to a similar centre in Halifax, which has been in the middle of a continuing spy scandal involving navy intelligence officer Sub-Lt. Jeffery Delisle. The navy refused to discuss specifics of the closure, declined interview requests and issued a terse statement that the centre’s loss would not have an impact. “This consolidation will achieve cost savings for the Canadian taxpayer while having no impact on the ability of the Canadian Forces (CF) to meet operational objectives in the delivery of naval intelligence capability,” said the statement, issued to The Canadian Press ….”
  • F-35 Tug o’ War  Academic/analyst:  “The Auditor-General’s report on the F-35 procurement process was at once a key bit of clarity about the most expensive weapons program in Canada’s history and another reason for Canadians to think this mess is unique. Canada, however, is just one of many countries disenchanted with the F-35’s spiralling costs …. The problem Canada faces is that it may not be willing to pay the price of replacing the current CF-18s with enough F-35s to defend Canada and to participate in multinational endeavours, such as Kosovo and the Libyan air campaigns. Canada is not alone in this, particularly as its partners are facing far more severe budgetary problems. What distinguishes Canada has been the denials of the government. Rather than being direct and open that costs have been escalating and that such increases threaten Canada’s ability to field an adequate air force, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Defence Minister Peter MacKay have chosen to deny these realities, making it hard for anyone to believe any subsequent statements ….
  • Afghanistan (1)  Canada happy with a new boss appointed to the High Peace Council  “Canada welcomes the appointment of Salahuddin Rabbani as the new chairman of Afghanistan’s High Peace Council. Canada fully endorses the objectives of the High Peace Council, in particular its efforts to engage Afghans in their country’s peace process and encourage the return of former insurgents who have renounced violence, severed all ties to Al-Qaeda, and support Afghanistan’s Constitution. Canada looks forward to supporting Afghanistan’s valuable efforts towards peace through the work of the High Peace Council.”
  • Afghanistan (2)  One headline writer’s “withdrawal” is another’s “handover”
  • Afghanistan (3)  “She said yes! Cpl. Carl Manning proposed to Jessica Bannerman in the April 17 edition of the Ottawa Sun. It was a plan hatched months ago before Manning was deployed to Afghanistan. “I didn’t expect this at all,” said Bannerman, who lives in Constance Bay. “I’m not one for being in the spotlight, but my cheekbones hurt I’ve been smiling so much.” With the help of a friend, Manning made sure flowers and copies of the newspaper were spread across Bannerman’s desk before she got to work. “My sister called me first thing this morning and told me I was in the paper,” Bannerman said. “I saw Carl’s picture right on the front page. I was shocked, but of course it’s a yes.” As soon as Bannerman saw the story, she hopped online and tried contacting Manning. “It was a panic. I kept on messaging him on Facebook until I finally got a hold of him and we Skyped. I’m so happy, I’m on cloud nine,” she said. Manning is currently deployed in Afghanistan. The couple has been dating for over a year ….”
  • When the pain hits hard, it feels as if Maj. Mark Campbell’s left foot has been set on fire. Except, there is no foot. Campbell’s legs were blown off on a midday in June 2008, when a buried improvised explosive device was detonated beneath him during a Taliban ambush in Afghanistan. His left leg was all but vaporized in the explosion; his right leg barely hung on by a few strands of shredded bone and tissue. Today, he suffers phantom limb pain where his left leg below the knee used to be — an excruciating kind of torment so severe he needs methadone to manage it. He’s on maximum allowable doses of other pain medications, their list of side-effects long. “But I have no choice,” the 47-year-old father of two says. “It’s that, or I don’t want to live.” As the nation’s largest military deployment since the Second World War ends, a new and constant companion will follow many wounded soldiers from the battlefield: Chronic, life-altering pain. Leaders in Canada’s pain community say the unprecedented numbers of soldiers who survived injuries that in past wars would have killed them will need a high level of care in a country where pain is under-treated, and under-funded. U.S. doctors are reporting that half of Iraq and Afghanistan vets treated at military hospitals are experiencing some form of persistent and significant pain. “We owe Canadian warriors the best pain care possible,” says Dr. Mary Lynch, director of research at the Pain Management Unit at the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre in Halifax ….”
