MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 24 Oct 11

  • Libya Mission (1)  The Canadian commander who leads NATO’s mission in Libya says he’s worried about the North African country’s stockpile of surface-to-air missiles. “There are many weapons left over in that country,” Lt. Gen. Charles Bouchard told CTV’s Question Period in an exclusive interview. While a large portion of those are small arms, such as Kalashnikov rifles, others are surface-to-air missiles that Bouchard said “are of concern, and they will remain of concern throughout.” There are believed to be more than 20,000 shoulder-fired missiles in Libya, which Moammar Gadhafi had purchased over the years. The fear is that those weapons could wind up on the black market where terrorist groups could buy them ….”
  • Libya Mission (2)  PM Harper on Libya’s opposition claiming “liberation”:  “Today, Canadians join with the Libyan people in celebrating the liberation of their country. “The Libyan people have courageously risen up against decades of tyranny. Canada’s involvement, as sanctioned by the United Nations and led by NATO, has supported their aspirations for the future. “We join Libyans in welcoming the post-Gaddafi era and the transition of the country to a democratic society – one that respects human rights and the rule of law ….”
  • Libya Mission (3)  Meanwhile, on that respecting human rights and rule of law thing….  “…. An official who opened the ceremony at Freedom Square in Benghazi said, “We declare to the whole world that we have liberated our beloved country, with its cities, villages, hill-tops, mountains, deserts and skies.” …. Another formal declaration was made by NTC chairman Mustafa Abdul Jalil, who saluted all the martyrs who died in search of this day. He also thanked the Arab League, the UN and the EU.  During his speech, delivered to tens of thousands in festival mood, he said that Islamic law, including polygamy, would be upheld in Libya.  “We as a Muslim nation have taken Islamic sharia as the source of legislation, therefore any law that contradicts the principles of Islam is legally nullified,” he said, according to Reuters Africa.  He called on Libyans to follow the law and not to use force anymore. He asked for tolerance and patience from people as they enter a new era ….”
  • Libya Mission (4)  “The day of reckoning for Moammar Gadhafi — what would be the last day of his life — was in the mission commander’s crosshairs.  Lt.-Gen. Charles Bouchard could have watched, in real time, as the deposed dictator was run to ground in a sewer, yanked bloody but alive from his hidey-hole, and set upon by revolutionary fighters. It was the bloody climax to a long, often second-guessed, campaign.  Yet the Operation Unified Protector boss from Chicoutimi took his eyes off the drama, visible to him by sophisticated surveillance technology …. “Was I watching? No, I wasn’t. If I had, then I’m not looking at the whole country,’’ Bouchard told the Star by telephone Sunday from his NATO headquarters in Naples.  “The death of Gadhafi was not something that I had included in my strategic planning. To be honest, I was surprised that he was still in Sirte. I thought he was probably somewhere in the southern Libyan desert.’’ ….”  More on this here.
  • F-35 Tug o’ War  Canada’s new multibillion-dollar stealth fighters are expected to arrive without the built-in capacity to communicate from the country’s most northerly regions — a gap the air force is trying to close. A series of briefings given to the country’s top air force commander last year expressed concern that the F-35’s radio and satellite communications gear may not be as capable as that of the current CF-18s, which recently went through an extensive modernization. Military aircraft operating in the high Arctic rely almost exclusively on satellite communications, where a pilot’s signal is beamed into space and bounced back down to a ground station. The F-35 Lightning will eventually have the ability to communicate with satellites, but the software will not be available in the initial production run, said a senior Lockheed Martin official, who spoke on background. It is expected to be added to the aircraft when production reaches its fourth phase in 2019, but that is not guaranteed because research is still underway. “That hasn’t all been nailed down yet,” said the official. “As you can imagine there are a lot of science projects going on, exploring what is the best . . . capability, what satellites will be available.” ….”
  • What’s Canada Buying? (1)  The Department of National Defence CFB Wainwright has a requirement for the supply of Ballistic Shield Kits, Ballistic Shield Panels, and Ballistic Floor Boards …. Vendor Name and Address:  CAPTEURS DE BALLES CBBT INC, 95 Route Duchesnay, Ste-Catherine de la Jacques-Cartier, Quebec, Canada …. The estimated value of the contract including shipping is $104,309.65 (GST extra) ….”
  • What’s Canada Buying? (2)  The Department of National Defence and Canadian Forces require the services of a Contractor, on an “as and when requested” basis, to operate the Polar Epsilon (PE) Near Real-Time Ship Detection (NRTSD) System, which delivers to the Canadian East and West Regional Joint Operations Centres (RJOC) a capability to exploit RADARSAT 2 for all-weather, day and night, wide area surveillance, for purposes of contributing to the wide area situational awareness of the maritime approaches to Canada and North America and to foreign littoral areas where the Canadian Forces may be deployed ….”  More details in excerpt from bid document (21 page PDF) here.
  • What’s Canada Buying? (3)  Belt, Trousers, Nylon webbing x (at least) 15,000
  • What’s Canada Buying? (4)  The Department of National Defence (DND) has a requirement for the management, administrative and technical services related to video pre-production, production, and post-production to the Chief of the Maritime Staff (CMS) through the Manager of Broadcast Media Production of Director Naval Public Affairs DNPA) ….
  • Once a week Hugh MacPhee and about a dozen or so former shipmates gather for coffee, swap stories as old friends do, and sometimes share memories that 42 years on remain as dark as the brew in their cups. They are survivors of the Canadian navy’s worst peacetime disaster, the Oct. 23, 1969 explosion and fire that crippled the HMCS Kootenay, killing nine and injuring 55. The destroyer was doing power trials in the English Channel when its starboard gearbox exploded, sending a fireball through the engine room and along the main passageway. McPhee was among almost 100 members of the original crew who gathered at a seaside park on Sunday to lay wreaths and remember their fallen friends. “Our ship’s motto was ‘We are as one’ and we still gather strength from that,” he said his voice shaking a bit. “We talk about it, help each other, because a lot of the guys suffered from post-traumatic stress afterwards.” ….”  More here, here and here.
