News Highlights – 20 Sept 11

  • Natynczyk’s Plane Rides (1)  Busy Monday for the CDS – he spoke to the Prime Minister and he spoke to the defence critics.  Here’s the newest story line:  Canada’s chief of defence staff says he takes full responsibility for the travel expenses he has incurred and will reimburse the government if he is found to have broken any rules ….”  Variations on that theme here, here, here and from the outlet that broke the story here.  My read of this:  if he says this after meeting the PM and the defence critics, I’m going to guess he’s pretty sure the rules have been followed.
  • Natynczyk’s Plane Rides (2)  And who decides if the rules have been followed?  This, from the CDS, quoted by the Globe & Mail“Canada’s top soldier now says he will cut a cheque to defray the cost of taking a government jet to a Caribbean vacation last year if the Prime Minister’s Office requests it. ….“If the government, as the Prime Minister indicated, his office looks at that trip … if the interpretation of the Treasury Board guidelines on this regard is incorrect, then I will reimburse as required,” he said ….”  Similar wording from here.  We’ll just have to see what the PM’s Office has to say about Treasury Board’s rules and if they apply here (which is different from hearing what the Treasury Board has to say).
  • Natynczyk’s Plane Rides (3a)  The CDS is appointed by the PM.  And how was the PM’s defence of his choice of CDS in the House of Commons during Question Period?  According to the Globe & Mail, “…. On the current controversy surrounding Gen. Natynczyk, NDP defence critic Jack Harris asked why the general had been allowed to take flights worth more than $1-million in the nearly four years he had headed the military – many of them on Challenger jets reserved for government VIPs. Mr. Harper, who met with Gen. Natynczyk on Monday, said the military chief understands the rules for taking government jets “and is certainly prepared to live according to those rules. The Chief of the Defence Staff does fly very frequently on government business, but obviously where there are alternatives, we will look into that usage.” ….”
  • Natynczyk’s Plane Rides (3b)  Here’s what a transcript of the exchange in the House of Commons says was said:  “Mr. Jack Harris (St. John’s East, NDP): Mr. Speaker, the cost of the Chief of the Defence Staff’s recent taxpayer-funded trips to events such as football games, hockey games and the Calgary Stampede have shocked Canadians. The government is now planning significant cuts to the Canadian Forces. Will the Conservative austerity plan only apply to soldiers, sailors and airmen and women and not to the brass? Why did the Minister of National Defence approve over $1 million of flights to be taken by the Chief of the Defence Staff?  Right Hon. Stephen Harper (Prime Minister, CPC): Mr. Speaker, the Minister of National Defence has outlined the rules under which ministers use government aircraft. I have spoken to the Chief of the Defence Staff. He understands what those expectations are and is certainly prepared to live according to those rules. As members know, the Chief of the Defence Staff does fly very frequently on government business, but obviously where there are alternatives we will look into that usage.
  • Natynczyk’s Plane Rides (3c)  Here’s how Defence Minister Peter MacKay handled a similar question earlier “Mr. Mathieu Ravignat (Pontiac, NDP): Mr. Speaker, Conservative ministers are developing quite a passion for the use of high-flying government jets. The Minister of Finance and the Minister of National Defence make particular liberal use of the jets. The Prime Minister says that everything is fine because he pays the paltry equivalent of a commercial airline ticket. Why have the Conservatives abandoned their commitment to respect taxpayers dollars when it comes to jetting around the country? Hon. Peter MacKay (Minister of National Defence, CPC): Mr. Speaker, just to throw a few facts into the mix, the policy for the Prime Minister and all ministers requires that commercial travel be utilized for public business, the government aircraft being used when commercial travel is not available. I would remind the member opposite that when it comes to the liberal use of this aircraft, the Conservative government has reduced the average annual spending of the ministers’ Challenger flights by approximately 80% over the previous Liberal government.”
  • Natynczyk’s Plane Rides (4)  I really have to give credit where it’s due – is offering more information (including an intriguing tidbit), and not just from those aching for a “gotcha” story.  Good show for not JUST following the pack.  “…. Last week’s news reports indicated that it costs about $10,000 an hour to fly a Challenger, including pilot salaries, training costs and the cost of the planes’ depreciation. The actual flying cost is $2,630 an hour, according to numbers provided by the Department of National Defence. “These aircraft — these Challengers — are not used very much,” CBC’s James Cudmore reported. Natynczyk said military Challengers are flown an additional 170 hours a year with no passengers on board so that pilots can maintain their proficiency. “So these hours are paid for, they’re all paid for — there’s no incremental cost to the Crown,” he said. “That’s why, especially when I travel and I have the team with me, it’s less expensive to the government of Canada to get into that Challenger than it is to put them into an aircraft, in a commercial aircraft.” Natynczyk travels with up to six or seven people, sometimes including a close protection team with automatic weapons. He also needs the secure communication lines provided on government aircraft that allow him to work while he’s in the air. Cudmore said sources told CBC News that the story about Natynczyk may have been leaked by someone, perhaps in a bid to see the general replaced ….”
