MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 30 Mar 11

  • Cpl. Yannick Scherrer, Royal 22e Régiment, R.I.P. Arriving back in Canada this afternoon – more here.
  • Libya Ops (1) – Canadian General says all good to go in transfer of ops to NATO command.
  • Libya Ops (2) – American General on who’s in charge of what in Libya, the short version (“#NATO is now in charge of ALL military operations in #Libya: Humanitarian, Arms Embargo, No-Fly Zone, and Protection of Civilians.”) and the longer version.
  • Libya Ops (3) – Enforcing a no-fly zone over Libya required four sorties by NATO aircraft in the past 24 hours, the Pentagon said Tuesday. As of 1000 GMT (6am EDT Tuesday), NATO carried out four flights to police the no-fly zone against the Libyan regime, along with four other sorties in support of the mission, according to information released by the Pentagon. The figures followed comments from US and allied commanders that the regime’s air defenses have been knocked out in earlier coalition raids, with Moamer Kadhafi’s aircraft effectively shut down under a no-fly zone now firmly in place. The four no-fly zone sorties were flown by Canada and Spain, using F-18 fighter jets, said a US defense official, who spoke on condition of anonymity ….”
  • Libya Ops (4) – Guess which Foreign Affairs Minister wasn’t at a big meeting on Libya this week?
  • Libya Ops (5) – TorStar columnist“The life and death issue that no major party leader wants to talk about in this election campaign is war. Canada is involved in two now. But to listen to the leaders you’d never know. Our latest war is being waged against Libya. Like the endless adventure in Afghanistan, this one, too, slipped by beneath the radar of public consciousness. Yes, there was a debate of sorts in Parliament. But it was short and perfunctory. The Conservative government and all three opposition parties agreed that Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi is a bad dude, that the United Nations was right to authorize attacks against his country and that Canadian fighter jets should join in with gusto. Then they got back to the real business of Canadian politics: slagging one another over which party is the most dishonest ….”
  • One man’s “gag order” is another man’s “be very careful what you say during an election campaign.”The federal government has restricted media interviews of officials in Afghanistan because of the election campaign, a move that one critic says hampers the public’s understanding of Canada’s mission in the war-torn country. The restrictions became known after The Canadian Press requested an interview this week with Tim Martin, Canada’s top diplomat in Kandahar. The request was for a story about a transfer of command ceremony that took place Tuesday at Camp Nathan Smith on the outskirts of Kandahar city. Such events happen from time to time and Tuesday’s ceremony was expected to mark a major milestone as Canada was set to hand over command of the Provincial Reconstruction Team’s training centre to Afghanistan’s Ministry of the Interior and NATO forces …. A spokesman for the Canadian International Development Agency rejected the interview request, saying Martin would not be granting interviews in the duration of the five-week election campaign. Adam Sweet said an order was in effect restricting federal officials from talking to the media aimed at preventing them from making public comments that could influence, or appear to influence, the outcome of the election. “We act with as much restraint as possible, confining ourselves to public business and this rule applies to our communications activities as well,” Sweet said. Nina Chiarelli, the acting director of communications for the prime minister, denied there was an order in place that prevented federal officials from speaking with reporters. But she said communications with the media are restricted during an election ….”
  • Former OMLT’eer Bruce Ralston sounds off on his blog about the recent Rolling Stones article on American soldiers accused of assassinating innocent Afghans“…. Like the vast majority of soldiers in the theatre, these sick little f__ks had as little contact as possible throughout their tour with local nationals, who were about as real to them as sprites in a video game. This was a predictable consequence of all the distance we have put in this military context between Us and Them, the “Them” in this case being the people we were sent to protect. Our whole approach to force protection, with all of its interacting with the host nation only across razor wire or through gunsights, is a concomitant cause of these atrocities ….”
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (1) – Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff promised Monday to re-examine a deal to buy the next-generation F-35 stealth fighter plane, but military experts say it would be pointless for a Liberal government to hold a “fly-off” competition to replace Canada’s deteriorating CF-18 fighter-bombers given that there is no alternative that would suit the Canadian Forces’ needs. “We are going to replace the CF-18 -we care about the sovereignty of Canada. But we’ve got time to get this right. [The Conservatives] tried to hustle the country into a purchase without a competitive process” ….”