  • German POW internal justice while interred in Canada. “The order filtered down in the summer of 1944: Karl Lehmann was a traitor who had to die. Like other prisoner of war camps in Canada, Medicine Hat, Alta. camp No. 132 had its own internal police force, its own hierarchies and government, its own systems of discipline. Though the camp was guarded on the outside by Canadian soldiers, daily life inside the wire was entirely dictated by the German inmates themselves. After an attempt was made on Nazi leader Adolf Hitler’s life that July at his field headquarters in East Prussia, rumours circulated that a revolutionary movement was planning to take over the Medicine Hat camp by force. Canada’s highest-ranking prisoner of war decreed from Ontario that anyone suspected of traitorous activities against the German army was to be identified and killed in a way that looked like a suicide. One of those suspected traitors was Karl Lehmann ….”
  • Theatre review“Billy Bishop Goes to War is a 100 percent, pure maple leaf saga. It is the colourful and sometimes controversial story of how an unlikely young man from Owen Sound, Ontario, became Canada’s most famed First World War flying ace after flunking out of Royal Military College of Canada for cheating. The Toronto City Airport on Toronto Island is now named for him ….”

MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 8 Sept 11

  • Libya Mission (1)  Missed him by >>THAT<< much.  “Just as we’d always suspected, if more wryly than with alarm: the rat was in the cellar. Moammar Gadhafi did indeed bivouac in the basement of the posh Rixos Hotel — compulsory Tripoli lodgings for foreign journalists through months of the stalled Libyan revolution — confident that NATO planes would not bomb that location. “Absolutely,’’ confirms Lt.-Gen. Charles Bouchard, the Canadian in command of Operation Unified Protector, formal name of the interventionist NATO mission mandated by the United Nations Security Council. “He was there,’’ Bouchard told the Star during an interview this week at Joint Force Command headquarters here. “It’s not a secret anymore. He could drive in a golf cart through the tunnels that stretched all the way from (his compound) Bab al-Aziziya, under the zoo next door and into the hotel. That’s how he would appear out of nowhere, disappear, and pop up somewhere else.’’ It might also explain why reporters were held hostage at the Rixos for five days by Gadhafi loyalists, even as the capital was falling to surging rebel forces a fortnight ago ….”
  • Libya Mission (2)  “…. with the military mission apparently mostly over, any extension requires a goal for the end: calling back the fighters and the warship when the last major Gadhafi strongholds are gone.”
  • Canadian pilots taking part in Exercise Bold Quest in Indiana. Fighter pilots often have seconds to decide whether to open fire, and this month they will train at Camp Atterbury to know how to make that choice. The post, in southern Johnson county and northwestern Brown County, is hosting a major NATO training exercise involving pilots and soldiers from Germany, Finland, France and 11 other countries. The allies will train on how to avoid shooting at troops who are on their side and use high-tech sensors that allow them to distinguish friend from foe, Navy Capt. Kent Davis said. Residents who live nearby should expect to hear the roar of fighter jets and the whir of helicopters both day and night when the training exercise starts Thursday, Maj. Lisa Kopczynski said. More aircraft than normal will fly over Camp Atterbury through Sept. 25. Pilots will practice using radar that warns them not to bomb or shoot at troops from other countries who are assisting in combat or on peacekeeping missions, Davis said …. “
  • What’s Canada Buying? (1)  “…. The Canadian Forces (CF) are looking to replace all current types of pistols in use with a newer weapon and is gathering information on the Price and Availability of weapons and the number of potential contenders as part of its planning and budget process. Personnel from all services of the CF will use these pistols for self-DEFENCE. The GSP will replace the 9mm Browning High Power (HP) and the 9mm Sig Sauer Model 225 pistol ….”  More details available in bid package here (PDF via Army.ca) re:  what the CF is looking for, as well as a projected timeline (Requests for Proposals expected to be issued summer 2015, with pistols expected to be purchased Fall 2015).
  • What’s Canada Buying (2)  Honkin’ expensive long-range thermal weapon sights“…. The Department of National Defence has a requirement for a compact, lightweight, weapon-mountable thermal imager that works in conjunction with the optical day sight to provide target detection and recognition in the thermal band at long range.  This capability will be referred as a Long Range Thermal Weapon Sight (LRTWS) system. The LRTWS system will also serve to complement other optical handheld observation devices.  You are hereby notified that the Government of Canada intends to negotiate with FLIR Systems Ltd, 25 Esquire Road, North Billerica, MA, who manufacturers and possesses the intellectual property rights as the OEM for the ThermoSight™ S150 (links to PDF fact sheet), part number #26986-201, commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) Long Range Thermal Weapon Sight (LRTWS) system.  Deliverables:  Forty-nine (49) cryogenically cooled sensor, thermal video channeled single bodied systems, including accessories and remote control systems …. An optional twenty-five (25) units including accessories and remote control systems …. Total estimate cost of all deliverables:  $7,350,000.00 CAD HSTI ….”
