MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 8 Nov 11

  • Royal Military College Academic:  Iran strikes might be the CF’s next shooting stint“Canada may get pulled into military strikes against Iran if it comes to a showdown between western powers and the rogue state. And things could get messy considering a new report from the United Nation’s nuclear watchdog that’s expected to indicate Tehran is on the brink of being able to develop a nuclear warheads, said Houchang Hassan-Yari, an expert in military and strategic issues at the Royal Military College of Canada. “If it gets to a military campaign, I think Canada will participate with the Americans and their allies,” the international relations professor said. “If sanctions are the next avenue, Canada will participate in that.” ….”
  • What a surprise:  the military appears to be planning and weighing how to deal with evacuating Canadians in trouble overseas“Plucking Canadians out of the world’s hot spots is a growing area of concern and study for military planners, who until a few years ago didn’t have their own tools or the resources to carry out such missions.  Internal Defence Department documents obtained by The Canadian Press show that in the aftermath of the Libyan crisis, the Canadian military is examining not only its war-fighting skills, but its newly enhanced ability to quickly organize evacuation and rescue missions.  Planners have been quietly taking stock of the world’s flash points and considering how to get military forces into those troubled regions, while at the same time smoothly getting civilians out of harm’s way …. internally at the Defence Department there has been angst about future evacuations, especially in light of expected budget cuts, suggest the documents obtained under Access to Information.  Among the most worrisome trouble spots is South Korea, where frequent and increasingly violent outbursts from the hermit kingdom in the North have military planners concerned and looking for guidance.  “With over 20,000 Canadian citizens resident in the (Republic of South Korea), in the event of a full-scale crisis (censored) the evacuation efforts required could significantly exceed those of the Lebanon evacuation,” said a Nov. 30, 2010 briefing note prepared for Defence Minister Peter MacKay ….”  I’ve asked if CP plans to share the obtained documents online for anyone interested to read – no word back yet.
  • Canada is taking part in U.S. Northern Command Exercise Operation Vigilant Shield ’12.  The U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, as well as the Canadian military, have begun an extensive annual field training exercise for the U.S. Northern Command. “Operation Vigilant Shield 12” is the biggest multi-spectrum, high-level exercise for the North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command. Northern Command is a Unified Combatant Command of the United States military, formed in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001 to protect the United States homeland and support local, state, and federal authorities. Operation Vigilant Shield 12, or VS 12, is a joint exercise supported by the Joint Coalition Warfare Center and conducted as a command post exercise with a supporting field training exercise in Key West, FL. The exercise is also linked to a Canada Command exercise called “Determined Dragon,” and runs concurrently with the Arizona’s “Vigilant Guard” exercise. It runs Nov. 1-10 ….”  More from the Pentagon Info-Machine here.
  • Scumbags, continued.  A recently restored First World War memorial that stands outside an east end high school has been vandalized. Neighbours of Malvern Collegiate, near Victoria Park Avenue and Kingston Road, awoke Sunday morning to find the granite statue wrapped in blue duct tape. With the help of about $44,000 in donations and grants, the statue had been restored and rededicated days before, just in time for Remembrance Day ….”
  • Remembrance Day (1)  Veterans’ Ombudsman on Veteran’s Week.
  • Remembrance Day (2)  Unambiguously Ambidextrous on Remembrance Day and Canada’s newest vets“…. There is a new generation of soldiers returning from war, something that has not been seen in Canada in about 50 years, or two generations. That’s not to trivialize Rwanda or Bosnia, but our country hasn’t had to deal with the reality of war dead in a half century and we have not handled their sacrifices very well. In fact, it would be fair to say we have broken faith with the dead, choosing not to carry on their torch and honour their sacrifices by seeing through the mission to success. It was a political decision made to pacify the pacifists created by two generations of peace. Today’s young people know nothing of war, and so their only reaction to it is revulsion ….”
  • An audit into Veterans Affairs Canada and how it handles privacy issues will be released in early 2012, Canada’s privacy commissioner said Monday. The news came as a third veteran went public with complaints into the number of times civil servants accessed his file, and how his file was handled at the agency. Sylvain Chartrand, who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder after serving in Bosnia, says his file was accessed more than 4,000 times between 2003 and 2010. HIs complaint is similar to one by Sean Bruyea, another veteran who advocates for veterans’ rights, and whose private medical information was shared with both Liberal and Conservative ministers of veterans affairs. A statement by a spokeswoman for Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart says an audit into how Veterans Affairs handles private information is coming soon ….”