  • Natynczyk’s Plane Rides (5)  We’ve gone from a Saturday Calgary Herald editorial headlined “Jet-setting general” to this commentary from the National Post“…. Defence Minister Peter MacKay offered him use of the Challenger to join his family on vacation after he spent Christmas in Kandahar, and then attended a repatriation ceremony for five Canadians killed in Afghanistan, forcing him to miss his scheduled flight. Was he supposed to hang around Pearson airport waiting for a cancellation instead? ….”
  • Natynczyk’s Plane Rides (6)  One letter to the editor (bottom of page) sums it up for me:  “…. If the Chief of Defence Staff had done what the average Canadian would have done, said, “sorry I cannot be there to honour a Canadian hero, I have a holiday booked,” then the headline would have been something like “Top General Too Busy On A Cruise To Honour Our Dead.” ….”
  • In other news in case you’ve been distracted by the shiny bright thing that is the CDS’s jet story….  An internal government investigation has concluded that Conservative MP Bob Dechert did not breach national security despite exchanging emails with a Chinese reporter, insiders say. CTV News has learned the RCMP and Canadian Security Intelligence Service have found no evidence Dechert compromised national security as a result of his relationship with Shi Rong, a reporter with the Xinhua News Agency in Toronto. Senior CSIS and RCMP officers confirmed to CTV that the Chinese news agency functions as an intelligence arm of China ….”
  • Libya Mission  The House of Commons Standing Committee on National Defence prepares to hear about and discuss the Libyan misison today.
  • A reminder that not ALL of Canada’s troops overseas are in Afghanistan“On 27 August 2011, the nine members of Task Force Freetown were guests of honour at the jubilant opening of the rebuilt Grafton Scout Camp near Freetown, Sierra Leone. Guests and Scouts joined together in a heartfelt ceremony with gifts, singing and outbursts of rhythmic clapping to thank Scouts Canada, the members of Task Force Freetown and the people of Canada for their generosity and compassion. Task Force Freetown, the Canadian Forces team deployed in Sierra Leone with the International Military Advisory and Training Team, got involved with the local branch of the Scouting movement through a civil-military cooperation (CIMIC) project. With a budget of Cdn$90,000, it turned into the most ambitious CIMIC effort ever undertaken by the tiny task force in its 11 years of existence ….”
  • Afghanistan  Door Gunner 101 courtesy of the CF Info-Machine“Door gunners are combat arms soldiers whose job is all about protecting soldiers. During the Task Force Freedom combat mission in Afghanistan, door gunners ranging in rank from private to sergeant flew aboard CH 146 Griffon and CH-147 Chinook helicopters. On the Chinooks, they used their weapons strictly for local protection and close defence; on the Griffons, they were called upon to protect ground troops and ensure the security of the Chinooks they were escorting ….”
  • Way Up North  Russia:  If you’re not an Arctic country, keep your nose outta the Arctic.  “Russia will increase its military presence in the Arctic – a region NATO should stay out of, a senior Kremlin official said Tuesday. ‘Our northern border used to be closed because of ice and a severe climate,’ said Anton Vasilev, a special ambassador for Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. ‘But the ice is going away we cannot leave 20,000 kilometres unwatched. We can’t leave ourselves in a position where we are undefended,’ Vasilev said, in an interview with the Interfax news agency. Global warming and demand for new energy sources make necessary new and clearer international agreements on the division of Arctic region’s resources and usage he said. Only Arctic Council nations – and not outside agencies like NATO or the European Union – should set the groundwork, he said ….”
  • I’m shocked, SHOCKED to hear someone from the Rideau Institute object to a British nuclear sub visiting Canada“A British nuclear submarine will visit the Port of Halifax next month, CBC News has learned, and that has at least one military critic worried about the risk of a nuclear accident. The British nuclear submarine fleet has been plagued by accidents in recent years, including a fatal explosion and fire, an onboard shooting and an underwater collision with a French sub.There have also been multiple leaks of low-level radiation. And while the risk of a major accident is small, Steve Staples of the Rideau Institute in Ottawa said, the consequences for Nova Scotians would be dire if the worst should occur. “If a fire spread to a nuclear reactor and even any of the potential nuclear weapons that could be on board, you could see the release of radiation like we had in Fukushima,” Staples said ….”
  • Now that the branches have been “Royalized”, more calls for unit re-namings are coming out of the woodwork “Made up mostly of farmers, fishermen and blue collar workers from northeastern New Brunswick, they became one of the most decorated military units in Canadian history as the North Shore Regiment. They were one of the first Canadian units to fight in the Great War. Before the regiment was merged with others in New Brunswick, it was among the first to breach Adolph Hitler’s Fortress Europe on Juno Beach in Normandy, France on D-Day during the Second World War. And while the “royal” title has been restored to many Armed Forces veterans delight, a growing chorus of voices wants to see New Brunswick’s second battalion of the Royal New Brunswick Regiment drop the colonial throwback for its original name. Proponents now say they are closer than ever to seeing the North Shore Regiment return after meeting with both provincial and federal officials this month. “We lost our identity,” said Graham Wiseman, president of the North Shore Veteran’s Association, whose father, Sprague Wiseman, is the only surviving member of the original regiment from Bathurst. “It has been a long wait to get it back, but there is a feeling that it will now happen.” ….”
Advertisement 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 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 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 ….” News Highlights – 13 Apr 11