  • Afghanistan (1)  Interesting, especially in a city with an infantry unit based there.  “I received a news release recently that really bothered me. It had nothing to do with Alberta politics or the two leadership races now underway for the Liberals and Conservatives. It had to do with a dinner this Saturday to honour the 157 Canadian soldiers killed in Afghanistan during our combat mission there. The dinner will be attended by Alberta Lt.-Gov. Donald Ethell and hear a keynote address by Maj.-Gen. Jonathan Vance, who commanded coalition troops in Kandahar province for nine months. However, according to the news release, the event was “in jeopardy of cancellation.” Simply put, not enough people had bought tickets. The dinner had room for 500 and would financially break even with 350 – but only 60 people had bought tickets when the news release crossed my desk. “We’re surprised that we’ve sold less than 60 tickets to an event dedicated to honouring the brave men and women who have died while serving in our Canadian Forces,” wrote the event organizer, Mike McMurray. “We need to sell at least 300 more tickets to the gala dinner or we’re going to be left with little choice but to cancel the event. We simply can’t put on a poor show for our troops or the families of our fallen soldiers that we’ve invited.” ….”
  • Afghanistan (2)  Another “combat mission wrapping up” story, this time about Canada’s helicopters in theatre.
  • Stuart Langridge, R.I.P  The mother of a soldier who took his own life at the Edmonton Garrison hopes a public hearing will answer the questions she has had for more than three years. After several suicide attempts, Cpl. Stuart Langridge hanged himself in March 2008. The young soldier suffered from severe depression and post-traumatic stress disorder and struggled with substance abuse after he returned from a six-month tour of duty in Afghanistan in 2005. On Tuesday, the Military Police Complaints Commission called a public hearing into his death ….”
  • The Leslie Report/CF Reorg  One ex-officer’s view of what should happen, presented without comment. “…. Canadian politicians have a history of economizing on the backs of the military — the most flagrant example being Pierre Trudeau soon after he became PM and seemed eager to disband the military and withdraw from NATO. The regimental system saved the quality of our army in those days. Rather than maintain large conventional units, the Canadian army seems ideally suited to becoming something like the British SAS — highly-trained individuals able to function in small units or larger units, doing clandestine operations or open combat ….”
  • Someone’s unhappy with Canada’s “Royalizing” the CF and other highlighting of Canada’s military history“…. History belongs to everyone equally and as such is–or should be–open to unfettered enquiry and defended against deliberate distortion. To borrow a medical metaphor, history constitutes the genes that make up a citizen’s “cultural DNA.” Unfortunately, cultural DNA is vulnerable to “genetic engineering.” In the hands of an ignoble government, historical images and events can be manipulated to serve political objectives …. Behind the propaganda curtain of “restoring” Canada’s military pride and tradition is the appropriation of military history to justify the sort of aggression honourable Canadians gave their lives to defeat.”
  • 9/11 Plus Ten (1)  PM (apparently) to declare 11 Sept a “National Day of Service”, while Canada’s Defence Minister prepares to speak to a memorial forum in Washington today.
  • 9/11 Plus Ten (2a)  “…. Prime Minister Stephen Harper says the biggest security threat to Canada a decade after 9/11 is Islamic terrorism …. Harper says Canada is safer than it was on Sept. 11, 2001, when al-Qaeda attacked the U.S., but that “the major threat is still Islamicism.”  “There are other threats out there, but that is the one that I can tell you occupies the security apparatus most regularly in terms of actual terrorist threats,” Harper said. Harper cautioned that terrorist threats can “come out of the blue” from a different source, such as the recent Norway attacks, where a lone gunman who hated Muslims killed 77 people. But Harper said terrorism by Islamic radicals is still the top threat, though a “diffuse” one ….”  More on this one here, and some discussion at Army.ca here.
  • 9/11 Plus Ten (2b)  Controversial clauses expanding the powers of police to combat terrorism are going to be reintroduced by the new Conservative majority government, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said in an interview with CBC. Harper said for the first time since the Tories took control of the House of Commons the government plans to bring back measures in the Anti-Terrorism Act that expired in 2007. “We think those measures are necessary. We think they’ve been useful,” Harper said of the expired parts of the act. “They’re applied rarely, but there are times where they’re needed.” ….”
  • 9/11 Plus Ten (3a)  Canada’s national security spending skyrocketed in the post-9/11 decade and it may be time to start cutting back, said a report released Wednesday by an Ottawa-based think tank. “The government has created a national security establishment in Canada,” Steven Staples, president of the Ottawa-based Rideau Institute, told a press conference. “A decade after the attacks of 9/11 it’s time to re-evaluate whether we should continue the high level of national security spending.” In total, Canada devoted an additional CAN$92 billion (US$93 billion) to keep Canadians safe, the report said ….”  More along this story line here and here.
  • 9/11 Plus Ten (3b)  Calculating what it cost Canadian taxpayers to respond to the Sept. 11 terror attacks has proven to be a difficult task for the Rideau Institute. The left-wing think tank has released a report that concludes $92 billion in new military, public safety, foreign affairs, and other spending since 2001 is linked to creating a post-9-11 national security establishment. Still, report author and economist David Macdonald admits it’s not easy to draw a clear line between the spending and al-Qaida terrorism that shook the world. “I suppose we could argue about whether (the spending) would have happened anyway,” Macdonald said. He insisted at least part of the justification for the spending was due to “the 9-11 agenda.” Candice Hoeppner, parliamentary secretary to the public safety minister, agreed some increased spending was tied to dealing with Afghanistan and the U.S. Homeland Security, but not all of it. “It also has to do with trade,” said Hoeppner. “It has to do with the movements of goods and services and individuals.” ….”
  • 9/11 Plus Ten (3c)  Want to decide for yourself about the latest cost estimates?  Download the Rideau Institute report here (12 page PDF) – news release here.
  • 9/11 Plus Ten (4)  Columnist Gwynne Dyer’s view on whether Osama Bin Laden won. “…. So bin Laden dug a trap, and the United States fell into it. In that sense his strategy succeeded, and the guerilla war that ensued in Afghanistan did much to turn Arab and Muslim popular opinion against America. (The invasion of Iraq did even more damage to America’s reputation, but that really wasn’t about terrorism at all.) In the long run, however, bin Laden’s strategy failed simply because his project was unacceptable and implausible to most Muslims. And the most decisive rejection of his strategy is the fact that the oppressive old Arab regimes are now being overthrown, for the most part nonviolently, by revolutionaries who want democracy and freedom, not Islamist rule.”
