November 08, 2002



The wars of the future will not be fought on the battlefield or at sea. They will be fought in space, or possibly on top of a very tall mountain. In either case, most of the actual fighting will be done by small robots. And as you go forth today remember always your duty is clear: To build and maintain those robots.

--Bart and Lisa's military school graduation address

Posted by BruceR at 02:57 PM



Apparently getting nowhere with claims that American higher-ups are lynching his clients, the lawyer for the American pilots accused of killing 4 Canadians in Afghanistan is apparently switching to a "Blame Canada" strategy, according to this piece by the Ottawa Citizen's Glen McGregor:

The Canadian army brigade [sic] bombed in a friendly fire accident in Afghanistan did not provide the region's command headquarters with a liaison who could have given advance warning about the Canadian troops' location. Although it was standard procedure for other coalition members to place a liaison officer in the Coalition Air Operations Center (CAOC), there was no Canadian representative on duty when U.S. F16s bombed soldiers from the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry on the night of April 17, killing four and injuring eight. Instead, the Canadians relied on a representative from the U.S.-led battle group [sic], to which they were assigned, to notify air controllers of their night-time training exercise near the Kandahar airport.

Okay, first off, we know McGregor doesn't know anything about the military. It was a Canadian battle group, attached to an American brigade. Big difference, if you're a soldier. Second I simply don't believe that "other coalition members" in Afghanistan had battalion-level liaison officers at the undisclosed location of the Air Operations Centre back in Saudi Arabia. I'd like to see some evidence of that, please.

According to the American lawyer, the 800-strong Canadian battalion in Kandahar should have detached a team to Saudi Arabia, so they were there to intervene if the Canadians wanted to engage in nighttime training on the base perimeter. It's nuts, of course: why just the Canadians? What about the two battalions of the 101st Airborne that were colocated? Shouldn't they each have sent some soldiers to Saudi, too? Heck, if we distrust brigade-level and higher headquarters that much, shouldn't we have a detachment in Saudi for each individual company? It was only one company of Canadians involved in the friendly-fire incident... how could that company commander have trusted his battalion headquarters to know where they were?

The implication was that if there had been a member of that battalion hanging around in Saudi Arabia (who presumably had some kind of independent communications with the battalion three countries to the west, although the means to do that with split second responsiveness is conveniently left unspecified) then he could have been woken up and grilled about their training exercises, thereby cutting down the amount of anxious seconds Psycho Schmidt had in the air to make his reckless decision. Only one problem... assuming that was the case, how would the Air staff have known to kick awake the Canadian, in this room of battalion-level liaison officers from dozens of different branches and armed forces? Psycho didn't report Canadian muzzle flashes, he just saw muzzle flashes. If the USAF air staff knew enough to know those were probably Canadian muzzle flashes, then they could have just said "ceasefire, Psycho." If they didn't, there's nothing having a couple Patricias holidaying in Saudi could possibly have done to make a difference in the 90 quick seconds Schmidt gave them to figure it all out, that scant minute-and-a-half between his reporting the muzzle flashes, and his moving to neutralize them. Not one blessed thing.

The facts of the question are as simple as they've always been. Schmidt was under no threat, and had all the time in the world to act. He gave his controllers exactly 90 seconds (and a bad set of map coordinates) to figure out whether some innocuous muzzle flashes he saw could be a legitimate target. Then he killed them himself, anyway. (Sixty-eight seconds later, the controllers had gathered enough of a picture to tell him to veer off, but it was too late.) Blaming Canada will likely play better with the American public as lawyer Charles Gittins builds up his legal defence fund, but it's got nothing to do with the truth of what happened that night.

Posted by BruceR at 02:51 PM



Andrew Coyne has always had one of the most unique and fascinating worldviews among Canadian newspaper columnists (his recent piece on Riel, a vicious attack on the pet project of his own newspaper, the Post, was fearless and on the mark), but he's got to cut back on that crack he's smoking.

Rather, the odds have just considerably shortened that [Prime Minister] Chrétien might try something rather nervy -- if not to save himself, then at least to destroy Mr. Martin. He has few weapons left -- Mr. Martin's control of the party is near total -- but he still holds the bomb: an early election call. Ministers have begun to talk of the "difficult decisions" Canada would face if war broke out in Iraq. Would the PM declare he needed a mandate from the people before committing Canadian troops to the fight?

A Canadian federal election? To ratify Canadian soldiers' deployment to Iraq? That's... that's... that's delusional, basically.

Coyne doesn't get it. No one who doesn't have a connection with members of the Canadian military does. It's now all but over, people. Afghanistan was the army's last bolt... it has nothing left, neither money nor people. The air force has no munitions. The navy is bringing its ships back into harbour, because it can't afford to keep them at sea any more. Higher headquarters is shutting down every long-range program and exercise, and anything else that can be jettisoned without actually firing people. And the cuts are JUST STARTING. Soon they'll be looking at shutting down bases, regiments, possibly even whole services (the combat wing of the air force, the deepwater navy, the army reserve, perhaps) and laying off soldiers. The shortfall between just the operating costs of a defunct military, and what we're actually being given now, is staggering. An extra billion a year at this point (which is what the defence minister is calling for, defying his own government) won't even make a noticeable dent.

The idea that we could contribute ANYTHING of consequence to an Iraq show was off the table a decade ago. Canada may not rearm in my lifetime, now: it could certainly take two generations to rebuild what has been lost at this point. We are going to sit on the sidelines over Iraq, period.

The idea that Coyne has that there is any national debate worth having at this point on Iraq within Canada is... hallucinogenic, plain and simple. And the idea that an overseas military adventure that we could never conceivably mount anymore could somehow become the central issue of a national election is simply insane.

Posted by BruceR at 01:25 AM

APOLOGIES Sorry about the slow


Sorry about the slow posting rate. My sister's getting married Saturday.

Posted by BruceR at 01:06 AM