  • Stuart Landridge, R.I.P.  An unresolved dispute over crucial Department of National Defence documents and increasing anger over claims of federal government legal privilege are threatening to derail a military inquiry into the suicide of an Afghan war veteran. Lawyers for the federal Justice department and the Military Police Complaints Commission clashed twice Wednesday — first over the surprise arrival late Tuesday of a new batch of DND papers and later over the legal limitations on Commission lawyers. A related issue over redaction of DND documents also remains major bone of contention. And a federal government lawyer again raised the spectre Wednesday that unless Commission lawyers accept the limitations she says the law places on them, and unless some compromise can be reached over documents, the only option could be to seek a court judgment — a process that could take many months, perhaps as long as a year. The Commission is probing the suicide of Cpl. Stuart Langridge, who hanged himself at CFB Edmonton in March 2008, and three subsequent military police investigations that Langridge’s parents say were more focused on absolving the military of blame than on getting to the truth of the circumstances surrounding their son’s death ….”
  • Libya (1)  The RCAF’s bomb count “Canada spent $25 million on the roughly 700 bombs the Royal Canadian Air Force dropped on Libya during last year’s rebel uprising that deposed dictator Moammar Gadhafi. Each bomb, the Department of National Defence told Postmedia News, cost between $34,000 and $43,000. Canada deployed seven of its aging CF-18 fighter jets to participate in the NATO-led mission, which raged from February to October 2011. The squadron was based in Sicily, and participated in bombing runs against pro-Gadhafi forces and helped enforce the no-fly zone over Libya’s skies. All of the 695 bombs dropped by the RCAF in the course of conflict were so-called “smart bombs,” which are guided into their targets as they fall. About 98 per cent of bombs dropped were from the Paveway II family of laser-guided smart bombs, commonly used by the American military. Canada favoured the smaller 500-pound version of the bomb – dropping 495 – as opposed to the 2000-pound version, of which the RCAF dropped 188. The RCAF also appears to have experimented with the Joint Direct Attack Munition family of GPS-guided smart bombs, dropping just 11 of the 500-pound versions and two 2,000-pound versions ….”
  • Libya (2)  “For anyone thinking that a Western air campaign would make short work of Syria’s Assad government, some new post-mortems on the war in Libya should make for sobering reading. In fact, it may soon become much harder for Canada and our NATO partners to portray their Libyan air and sea campaign as an unblemished success and the very image of a well-coordinated international force. For too many jarring questions are emerging from too many sources seeking a review of NATO’s role in the Libyan campaign. The most embarrassing is from a confidential after-action NATO assessment of campaign “flaws” that was just obtained by the New York Times, which published details on the weekend. The report, with its 300 pages of supporting documents, portrays the 18-nation air campaign, commanded by a Canadian general, as having been seriously weak in target assessment, intelligence co-operation, logistical planning, electronic interception and even legal advice ….”
  • Way Up North (1)  Continuing to clean up a piece of Canada’s Cold War history  “…. the Honourable Leona Aglukkaq, Minister of Health, and Minister of the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency, on behalf of the Honourable Peter MacKay, Minister of National Defence, announced that the Department of National Defence (DND) has awarded a contract valued at $14.7 million for the shipment and disposal of Hazardous Waste Material as part of the Distant Early Warning (DEW) Line Clean-up Project. The contract was awarded to Qikiqtaaluk Environmental Inc. of Iqaluit, Nunavut …. The contract includes the removal and transport of hazardous waste materials from nine locations in Nunavut to specialized disposal sites further south. A key to the success of this project has been the partnership with the local Inuit people and contractors. The project has provided employment opportunities and valuable work experience to the people of Canada’s northern communities which can be transferred to other fields of work in the North ….”  More in the CF Info-Machine’s backgrounder here
  • Way Up North (2)  “Climate change and global warming deniers deny, but there’s one important group of decision makers that are definitely taking the reality of climate change and global warming seriously: Arctic region military leaders. A “new kind of Cold War” is emerging in the Arctic, an AP news article run in the Wall St. Journal reported April 16, as global military leaders “anticipate that rising temperatures there well open up a treasure trove of resources, long-dreamed-of sea lanes and potential conflicts.” Norway was the staging ground for one of the largest Arctic military exercises ever last month, an all-around training event dubbed “Exercise Cold Response” that involved some 16,300 troops from 14 countries, according to a Greenwire report. Testament to the harsh conditions, five Norwegian troops were killed when their Hercules C-130 crashed near Sweden’s highest mountain, according to the AP-WSJ’s report. A couple of months ago, leaders from the eight major Arctic military powers– the US, Russia, Canada, Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Finland– met to discuss Arctic region security issues at a first-of-its-kind meeting at a Canadian military base ….”