  • A showcase moment in the history of Canadian diplomacy – the topsecret spiriting of six Americans out of Tehran during the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis – appears destined for blockbuster treatment in Hollywood. At least three years in development, the spy thriller Argo will focus on how CIA agent Tony Mendez – played by Ben Affleck, who also directs – plotted with Canada’s ambassador to Iran, Ken Taylor, to rescue the trapped Americans by having them pose as Canadian location scouts for a fake movie supposedly being shot in Iran. Another Hollywood A-lister, George Clooney, is producing and acting in the film. Like the Affleck-helmed film that started shooting last week in Los Angeles – and which will also be shot in Washington and Istanbul – the title of the bogus movie in the CIA-hatched scheme 32 years ago was Argo ….”  The Internet Movie Database listing for Argo is already up here.  For more details from the horse’s mouth, so to speak, the International Spy Museum in Washington, D.C. interviewed Mendez on the rescue (as well as a couple of the hostages), and shares the interview on podcasts here and here.
  • Saskatchewan airfield named after D-Day Spitfire pilot – Flight Lieutenant (Ret’d) Barry Needham was a young man when he flew four sorties over the beaches of Normandy, France, on D-Day during the Second World War. As a member of 412 Transport Squadron, he flew with some of the most celebrated wartime aviators in history, including Charley Fox (known for strafing the staff car of Field Marshall (Erwin) Rommel from his Spitfire) and American John Gillespie Magee, author of the celebrated poem “High Flight”. Although F/L Needham has attended several squadron functions over the past few years, it was the most recent event in his hometown of Wynyard, Sask. that has the 90-year-old veteran more than a little choked up. Wynyard recently named its unmanned airfield the W. B. Needham Field in a ceremony that included tributes from the Commander of the Royal Canadian Air Force, Lieutenant-General André Deschamps, the commanding officer of 412 (T) Sqn, Lieutenant-Colonel Eric Philippouci, and Major Chris Strawson, chief multi-engine instructor at 3 Canadian Forces Flying Training School, Portage-La-Prairie, Man. who has become quite close with F/L Needham in recent years ….”

MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 15 Mar 11

  • Latest recommended no-go-zone for Canadians:  Bahrain “Ottawa has upgraded its travel warning for Bahrain, telling Canadians to avoid all travel to the island nation. Bahrain has faced a month of nonstop unrest which has killed seven people as the country’s majority Shiite Muslims call for the ouster of the long-standing Sunni monarchy. Canada’s department of foreign affairs is advising against all travel to Bahrain due to the “unpredictable security situation” in the country. Canadians already in Bahrain are advised to stay indoors, avoid all political gatherings and keep away from the particularly tumultuous capital Manama. The department is also advising all Canadians in the middle-eastern country to register with the consulate in Manama or the Canadian embassy in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia ….” DFAIT’s latest Travel Report on Bahrain here.
  • Canada’s Foreign Minister on Libya (1) Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon took a cautious approach Monday as some of Canada’s allies demanded tough military action to halt the advances against rebels by Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi’s forces.  Cannon said Canada will consider all options — from tougher sanctions to a no-fly zone targeting Libyan aircraft and air defences — to oust the dictator.  But he added that Canada is looking for greater detail on how a no-fly operation would work against the Libyan military, which continued to drive back rebel forces Monday with air power followed by artillery and ground forces. “We all agree that Gadhafi must leave, we all agree there has to be a stop and an end to the bloodshed and the violence that this individual is bringing upon his population,” Cannon told reporters prior to the start of a two-day meeting here of G8 foreign ministers. “But we have to be able to come together with an option that is viable.” ….”
  • Canada’s Foreign Minister on Libya (2) “Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon said Monday that Canada will consider all options, from tougher sanctions to military intervention, to rid Libya of dictator Moammar Gadhafi. Cannon, speaking before the launch of a two-day G8 foreign ministers meeting here, said he plans to meet with rebel leaders either Monday in Paris or in Egypt on Tuesday after the conclusion of the G8 gathering. He said the world is now seeing the same Gadhafi implicated in the Lockerbie terrorist bombing. “What we are witnessing is the Lockerbie Gadhafi,” he told reporters ….”
  • Blogger Mark Collins on Libya “…. Very many criticize the US, often severely, sometimes stridently, for what they judge an American obsession with military strength. Yet. Libya is close to Europe and far from the US (and Canada). It is Europe that fears a mass migrant influx and loss of oil (along with arms contracts with Libya). The EU in terms of population and GDP is quite equivalent to the US. Its members still have numerically very large armed forces, technically far more advanced than Col. Gadhafi’s. At the same time many in the EU (and in Canada) see themselves, socially and morally, even economically, as an alternative beacon to the “shining city on a hill”. But when something military may be required EU members (as a Union, as part of NATO, or in some coalition of their own) are unable, unprepared, and ill-equipped in fact to do much of anything on their own ….”
  • More border security information is now out there, this time in the form of a new joint Canada-U.S. risk & threat assessment“The Honourable Vic Toews, Canada’s Minister of Public Safety, today announced the release of the United States–Canada Joint Border Threat and Risk Assessment. The report helps enhance our understanding of common threats and risks in the areas of national security, criminal enterprises, migration, agriculture and health at our shared border. “The Government of Canada is committed to a safe, secure and efficient border. This is vital to Canada’s economy and to the safety and security of all Canadians,” said Minister Toews. “Canada and the U.S. are working closely to ensure that our shared border remains open to the legitimate movement of people and goods, and closed to those who would do either country harm.” “The United States and Canada have a long history of productive collaboration,” said U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary, Janet Napolitano. “The Joint Border Threat and Risk Assessment reflects our ongoing commitment to enhancing security along our shared border while facilitating legitimate travel and trade that is critical to the economies of both countries.” ….” The full report is here.
