News Highlights – 26 Oct 11 News Highlights – 13 Oct 11

  • What’s Canada (Not) Buying?  An answer from DND regarding the cancellation of the process to replace the Canadian Ranger Rifle and General Service Pistol:  the process apparently needs more work.  “The DND Small Arms Modernization (SAM) Project Management Office (PMO) requested that Public Works and Government Services Canada (PWGSC) cancel both the (General Service Pistol) and the (New Canadian Ranger Rifle) Price and Availability (P&A) requests on MERX as a result of questions, and requests for clarification, from industry. The feedback from industry brought the DND SAM PMO to re-evaluate its procurement strategy. The DND SAM PMO is now focusing efforts on clarifying the procurement strategy for the GSP and NCRR with the intent to facilitate future communication with industry. The comments and observations received from industry in response to the P&A requests will be considered when the final requirements are written. The replacement of the GSP and NCRR remain a priority for DND. The next step of the project will be to obtain Preliminary Project Approval (PPA). No additional solicitations will be posted on MERX until after PPA is obtained and an approved procurement strategy is in place ….”  Full response (2 page PDF) here – you read it here first!
  • Afghanistan  Medical trainers among the training teams.  “Operation ATTENTION began in April 2011 with the arrival in the Kabul area of the first of some 950 Canadian Forces members who will deploy with the Canadian Contingent Training Mission–Afghanistan, Canada’s contribution to the NATO Training Mission–Afghanistan. Their mission is to work with the training cadre of the Afghan National Army (ANA) to build a force capable of meeting Afghanistan’s security needs after 2014. In July 2011, a group of Canadian Forces health-care providers deployed on Op ATTENTION with a Training Development Officer to serve as advisor-mentors to their Afghan counterparts at the Armed Forces Academy of Medical Sciences (AFAMS) in Kabul ….”
  • CBC sends reporter to see what’s happening in Jamaica with Operation Jaguar.  “For over four decades, Canada trained the helicopter pilots and mechanics of the Jamaica Defence Force. But last year, Jamaica decided to bring home the training and do all the work itself. However, its mechanics couldn’t keep up with the demand and after a while the Jamaicans found themselves in the very uncomfortable position of not having enough working helicopters, meaning no way to conduct high-stakes rescues and medical evacuations. With a very bad hurricane season predicted, officials there were worried. So they called up Canada and asked if we could send down some of our world-class search and rescue crews. Canada agreed and, in mid-August, sent along three Griffon helicopters and 65 Canadian Forces personnel — only the second time in history that Canada’s search and rescue teams have been deployed in another country ….”  CBC coverage of Canada’s training mission in Afghanistan?  Not so much lately….