  • Libya Ops – Let the protests begin! “Peace activists at a Halifax demonstration against military spending Tuesday questioned Canada’s military action in Libya — and the lack of discussion from candidates in an election campaign now in its third week. Tamara Lorincz, spokeswoman for the Halifax Peace Coalition, said she is worried about the silence of federal parties on Libya. “I’m concerned there wasn’t a debate,” said Lorincz. “Libya should be a topic that Canadian voters are questioning.” Helen Lofgren, an activist with the Quaker community, was hesitant to comment on Canadian involvement in Libya because she said the issue is complex and “we get so little information about it.” ….”
  • More on Canada’s mission to help protect Iceland from a CEFCOM fact sheet here (h/t to blogger Mark Collins).
  • Speaking of Mark, here he is on one of the “usual suspects” in Canadian defence commentary: “A perfectly progressive political professor, a former federal NDP candidate, can play very economically with the truth. His affiliation though is almost never, never identified in our major media for whom he is a go-to-guy for comment opposing any military Afghan mission, and for his views on most anything else to do with the CF ….”
  • Meanwhile, back in Afghanistan. “…. Warmer weather is settling in across the country, a change of season that generally announces the Taliban’s spring offensive. Coalition forces are at peak strength, with more foreign soldiers on the ground to hunt and kill insurgents than at any other point in the long war. As the tempo on the battlefield is set to pick up, spring has also brought fresh calls for a different kind of foreign intervention, this time to bring Afghans together in talks with the Taliban ….”
  • What’s Canada Buying? “…. The Department of National Defence (DND) has a requirement to provide an alignment capability to be used by Fleet Maintenance personnel to align all types of equipment on Canadian Forces (CF) warships and submarines. The objective of this Price and Availability (P&A) is to seek industry input and information on current Alignment Systems to enable DND to examine off-the-shelf (OTS) equipment that is in service with other navies or soon to be in service ….” More from the full bid package here (PDF):  “…. The Canadian Midas System equipment procured in 1988 consists of three complete systems but due to age, obsolescence issues, technological advances, and no longer being supported by the OEM it needs to be replaced by a system with digital capability and increased capacity for multiple tilt tests …. The aim of the project is to find an alignment system capability which will allow the Canadian Navy to align the next generation of advanced Combat Systems using conventional surveying techniques for aligning two parts of a structure on a vessel while she is afloat ….”
  • Sold:  One former Snowbird CT-114 Tutor (minus engine) for $48,400. More from the mainstream media here and here.
  • F-35 Tug o’ War – A former Canadian Chief of Defence Staff tells us what he thinks about a recent American visitor commenting on our fighter jet deal. “Winslow Wheeler’s piece on Canada’s plan to replace our CF-18 fighters with the F-35 should be seen for what it is: a low-credibility rant by an American visitor from a left-wing Washington organization renowned for its anti-defence posture. His highly questionable arguments for killing the F-35 program echo the thrust of his visit to Ottawa last week, hosted by the farleft Rideau Institute ….”
  • Months before the Conservative government dismissed talk of a perimeter security accord with the United States as hearsay, senior officials were quietly discussing a draft of the border agreement. Documents obtained by The Canadian Press show federal deputy ministers considered a version of the accord early last September — one of a series of internal deliberations that played out during the fall. The planned perimeter arrangement is intended to expand joint operations on security, creating a sort of continental fortress while allowing for smoother flow of goods, people and services across the 49th parallel. Critics of the process voiced fresh concerns after reading the heavily censored documents, which were disclosed under the Access to Information Act. “It is not healthy for the democratic process for this to be happening behind closed doors, in secrecy,” said Maude Barlow, national chairwoman of the Council of Canadians ….” 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 ….” News Highlights – 17 Nov 10