  • Most young Canadians know little or nothing about most of the wars and peacekeeping missions their countrymen have served in, according to a survey done one year ago for Veterans Affairs Canada. While a bare majority of the 13-to-17-year-olds surveyed claimed to know at least a moderate amount about the Second World War, their knowledge fell off rapidly beyond that. More than two-thirds said they knew very little or nothing at all about the First World War, and nearly as many were equally unaware of Canadian peacekeeping efforts since 1960. Their ignorance peaked with the Korean War, about which 82 per cent said they knew nothing or very little. Even for the best-known conflict, the Second World War, 37 per cent of the youth said they knew very little and nine per cent knew nothing at all. The 514 youth were surveyed last March by Phoenix Strategic Perspectives as part of a $47,600 project for Veterans Affairs designed to assess Canadians’ awareness, engagement and satisfaction with Remembrance Day programming ….”
  • Maybe the bit in red at the end will help young people learn history better…. “The Conservative government is planning a $100-million national celebration to mark the bicentennial of the War of 1812 next year. It is understood that the current plans for the commemoration include re-enactments of famous battles, the repair of monuments and plaques, a new visitor centre at Fort York in Toronto, a documentary, a national essay-writing competition and a dedicated website. Dean Del Mastro, the parliamentary secretary for Canadian Heritage, confirmed the government is keen to make the bicentennial a major event …. many of the events will celebrate 200 years of peaceful co-existence with a former adversary. “These were events that forged our future and made us able to continue as a separate nation,” said Sandra Shaul, project manager for the City of Toronto’s bicentennial commemorations. One of the challenges identified by some event organizers is how to interest recent immigrants to Canada. Ms. Shaul said one proposal is to tell the story of 1812 using puppets accompanied by south-east Asian music ….”

MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 8 Mar 11

  • A quick Afghan media snippet on the Canadian reportedly held by the Taliban in Afghanistan. “Taliban militants on Monday said they had offered to free a Canadian citizen held hostage for two months in return for the release of several of their captured comrades…”
  • Canada says it would consider direct diplomatic contact with anti-Gadhafi forces in Libya, but unlike its ally Britain, it hasn’t moved in that direction yet. “This is a continuous moving target so, this is the first I hear of this,” Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon said Monday. “There’s always a great deal of validity in being able to speak to these people.” Opposition MPs urged the Harper government to talk directly to Libyan rebels fighting Moammar Gadhafi. Liberal MP Bob Rae presented the option as one of the more “active and inventive” ways Canada could help speed Gadhafi’s overthrow. The National Libyan Council has now positioned itself as the political branch of the anti-Gadhafi forces ….” Let’s see if any OTHER “councils” or “committees” pop out of the woodwork before deciding who to talk to, shall we?  More from CBC.ca here and QMI/Sun Media here.
  • Liberal Foreign Affairs Critic Bob Rae says Canada (and others) have to do more about Libya. “There are many other plans of action the government should be taking against Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi right now according to Liberal critic Bob Rae. Rae said he would like to see Canada prepare itself to take part in a no fly zone and place further sanctions on individuals and countries that help the regime by doing things such as buying Libyan oil. “It is no longer a matter of it’s important to try to do this. I think it’s absolutely necessary for Canada to do this. We simply have to engage on the governance issues. We have to engage on the human rights issues and we have to engage successfully in making sure Colonel Gaddafi is history,” said Rae.  ….”
  • Meanwhile, what’s NATO considering? “NATO has decided to boost surveillance flights over Libya as the alliance debates the utility of imposing a “no-fly zone” over the country. U.S. ambassador to NATO, Ivo Daalder, said allies agreed on Monday to increase AWACS flights from 10 to 24 hours a day, an expansion that is part of contingency planning for possible military intervention in Libya beyond humanitarian efforts. The decision came as the alliance’s governing board met to discuss what unique capabilities NATO could bring to Libya. Daalder said other ideas being considered are redeploying NATO vessels in the Mediterranean Sea, along with nearby air assets, to deal with humanitarian aid as well as establishing a command and control structure to co-ordinate relief efforts ….”
  • More news on the latest in Libya here (Google News), here (EMM News Brief:  Libya),  here (NewsNow), here (BBC) and here (Al Jazeera English).
  • Canada’s Defence Minister, answering questions in the House of Commons, says “Kabul-centric” means “in/around Kabul” when it comes to Canada’s future training mission in Afghanistan. “What we have said is that the combat mission will come to an end this year, that we will transition into a training mission, which will be Kabul-centric, meaning in the Kabul region; and that there will be work done to continue the important efforts by the Canadian Forces to impart the skill set needed by the Afghan security forces to do what we do.” A bit more detail from another question: “The combat mission will come to an end. The Canadian Forces will then transition into a training mission in a Kabul-centric, behind the wire configuration. That is the position of the Government of Canada. “
  • A major Canadian road project in southern Afghanistan has been hampered by an element the military has no control over, one rarely associated with the arid region of Kandahar: rain. Heavy downpours over the past couple of weeks have slowed construction of a 22-kilometre road in the Panjwaii district, a volatile area where the Canadian battle group is conducting one last push to win over locals before combat operations end in July. “I would say that up until the last few weeks, it was going pretty well,” said Capt. Jean-Francois Huot of the 5 Combat Engineer Regiment. “The first rain didn’t affect much, but then with the accumulation and the speed at which it evaporates we’ve seen, well, look how slow it is.” The deluge has clogged irrigation canals and left sandy plains a muddy mess. Last week, a crew from the Kandahar Air Wing had to be dispatched to rescue two Afghan men whose truck became stranded because of flash flooding. The Royal 22e Regiment had hoped to have the road finished by mid-April. Military officials say once completed, the road will link rural villages together, boost commerce and trade and improve the freedom of movement for Afghans ….”