  • A military veteran on a hunger strike collapsed momentarily during the third day of his protest against the federal government Monday. (Pascal) Lacoste is trying to convince the government to recognize that he and other soldiers were poisoned while serving overseas. The 38-year-old former soldier was leaving a camper lent to him by a friend and heading back to his SUV when he fell to the ground. An ambulance was called as his mother rushed to hold him, clutching him to her chest. Lacoste eventually recovered after taking gasps of air from an oxygen mask. But the exhausted-looking man refused to go to hospital. He decided to continue his hunger strike instead ….”
  • All of a sudden, Canada’s Liberal Party is keen on helping veterans – more in an online petition here and an e-mail soliciting signatures to said petition here (PDF).
  • Libya Mission  How intelligence from HMCS Vancouver helped in the battle for Sirte (via the CF Info-Machine).
  • Afghanistan  Author/blogger Terry Glavin reminds us that it’s Pakistan, the puppetmaster, that should be talked to, not the puppets.
  • CF testing new helmets (via Army News)
  • What’s Canada Buying?  Technical help in improving how explosives are detected via electronic beams (more details in excerpt from bid documents – PDF – here), and VICTORIA-class sub periscope simulators.
  • CF looking for more military artists.  The Canadian Forces Artists Program allows Canadian artists the opportunity to record Canada’s soldiers in Canada and around the world. It follows the long-standing tradition of Canadian war artists and is designed to portray today’s Canadian military experience through art while providing artists with a taste of military life. These artists, all volunteers, are helping usher in a new era of Canadian military art …. A new competition is currently being held for the selection of a new group of Canadian artists who wish to participate in the program. Selected artists will be able to participate in a military-related exercise for a period of approximately seven to ten days. This opportunity is designed to springboard their creativity, create works of art depicting military life and to provide memorable military experiences. There is no payment for artists, who in turn are not required to provide works to the program. However, artists may be asked to lend some works for promotional art tours or other uses. Deadline for applications is November 30, 2011 ….”
  • Canada and Foreign Intelligence (1)  “As the Harper government prepares to re-introduce the anti-terrorism measures that were allowed to lapse because of opposition concerns about privacy and Charter rights, there are whispers Conservative plans to expand the role of Canada’s spy service to operate overseas are being dusted off. Currently, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service is largely concerned with domestic intelligence and is able to conduct covert operations overseas only if there is a direct threat to Canada. In their 2006 election platform, the Tories promised to overturn this arrangement and set up a separate foreign intelligence service. Once elected, they were persuaded by the bureaucracy that it would be quicker and cheaper to allow CSIS to take on the role ….”
  • Canada and Foreign Intelligence (2)  Why blogger/info curator Mark Collins is underwhelmed with the above-mentioned idea.
  • Unlike how media treat reporters being kidnapped, right?  “Former Canadian diplomat Robert Fowler, whose kidnapping by al-Qaida made international headlines, says media “blackouts” of such events can prevent ransom demands from escalating to the point where they cannot be met. Fowler, then a United Nations special envoy in Niger, was abducted Dec. 14, 2008 on a highway outside the country’s capital, Niamey. He spent the next 130 days in the Sahara Desert with his captors, members of a shadowy jihadist group known as al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). Fowler told the Ottawa Citizen’s editorial board Monday that his web-savvy captors viewed media coverage of his kidnapping on laptop computers and Nokia cellphones. From it, he said, they came to believe he was on a “secret mission” in Niger, a suggestion reported in the Globe and Mail. “Was it harmful to me? Yes, likely,” he said. “The idea that you can write things here that won’t impact there is just — in this globalized world — crazy.” ….” 
  • A Canadian man has been indicted in Seattle for allegedly conspiring to support the Sri Lankan terrorist group the Tamil Tigers nearly six years ago. The single-count indictment against Ramanan Mylvaganam, 34, is the result of a jurisdictional dispute between federal prosecutors in New York City’s Brooklyn borough and Mylvaganam’s attorneys. Mylvaganam is a former Bellevue resident. Brooklyn prosecutors in 2006 had indicted Mylvaganam along with nine others in connection with an alleged plot to pay to import surface-to-air missiles and other military equipment to the Tamil Tigers. The charges also alleged the group was attempting to bribe U.S. officials to have the Tamil Tigers removed from the State Department’s list of terrorist organizations. Mylvaganam’s attorneys had argued that federal prosecutors in the Eastern District of New York had no jurisdiction over Mylvaganam’s alleged crimes because he was living at the time in Bellevue, according to court papers ….”

MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 4 Nov 11

  • Janick Gilbert, R.I.P.  Funeral of rescue technician killed in rescue attempt set for tomorrow.
  • Libya Mission (1a)  CF members returning home from Libyan mission – welcome back!
  • Libya Mission (1b)  Canada’s Defence Minister set to welcome returning CF members at CFB Greenwood in Nova Scotia.
  • Libya Mission (1c)  Canada’s Associate Defence Minister set to welcome returning CF members at CFB Bagotville in Quebec.
