Tidbits from Both Sides of the Fight News Highlights – February 11, 2013

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  • A different reading of the tea leaves from recent promotion/retirement announcements  “There were two ways to read the senior officers’ promotions and retirements list that was circulated to the brass last week by Canada’s top general, Tom Lawson.  The consensus of those outside the military was that the rotation that was announced was a clearing of the decks so that the Harper government can proceed with steep cuts to defence spending. This conclusion suggested that some of those getting out were doing so because they refused to be patsies. That line of thought might lead some to believe that those replacing them might be more pliable.  But those still in harness are not pushovers or patsies. At least 17 of the men – and they are all men – who are being promoted or cross-posted have held or still hold senior positions in Afghanistan.  Another way to read this year’s annual list – and it is an annual list, not something extraordinary only done this winter – is that it is ironic that many of the most battle-hardened Afghan veterans have been promoted at a time when the prime minister has been sending strong signals that he does not intend to send combat troops overseas for the foreseeable future.  Among the biggest winners in this game of musical chairs was Canada’s most celebrated infantryman, Maj.-Gen. Jon Vance, who had two combat tours in Kandahar. Another was Vance’s high school buddy, Brig.-Gen. Dean Milner. Vance is soon to become a “three leaf” while Milner, a tanker who was Canada’s last combat commander in Kandahar, is about to become the last Canadian two-star to serve in Kabul, where he will be the deputy commander of NATO’s Afghan training program ….”
  • What HMCS Regina is up to in the Gulf of Aden fighting terrorism  “The Gulf of Aden, situated between Yemen and Somalia, contains one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes. With an average of 21,000 ships transiting annually, it is part of the waterway that connects the Mediterranean Sea with the Arabian Sea. Determining which of these ships is engaged in legitimate commerce and which may have more detrimental intentions is one of the challenges faced by Combined Task Force 150 (CTF-150).  CTF-150 is part of the Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) and consists of ships from countries such as Australia, Canada, Pakistan, the United Kingdom and the United States. Tasked with counter-terrorism and maritime security operations, the task force works to prevent and stop illicit activity in the region.  HMCS Regina, Canada’s contribution to CTF-150, is currently conducting what is referred to as maritime interdiction operations. The aim of these patrols is to prevent illicit activity by observing and investigating the local shipping activity. By determining the normal trade routes and routines of the various types of vessels that pass through the region every day, CMF is better able to determine which activity is suspicious or illegal ….”
  • Guidelines that have protected the independence of military police since the Somalia affair will be curtailed by new legislation working its way through Parliament, a civilian watchdog warns.  The Military Police Complaints Commission will tell a Commons committee next week that the bill would give the Canadian Forces’ second-in-command the ability to direct investigations into soldiers under his or her command.  MPCC chairman Glenn Stannard has submitted a brief to the Commons defence committee saying Bill C-15 goes against a two-decade trend of making military police more independent.  The clause prompting the MPCC’s concern — found in Sec. 18.5 of the bill — allows the vice chief of defence staff to “issue instructions or guidelines in writing in respect of a particular investigation” to Canada’s top military policeman, the provost marshal.  “Such an express authority is inconsistent with existing arrangements in place since the period following the troubled Somalia deployment which specifically sought to safeguard MP investigations from interference by the chain of command,” said the MPCC brief ….”
  • Chad Horn, 1986-2008, R.I.P.  “A Calgary woman is desperate to get a treasured memento back, that was stolen by a heartless thief.  Anita Bowes’ truck was stolen from the Somerset C Train Station, but the license plate is what she’s especially concerned about.  It was dedicated to her 21-year-old son Chad Horn, who was killed in Afghanistan in 2008 while serving with the military.  “It said, ‘Chad Horn, for those he loved he sacrificed,’ and it’s a picture of him in Afghanistan,” remembers Bowes. “We never saw him after Afghanistan, he never made it home for us to talk to him and see him.”  The stolen truck is a white, 2005 Ford F-250 ….”
  • Canada’s war poet Suzanne Steele on teaching in the U.K. and remembering how war bring together folks who may not otherwise come together