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (2) –  New fighter jets Canada plans to buy will be more than $100 million each — at least $25 million more per plane than government estimates — according to a top U.S. budget watchdog. Conservative government officials have said 65 new joint strike fighters being built to replace Canada’s F-18 jets will cost about $75 million each, about $9 billion with training and an additional $200-$300 million a year in maintenance. But Mike Sullivan, director of acquisition management at the US General Accountability Office, said he doesn’t know where that estimate comes from. “That’s not a number that I am familiar with at all,” he said in an interview Tuesday with CBC’s Power & Politics with Evan Solomon, cautioning he hasn’t seen the methodology behind the numbers. Sullivan said the estimated cost of the F-35A model that Canada is buying is “in the low 100 millions.” “Probably somewhere between $110-115 million,” he said. A prominent Conservative admitted to CBC that the cost of the F-35 fight jets might not be as the government has promised. Earlier on Power & Politics, Conservative MP Laurie Hawn said Canada is buying the planes at the peak of their production, making them cheaper than the $133 million the U.S. estimates their jets will cost. Hawn also said the $133 million estimate is an average of three models being built, of which the Canadian jet is the cheapest ….”
  • Poochies helping Canada’s wounded warriors.
  • What’s Canada Buying?  Lockheed Martin Canada gets big (+$22M) gig building battle simulators for Gagetown, Valcartier, Petawawa and Wainwright.
  • A bit of plaid military history being made. “An elite unit of Second World War commandos with a reputation for daring and stealth that earned it the nickname The Black Devils are being honoured with the creation of an original Scottish tartan. A new tartan design will be officially filed with the Scottish national tartan registry for the First Special Service Force, a Canadian-American unit created in 1942 and disbanded after barely a year of intense warfare. The creation of the tartan is being spearheaded by the Helena, Montana-based Shining Thistle Pipe Band and the First Special Service Force Association, which represents the remaining members of the unit and their descendants. The force trained at Fort William Henry Harrison in Helena before heading into combat. “We want to not only recognize and honour them, but to hear their stories before they are lost,” said Bill Woon, the executive director of the association and the son of a Canadian member of the commando unit ….” FYI, today’s Canadian Special Operations Regiment (CSOR) perpetuates the Canadian element of the First Special Service Force.
  • More class acts from a classy guy (and an… interesting interpretation of the military environment from an unidentified source). Police found child porn on serial sex criminal Russell Williams’ computer but laid no charges in exchange for him pleading guilty to murder and sexual assault, a new book says. The former commander of Canada’s largest military airfield wouldn’t admit to downloading pictures of teenaged girls in sexual positions, Globe and Mail reporter Timothy Appleby writes in “A New Kind of Monster.” A source quoted in the book said Williams couldn’t face the stigma attached to child pornography, though he was willing to plead guilty to murder, rape and a series of bizarre sexually motivated break-ins. “This is a guy who structured his life around how he saw others act, and that’s how his morality base came about,” said the source, who was involved in the case. “In the military, you can kill people, it’s accepted … it’s within the realm of human behaviour. And in war, rape is within that realm as well. The one thing that isn’t, and stands outside that, is (sexual abuse of) children.” ….” Note to book author Tim Appleby and whoever his source is:  if the source is quoted correctly, and if the source really thinks this, s/he’s wrong.  Rape is NEVER acceptable in any context in the CF, and killing is ONLY to be carried out when following accepted rules of engagement (usually as a measure of last resort).  If this reflects what the source thinks, that source is sadly mistaken.

MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 16 Mar 11

  • Some alleged terrorist bad boys, University of Manitoba alum, are being sought by the RCMP. “A four-year RCMP national security criminal investigation, known as Project Darken, has resulted in arrest warrants being issued for two former Winnipeg residents on terrorism-related charges. RCMP investigators in Winnipeg have compiled evidence that two Canadian citizens, Maiwand Yar and Ferid Ahmed Imam, conspired to travel to Pakistan for terrorist training, with plans to later join the insurgency against NATO forces in Afghanistan. Ferid Ahmed Imam, age 30, is being sought on charges of instructing to carry out terrorist activity and conspiracy to participate in activity of a terrorist group. Maiwand Yar, age 27, is being sought on charges of conspiracy to participate in activity of a terrorist group and participation in activity of a terrorist group. Both individuals are known to have traveled to Pakistan in March 2007. The current whereabouts of Maiwand Yar and Ferid Imam are unknown. These charges are being laid in absentia and Canada-wide arrest warrants have been issued for both men ….” Even CSIS’s Prairie Region boss made a statement on this one (PDF, via Army.ca).  More from CNN here, Agence France-Presse here,   A reminder: The Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and Canada’s constitution, guarantees the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty.