  • Facing cries for help from families of Canadian soldiers, military ombudsman Pierre Daigle said he is stepping in to help. QMI Agency has learned Daigle has launched a top-to- bottom review of Department of National Defence policies that affect soldiers’ family life. “We’re going to be talking to military families and looking at the care and treatment they have received throughout their experience with the Canadian Forces,” said Daigle in a statement posted online Thursday morning. Among the issues he’ll examine will be decrepit housing on military bases. Daigle said he was shocked by what he saw when he visited a soldier’s wife who had seven kids. “It was the cleanest house I’ve ever seen,” Daigle told QMI Agency. “But you know what? Every week she was scrubbing the mould from the window with a toothbrush to make sure that it will not affect the health of her kids.” The ombudsman said he’ll also look at policies that force military families to uproot themselves more than a dozen times over the course of a soldier’s career ….”
  • Canadian troops reportedly taking part in summer exercises in Estonia  “In June, Estonia will host three international military exercises focusing on improving cooperation between the participating forces – Saber Strike, BALTOPS, and Baltic Host. In total, the exercises will be attended by about a thousand allied soldiers, mostly from the United States. Organized by the US Army Europe, Saber Strike will be held from June 11 to 22 in Estonia and Latvia. This year, Estonia will act as the host nation for the exercise, according to the acting head of the Defense Forces Operational Staff, Lt. Col. Rain Jano. The tactical part of the exercise will be conducted at the Adazi training area in Latvia, while its command post will be located in Tapa and the participating US aircraft A-10 and KC-135 will be based at the Ämari Air Base in Estonia. Saber Strike will be attended by members of the defense forces from Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, the United States, Canada, Finland, Sweden, Poland, and Norway ….”
  • Canada helping Filipino troops learn more about human rights  “In a continuing effort to support the government of the Philippines in addressing priorities concerning human rights education among soldiers and military officers, the Embassy of Canada recently organized a roundtable discussion for members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, and representatives from civil society and the Commission on Human Rights. The enhancement of International Humanitarian Law (IHL) culture in the military can be achieved through education and training, advocacy campaigns and engagement with stakeholders,” said Canada’s Ambassador Christopher Thornley …. “
  • On behalf of the Honourable Steven Blaney, Minister of Veterans Affairs, Blaine Calkins, Member of Parliament for Wetaskiwin, presented Ponoka resident Walter Burchnall with the Minister of Veterans Affairs Commendation …. Mr. Burchnall is a Second World War Veteran who served with the Royal Canadian Air Force. He has held almost every executive position in his Royal Canadian Legion branch, including president. As a branch service officer, Mr. Burchnall assisted Veterans and their dependants in applying for benefits and services, helped families of Veterans with funeral arrangements, performed countless Legion tributes at funeral services and acted as an agent in obtaining headstones, at considerable savings, for Veterans’ graves in the Field of Honour. Mr. Burchnall also served on a committee to construct a new community cenotaph, undertaking much of the manual work. Mr. Burchnall continues to assist with twilight candlelight tributes at the local cemetery and takes part in Decoration Day ceremonies by placing flags on Veterans’ graves at dawn. He has been honoured with a Royal Canadian Legion Life Membership and the prestigious Meritorious Service Medal ….”
  • The City of Winnipeg is considering giving veterans free parking at street meters. Mayor Sam Katz brought the motion forward at the executive policy committee (EPC) meeting on Wednesday and it was approved. The motion directs city administrators to explore the idea and report back to EPC within 90 days. Other Canadian cities, including Saskatoon, Brandon, Prince Albert, Red Deer, Surrey, Richmond and London, have implemented forms of free parking for veterans. In making his motion, Katz said veterans have played a significant role in guaranteeing freedom for Canadians and have made a tremendous sacrifice in preserving our liberty and quality of life. “This idea came to me from a citizen taking part in a local call-in show with the mayor,” said Katz ….”  Let’s not forget Windsor (although its “free lifetime bus pass for vets” only appears to cover up to the Vietnam War).

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