  • Remember this paper on using biometrics to measure bad guy intent? The DRDC publications page is working much better today, so here’s a link to the report, “Biometrics of Intent:  From Psychophysiology to Behaviour.” (405 KB, 27 page PDF).
  • What’s Canada Buying? “The Department of National Defence Canada has a requirement for the provision of Large Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Device Disrupter Systems for Canadian Forces’ training and operations ….” (via Milnet.ca)
  • F-35 Tug o’ War “As part of the Harper government’s efforts to promote the F-35 stealth fighter, a top Conservative MP is criticizing a respected retired public servant who has advised government on defence purchases. Edmonton MP Laurie Hawn, who’s the parliamentary secretary to Defence Minister Peter MacKay, has been sending out e-mails promoting the F-35 purchase and attacking critics of the deal, including former Defence Department assistant deputy minister Alan Williams. The e-mail, which has circulated among retired and serving Canadian Forces members as well as journalists, also attacks a retired Australian air force officer who has raised questions about the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) and an Australian aviation analyst who has done the same ….” Here’s some of what Williams had to say about the deal he signed in February 2002 (more in a recent letter to the editor here).
  • Sikorsky on the CH-148 Cyclone choppers: They’re coming, honest, really soon! “Sikorsky is ‘weeks rather than months’ away from finally delivering the first interim aircraft for the CH-148 Cyclone maritime helicopter programme for the Canadian Forces (CF), according to CEO Jeff Pino. A long-running dispute regarding the purchase of the maritime helicopters was seemingly settled when 28 Cyclones were ordered under a $1.8 billion contract to replace the primary Canadian shipboard helicopter, the CH-124 Sea King. Following delays due to issues surrounding the mission system integration aboard the aircraft, in June 2010 Sikorsky announced that as a provisional measure the CF would receive six interim CH-148 Cyclones in November. However, delivery of these aircraft was also delayed due to undisclosed issues Sikorsky claimed was beyond its control. Speaking to reporters at a ‘state of Sikorsky’ presentation at Heli-Expo in Orlando, Pino said delivery of interim aircraft was now ‘imminent’ and highlighted progress on the programme that included 750 flight hours completed, ongoing sea trials in Canada and the finalising of the aircraft’s certification ….”
  • The rehab of Omar Khadr continues apace in Guantanamo. “Providing Omar Khadr with a formal education should help allay fears expressed by many Canadians that he will return to Canada an angry and perhaps dangerous young man with a grudge against society, says his Canadian lawyer. To prepare the 24-year-old for his return to Canada, Khadr’s defence team enlisted a Canadian university professor to design a home schooling program, says lawyer Dennis Edney. Pentagon lawyers travel to the U.S. naval prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, every other week to do the teaching. “We provide them with the material and then they go to Guantanamo and sit with Omar and they take him through the subject matter,” Edney explains. The curriculum includes math, history, astronomy and is heavy on English grammar. If Khadr passes a high school equivalency exam, he intends to apply for admission to a college or university as a mature student …..”
  • It was a thundering display of Canada’s Northern resolve with jet fighters, a frigate and even a submarine, but a recently released poll suggests such exercises in military prowess play to the public’s mistaken belief the Arctic is under threat. When Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Defence Minister Peter MacKay posed for a photo-op on the deck of HMCS Toronto 18 months ago in Frobisher Bay, internal polling told them a majority of Canadians believed the North was in peril — a view not shared by defence officials. “Three in five Canadians (60 per cent) living north of 60 degrees, and one-half of Canadians (52 per cent) in the south, believe there is a threat to Canada’s Arctic sovereignty or to the security of its northern border,” says a 2009 Environics survey. The poll was commissioned by the Defence Department and released under the Access to Information Act after long delays. But a Defence Department briefing note that same year assured the minister there was no real threat. “There is no longer a conventional military threat in the Arctic,” says the Aug. 11, 2009, briefing note, also obtained by The Canadian Press under the access law. “The resumption of Russian military exercises in the region is more symbolic of Moscow wanting to be taken seriously as a world power than a return to the armed standoff of the Cold War.” ….”
  • A Utah artist who paints oil portraits of fallen soldiers to pay respect to their lives and sacrifice says her gift is open to families from Victoria, B.C. to Jamestown, New York. “Their lives (Canadians) and their willingness is every bit as precious as an American soldier as they are fighting for the same thing — trying to suppress tyranny and oppression,” said Kaziah Hancock, 62, in a phone interview from, Manti Utah ….” More on the painting program here.
  • G20 protest participant admits to throwing a burning paper into a police car, then says he’s a scapegoat when he pleads guilty to destroying the car?  Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight….

MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 4 Mar 11

  • Canadians continue to GTFO LibyaA Canadian military transport made it to Malta safely on Thursday with another 31 evacuees and more flights were planned as a botched Dutch rescue operation underscored the perils of western military actions in Libya. A spokesman for Canada’s overseas headquarters said 14 of the passengers aboard the Hercules aircraft were Canadians and the rest were foreign nationals. The plane returned from Tripoli without incident, said Maj. Andre Salloum. As of Thursday, the Foreign Affairs Department said 327 Canadians, including those on the military flight, had found their way out of the Libya crossfire. The Harper government dispatched a frigate, HMCS Charlottetown, this week to take part in a possible blockade to enforce sanctions ….”