  • A few more details on one of the chaps, courtesy of the FBI “A superseding indictment was unsealed in Brooklyn federal court yesterday charging Ferid Imam, also known as “Yousef,” with providing and conspiring to provide material support to al Qaeda, aiding and abetting the terrorist training of Najibullah Zazi, Zarein Ahmedzay, and Adis Medunjanin, and using a destructive device in furtherance of crimes of violence.1 The indictment was unsealed in coordination with Canadian authorities, who earlier today announced terrorism charges against Imam, who is a Canadian citizen. According to the Eastern District indictment, Imam aided and abetted Zazi, Ahmedzay, and Medunjanin’s receipt of military-type training from al Qaeda when the three men traveled to Pakistan in 2008. Zazi, Ahmedzay, and Medunjanin subsequently returned to the United States to carry out a plot to detonate improvised explosive devices on behalf of al Qaeda. This plot was uncovered and disrupted by law enforcement authorities in September 2009. Zazi pleaded guilty to his role in the plot on February 22, 2010; Ahmedzay similarly pleaded guilty on April 23, 2010 ….”
  • Canada on a No-Fly Zone for Libya We don’t reject the idea out of hand, but there’s no consensus among G8 members yet (plus we need a U.N. Security Council resolution).
  • Interesting where some of those weapons and weapon parts Canada’s been selling ended up: “…. Almost $1.1 million worth of military goods were exported to Yemen in the reporting period. Most of those exports were aircraft, unmanned airborne vehicles and other aircraft equipment “specially designed or modified for military use.” Another $80,000 was dedicated to “specialized equipment for military training or for simulating military scenarios,” while less than $1,000 was exported to Yemen for “ammunition and fuse-setting devices, and specially designed components.” In 2009, Libya received more than $85,000 in military exports from Canada, with most of that total -$80,000 -going to military simulators ….” The full DFAIT report is here.
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (1) The federal government is planning a campaign to “better inform” Canadians about the costs of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter stealth jets, according to one Conservative MP. The upcoming campaign comes on the heels of a report from the Parliamentary Budget Office last week that estimated the 65 jets Canada is buying could cost $29.3 billion, not the $16 billion the government had projected. But Tory MP Laurie Hawn, the parliamentary secretary to the minister of defence, said the government has “fundamental” problems with the PBO’s methodology. One of those problems is that the PBO’s estimate of the plane’s cost is based on historical data of cost-per-weight of other military aircraft. “We’re not buying a sack of potatoes here. We’re buying a high-tech piece of gear,” Hawn said. “That (methodology) may work well from a purely statistician, bean-counter perspective, but we don’t think it reflects the real-world actual costs of technology, materials or components going into the airplane. “That’s where we are coming up with our numbers, and we’re confident in them,” he added ….”
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (2)  Meanwhile, south of the border where the F-35s are being tested/made, a government watchdog group says change is happening (but it’s also slowing things down)“DOD continues to restructure the JSF program, taking positive, substantial actions that should lead to more achievable and predictable outcomes. Restructuring has consequences–higher up-front development costs, fewer aircraft bought in the near term, training delays, and extended times for testing and delivering capabilities to warfighters. Total development funding is now estimated at $56.4 billion to complete in 2018, a 26 percent cost increase and a 5-year schedule slip from the current baseline ….” (h./t to Mark Collins for this one).
  • How Canada’s Conference of Defence Associations reads the latest government spending plan for 2011-2012 when it comes to defence (PDF).
  • Private Thomas Lawless, 1889-1917, CEF, R.I.P. “Nearly a century after his death, Private Thomas Lawless, a Canadian First World War soldier whose remains were recovered and identified on January 10, 2011, was buried today with full military honours at La Chaudière Military Cemetery, in Vimy, France …. Private Lawless was born on April 11, 1889, in Dublin, Ireland, and enlisted with the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) in Calgary, Alberta. He was a member of the 49th Battalion, CEF, who fought in the Battle of Vimy Ridge.  Veterans Affairs Canada has provided support to the family members of Private Lawless and has also coordinated their participation in the interment ceremony ….” More from the Canadian Press here and Agence France-Presse here.