  • Just because the combat mission in Afghanistan is over doesn’t mean the training stops for thousands of Canadian soldiers who are involved a record-setting exercise operation in this east-central Alberta military base. Roughly 3,000 troops from the Petawawa-based 2 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group are involved in a month-long training operation dubbed Exercise Maple Resolve at the base roughly 230 km east of Edmonton. Colonel Lowell Thomas, commander of Canadian Manoeuvre Training Centre based in CFB Wainwright, said training is no longer focused on efforts in Afghanistan. “We’ve now moved to train troops for operations anywhere in the world, in any type of operation as well,” said Thomas. The month-long operation is the largest undertaking for the training command centre, which has been based at CFB Wainwright since 2004 ….”
  • The Royal Canadian Legion says veterans’ programs should be protected from proposed government spending cuts. Legion president Pat Varga says the government has a moral debt to veterans and should exempt their benefits from the cuts. The government has asked all departments to offer budget cuts of five per cent and 10 per cent in a major spending review. The proposals are being studied by the cabinet. But Varga says any programs, services or benefits for vets should be exempt both from the review and any eventual spending reductions ….”
  • HMCS Ottawa back home on the west coast after “a four and a half month operational deployment and goodwill tour in the Asia Pacific region” – welcome home!
  • What one columnist says came out of the Toronto Maple Leafs spending three days practicing at the arena at CFB Trenton this week
  • Way Up North  Mark Collins on “One Less Threat to Our “Arctic Sovereignty” “
  • Here’s something to be careful about with the impending “perimeter security” deal between Canada and the U.S.  “…. If the new $1-billion perimeter security deal, dubbed Beyond the Border, is an example of big-picture thinking, then its reception may have got fuzzy for many Canadians. Proponents have praised the deal’s measures to reduce cross-border red tape, expand border infrastructure and generally speed up bilateral trade. However, other U.S. actions, such as musings about possibly levying new tariffs on rail cargo from Canadian ports or passing legislation saddling non-U.S. banks with costs associated with new tax reporting requirements for non-resident U.S. citizens, have raised fears our largest trading partner is increasingly retreating behind protectionist and isolationist walls ….”
  • Amnesty International wants Canada to arrest former U.S. President George W. Bush while he’s here for an economic summit later this month – more here, here and here Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight….
  • A bit of government money ($39,980) for an exhibit about a Canadian General.  “The Museum Strathroy-Caradoc will be able to share the story of General Sir Arthur Currie with Canadians, thanks to an investment from the Government of Canada. This was announced today by Bev Shipley, Member of Parliament (Lambton-Kent-Middlesex), on behalf of the Honourable James Moore, Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages. The Museum will create, present, and circulate a travelling exhibition about the life and career of Strathroy native General Sir Arthur Currie. This project will trace Currie’s journey to become Canada’s top military leader during World War I and the first Canadian to attain the rank of full general ….” News Highlights – 12 Oct 11 News Highlights – 10 Aug 11 News Highlights – 28 Jul 11

