MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 2 Dec 11

  • Afghanistan  Canadian flag coming down from over Kandahar Airfield – more here (photos from the CF Info-Machine), here and here.
  • One blogger’s view of “Libya vs. Afghanistan” ceremonies:  “…. After decades of Liberal governments treating the military like high-grade bathroom attendants, the Harper Tories have moved in the opposite direction. Now even a light bombing campaign is worthy of celebration. Oddly the Afghan mission has not yet rated such a grand ceremony. The cynical might suggest this has something to do with our efforts in Afghanistan being unpopular ….” (h/t to Mark for pointing to this one)
  • The Canadian Forces is slowing its pace of recruitment after the Afghanistan mission, because of a lower turnover and a troubled economy. Vice-Admiral Bruce Donaldson said the military’s regular force strength is now in “very healthy” shape at about 68,000 members. Attrition is also down — with economic uncertainty and excitement for the job likely factors — which can make matching desired targets tricky. “That’s a very tough machine to manage,” Donaldson told the national defence committee Thursday. “But we have not stopped recruiting. In fact, we continue to recruit, because you need to keep the machine oiled and to keep new blood coming through, but fewer than before.” The Canadian Forces is now focused on finding people with specialties and technical trades, and providing spots for reservists who served in Afghanistan and want to switch to regular forces ….”
  • The CF’s Top Doc Commodore Hans Jung on waiting times for troops to get psychological counseling “…. The timing for an initial specialist mental-health-care appointment depends on whether a case is emergent, urgent or routine. In emergency situations, patients are accommodated the same day through the base clinic or civilian emergency care. If a case is urgent, the patient is seen within two weeks. And if the case is routine, the target is for the patient to see a specialist within 30 days ….”
  • Remember the Minister needing a helicopter ride from a lodge to another engagement?  Well, some e-mails seem to suggest the chopper ride may have been more…. requested by the Minister than offered by the CF (well done to the Toronto Star for sharing the e-mails in question (PDF), obtained via an Access to Information Act request).  One officer’s e-mail is intriguingly prescient:  “…. The request from MacKay’s office went out to senior air force officials on Tuesday July 6 at 8:49 a.m. It took just a few hours for then-Col. Bruce Ploughman, director of the Combined Aerospace Operations Centre in Winnipeg, to raise a red flag. “So, when the guy who’s fishing at the fishing hole next to the minister sees the big yellow helicopter arrive and decides to use his cellphone to video the minister getting on board and post it on Youtube (sic), who will be answering the mail on that one,” he wrote to colleagues in Ottawa and Winnipeg. “If we are tasked to do this we of course will comply,” Ploughman continued. “Given the potential for negative press though, I would likely recommend against it.” ….”  More from CBC.ca, the Globe & Mail and Postmedia News (they haven’t shared their obtained documents yet).  Here’s the back-and-forth during yesterday’s Question Period in the House of Commons.
  • If you believe this historian and this web page, Canada may be working with other NATO and Middle Eastern countries to at least discuss “humanitarian corridors” in strife-filled Syria.  “…. Monday, Nov. 28, debkafile reported a group of military officers from NATO and Persian Gulf nations had quietly established a mixed operational command at Iskenderun in the Turkish Hatay province on the border of North Syria: Hailing from the United States, France, Canada, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, with Turkish officers providing liaison, they do not represent NATO but are self-designated “monitors.” Their mission is to set up “humanitarian corridors” inside Syria to serve the victims of Bashar Assad’s crackdown. Commanded by ground, naval, air force and engineering officers, the task force aims to move into most of northern Syria. Laying the groundwork for the legitimacy of the combined NATO-Arab intervention in Syria, the UN Independent International Commission set up to assess the situation in Syria published a horrendous report Monday, Nov. 28 on the Assad regime’s brutalities. It documented “gross violations of human rights” and “patterns of summary execution, arbitrary arrest, enforced disappearance, torture including sexual violence, as well as violations of children’s rights.” ….”  Caveat lector.
  • F-35 Tug o’ War:  More on the pricetag“The federal government is under attack again over the true costs of buying stealth fighter jets for the air force. “Apparently the Norwegians are getting 52 F-35s for $10 billion while we’re getting 65 for $9 billion,” said Liberal MP Frank Valeriote in a Thursday defence committee meeting, citing comments from Norway’s defence minister in November. Asking Associate Defence Minister Julian Fantino to explain the discrepancy, Valeriote raised anew the possibility that the government has lowballed the estimated purchase price. “I too spoke with the secretary of defence of Norway and they’re into a different kind of a world in Europe, requiring different armaments and so forth to what we are, in fact, looking at,” said Fantino. “It’s very difficult to compare dollar for dollar, but at some point in time we’ll be able to speak all these issues more fully.” ….”  More here, here and a bit more (from the archives) from Mark Collins.