  • Repairing an aging federal air base in Labrador is not important for some members of the Canadian military, according to documents obtained by CBC News. “Infrastructure at Goose Bay would be an extremely low priority. Little would be accomplished at Goose Bay and infrastructure reduction measures would have to be taken,” wrote Major Nanette Fleissen in a February 2009 letter advising senior military officials about air base repairs. The internal Department of National Defence documents show the 5 Wing Goose Bay air base requires about $128-million worth of work ….” Again, I can’t find a link to any of the documents, so I guess nobody’s sharing them.
  • The national tax dollar watchdog is warning the feds not to get carried away with the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812 next year. And even if a recently reported figure of $100 million for the commemoration is wrong, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation is still cautioning restraint. “They’re going to have to borrow this money, whatever the costs are. Let’s be clear about this, they don’t have this money kicking around in a cookie jar marked ‘Bicentennial War of 1812 Fund’,” said Scott Hennig, the federation’s national communications director. “The government needs to be darned sure this spending is absolutely necessary. And we’re not even talking about fighting a real war here, where you might be able to justify borrowing money to go into debt, we’re talking about re-enacting one.” According to a media report Monday, the bicentennial celebrations will include re-enactments of the war’s famous battles, repairs to monuments and plaques, a national essay-writing competition, a documentary, a new visitor centre at Fort York in Toronto, and a new website dedicated to the war between the U.S. and Canada that resulted in the White House and Capital Building being burned during a British raid on Washington in 1814. A government source denounced the $100 million figure reported Monday, saying the government was planning to spend “significantly less.” Officials at the department of heritage declined interview requests from QMI Agency, but a spokesman for Heritage Minister James Moore said the government would be announcing details of the bicentennial “in due course ….” What?  No puppets with South East Asian music re-enacting the battles?  I’m crushed ….

MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 3 Feb 11

  • VERY interesting questions from a wounded warrior…. “ …. What happened to the CDS’s promise (made to me in person) that no disabled WIA would be released before they are ready to transition?  …. those of us in uniform all know that there are personnel in various support trades who have never deployed because they are too obese to meet the basic fitness standard (Battle Fitness Test).  These folks seem to float from one T-Cat to another, with very few (if any) ever being released for failure to pass even the non-deployment basic fitness test (EXPRES test).  What is up with that?  …. Why does the CF even stock the extreme sizes of combat uniform that are as wide in the arse/gut as they are tall?  Grossly obese persons have no place in uniform, projecting a negative public image of the CF.  Orange jumpsuits would be more appropriate for the morbidly obese and would serve as an incentive to lose weight.  Rigid and timely application of the universality of service requirements and medical release procedures should also be applied to those obese members who cannot attain the deployment fitness standard.  At the end of the day, I would like to see disabled combat vets such as myself offered the opportunity to fill domestic support jobs so that those who are fit to fight are freed up for deployment.   If nothing else, I want assurance that our disabled WIA are offered the same degree of “rule-bending consideration” that the chain of command and the medical system quite evidently apply to the 1000 or so obese CF members who can’t even pass the basic XPRES test.”
  • Memorial visits to Kandahar by the families of Canadian soldiers killed in Afghanistan will continue, but they’ll be financed by non-public funds, the Defence Department said Wednesday. A department spokesman said the visits, which had been briefly in limbo, won’t be billed to the taxpayer until new spending rules are in place. In the meantime, costs can be covered from the military families fund, which is financed by private donations and various fund-raisers, Andrew McKelvey, a department communications adviser, said in an email. “The military families fund is an agile and responsive fund with a broad mandate to assist families, especially where there is no authorized public program, benefit or service to do this,” he said. “Given the intent to seek public approval for (next-of-kin) travel, it is anticipated that the support required from the military families fund will be short term.” ….”
  • Blog Watch: Former OMLT-eer says NYT reporter needs to do more homework covering Afghanistan.
  • One set of hearings looking into Canadian treatment of Afghan detainees has wrapped upThe Military Police Complaints Commission has adjourned to sort through the sometimes explosive testimony of some 35 witnesses, as well as thousands of pages of documents reluctantly turned over by the federal government, after an oftentimes acrimonious hearing into the Afghan detainee scandal drew to a close Wednesday. The year-long hearing concluded with final arguments from civil rights lawyers who said eight military police officers were negligent in their failure to investigate potentially criminal decisions taken by Canadian Forces commanders to transfer detainees to Afghan custody, where they faced torture. Lawyers for Amnesty International Canada and the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, which launched the complaint, argued there was an abundance of evidence to suggest Afghan secret police were abusive and, had military police been asking the right questions of task force commanders, they would have known something wasn’t right ….” More here and here.