  • Libya Mission (1d)  Canada’s Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence set to welcome returning CF members at CFB Trenton in Ontario.
  • Afghanistan (1)  How Canadian military engineers are training up Afghan military engineers (via the CF Info-Machine).
  • Afghanistan (2)  Former diplomat, political communicator reminds us of Canada’s legacy (while reminding us whose job it is now to keep it going) (PDF).  “In 2009-10, former political aide Renée Filiatrault volunteered for a tour of duty as a foreign service officer in Kandahar, Afghanistan. Here she provides a glimpse of the realities that Canada’s civilian and military team faced while fighting an insurgency on the ground. As Canada stood down its combat mission in Kandahar this summer, she says, despite some bitter lessons, it is a legacy of which Canada can be proud. Ultimately, she adds, “while we can set the conditions for success, winning is not up to us, but up to the government of Afghanistan, which all efforts are ultimately intended to support.”
  • Afghanistan (3)  An update on Captain Trevor Greene, who has been recovering from an axe to the head during a shura in Afghanistan in March 2006.
  • Taliban Propganada Watch:  What the Taliban Info-Machine has to say about the coward chap who killed 17 people, including one Canadian, in a homicide bombing attack in Kabul and tying the attack in to a coming Loya Jirga (both links to non-terrorist page).
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (1)  More from The Canadian Press’s obtained (but not shared with the readers) stack o’ briefing notes.  “Canadian pilots are expected to receive training for the F-35 stealth jet at a U.S. Air Force base in Florida, a plan that raises questions about the future of the country’s existing advanced fighter training school. Internal Defence Department documents show that a fee-for-service plan involving an international training centre, already constructed at Eglin Air Force Base by manufacturer Lockheed Martin, has been the main option under consideration. Several air force briefings compiled last year and obtained by The Canadian Press under access to information laws show that not only is there “potential for NO pilot training in Canada,” but that “pooled” training with international partners is likely the most cost-effective plan ….”
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (2)  CDS:  more would sure be nice“Canada’s top soldier says the 65 stealth fighters the government is planning to buy are the minimum number the military needs – but he hinted the back-up if jets are destroyed is that more will be for sale later. General Walter Natynczyk, the Chief of Defence Staff, told members of the Commons defence committee Thursday that the 65 F-35 fighters the government is planning to buy “is the minimum operational essential for the needs of Canada.” ….”
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (3)  CDS:  pilots want the F-35“Pilots with the Royal Canadian Air Force want to fly in F-35 stealth fighter jets when the current CF-18s are retired, according to the chief of defence staff. Walt Natynczyk, the military’s top boss, appeared before Parliament’s defence committee Thursday to talk about military preparedness but was peppered instead with questions about the controversial purchase of the multi-role fighter jets. “Let me tell you that when I go to Cold Lake and I go to Bagotville and I talk to those young men and women who get in the F-18 and I ask them ‘What aircraft so you want?’ they tell me that they want the F-35 because it is the only fifth-generation, capable fighter for that next phase,” Natynczyk told reporters after his committee appearance ….”
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (4)  Yet AGAIN with the Questions in the House of Commons.
  • A reminder from the Chief of Defence Staff:  to a certain extent, anyway, you get what you pay for.  “The country’s top soldier says that the speed with which Canada contributed to the mission in Libya and post-earthquake relief in Haiti would not have been possible without a trained and well-equipped military. But Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Walter Natynczyk, whose department is struggling with pending budget cuts during the first real lull in combat operations since 2006, said such capabilities do not come cheap. “If you ask me how we’re doing in maintaining our readiness, I’d say we’re doing the best we can with all the resources we have,” Natynczyk told members of the Commons’ defence committee Thursday. “Readiness is a perishable commodity and it’s expensive.” ….”
  • This year’s Public Accounts are out, and at least one reporter noticed 42 “weapons and accessories” missing.  You can download the DND’s list o’ missing cash & property here (via Army.ca) and the entire government list o’ lost cash and stuff here (28 page small-print PDF).
  • Remembrance Day (1)  No “tanks”, no guns, no displays at Ottawa Catholic school for Remembrance Day“For the past 19 years, students at an Ottawa high school have hoisted 10-pound military rifles to feel what it may be like to lug one around in the muddy trenches. They’ve met veterans and heard their stories, learning how their families were affected and what it was like to fight so far from home. But this year — the year that was supposed to mark the 20th Remembrance Day Symposium at Notre Dame High School — they will get no such chance. The traditional school event, scheduled for Nov. 10, has been cancelled because of a school committee decision to ensure there were “no tanks or guns” at the event, its co-ordinator told participants in an email last Friday …. The event was cancelled because some students who hail from countries touched by war raised concerns about it last year, said Lauren Rocque, a spokeswoman for the Ottawa Catholic School Board. “There are many students in that school that come from war-torn countries and when they saw replica guns in the hallway, it did upset them.” Ms. Rocque was unable to say whether the students had complained to the principal directly. “The tanks on the front lawn, that upset them too, so the committee decided to take this different direction,” she added. Mr. Mac Culloch said he doesn’t remember any tanks — just a variety of other military vehicles ….”  More on this from QMI/Sun Media here, a good question from the Globe & Mail here and discussion over at Army.ca here.