  • Guess what?  Canada’s keeping 950 military trainers and support staff (as well as about four dozen cops) in Afghanistan until 2014“…. The Canadian Forces (CF) will support ANSF training by providing up to 950 trainers to the NATO Training Mission–Afghanistan (NTM-A). This training mission will build upon the CF’s established expertise in training the ANSF, thereby contributing to the goal of preparing Afghans to assume responsibility for their own security …. Through the deployment of up to 45 civilian police officers, Canada will continue its involvement in police reform by leading training programs, promoting the establishment of accountability and civilian oversight mechanisms, and advancing institutional reform and capacity building ….” Surprising, eh?  More on that from QMI/Sun Media, the New York Times, Reuters, Agence France-Presse and BBC.
  • What does this mean for the Canadian-led and run Kandahar Provincial Reconstruction Team (PDF copy of page here if link doesn’t work?  This from the Globe & MailCanada is slashing aid to Afghanistan and abandoning any presence in Kandahar by withdrawing not only troops but civilian aid officials next year. Despite the approval of a new training mission, the moves mark a turning point where Canada is significantly disengaging from Afghanistan: dramatically reducing the outlay of cash, reducing the risk to troops, and quitting the war-scarred southern province where Canada has led military and civilian efforts. There will be a deep cut to aid for Afghanistan. International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda said Canada will provide $100-million a year in development assistance for Afghanistan over the next three years, less than half the $205-million the government reported spending last year ….”
  • According to Postmedia News, late decision on new mission = rush to get ready for it.
  • Notice who’s name is listed first on the news release?  Not Canada’s Defence Minister Peter MacKay but Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon. Also, while Cannon got to answer questions in the House of Commons on the mission this week (Hansard transcripts here, here and here), Peter MacKay took a question on the F-35 fighter plane buy.  Yesterday, the PM fielded two questions (here and here) on Afghanistan, while McKay fiielded one question from a fellow Conservative party member (here).  Some see this as further proof that Peter MacKay may be on his way out (he says not so), but the government has been trying to civilianize the feel of the mission for at least the past couple of years – more on that theme here, here and here.
  • The Foreign Affairs Minister reminds us of the obvious, via“…. Cannon said the “non-combat” troops will be based in the Kabul area. However, Cannon admitted that soldiers would still be in danger, despite the relative security in Kabul compared to the current operation in Kandahar. “I am not going to hide the fact that there is a risk factor,” Cannon told CTV’s Power Play. “(But) our people will not be mentoring in the field, they will be in classrooms.” ….”
  • Who’s happy?  The White House and the NATO military alliance applauded Canada’s plan for a military training mission in Afghanistan Tuesday as Prime Minister Stephen Harper assured opposition parties that the armed forces will work safely “in classrooms behind the wire on bases.” ….” Here’s what NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen had to say: “I warmly welcome Prime Minister Harper’s announcement that Canada will deploy a substantial number of trainers to the NATO Training Mission in Afghanistan. Canada has contributed substantially, over many years, to the operation in Afghanistan. Canadian forces have made a real difference in the lives of the Afghan people, often at a high cost ….” More from the Canadian Press on that.