  • What’s Canada Buying?  You might call it good blood money. Defence departments in Canada and the U.S. are jointly funding a scientific study to examine the optimal ratio for plasma and platelet to red blood cells. Work will be carried out by the Resuscitation Outcomes Consortium, which includes health research organizations from both sides of the border that conduct clinical research in areas of cardiopulmonary resuscitation and traumatic injury. Canada will contribute $220,000 to the study, which Vice-Admiral Bruce Donaldson believes is critical to the troops Canada sends into harm’s way. “We’re funding it to keep people alive,” he said Thursday during an appearance at the defence committee. “Loss of blood is the greatest risk of death to the wounded soldiers on the battlefield, so it’s very much in our interests to tend to our people, to fund research in different ways of replacing blood, and stopping bleeding.” ….”
  • A Korean War veteran living in Regina is disappointed after someone spray painted obscene graffiti on the east side of the cenotaph in Victoria Park. Ken Garbutt says the people who did it are “idiots” and the act is sacrilegious. The City of Regina has since cleaned it up, but Garbutt is not impressed. “Our cemetery, the U.N. cemetery, is in Busan (City, South Korea) and you never hear of anything of this nature. They are kept in the best shape possible,” said Garbutt. Garbutt maintains there should be stiffer penalties for people who deface war memorials ….”  Veterans Affairs Minister agrees this is not goodTory MP from Saskatchewan says he’s glad to see federal government supporting new law to impose harsher penalties against those who do this sort of thing.
  • A bit of mainstream media coverage of the proposed “opt out of paying for the military” Private Members Bill (now including proposed text (PDF) of the bill) making its way through the Parliamentary sausage machine.  A fair bit of wide-ranging discussion and option consideration, as well, over at Army.caCaveat:  These bills have VERY little chance of passing without government party support.
  • That time of year again:  NORAD’s Santa Tracking web page – www.noradsanta.org – is good to go.

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 – 3 Dec 10

  • CF Ombudsman to CF:  You’ve gotta do better by familes of the fallen: “…. we found that the Canadian Forces continues to refuse to give family members standing at Boards of Inquiry convened into the death or serious injury of a military loved one. I have seen first hand how much this participation can assist families and help them understand and gain closure. We also found that the Canadian Forces has not yet put in place a national policy for support to families of deceased Canadian Forces members ….” ‘Budman’s most recent letter to the Minister, with names and specific examples of problems, here and more from the media here, here and here.
  • Defence Minister’s Response to CF ‘Budman:  We’re working on it: “The well being of our military members and their families continues to be of the utmost importance to myself and the government. I know it is also a personal priority for the Chief of the Defence Staff.  We are always striving to do better and appreciate that some families feel they have not been well-enough informed about boards of inquiry conducted by the Canadian Forces into the deaths of their loved ones.  I have responded in detail to the Ombudsman’s specific concerns. My letter reiterates our commitment to improve how the Canadian Forces communicate with families about sensitive issues related to the deaths of CF members …. It is important to include family members throughout the board of inquiry process to ensure transparency on all matters. We will continue to work to make this better.  To that end, I have designated an official, Colonel Gerry Blais, to contact the six families indicated by the Ombudsman and to be a single point of contact for them.  Col Blais has already contacted the six families (mentioned in the Ombudsman’s statement)….”
  • Speaking of how people are being treated, while the American military struggles with how to deal with gays in its ranks, Canada’s past treatment of gays in the military could come back to haunt the government“A Halifax lawyer and veteran of successful class-action lawsuits believes the Canadian government could be held financially responsible for military discrimination against homosexuals.  John McKiggan — who helped launch the successful class action for victims of Native residential schools, as well as the $13-million sexual abuse settlement for victims in a Roman Catholic diocese of Nova Scotia — says recent cases have set a precedent for compensation for breaches of charter rights.  “Sexual orientation is protected by the charter,” McKiggan said. “If there are people who had their charter rights breached by being unfairly terminated from the military, the potential exists for a claim for all of those people.”  Until 1992, Canadian Forces investigators would track down homosexuals as a potential security risk and have them fired. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms was adopted in 1982, so there’s a 10-year window of potential legal responsibility ….”