  • Commentariat on Libya (1): “…. the (HMCS) Charlottetown could turn its attention to ill-defined humanitarian relief operations or to the enforcement of a potential international embargo against the Libyan regime. Whatever the ultimate mission, it will likely come as a surprise — just as much of one as the decision to deploy the warship …. How Canadian assets could be used to alleviate the exodus from Libya or to deliver relief supplies remains to be seen. But clearly, Ottawa is committing to stay on the job long after its primary objective of securing Canadian lives is met. This is commendable, and not just from a humanitarian point of view. It also sends a strong signal to our European allies that their interests are vital to us …. The rapid downfall of Col. Moammar Gadhafi is the best way to prevent a full-blown refugee crisis inside and outside Libya. Whatever Canada can do to help tip the scales — short of direct military intervention — is worth doing.”
  • Commentariat on Libya (2): “…. The West should tread carefully in Libya. While it is tempting to imagine the country’s conflict as a simple struggle between good and evil that can be brought to a speedy and decisive conclusion, the reality is more complicated than that. Aggressive intervention might easily end up doing more harm than good.”
  • Commentariat on Libya (3): Canadians who believe that their military’s primary purpose should not be to fight wars, but fervently want their troops to only be Boy Scouts, should be pleased by Ottawa’s evolving commitment to the crisis in Libya.  With China, Russia, Turkey and Germany having already strongly rejected any kind of military intervention – which could result in unpredictable and unwelcome outcomes – the West will have considerable trouble gathering a coalition of the willing to enforce a no-fly zone over Libya. But western countries want to be seen to be helping in other ways.  So, just in time to give the Harper government a wee bit of an election boost, Canadian sailors and air force personnel will be drawn into international humanitarian operations in the Maghreb.  Canada’s part in potential Libyan humanitarian operations are to be much smaller than what its armed forces did in Haiti after last winter’s earthquake. But there will still be a feel-good factor ….”
  • Interesting pointIt’s curious, how the most vocal opponents of military spending go quiet whenever boats and planes and superbly trained soldiers suddenly come in handy. Where were the critics of Ottawa’s C17 purchase last January, when these massive air barns were deployed at a moment’s notice to transport aid into earthquake-struck Haiti? And where are they now, as Canadian Forces aircraft based in Malta and JTF2 special forces troops work to extract Canadians trapped by the fighting in Libya? What will critics of the government’s proposed CF-35 jet fighter purchase say if, as now appears possible, Canadian Air Force jets are involved in enforcing a no-fly zone in North Africa, to protect innocents from Gadhafi’s warplanes? Here’s what they’ll say: Not much, for the duration of the crisis. Then, when the smoke clears and the planes are back at CFB Trenton, they’ll start again with the mantra that spending money on warriors and their gear is needless and wasteful ….” Not ALL vocal opponents of military spending are staying silent – more here.
  • Canada’s post-military legacy in southern Afghanistan may well rest on the slender shoulders of Haji Hamdullah Nazak.  The 32-year-old governs the district of Dand, a relative model of stability compared to the violence and intimidation that permeates other regions of Kandahar province.  But as the Canadian military gradually shifts its focus away from patrols and towards packing boxes for a training mission said to be “Kabul-centric,” Nazak frets over the possibility of lost progress.  “I’m a little bit afraid of that,” Nazak says through a translator. “If they stopped helping us, assisting us in this major purpose, we will face some challenges, problems.” ….”
  • Meanwhile, opposition to the war in Afghanistan is higher in Britain and Canada than the United States, with at least 60 percent against it, a poll indicated Thursday …. Almost two-thirds, 63 percent, of Canadians said they oppose the war, while only 32 percent support it, a new low. Last year, 47 percent supported the war.   Albertans were most likely to back Afghan operations, but even there only 43 percent said they support it. In Quebec, 75 percent oppose the war.  Vision Critical, based in Toronto conducted the poll on line from Feb. 22 to Feb. 28, surveying 1,022 Angus Reid Forum panelists in Canada, 1,006 Springboard America panelists and 2,019 members of Springboard UK. The margin of error is 3.1 percentage points for Canada and the United States and 2.1 points for Britain.”
  • A parliamentary committee tasked with vetting documents related to the abuse of Afghan detainees could make the secret material public within the next two weeks, according to the Liberals. Amid mounting pressure from the Bloc Quebecois and New Democrats, Liberal defence critic Dominic LeBlanc suggested a report by the three-judge panel of legal experts advising the team of MPs should be available within a “week or two” along with “a considerable number of the documents” themselves. His comments come a day after Bloc Quebecois leader Gilles Duceppe issued an ultimatum. Frustrated the uncensored documents still haven’t been released despite promises they’d be ready in January, Duceppe vowed to pull his two MPs from the committee. “The process has become bogged down and I don’t understand why,” he said ….”
  • Bye bye old subs“…. The Department of National Defence (DND), has a requirement for the removal, dismantling and disposal of the Oberon Class Submarines Olympus and Okanagan, and an option to dispose of a third, Ojibwa …. A bidders’ conference chaired by the Contracting Authority will be convened at HMC Dockyard, Jetty NL, Dartmouth, Nova Scotia on March 23, 2011 @ 0900 ….”
  • F-35 Tug o’ War:  Steven Staples’ top 10 list on why Canada shouldn’t buy the F-35.
  • Operation: Western Front (OWF) – a very special initiative organized by mission commanders and philanthropists Warren M. Spitz and W. Brett Wilson to raise awareness and funds for military causes – has collected a stunning $1.5 million in sponsorship and donations. The funds will be donated to various military programs – including Outward Bound for Veterans and Canada Company, a charitable, non-partisan organization that builds a bridge between business and community leaders and the Canadian Military Forces, including providing scholarships to surviving offspring of fallen Canadian Forces personnel. The funds will support a variety of other needs – from medical support to childcare and financial aid – and will be directed through Canada’s True Patriot Love Foundation ….”