  • Veterans Affairs will be opening a new access centre for veterans in Charlottetown in what appears to be a concession to a decision made last year to close the department’s only local district office.  Veterans Affairs Minister Steven Blaney was in Charlottetown Friday to visit the department’s national headquarters and meet with local officials.  In an interview with The Guardian, Blaney said he made the decision to open the new access centre after meeting with Egmont MP Gail Shea and hearing the concerns of many on the closing of the district office.  “We needed to make sure veterans here on the Island have a direct access to the personnel,” Blaney said.  “That’s why we are creating an extension of our headquarters, which is an access centre for our veterans, so veterans will have full access to our people here in Charlottetown.”  The closure of the district office was announced last year as part of budget reductions and a streamlining of services at Veterans Affairs Canada ….”
  • The Honourable Steven Blaney, Minister of Veterans Affairs, and Royal Galipeau, Member of Parliament for Ottawa–Orleans, will visit the Perley and Rideau Veterans’ Health Centre to personally deliver hand-made valentines to Veterans living at the long-term care facility. The valentines have been created by students from across Canada ….”
  • “What follows is the last of five excerpts from a newly released e-book, “The Canadian Forces in 2025: Problems and Prospects.” The publication was commissioned by the Strategic Studies Working Group — a partnership between the Canadian International Council and the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute in Calgary. In today’s instalment, Scott Knight looks at Canada’s cyber-defence strategy ….”
  • One columnist’s take on home-grown extremists and taking terrorists’ citizenship away  “…. this isn’t a matter of religion causing extremism. Yes, Islamic terrorists are, by definition, very religious, but they usually adopt this religion after becoming radicalized politically. The path from strict religious faith to violence simply doesn’t exist – in fact, the most religious are among the least likely to become extremists.  This is a political movement based on a territorial claim (what CSIS calls the “common narrative,” which involves securing the “land of Islam” and attacking those who invade or humiliate it). As such, it has more in common with earlier terrorist movements (the IRA, the FLQ) than it does with any widespread beliefs within diaspora communities.  This doesn’t make things easy for police or governments. It’s a criminal tendency, neither imported nor theological, not rooted in communities or faiths. At the very least, we now know where we shouldn’t bother looking.”
  • Counterpoint from Mark Collins  “…. Gee, I guess that “land of Islam” (Darul Islam) just has nothing important to do with a certain religion. And by the way, just what is that “territorial claim”? Do Jihadis, e.g., want Spain back without making it Islamic once more? ….”
  • An editorial on the issue  “To have Canadian citizenship is a privilege and an honour — one coveted by millions of people living in oppressive regimes the world over who dream of freedom. When Canada extends a welcome to a newcomer who intends to call this country home, it is with the understanding that our embrace of this new citizen includes the expectation that our laws and our democratic way of life will be in turn respected and honoured. To do otherwise is a betrayal — and no betrayal is worse than that of a naturalized citizen turning to terrorism and besmirching Canada abroad. Such an individual is not a Canadian in any sense — he or she does not value the precious gift of Canadian citizenship, does not love Canada and has not sought to be Canadian in mind, heart and soul.  Canada must draw a line in the sand at that point and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney has most fittingly done so, with his proposal to strip Canadian citizenship from dual nationals who commit acts of terror or war ….”
  • And some CBC commentary on the politics of the issue  “Immigration Minister Jason Kenney was accused this week of making policy on the fly when he told reporters the government would look into stripping dual citizens of their Canadian status if convicted of terrorist acts in other countries.  He wasn’t.  The comments were a calculated political response from the minister, timed to coincide with the news out of Bulgaria that an unnamed Lebanese-Canadian is a suspect in the tour bus bombing that killed six people, including five Israeli tourists, last summer.  For the Conservatives, good politics is often synonymous with good policy.  And the politics of this is hard to ignore ….”
  • Two years ago, an Australian police officer named Joe Ilardi arrived in Toronto to try to answer a disturbing question: what was turning some young Canadians into raving Islamists who yearned to wage anti-Western violence at home and abroad?  With the help of the RCMP, Senior Sgt. Ilardi interviewed seven young Toronto men he defined as “Canadian Muslim radicals.” All but one, an immigrant from Pakistan, were Canadian-born. Four had converted to Islam, including a former Mohawk Warrior.  After meeting the men several times for up to six hours in total, Sgt. Ilardi came to an unconventional conclusion: while they had bought into the narrative that justifies violence as a response to the West’s so-called “war on Islam,” they had done so largely for personal reasons.  They were not the downtrodden seeking political justice. Rather, they were deeply troubled youths who had found, in extremism, a reason to feel superior. In their minds, they had joined an exclusive fraternity that knew the truth. They weren’t losers after all; they were better than everyone else ….”

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11 February 13 at 7:45

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