  • Who’s unhappy?  The usual suspects: “…. The NDP again accused the Conservatives of lying, saying it was “inevitable” that the 950-strong training contingent that will be in Afghanistan until 2014 would be drawn into combat because the whole of Afghanistan is a “war zone.” ….” The brigade has already come up with the rhyming chant:  “Activism Communiqué: The war in Af’stan, demand – Don’t Extend It. End It!” pipes in, too, comparing Afghanistan to Vietnam: Unaddressed by the ministers is whether the government really believes in the training mission it has committed Canadian troops to fulfill. No one seriously expects Afghanistan’s army and police forces to be ready to hold off the Taliban on their own in four years’ time. But it is still unclear whether NATO’s efforts to Vietnamize Afghanize the war are intended merely to provide a face-saving way for foreign forces to withdraw from a dead-end war or remain based on the illusory prospect of creating an ARVN ANA that can hold the field against the Taliban even in the south of Afghanistan ….”
  • It didn’t take long for the “Survey Says” crowd to get its numbers out there – this from Harris-DecimaCanadians Wary of Extension to Afghanistan Mission: The latest Canadian Press/Harris Decima survey asked about the Canadian mission in Afghanistan. According to Senior Vice-President Doug Anderson “At this point in time, Canadians are split over whether to leave troops in Afghanistan beyond the end of the combat mission. While few feel that the combat mission should be extended, there is clearly some support for Canadian troops continuing to play some role.” ….”  More on that from the Canadian Press.
  • Blog Watch: Congrats from Mark Collins at Unambiguously Ambidextrous for those rating it here, while Terry Glavin at Transmontanus shares his words of wisdom this way:  “…. The two-year paralysis that so utterly enfeebled Canada in the matter of this country’s post-2011 re-dedication to Afghanistan is now officially over. Ottawa has come out of its coma, and now rejoins the company of the grown-ups in the 43-member International Security Assistance Force. With today’s announcement, we take our place once again as a leader in the international cause of a sovereign and democratic Afghan republic ….”
  • Meanwhile, the transition continues on the ground in AfghanistanA scouting party from the NATO unit that could replace Canadian troops in Kandahar will be touring the area over the next few days. Planning for the departure of Task Force Kandahar is underway and a proposal on how the transition will take place is still being finalized, a senior U.S. officer with the alliance’s southern headquarters said Tuesday. The Canadians “are in a critical location,” said the officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was authorized to discuss the situation on background only. “We’ve got to make sure that area is still covered, and covered well.” ….”
  • The CF is working towards setting up a research institute devoted to studying military medicine. More from the Kingston-Whig Standard on a conference under way this week:  “…. That the military is taking the initiative seriously can be seen by the list of people attending, including Gen. Walt Natynczyk, the chief of the defence staff, senators Romeo Dallaire and Pamela Wallin, veterans affairs ombudsman Guy Parent, and (Commodore Hans) Jung, the military’s top medical officer.  “We are the only nation amongst our major allies that does not have such a national institute,” (former CFB Kingston base commander and Kingston General Hospital chairman Bill) Richard said, a fact lamented by many of the high-profile attendees.   The military would love universities to dig through its wealth of data — it has comprehensive medical records on everyone who ever served from the day they enlisted to the day they discharged and keeps the records 99 years, but Jung said only 5% of that data has been analyzed because it doesn’t have enough people to do it ….”
  • Taliban Propaganda Watch: The Taliaban’s main English-language site appears to be down, so there’s the Taliban’s Lies o’ the Day via’s Hypocrisy on “Public Debate”, digital brain child of Steven Staples (of Polaris and Rideau Institute fame) is taking (another) cheap shot at the Conference of Defence Associations in general, and someone contributing to the Association’s latest issue of On Track in particular.

