MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 17 Dec 10

  • As Christmas gets closer, the Canadian NORAD Region has put the finishing touches on plans to track and escort Santa Claus when he visits Canada, and has selected four CF-18 fighter pilots who will act as Santa’s official escorts. 425 Tactical Fighter Squadron Commander, Lieutenant-Colonel Sylvain Ménard, and Major Eric Haas, an exchange officer from the United States Air Force, will launch from 3 Wing Bagotville, Que., to welcome Santa as the sleigh approaches Canadian airspace. 409 Squadron Commander, Lt.-Col. Eric Kenny, and Captain Chad Ireland of 4 Wing Cold Lake, Alta., will take over the escort duties as Santa makes his way into Western Canada. Special NORAD SantaCams, positioned around the world, will take photos and video of Santa and his sleigh as he journeys around the world. The SantaCams instantly download the photo and video imagery so that it may be viewed by children worldwide on the NORAD Tracks Santa website, www.noradsanta.org, on December 24. All of this information will be available in English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Spanish, and Chinese ….” Let’s hope these pilots are nicer than the ones we see here (YouTube video).
  • In related news, Air Canada jumps aboard the “NORAD Tracking Santa” bandwagon, too“…. The NORAD Tracks Santa program has grown immensely since it was first brought onto the Internet in 1998 and Air Canada is NORAD Tracks Santa’s newest partner. Air Canada has been playing the NORAD Tracks Santa promotional video on all of their flights since the beginning of December, as well as displaying a NORAD racks Santa promotional page in all of their in-flight magazines ….” One hopes Santa gets better service than some we hear flying with Air Canada.
  • If you believe Angus Reid’s latest poll, a lot of Canadians don’t seem happy with Canada’s new task in Afghanistan. “While just over a third of Canadians support the country’s military mission in Afghanistan, the decision to keep 950 soldiers in a strictly non-combat role after 2011 has split views across the country, a new Angus Reid Public Opinion poll has found.  In the online survey of a representative national sample of 2,023 Canadian adults, more than half of respondents (56%, +1) oppose the military operation involving Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan, while just over a third (36%, +1) support the mission. Strong opposition to the war remains highest in Quebec (48%) while Albertans (19%) and Atlantic Canadians (18%) are more likely to strongly support the mission …. Methodology: From December 3 to December 6, 2010, Angus Reid Public Opinion conducted an online survey among 2,023 randomly selected Canadian adults who are Angus Reid Forum panelists. The margin of error—which measures sampling variability—is +/- 2.2%, 19 times out of 20. The results have been statistically weighted according to the most current education, age, gender and region Census data to ensure a sample representative of the entire adult population of Canada. Discrepancies in or between totals are due to rounding.” More details here (13 pg. PDF).  Then again, depending on how you read it, a slim majority of Canadians are OK with the mission, too – more from the Globe & Mail.
  • The only Wikileaks story I’m going to share is right here.  What a shock!  Canadian officials met to talk about possible harm caused by Wikileaks revelations! Concerns over a cache of WikiLeaks documents on the war in Afghanistan prompted Canadian military and intelligence officials to hold two secret summer damage assessments. The concerted effort to sift through and analyze the 91,000 classified U.S. military logs reveals how seriously the Harper government took the unprecedented late July leak about coalition operations in the bloody, long-running war. The Privy Council Office’s Afghan Task Force met July 29 to “review and assess the impact of the leaked documents” on Canadian government programs related to Afghanistan, newly declassified memos say. Officials from the PCO, the government’s bureaucratic nerve centre, Foreign Affairs, National Defence, Public Safety and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service gathered in an Ottawa boardroom to discuss what each “has been doing, intends to do and their assessment to date” regarding the leaked documents. The Canadian Press obtained CSIS minutes of the meetings, originally classified secret, under the Access to Information Act. Portions of the memos were withheld from release ….” Dear Canadian Press:  Any chance of being able to share these memos with the public?
  • So, the U.S. President has released some details of the administration’s latest assessment of the fight in Afghanistan.  Is it good news Mixed news Bad news? Hell, even the Taliban’s commented on it already (links to Scribd.com).  You be the judge – here’s the summary released yesterday.
  • Taliban Propaganda Watch: Attacks alleged in Kandahar, Uruzgan & Zabul.
  • What’s Canada Buying? Research into better decision making, another try at armoured vehicle pre-bids and (misspelled) swords.

MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 30 Nov 10

  • Remembering the fallen, one tree at a time“The first tree planted in the Afghanistan Memorial Forest at CFB Petawawa has been dedicated to the memory of Sapper Sean Greenfield, who was killed in Afghanistan on January 31, 2009.  “Spr Greenfield’s tree will be the first of many planted here,” said base commander Lieutenant-Colonel Keith Rudderham.  The Memorial Forest is in the Memorial Park on the eastern edge of the base. Its purpose is to provide a lasting link for the families of soldiers killed in Afghanistan for generations to come ….”
  • Looking for Wikileaks’ diplomatic cables? Sorry, but just like the Afghanistan and Iraq leaks, every piece of paper is an individual snapshot of what one report writer had to say about a specific meeting.  Do we know if all the cables are there to show a full picture?  If they were, would mainstream media go for the meat (digging and waiting for some context) or the sizzle (what tidbits can we mine NOW)?  Nothing to see here, friend – feel free to move on to other news.
  • Well, we know ONE place diplomatic paperwork apparently didn’t find its way to: “Canadian reports about torture in Afghan prisons could have been helpful — if they had been passed on — the military’s former head of investigations said Monday. Retired lieutenant-colonel William Garrick was the commanding officer of the Canadian Forces National Investigative Service when detainees transferred to Afghan authorities told foreign affairs department officials they had been tortured. But Garrick told the Military Police Complaints Commission he didn’t see any of those allegations. When asked about reports that detail several prisoners’ allegations they were kicked, beaten with electrical cables and given electric shocks, Garrick said he wasn’t aware of the reports. He also said he didn’t know about site reports foreign affairs officials filed after visiting prisons and interviewing detainees ….”
  • Some questions about from how Canada handled juvenile detainees in Afghanistan: “The Canadian Forces have for years arrested children suspected of working with the Taliban and handed them over to an Afghan security unit accused of torture …. Allegations that militants captured by Canada were transferred to Afghan forces and later tortured were hotly debated in Parliament last fall.  A document obtained by the CBC’s investigative unit shows that Canadian soldiers captured children as well in the fight against the Taliban, and that many of them were transferred to the custody of Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security, or NDS.  The document, obtained under an Access to Information request and marked “secret,” shows that Defence Minister Peter MacKay was briefed on the topic of juvenile detainees in Afghanistan March 30.  The “Canadian eyes only” note informs MacKay of how many children suspected of “participating in the insurgency” have been arrested by Canadian Forces and how many of them have been transferred into Afghan custody in the previous four years ….” Kudos, by the way, to CBC.ca for sharing the briefing note in question here.  The “Juvenile Rehabilitation Centre” in Afghanistan where the kids were sent popped up in Canada’s backgrounder on detainees recently:  here’s the original backgrounder, and here’s the latest version.  When did it change?  Apparently, about the time CBC got the briefing note.  More from CBC.ca here, the Globe & Mail here, Postmedia News here, QMI/Sun Media here and United Press International here.
  • One columnist’s take on the Liberals supporting the extended mission in Afghanistan“…. In that sense Ignatieff, with a very public nudge from foreign affairs critic Bob Rae, planted the party’s foreign policy flag on high ground. Staying in Afghanistan in hopes of morphing a military stalemate into a rough facsimile of peace makes sense in many ways. It accepts Canada’s responsibilities as a good Samaritan middle power, recognizes the domestic economic realities of being sensitive to Washington’s international security preoccupation, and is consistent with Liberal proposals to equip the military with the “kit” it requires, not stealth fighters Canada neither needs nor can afford. But while getting policy right, Ignatieff and Rae got the politics wrong. By giving Conservatives a free Afghanistan pass, Liberals further undermined their already suspect prospects in a federal election now widely expected to be just months away ….” Gee, you’d think the columnist in question prefers the Liberals to win than do something that might help – or am I being cynical here?
  • For those who think “it’s just sex” when it comes to Daniel Menard’s court martial for an alleged affair and for reportedly destroying evidence: “…. Daniel Menard was not summoned to face a court martial nor did he resign his commission because he had sex with Master Cpl. Bianka Langlois. He was charged because he broke the rules …. Had Menard simply had an affair with a subordinate, he would have likely suffered at least a minor blow to his career. However, by attempting to use his position to obstruct justice, Menard committed a far more serious breach of discipline ….”
  • Worries about how much (more than planned?) proposed new F-35 jet fighters will cost: “Canada’s new stealth fighter aircraft will require extensive maintenance, as well as very expensive changes to improve security at the military bases they operate from, according to Defence Department documents obtained by the Citizen.  Critics of the Conservative government’s proposal to buy the high-tech Joint Strike Fighters have been warning that the purchase will come with hidden costs that could drive up the price tag far beyond the current estimate of $16 billion.  The 2006 DND report, which looked at next generation fighter planes as well as the stealth Joint Strike Fighter, highlighted issues that could play a factor in any aircraft purchase ….” Unlike CBC.ca, though, the Ottawa Citizen doesn’t appear to be sharing the briefing note with its readers.
  • Some folks would like to see Canada go back to calling the Navy the “Royal Canadian Navy”.  The latest?  Great name, but not bloody likely.
  • Elvis murderer-rapist Russell Williams continues to leave the buildingmore here.
  • On a more pleasant note, five new pilots rotate into positions with Canada’s Snowbirds “Five Canadian Forces pilots were officially introduced as the latest members of 431 (Air Demonstration) Squadron, the Canadian Forces Snowbirds, Wednesday, November 24 at 15 Wing, Moose Jaw, Sask., after a rigorous selection process and months of preparation. The newest squadron members are Snowbird 3, Captain Padruig MacIntosh, of Windsor, Ont.; Snowbird 5, Captain Brett Parker, of Edmonton, Alta.; Snowbird 6, Captain Denis Bandet, of Regina, Sask.; Snowbird 8, Major Ryan Stich, of Toronto, Ont.; and Advance and Safety Pilot – Snowbird 11, Captain Robert Chagnon, of Laval, Que. ….”
  • Surely he can’t be dead?  Yes he can – and don’t call him Shirley. Erik Nielsen, dead of complications from pneumonia at 84, predeceased by his brother, former Canadian Minister of National Defence (1985-1986) Erik Nielsen.
  • Taliban Propaganda Watch: IED’s allegedly destroy “tanks” in Arghandab.

MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 29 Nov 10

  • One Canadian Corproal’s promise of prayer mats for a village in Kandahar fulfilled. Well done Cpl. Wright! Try linking here if first link doesn’t work.
  • Canada will have to be cautious in how it “messages” combat troops leaving and aid money dropping to the locals“Canadian diplomats and military commanders face a delicate dance over the next few months to reassure both the people of Kandahar — and perhaps themselves — that they are still relevant and committed despite the withdrawal next July.  Swallowed up in a tide of U.S. reinforcements, the impending end of the Canadian army’s combat mission hardly registers on people in this war-racked city and maybe even less so in the rural areas of Kandahar province where local villagers have a tough time telling western soldiers apart.  If there is one thing Afghans notice, it is money.  The handover of Canadian development projects to the U.S. in tandem with the cut in aid and the stinging criticism of Prime Minister Stephen Harper about Afghan corruption has filtered down to the improverished streets of this city ….” More from the Canadian Press here.
  • More on the latest changeover of units in Afghanistan from Postmedia News here“Canada’s war in Kandahar formally entered its final phase Saturday with the transfer of command to a battle group led by 1st battalion, the Royal 22nd Regiment.  The Van Doo(s), as they’re known, and their many enablers will close out the combat mission next July.  Sometime next spring, the Canadian army will begin to shift its focus to a recently announced three-year “inside the wire” training mission at Afghan army and police academies elsewhere in the country ….”
  • More Wikileaks “document diarrhea”, this time diplomatic cables – including stuff from the U.S. embassy and consulates in Canada. I’m not going to bother looking at them because you can’t really tell anything other than what someone thought at the moment they hit “send”.  Has EVERY piece of paper been released?  If not, why not?  What’s that say about Wikileak’s source?  Are there other things that contradict or clarify earlier reports?  How do you establish any context when you get a number of snapshots and you don’t know how many photos are in the entire album?  Apart from that, people are being put at risk.  And if you don’t think this is true, this, from a Taliban mouthpiece after the Afghan stack o’ leaks from Wikileaks:  “…. Qari Yousef Ahmadi, a spokesman for the Taliban told the Daily Telegraph. “We read everything and we will read these documents.  “We will look for the names of people, but it will be a judge who decides. We won’t act unless we are 100 per cent sure. We are not just going to trust these documents, we will make our own inquiries.  “I cannot tell you what the judge will do.” ….” My guess:  no house arrest for YOU, spy!
  • Taliban Propaganda Watch Assassination of int agent in Kandahar city claimed by Taliban.