News Highlights – 21 Sept 11

  • Libya Mission (1a)  Three more months?  “Prime Minister Stephen Harper says he believes that the Canadian Forces will be able to wrap up their mission in Libya “well before” their next three-month mandate is over. Mr. Harper will ask the House of Commons this week to approve a three-month extension after NATO countries agreed to stay with the mission beyond the Sept. 27 deadline, but he said Canada’s goal is to wipe out the remaining threat of pro-Gadhadi forces and it should be over sooner ….” More from here and The Canadian Press here.  The PM’s officialese statements here and here.
  • Libya Mission (1b)  Here’s how the PM’s official statement put it:  “Canada has been at the forefront of international efforts to protect civilians in Libya against the oppressive Gaddafi regime and provide them with humanitarian assistance …. Canada will continue to support the people of Libya, standing ready to promote effective governance and institutions, a secure environment founded on the rule of law, economic development and prosperity, and respect for human rights.”  More in the “Lookit everything we’ve done” bit here.
  • Libya Mission (1c)  Softball question from the Conservative backbenches to the Parliamentary Secretary Deepak Obhrai, with a well-messaged response:  Mr. Peter Braid (Kitchener—Waterloo, CPC): Mr. Speaker, the situation in Libya this past summer has seen the toppling of the Gadhafi regime and the emergence of a real democratic hope. However, despite these gains we recognize that the situation does remain unstable. Could the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs please update the House on the situation in Libya?  Mr. Deepak Obhrai (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, CPC): Mr. Speaker, today the Prime Minister attended the high-level meeting on Libya at the United Nations chaired by the Secretary-General. Canada has been at the forefront of the international effort to protect civilians in Libya against the oppressive Gadhafi regime. Canada stands ready to support the new Libyan government through the UN coordinated efforts committed to helping the people of Libya.”  Far better than when he said Afghanistan wasn’t really a war, but more like “providing a secure environment in a country in which there was a complete loss of security.”
  • Afghanistan (1a)  Former president, head of the Afghanistan High Peace Council and, in some eyes, warlord hard man Burhanuddin Rabbani killed by a explosives-packed turban on a suicide bomber.  Here’s Postmedia News’ take on what the killing means, and here’s the PM’s condolences (noticeably longer than these condolences from Canada’s envoy to Afghanistan for an even tougher warlord).
  • Afghanistan (1b)  Here’s former OMLT-eer Bruce Ralston’s take on the Rabbani assassination“There’s no question the Taliban’s improvement in their pursuit of “high value targets” this year has mirrored, if not exceeded the coalition’s.”
  • Afghanistan (2)  The combat mission in Kandahar is over, but Force Protection Company is still keeping busy (via CF Info-Machine).
  • Afghanistan (3)  Canadian General bearing still-useful leftovers for the Afghan National Army (via CF Info-Machine).
  • Natynczyk’s Plane Rides (1)  Opinion, from a former subordinate George Petrolekas:  The CDS can’t get the work done on Air Canada that he can get done on a military executive jet.
  • Natynczyk’s Plane Rides (2)  Opinion, from Senator Colin Kenny“…. General Walter Natynczyk, Canada’s Chief of the Defence Staff, has been skewered by simplistic reporting this week. He is right to be indignant, wrong to be surprised, and out of luck if he thinks many in the media are going to stop and put everything in perspective ….”
  • Natynczyk’s Plane Rides (3)  Opinion, from QMI/Sun Media columnist Joe Warmington “Only in Canada would you see our top soldier sucker-punched in this way. Gen. Walter Natynczyk has looked into the crying eyes of the parents of many of the 157 hero warriors killed in action in Afghanistan, and now the same people who condoned millions for a fake lake and a giant fence are worried about our top soldier’s travel expenses? Only coming out of NDP critics could such hypocrisy reign. It’s funny how we have taxpayers’ money for their leader’s state funeral but we must count every penny for the man leading our troops, not in peace time but in the middle of war ….”
  • Natynczyk’s Plane Rides (3)  Opinion, from QMI/Sun Media columnist Charles Adler “…. So what about this trip to the Caribbean? Natynczyk had spent the previous two Christmases with our troops serving in Afghanistan. He was about to miss a much-deserved holiday with his family in order to pay respects to more of our fallen soldiers at a repatriation ceremony. The minister of defence ordered him to join his family, and approved the use of the jet to get there. It was a classy move on Peter MacKay’s part, and was completely justifiable ….”
  • “No” to expanding the Mo’?  “Canada’s bloated military bureaucracy has consistently defied explicit orders from government ministers to increase the size of the army militia as directed. The accusation is made in a scorching but carefully documented report by pre-eminent military scholar Jack English for the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute and obtained in advance of its release Wednesday by only a few media outlets, including Postmedia ….”
  • DND changing how it funds research. “The Department of National Defence is changing how it pays for public research on the military, cutting funding by 80 per cent and moving to a new “agile” model that would mimic private consulting, according to scholars involved. By doing so, many of them charge that the department is squeezing the lifeblood out of almost three-quarters of research centres across Canada that are supported by the program, known as the Security and Defence Forum. DND, however, says it is only acting in the best interests of taxpayers. It says the move will transform the way it interacts with military experts, ultimately providing better value. Directors of the SDF, a decades-long effort by the government to link the military and universities to foster debate and research on security and defence issues, were disappointed to learn in July that their $2.5-million program would be shut down and replaced with a $0.5-million successor. They say DND will likely forge the new program into a system where it can commission work quickly, drawing in expert analysis on current affairs, or on subjects that immediately interest the government ….”
  • Somalia’s PM, Abdiweli Mohamed Ali, is in Canada, asking for help (including military help)  “(Q) You spoke of the need for more military and police trainers in Somalia, and suggested this is an area where Canada could specifically contribute. Aren’t there already such trainers in Somalia? (A) No, we don’t have those. Not inside Somalia. The European Union is providing some training for the Somali national army. They are training outside the country but we don’t have American, British or Canadian trainers. We need these because security institutions are essential to law and order. We also need logistical support – communication, transportation, even providing salary in the short term – so that once we have a bigger, broader tax base we will be able to provide salaries for our soldiers. We need a lot of financial help.”  More from the Toronto Star here, and Agence France-Presse here.  Given Canada’s military track record in the country (let’s also remember this was a case a small number of very, very, very bad apples making the whole group look bad), this might be hard for the government to sell and message – we’ll have to wait and see what unfolds and how.
  • What’s Canada Buying: Big Honkin’ Ships Edition  Getting ready for mo’ shipbuilding work on the east coast.  “A baker’s dozen of employers and the Dexter government have contributed more than $400,000 in cash and equipment to double the number of metal fabrication students at the Nova Scotia Community College this fall. An Irving Shipbuilding official said he couldn’t say whether a further expansion would be needed if Irving Shipbuilding wins one of the huge federal government contracts for new combat and non-combat ships, to be announced within weeks. “It’s difficult to say,” Mike Roberts, Irving’s vice-president of corporate development, said after an announcement in Dartmouth ….” News Highlights – 10 Jul 11