  • Ooopsie…. (Wonder if we can see the briefing note now that the media has shared what it considers the important highlights?)  “The Department of National Defence plans to drop the use of a dedicated civilian cargo ship for hauling military supplies and equipment after discovering that Ottawa lost millions of dollars in the arrangement. The existing contract for the use of the container ship will be allowed to lapse in October, according to internal federal documents. The ship has been used 13 times since October 2007, most notably to move Canadian military equipment and humanitarian supplies to Haiti in January 2010 following the earthquake. The documents say that most of the time, the ship has either been waiting for orders or sailing empty, at a cost of $21.3 million to taxpayers “Of that, only $3.4 million is directly attributed to the movement of cargo with the remainder for empty transits, standby while awaiting tasking as well as support to two Naval exercises,” said a briefing note prepared for Defence Minister Peter MacKay and obtained by The Canadian Press ….”
  • A feature article on 412 Transport Squadron in Belleville’s hometown paper (although I think the headline means “they fly everything from patients all the way to the PM”)
  • The good news:  four alleged war criminals now nabbed, 27 more to go.  “A fourth fugitive whose face was posted online by border authorities has been nabbed. Public Safety Minister Vic Toews says Henry Pantoja Carbonel was arrested in Toronto. He was one of 30 people whose names and faces were posted online by the Canadian Border Services Agency earlier this month. Carbonel is a 53-year-old Peruvian. Toews says the website has generated a lot of tips from the public, although he didn’t say if the latest arrest was the result of such a tip ….”  More from United Press International here.
  • The bad news:  will they face any kind of justice even if Canada kicks them out“There are no guarantees that any of the suspected war criminals recently nabbed with the help of an online “wanted” list will actually face justice in their home countries. Federal ministers said Wednesday Canada simply wants to get rid of the men because their alleged crimes make them inadmissible. Human rights advocates say the federal government is dodging its responsibilities by deporting — not prosecuting — the suspects. “Our concern here is that this is furthering a long-established practice in Canada to overwhelmingly make use of our immigration system rather than our criminal justice system in dealing with cases of this sort,” said Alex Neve, secretary general of Amnesty International Canada. “There doesn’t seem to be even any pretence of turning to the criminal justice system, or putting some measures in place to ensure that the people on this list, if the allegations are well-founded, will actually face justice.” ….”
  • Norway attack backlash worries among some Canadian Muslims?  “A national Muslim group is urging mosques across Canada to be extra vigilant during the upcoming religious month of Ramadan in the wake of Norway’s horrific massacre perpetrated by a right-wing extremist with anti-Islamic views. “We’ve noticed that these kind of incidents, high-profile international incidents, often are followed by hate crimes and discrimination targeted toward the Muslim community,” said Ihsaan Gardee, executive director of the Canadian Council on American-Islamic Relations, an Ottawa-based organization with a cross-country board of directors and volunteers. However, Calgary Imam Syed Soharwardy said Wednesday he doesn’t see the need for such a warning, based on what happened in Norway. And a spokesman for Public Safety Minister Vic Toews said while he could not comment on specifics, he said there is no evidence that the Norway attacks — which included a bombing in the government section of Oslo and the shooting of dozens of people on nearby Utoya Island — present a widespread threat to Muslims in Canada ….”
  • Somali Bad Guys in Canada (1)  A U.S. Congressional committee on terrorist recruitment of American Muslims turned its attention north on Wednesday, as a prominent Somali-Canadian leader testified that Ottawa had failed to tackle the ideology of extremists. Ahmed Hussen, president of the Canadian Somali Congress, told U.S. lawmakers that the Canadian government was concentrating on detecting and arresting terror suspects while leaving their rhetoric unchallenged. “The strategy of Canadian officials as they confront this phenomenon in my community has been to view this serious matter only through the prism of law enforcement,” he said. “There has not been a parallel attempt to counter the toxic anti-Western narrative that creates a culture of victimhood in the minds of members of our community.” Mr. Hussen was the lead witness at controversial Committee on Homeland Security hearings in Washington probing radicalization within the American Muslim community. Testimony Wednesday focused on the Somali militant group Al-Shabab ….”