  • Remembrance Day (2)  Editorial:  “In Toronto and Hamilton, human scum steal poppy boxes filled with donated money to help war vets and their families, leading up to Remembrance Day on Nov. 11. In London, a war vet coming in to man his poppy station at a local mall finds a cartoon describing Canadian soldiers as “hired killers”. In Ottawa, a high school cancels a two-decade old program in which vets share their war-time experiences with students and show them the equipment they used, because of a decision to ban “tanks and guns” from the school, even though no tanks have been displayed and the guns are inoperable. That this is happening in the year Canada ends its 10-year military mission in Afghanistan, in which 158 of our soldiers died, is a disgrace ….”
  • Remembrance Day (3)  Conservative MP reminds the House of Commons“Mr. Speaker, July 2011 marked the end of Canada’s combat mission in Afghanistan. While the combat mission has come to an end, the Canadian Forces continue to play an active role in training their Afghan counterparts. The past 10 years have brought about many changes for Afghanistan. Afghanistan has held three elections, government agencies have been improved, its economy has gained momentum, girls are going to school and the Afghan security forces have been provided with invaluable training and mentoring. One hundred and fifty-nine Canadian Forces members have made the ultimate sacrifice to help Afghans obtain a taste of the freedoms that we hold so dear, tragically, joined recently by Master Corporal Byron Greff, of Edmonton’s Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry. In addition to Afghanistan, Canadian Forces are serving in 15 overseas missions, including Libya, Haiti, and Sudan. At home, they save lives during search and rescue missions, provide assistance when natural disasters strike, and protect our nation’s sovereignty on a daily basis. This Veterans’ Week, let us remember the service and sacrifice of our Canadian Forces members and their families. “To live in the hearts of those we leave behind is not to die”.
  • Remembrance Day (4)  Politicians set to kick off Veterans Week this morning.
  • More on the soon-to-be hunger-striking vet wanting action on the depleted uranium in his body, from Question Period in the House of Commons.
  • A Canadian indicted in the U.S. on charges he supplied al-Qaida with weapons in Pakistan will not be extradited to the United States after Canada’s Supreme Court said Thursday it wouldn’t hear the case. Abdullah Khadr had been held in Canada on a U.S. warrant after his December 2005 arrest before he was released in 2010. He was released after two provincial courts in Ontario suspended his extradition, ruling his rights were violated during his detention in Pakistan. Dennis Edney, his lawyer, said the top court’s decision not to hear the Canadian government’s appeal means the case is over. The government had argued it was wrong to prevent an “admitted” terrorist from facing trial in the U.S. ….”  More from The Canadian Press, CBC.ca, Agence France-Presse, Reuters and lots of others.
  • Ottawa is bungling rescue missions by not telling families in Canada whether their loved ones are alive or dead, a Canadian diplomat once held hostage overseas says. Robert Fowler says that Ottawa’s mission to free him is tarnished by the fact that his wife, Mary, was kept in emotional limbo for much of his 130-day ordeal. She got so frustrated by official silence in Ottawa that she went to the United Nations complex in Manhattan to demand answers. “Mary stormed down to the UN headquarters in New York, where she had arranged to meet UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon,” reads Mr. Fowler’s new memoir. The world’s top diplomat told Ms. Fowler what the Canadian government had not. “‘We have good and explicit reason to believe they [the hostages] are alive and in good health.’” ….”
  • Don Cherry is getting an honourary degree from Royal Military College (and some profs are pissed).  “…. The college’s senate approved awarding the controversial hockey commentator with the honour at a recent closed-door meeting. But now at least one protesting member of the faculty is protesting the decision publicly. French professor Catherine Lord criticized the college’s decision to honour Cherry in a letter sent to local media. “On many occasions he publicly expressed his contempt for many groups of the Canadian population, notably for the French-speaking Canadians, for the (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered) community and for the immigrants,” Lord wrote. “RMC is increasingly representative of the diverse society in which we live. RMC is a strong and unifying place.” Lord questioned what kind of message granting the honorary doctorate would send to the rest of the country. “What message will RMC send, in celebrating Don Cherry, to the students coming from these groups? And what will the Canadian people remember from RMC, as a serious and prestigious institution?” ….”