  • Another sign of Christmas approaching – NORAD prepares to keep track of Santa on his big road trip in a few weeks“He is preparing for his biggest night of the year and NORAD is getting ready to track his journey as he leaves the North Pole, bound for millions of homes across the globe on the ever magical Christmas Eve.  The count down for Santa’s big arrival has officially begun.  In the days leading up to Christmas, www.noradsanta.org features daily holiday games and activities in seven languages, English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Spanish and Chinese.  Starting at 12:00 a.m. MST on Dec. 24, visitors to the website will follow Santa as he gears up his sleigh, checks his list and makes his final preparations. Once he leaves the North Pole, children of all ages can track him with updated Google Maps and Google Earth reports ….”
  • The good news (and it is “news” because of its rarity) an article in a university paper supporting Canada’s mission in Afghanistan“…. Departing Afghanistan outright would constitute an abdication of responsibility. The mission is sanctioned by the United Nations and Canadian personnel are there on the invite of the Afghan government. The Canadian Forces have spent the last five years trying to build trust and establish security in communities that depend on their protection. Diplomats and NGOs are actively trying to bolster democracy, and countless volunteers and CIDA employees are trying to bring infrastructure, health and education to the citizens of one of the most dangerous and impoverished countries in the world ….” The bad news:  it was going so well until that last paragraph: “…. I don’t like the idea of fighting an American war any more than the rest of you, but cleaning up after them might be the best thing we could do. Our time for fighting will soon be over, but we should continue to help Afghanistan establish its institutions and security.” If it’s sanctioned by the U.N., it’s no more America’s war than it is that of any other member of the Security Council, no?
  • The latest from Canada’s war poet, Suzanne Steele“it’s not their hoar-frost beards, it’s the black hole bargain/they’ve made with their gods and their skin ….”
  • A Liberal MP is calling for more oversight over Canada’s Special Forces following the investigation of some allegations (some going back to 2006 with no charges laid after looking into them) recently shared with the CBC“Canadian military forces should be subject to the same level of oversight as law enforcement agencies, a Liberal MP said Thursday.  Dominic Leblanc, the party’s defence critic, made the comment following a joint investigation by CBC and Radio-Canada that revealed details of two military probes into the behaviour of Canada’s covert elite Joint Task Force 2 (JTF2) unit in Afghanistan …. Leblanc said oversight could come without compromising JTF2’s ability to do its job.  “Nobody’s suggesting that the operational details of a unit as important as JTF2 need to be made public,” Leblanc said.  “Nobody is suggesting that security needs to be breached or compromised and the lives of Canadian Forces put in danger by having an adequate oversight.” ….” More on that from the Toronto Star here. The back-and-forth continues at Army.ca, where a reporter who’s been following the story is explaining a few things (and hearing from those reminding us Canada’s military already has civilian oversight).
  • Remember this on the CF working on a new military health research network from about 2 weeks ago?  Here’s Postmedia News’ take“A network of university researchers has launched a Canada-wide program meant to improve the health of military personnel, veterans and their families.  Canada was one of the only NATO countries not to have a national academic pool dedicated to military health research, the director of the new program, Alice Aiken, said yesterday.  “Most of the research that was being done around the country was ad hoc, and not really co-ordinated,” she said. “And sometimes the Department of National Defence and Veterans Affairs wouldn’t even know what research was being done.” ….” Macleans.ca is also catching up here.
  • Taliban Propaganda Watch: Taliban accuses U.S. of chemical warfare in AFG (kinda again). and what the Taliban’s been trying to say about Kandahar with recent statements (with a cross-posting to the Long War Journal’s Threat Matrix blog).
  • Pentagon to Canada:  We need your help with Mexican drug cartels:  a future mission for Canada? “The Pentagon’s point man on continental security is asking Canada to step up its efforts to fight Mexico’s drug cartels.  “So much of what we do in the U.S. military must be done from a distance. I think Canada has a future in working with the two American neighbours to fight a common corrosive and growing threat to all of our societies,” Admiral James Winnefeld said during a Toronto speech on Thursday ….” Nobody appears to be talking out loud about troops at this point, and according to the article, we have Mounties in Mexico helping out.  That said, when a senior military official says “we should work together on this”, one is drawn to the thought of others also in uniform from here helping out.
  • New study out of Simon Fraser University’s Human Security Report Project: “(The report) examines the forces that have driven down the number of international conflicts and war deaths since the 1950s, and the number of civil wars since the early 1990s (and) the paradox of mortality rates that decline during the overwhelming majority of today’s wars, as well as the challenges and controversies involved in measuring indirect war deaths—those caused by war-exacerbated disease and malnutrition ….”