This is what had to say
about an article on how what the author of an article on disinformation in the electronic age:

…. The solution, according to Henry, is for government to “lead the way to wean Canadians away from utopian notions and puncture the bubble of unreality that surrounds them.”God willing, they will prevail, in peace and freedom from fear, and in true health–through the purity and essence of our natural fluids.

Why should people who aren’t crazy care about this kind of stuff?

The bit in red alludes to a crazed Air Force commander in the movie “Doctor Strangelove” who starts nuclear war all on his own.


Do I agree with everything in the article highlighted? No. Is this as “loony” as makes it out to be, though?

In summary, the government must publicize its intentions to the public strongly and clearly throughout the new digital environment. That is, fight and defeat disinformation on its own ground. This is the new reality in politics and in the formulation and delivery of government policy.

I note the hypocrisy irony of a post complaining about the contents of a journal contributing to open, public debate where the post is both:
1) unsigned, and
2) closed to comments.

Keep digging into that “Harper’s Secret War Plans” thing, guys, and let us know how that works out for you.

(Crossposted to The Torch)

C’Mon, say it out loud,

H/t to Mark at The Torch for catching this latest dreck from Steven Staples over at – this, on the latest back-and-forth over Senator Colin Kenny’s suggestion to GTFO of Afghanistan:

“Is General Vance really suggesting that we should continue to fight this war, simply to avoid hurting someone’s feelings?  One has to wonder if this is how he makes his own command decisions in Afghanistan, sending his troops into battle simply because they want to fight bravely on, no matter what the cost or their likelihood of success.”

General Vance, like all Canadian men and women in uniform, go into battle based on orders from the Government of Canada – you know, those folks voters elected?

C’mon, you know you want to say it – Canada’s become a banana republic with the military in charge, a coup state?


Canada’s “Secret” Plans, Continued

A couple of updates on this:

1)  Get your postcards to oppose the “proposed” deployment of CF-18’s after Canadian troops leave! (More than one online forum has an interesting suggestion for these cards:  get some, cross out the main message and write in your own.)

2)  Some “independent” media is paying attention to the secret war conspiracy theory (Troops Leaving+More UAVs=CF-18s + War Against Pakistan).  However, this interesting tidbit jumps out:

“Another Ottawa-based defence analyst who requested anonymity said he can’t “see Canadian UAVs used in Pakistan, for the simple reason that the U.S. has more than enough drones and doesn’t want to share that highly classified intelligence it is gathering.”

His take is that Canadian drones will be primarily used for domestic coast and Arctic surveillance and in selective international military missions where they would be a cheaper alternative to Canadian troops in the field. “

Gee, a speck of doubt – more than we’ve been able to read in