  • Somali Bad Guys in Canada (2)  Terrorist recruiters are targeting young Canadian Somali women to take up arms, the head of the Canadian Somali Congress told U.S. politicians Wednesday. In testimony before the House of Representatives Committee on Homeland Security, Ahmed Hussen suggested the reason might be increased police and security service attention over the recruitment of “dozens” of young Canadian Somali men from Ottawa and Toronto in recent years. “Lately, the recruiters have turned their attention to the facilitation of young Canadian Somali women into joining al-Shabab,” the radical Somali youth militia now fully integrated with al-Qaeda, Hussen said in a prepared statement. Much of the youth recruiting is believed to be through the Internet and an online mix of religious tracts, rap music, videos and recruiting pitches delivered in English. Visiting extremist clerics are another propaganda source ….”
  • Somali Bad Guys in Canada (3)  Here’s a link to the statement (PDF) read by the Canadian Somali Congress, and more on the Committee’s work on Somali bad guys here, here and here.
  • More worries about “creeping Canadian militarism”“…. Militarism is always premised on the notion that “real” nations and “real” men are grounded in warrior values. Real nations don’t sit on the sidelines; they participate. And those who oppose warrior values are told to shut up because they are not supporting our boys. End of discussion. We ought not to proceed further down this turn in the road without a robust national debate. That would begin with an honest and full assessment of the Afghanistan intervention. That would include scrutiny of placing Canadian forces and armaments in seven foreign bases (renamed “supply depots”), another Harper initiative that has gone undiscussed. That would demand an honest analysis of the social payoff of deflecting $30 billion that could be used to enhance our quality of life to purchase stealth fighters instead. Yes we need a military; that is a sad fact about which we should be vigilant and skeptical, not gung-ho.”
  • Winnipeg Jets Logo Angst (1)  “…. Why do we never get scenes of Canadian aid workers or doctors watching hockey with sketchy antennas in a far-flung desert village where they are distributing medicine? Because that doesn’t serve the new national interest. Meanwhile, most Canadian hockey teams sponsor special military nights, ranging in intensity from spectacles of soldiers rappelling down from the rafters (war is really neat, kids!) to sombre moments of silence for the fallen, insisting that we take their deaths as sacrifices for our freedom. No space is allowed to ask, ‘How is torturing prisoners in Kandahar protecting me?’ or, ‘If I’m so free, why do I get arrested for leading peaceful demonstrations in Canadian cities?’ ….”
  • Winnipeg Jets Logo Angst (2)  “…. These anti-war zealots see no distinction between being pro-war and pro-military when, in reality, the two can be mutually exclusive. It is quite easy to respect the work done by the people who serve in the military and air force – even if you don’t personally agree with the war or skirmish our government has them fight ….”
  • Afghanistan (1)  Again with the “what a great jobs the drones did” storyline.
  • Afghanistan (2)  Two Canadian foreign affairs experts (followable at Twitter here and here) comment on the Taliban’s latest rash of assassinations in Kandahar province.
  • Taliban Propaganda Watch:  A few more Taliban-friendly Twitter feeds out there.
  • Scores of veterans, dignitaries and members of the public turned out Wednesday for a parade and ceremony to remember the once “forgotten” Korean War. Prime Minister Stephen Harper was among those on hand at the Korea Veterans National Wall of Remembrance for the 58th anniversary of the armistice that ended the bloody conflict. “For too many years, Korea was called the ‘forgotten’ war,” Harper said. “But times are finally changing.” In all, 516 Canadian soldiers were killed in the conflict. Another 1,100 others were wounded in five major battles. Many of the Canadian dead are buried in Korea, prompting Harper to borrow from British war poet Rupert Brooke. “We may truly say that there is some corner of a foreign field that is forever Canada,” Harper said at the wreath-laying ceremony ….”  More from the Government of Canada Info-Machine here and here.
  • Norwegian Cruise Line launched an enhanced military program today offering special rates to members of the U.S. and Canada armed forces. The program features exclusive rates on select Freestyle Cruising vacations, including the line’s newest and most innovative ship Norwegian Epic, along with the only U.S. flagged cruise ship, Pride of America. Current featured destinations include seven-day cruises in the Western Mediterranean, Eastern Caribbean and Hawaii, along with Norwegian Epic’s 13-day transatlantic crossing from Barcelona to Miami on October 23, 2011. Active or retired members of the military can chose from numerous sailings in 2011 or 2012. In addition, new sailings will be added on a regular basis ….”  The company tells an ID card is required when booking – more at the company’s site here.
  • Congrats to the latest batch of recipients of the Meritorious Service Decorations, including the founder of Soldier On, Warrant Officer Andrew McLean.