  • Conservative MP pitches softball question to Minister in House of Commons on what government is doing to help veterans in Quebec (giving Minister a chance to bash the Bloc). “I would like to thank the hon. member from Lévis—Bellechasse for his excellent work and his concern for veterans. Our government is listening to the regions of Quebec and to veterans. We introduced Bill C-55 in the House, and it will serve as the enhanced new veterans charter and will help our modern-day veterans, who may come back wounded from Afghanistan. Unfortunately, the Bloc is still not co-operating as we would like, but we still hope to pass this bill before the upcoming budget ….”
  • Federal Crown prosecutors do not have to hand over a complete set of photographs used by French police to link former University of Ottawa professor Hassan Diab to a Paris terrorist bombing. Diab’s lawyer Donald Bayne had asked for the photographs to be entered into the record of the case, but federal Justice Department lawyers acting for the French government resisted. Only nine of 33 “mug shots” shown by Paris police to witnesses 30 years after the bombing have been used as evidence by the prosecution. All nine are of the 57-yearold Diab at various stages of adult life ….”

MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 2 Mar 11

  • CF to Libya (1)  HMCS Charlottetown on its way (Prime Minister’s statement in the House of Commons, CF statement (1), CF statement (2), CTV.ca, Postmedia News, Globe & Mail, Toronto Star, Canadian Press, CBC.ca (1), CBC.ca (2), Agence France-Presse)
  • CF to Libya (2)  JTF 2 headed downrange? (Twitter from Le Devoir-iste Alec Castonguay, Agence France-Presse)
  • CF to Libya (3)  CF military plane turned back from Tripoli because there was nowhere to land, park (CP via Globe & Mail, Times of Malta)
  • Canada Grabs Libya by the Assets  Canada freezing Libyan assets (~$2 billion)“The Canadian government has frozen more than $2 billion in Libyan assets so far, and continues to target holdings of embattled ruler Moammar Gadhafi and his family, CBC News has learned.  The move to freeze the assets came after Canada learned the Libyan regime was planning to withdraw the funds from as-yet-unidentified Canadian banks ….” More from FINTRAC, Canada’s agency for tracking suspicious money movements, here, and from Reuters.
  • The Commentariat on Libya (1)  Bad news for Libya could be good news for Canada? “…. Canada is likely to be one of the few western beneficiaries of the uncertainty that is sweeping the Arabian Peninsula and North Africa.  The reason is, of course, oil. For decades to come the tarsands are going to be Canada’s trump card every time there is volatility in international energy markets …. The events of the past two months, and dramas still unfolding in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Jordan and oil-rich countries such as Libya, Oman and a few of the Gulf sheikdoms, make it more and more obvious that there is going to be a keen demand for Canada’s so-called “dirty oil” for years to come.  Viewed through this prism, if the U.S. does not want the kind of oil that Canada has to offer, China and India, with huge economic ambitions to fuel, almost certainly will ….”
  • The Commentariat on Libya (2)  Help out, by all means, but be careful about too much military “help”. “…. For Western powers to involve themselves more deeply in Libya would be   counterproductive. It would suggest to pro-democracy elements in the Middle East that, if their opposition becomes violent, they will get help from the West. It would put non-Libyan lives at risk in a situation that is extremely difficult to assess from outside – without any clear benefit to Libyans themselves. Indeed, military intervention might eventually provoke an anti-Western reaction that could end up discrediting the democrats that the West rightly wishes to encourage and help.  By seizing assets abroad and imposing diplomatic sanctions, the West should indeed tighten the vise on Col. Gadhafi. But it should not use its military forces to depose him, in what is ultimately a matter that must be decided by Libyans.”
  • More news on the latest in Libya here (Google News), here (EMM News Brief:  Libya),  here (NewsNow), here (BBC) and here (Al Jazeera English).
  • More on Canada’s upcoming mission in Afghanistan (highlights mine): “The government’s plan to keep 1,000 Canadian troops near Kabul after their mission in Kandahar ends this year is looking increasingly unlikely after comments from the military’s second-in-command last week. “There will be no Canadian Forces units located in Kandahar province after 2011,” Vice-Admiral Bruce Donaldson, the vice-chief of the defence staff, told the Conference of Defence Associations in Ottawa on Feb. 25. “Rather, our training mission will be Kabul-centric, meaning that the main effort will be centered in and about the city of Kabul. “That said, a small number of CF personnel may be assigned to other areas of Afghanistan where the risks to our personnel is assessed to be no greater than that found in Kabul.” ….” Hmm, wonder where that might be?  And how safe, really, is Kabul these days?
  • One Canadian Corrections staffer’s story from working in Kandahar.
  • Taliban Propaganda Watch: Taliban claims to have RPG’ed a transport plane in Helmand.
  • Ooopsie“A Tutor jet, the plane assigned to the military’s aerobatic flying team known as the Snowbirds, was damaged during a landing at 15 Wing Moose Jaw Tuesday afternoon around 3 p.m. CT. Its two crew walked away from the plane and were to be evaluated by medical staff ….”
  • Accused terrorist Hassan Diab failed Tuesday in a last and crucial attempt to get handwriting evidence being used against him disallowed. The handwriting analysis by French forensic expert Anne Bisotti has been called the “smoking gun” by prosecutors, meaning that it is key to the French case. Paris authorities say Diab was a key player in a terrorist bombing outside a synagogue in October 1980 and that handwriting comparisons prove his involvement. A former University of Ottawa professor, Diab says he is innocent and the victim of mistaken identity ….”