  • Taliban Propaganda WatchAttacks alleged in Kandahar, and Taliban showing its green side.
  • Egyptian officials have promised the federal government they will do “everything” they can to help Canadians still stranded in the North African nation, Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon said Wednesday.  A plane carrying 29 Canadians and dozens of Australians, Britons and Americans left Alexandria for Amman, Jordan, on Wednesday as violent protests continued in the streets of Egypt’s major cities. A flight leaving Cairo, which is expected to carry about 90 Canadians, was scheduled to land in Paris Wednesday evening.  Cannon told reporters that he spoke with Egypt’s Foreign Affairs Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit Wednesday about the ongoing mass protests aimed at forcing President Hosni Mubarak from office after three decades in power …. “
  • Canada’s MPs spent much of last night in the House of Commons in an emergency debate on what’s up in Egypt these days – transcript via Hansard here.
  • Would-be Jihadist suicide bomber or playful loving family man? Those were the two starkly different ways suspected terrorist Sayfilden Tahir Sharif was portrayed Wednesday at his bail hearing in Edmonton. A photograph snapped by Cara Rain, his common-law wife, was entered as an exhibit showing Sharif clowning around with her children in the apartment they shared before his arrest last month by RCMP at the request of the FBI.  Wearing a black hijab, Rain told court there is no way the man she loves is guilty of U.S. allegations that he supported a multinational terrorist network that took part in a suicide bombing which killed five American soldiers in Iraq …. Sharif’s lawyer, Bob Aloneissi, is seeking bail conditions akin to house arrest as his client prepares to fight extradition to the U.S.  The federal Crown wants him held in custody pending the outcome of a long hearing process that may not begin until later this year. Crown prosecutor Jim Shaw entered a letter from the U.S. Justice Department dated Feb. 1 that warns Sharif poses an extreme danger to the community and a significant flight risk ….”
  • Border Worries (1): This from a U.S. government watchdog office“The challenges of securing the U.S.-Canadian border involve the coordination of multiple partners. The results of the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) efforts to integrate border security among its components and across federal, state, local, tribal, and Canadian partners are unclear. GAO was asked to address the extent to which DHS has (1) improved coordination with state, local, tribal, and Canadian partners; (2) progressed in addressing past federal coordination challenges; and (3) progressed in securing the northern border and used coordination efforts to address existing vulnerabilities ….”
  • Border Worries (2) Canada and the United States are scrambling to quell fears that Canadians would soon need visas to cross the border, following a hard-hitting report to Congress that questioned security along the 49th parallel. Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon said Wednesday he had been assured by the U.S. ambassador to Canada, David Jacobson, there is no plan to require visas. “Ambassador Jacobson phoned me up to let me know that that certainly is not the intention of the Obama administration,” Cannon told a news conference. Indeed, Jacobson took to Twitter shortly after the report’s release Tuesday to declare that co-operation between the U.S. and Canada on security and border management had been “exceptional for years.” ….”
  • Border Worries (3) Canada and the United States are poised to take a major step toward common border security controls that could lead to joint government facilities, sophisticated tracking of travellers, better cyber-security protection and improved oversight of overseas cargo shipped to both countries. Prime Minister Stephen Harper and U.S. President Barack Obama are expected to give the green light Friday to a comprehensive shared review of border security aimed at tightening protection from terrorists and easing the flow of cross-border traffic ….” More on tomorrow’s coming talks here.  Let’s hope the issue of where many of those illegal guns that end up being seized here are coming from as well.
  • F-35 Tug of War (1) Firms report big risks to get onboard F-35 program: Firms say major ministerial public relations campaign as much about investor as public confidence.”
  • F-35 Tug of War (2) Canada’s defence minister accuses former CF member/Liberal MP Marc Garneau of not supporting the troops on this one“…. Mr. Speaker, I think the person who is worried is the member opposite because the more he talks against the F-35 the more he shows his true colours. He is against the aerospace industry in his own region. He is working against those men and women he used to serve with ….”
  • What’s Canada Buying? More on running CFS Alert infrastructure, and pest control in/around Gagetown
  • Three Canadian Navy ships (and an Aurora patrol aircraft) are headed west to help on an exercise near Hawaii.