Amnesty International Seeing the Light

Always happy to see a turnaround, belated as it might be.

I’ve complained in the past about Amnesty International not paying as much public attention to the Taliban as it could.  They have been getting better at highlighting the Taliban’s less-than-stellar track record.

This, from their latest:

Amnesty International calls on Afghan President Hamid Karzai and the Afghan Parliament to immediately suspend controversial legislation that will give immunity from prosecution for serious violations of human rights, including war crimes and crimes against humanity committed, in the past 30 years.


Under the provisions of this legislation, Taleban figures who agree to cooperate with the Afghan government would also be immune to prosecution. The Afghan government and its international supporters identified reconciliation with the Taleban as a priority during the London conference in January 2010.

“Short term expediency in the form of reconciliation with the Taleban should not trump the rights of the Afghan people, and in particular Afghan women and girls, who have suffered greatly under the Taleban’s repressive strictures. The Taleban have had a record of terrible human rights abuses, both when they ruled Afghanistan, and now in the areas they control. They should be held to account for their actions, not be granted official impunity,” (Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific director) Sam Zarifi said ….

Better late than never.

Talkin’ to the Taliban: Groups FINALLY Call for Rights Protections

With all the back and forth about reconciliation, reintegration, playing nice with the Taliban who want to play nice, NOW we’re hearing from people who remember how the Taliban conducted business when they were the winning team (emphasis mine):

“Any discussions with the Taleban must include clear commitments that they will respect and promote the rights of the Afghan people,” said Sam Zarifi, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific director.  “The Taleban established a terrible record of violating human rights during their rule and they have done nothing since then to indicate they will act differently if they return to power. (Amnesty International, 26 Jan 10)

Groups representing Afghan women warned the international community on Wednesday against pursuing a peace deal with the Taliban, fearing a return to the austere Islamist rule that saw women banned from education and work ….  “I have great fears, and I am greatly confused,” Homa Sabri, national officer-in-charge for UNIFEM Afghanistan, the U.N.’s women’s fund, told Reuters.  “2001 was a very clear signal that there is no more room for conservative elements to rule in Afghanistan,” she said.  She questioned how the international community could now regard dealing with these elements as acceptable, and how it could guarantee peaceful integration in a future government …. (Reuters, 27 Jan 10)

Good to see someone finally saying it out loud AND seeing MSM listening and writing about it.   I won’t go quite as far as Mark does over at The Torch, but he’s got the right idea.

TALIBAN PROPAGANDA WATCH: More Evidence of Taliban War Crimes

A little more grist for the mill following Amnesty International’s statement this week about the 28 Oct 09 attack on U.N. and election staff in Kabul – a reminder of Amnesty’s words (emphasis mine):

“Attacks targeting civilians constitute war crimes.  (Amnesty) said that if, as the Taleban suggest, this attack is part of a strategy of widespread or systematic attacks on the civilian population, carried out in pursuit of the Taleban’s policy of disrupting the upcoming elections, this attack could also constitute a crime against humanity.

In a little interview Taliban spokesperson Zabiullah Mujahid reportedly did with the Taliban web site Al-Emarah (PDF of English and Arabic versions available at non-terrorist site here), he’s quoted saying this:

The leadership has instructed all Mujahideen to foil the process, target the polling stations and workers. I believe the election process will fail, but we call on all our countrymen to avoid taking part in the elections and keep away from polling stations because the Mujahideen have hammered out plans of attacks on these centers.”

Plain English for any war crimes investigators:  “We told insurgents to attack election polling stations, and they have plans to do so.”

I eagerly await the Taliban following the next two bits of advice from Amnesty International (which they must respect to some extent if they asked for their help in another little matter):

Amnesty International said that the Taleban must immediately end such attacks. Those suspected of carrying the attacks out or ordering them must be brought to justice.

TALIBAN PROPAGANDA WATCH: Taliban Claim Responsibilty for Kabul Attacks

More along the lines of Amnesty International’s claim that the Taliban may have committed war crimes in attacking a compound where United Nations election observers were staying

The Taliban statements (Voice of Jihad English here and here, and PDF at non-terrorist site here) make it pretty clear they knew who was in the buildings in question (highlights mine):

According to reports, three heroic Mujahideen of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan carried out a martyrdom-seeking attack inside the guest house of UNAMA, killing a great number of workers of the runoff campaign. In the heart of the Kabul city, Share Naw, Mujahideen killed 50 foreigners in UNAMA guest house no. II as a result of martyrdom seeking attack. It is said that many foreigners who had come to observe the runoff election process, were staying in the guesthouse. The report adds, the attack was launched after the recent statement by the leadership council of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, calling on Mujahideen to prevent the runoff election from taking place …. It should be said, that a great number of foreign observers were staying in the Hotel who had arrived a Kabul to monitor the November 7 runoff elections ….

OK, Amnesty Int’l (or anyone looking for a war crime to chase and prosecute), we know:

1)  the Tailban want to be considered a government (PDF here),

2)  the group is claiming responsibilty for deliberate attacks on places where they appear to have known UN officials and election observers were living, and

3)  instead of trying to stop the incident, the group called for it to be done.

What more do you need?  Anyone?  Anyone?