  • Afghanistan (1)  The National Post‘s Christie Blatchford highlights the results of a recent paper by a senior CF officer, “No Good Deed Goes Unpunished,” about what policies may be cutting into the CF’s martial spirit.  “…. The policies are (1) tour length (including a policy that provides a paid trip home from the theatre of war); (2) support to deployed troops (everything from the quality of food, gyms, barber services to availability of web access); (3) bonus “environmental duty allowances” (which pay deployed soldiers, depending on their length of service, anywhere from an extra $300 to $750 a month); and (4) so-called universality of service, which means that soldiers must meet a minimum fitness level, a requirement which is now being waived or bent for injured troops. (Military engineer and Afghanistan vet  Major Mark) Gasparotto uses the results of his survey of senior officers and non-commissioned members — 127 leaders anonymously completed the survey — to bolster his concerns. Fully 40% agreed or strongly agreed that the CF focus on troops’ well-being threatens the primacy of mission success ….”  I’m still looking for a link to the paper – feel free to share via comments if you can find it before I do.
  • Afghanistan (2)  Hundreds of supporters of Canada’s peace-building efforts in Afghanistan rallied in Toronto Saturday to oppose what they call the “long-standing meddling” of Pakistan’s powerful spy agency. “The Afghan community in Ontario organized this rally to protest and condemn the Pakistani Army and the ISI (Inter-services Intelligence) for its continuing support to al-Qaida, to the Taliban and to other terrorist groups,” said Babur Mawladin, president of the Canada Afghanistan Solidarity Committee, in a statement. “The ISI supports the ongoing violence in Afghanistan by providing sanctuary and other forms of support to terrorists who then enter Afghanistan from Pakistan to carry out suicide bombings and other acts of violence.” More than 500 people from all over Ontario, the 34-year-old said, converged on Queen’s Park bearing the flags of Canada and Afghanistan and listened to speakers in Farsi and English ….”
  • Afghanistan (3)  A critic of ANY Canadian presence in Afghanistan highlights the continued risks. “…. Now that Canada has ceased its combat mission, do we seriously believe every Canadian left in that country will survive to come home? Regardless they are there to supply aid and training to the Afghans, they remain foreigners. They are still targets. That is our legacy of turning peacekeeping into peacemaking, a euphemism for warmongering ….”
  • Afghanistan (4)  Globe & Mail writer Graeme Smith is going to be online tomorrow from noon until 1pm Eastern to talk about Afghanistan and what he’s seen in his time there here’s one of his more recent pieces.
  • A drama in Canadian airspace last fall over a foreign airliner carrying a potential bomb is just now shedding light on the military’s rules of engagement for shooting down hostile commercial aircraft. “If they really think that a plane is going to be used as a weapon and either crashed into something or blown up over a major centre, there is a protocol by which the plane is shot down,” a senior government source, speaking on condition of anonymity, told the Ottawa Citizen. “It’s one of those calls that nobody hopes is ever necessary, but there is a protocol to do the unthinkable, because you’ve got to think about it.” ….”
  • Blogger Mark Collins tells the Toronto Sun about what threats there really are in Canada’s Arctic. “…. There is in fact no threat to Canadian sovereignty over our northern land. No Russian troops are heading to Canada. The government’s own paper, “Canada’s Northern Strategy,” says “Canada’s sovereignty over its Arctic lands and islands is undisputed, with the exception of (tiny) Hans Island, which is claimed by Denmark.” There is as much need to assert our sovereignty by increasing Canada’s military and governmental presence in the north as there is in, say, Labrador. What is chiefly in dispute is Canada’s claim the Northwest Passage is Canadian “internal waters” — a claim almost nobody else accepts, including the U.S., the European Union, and Japan ….”
  • Canada’s Defence Minister thanks CF members for their work during the Royal Visit. “The Honourable Peter MacKay, Minister of National Defence, congratulates the men and women of the Canadian Armed Forces who have so professionally supported the highly successful tour of Their Royal Highnesses The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. “The outstanding support of our service personnel who represent all branches of the Canadian Forces, has been exemplary from the planning stages and throughout the Royal Tour,” said Minister MacKay. “Their excellence has been broadcast daily in the media across Canada and around the world. I extend my heartiest congratulations to them all.” Operations planners at Canada Command Headquarters in Ottawa and at the Regional Joint Task Forces in Toronto, Halifax, Yellowknife and Edmonton have worked in close cooperation with colleagues from Canadian Heritage to ensure that the logistics, transportation and ceremonial aspects of the tour have been carried out in every detail ….”
  • A new hang(a)r and air cadet glider school will be built at CFB Trenton in the coming months. Peter MacKay, Minister of National Defence, announced contract awards totalling more than $52 million for two infrastructure projects on July 6 during a visit to 8 Wing Trenton. The projects include the construction of a maintenance hangar for the new CC-130J Hercules and the construction of a new facility for the air cadet glider school. Hangar 2, a two-bay hangar, will cost $44.2 million, measure 11,582 square metres and hold two CC-130J aircraft. Its completion is estimated for spring 2013. The $8.5-million air cadet glider school facility will be used for aircraft maintenance and storage and contain classrooms for instruction. It will measure 4,924 square metres and should be finished by summer 2012 ….”
  • Any chance of being able to see the documents, Canadian Press?  The cleanup of two Canadian Forces bases in Germany that closed after the Cold War cost Canada millions of dollars, new documents show. The federal government has paid the Germans $6 million in claims for environmental damage to former Canadian Forces Bases Lahr and Baden-Soellingen. But a soldier who served at one of the bases says some of the damages were probably caused long before Canadian troops moved in. The Canadian Forces maintained the two, full-fledged air and army bases in what was once West Germany during the Cold War. The bases were closed in the early 1990s after the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the reunification of East and West Germany. A summary of payments obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act does not say what environmental damages were claimed by the German government ….”
  • Awwwwwwwwwwwwwww, what a shame….  “Canadian activists trying to deliver aid to the blockaded Gaza Strip have decided to put off their voyage for now. Organizers announced the decision Saturday after the Canadian ship, known as the Tahrir, had been prevented from leaving a port in Greece for several weeks. Greece has banned vessels heading to the blockaded strip, citing safety concerns. After inspections and administrative delays, the Canadian ship tried to leave for Gaza on Monday but was quickly turned back to shore by the Greek coast guard. Organizer David Heap, who was aboard the Tahrir, said he’s disappointed the ship wasn’t able to bring aid to Gaza ….”  More on that here. News Highlights – 12 Feb 11

Christie Blatchford on How Media Treat Sources

Remember this?

On How Reporters Treat Material from PMO, Taliban

A big hat tip to Mark Collins at The Torch for spotting this tidbit in Christie Blatchford’s latest on the death of reporter Michelle Lang in Afghanistan (emphasis mine):

…. The Canadian Forces are not slick manipulators of truth – rather the opposite, I say politely – and the mere fact of its embedding program, where reporters are invited to live and work alongside soldiers and are subject in my experience to almost zero interference or censorship, alone should speak to that.

And the Taliban, however simple or uneducated its lowest-ranking members may be, are adept at the most basic propaganda; they know very well that the shortest route to sap the will of countries like Canada and Britain is a rising casualty toll. Canadian soldiers who speak to the press are named and accountable for their remarks, both to their superiors and to the public; but for a few top leaders, Taliban and supporters are interviewed anonymously, through interpreters and sometimes fixers, and are usually photographed with covered faces.

It is an odd commentary upon the world we live in that a named and identified Canadian general is often viewed in this country with more suspicion than a masked thug with an AK at his side, yet precisely that view persists in newsrooms and journalism schools both ….

Amen, Christie, and thanks again Mark.