March 11, 2010

The Yon "apology," in full

In apology to BG Menard, I should not have demanded that he be fired so early in the process, despite that (sic) my assertion that he was responsible has proven true. I should never have mentioned hockey, as that created room for a diversion from the central importance. (sic) Brigadier General Menard clearly was not the only responsible party for this strategic bridge that his soldiers depend upon. To single out BG Menard was a mistake, despite that (sic) he was ultimately responsible for the ANP...

Barely grammatical, I know, but I promised I'd print it when it came. Yon's argument now is that because the ANP guarding the bridge were mentored by American MPs, who are in turn, currently reporting to the Canadian task force commander, that makes the Canadians responsible for any attacks on that bridge. Pretty tenuous, but let's go with it. Someone has to take responsibility for the ANP at some point, after all.

But then, Yon also says earlier in the same piece, pretty much completely contradicting his own apology: "This controversy never would have occurred if Brigadier General Daniel Menard had secured the bridge several miles outside the gate from his office. He probably heard the explosion." Read that apology above carefully again: he's still saying Menard should be fired ("should not have said it so early in the process" is hardly an exoneration of the BGen), just that Yon shouldn't have said so so soon.

Note further that the RC (South) deputy commander's Gen Hodges' statement to Yon that "Henceforth, Strykers [the US 5/2 Brigade Combat Team] will 'own' the bridge" is also directly contradicted by Yon's endnote that "Task Force Kandahar, under BG Daniel Menard, will henceforth be tasked with the security for Tarnak River Bridge, and that Task Force Stryker and the RAF are not responsible for the bridge." Note how Yon doesn't make any comment on a U.S. general officer apparently providing him inaccurate info and thus further muddying the responsibility issue. That's okay, apparently, because Hodges was "courageous" for accepting personal responsibility.

(Look, any soldier will tell you, he's the deputy commander of a multinational div dealing with an incident that occurred right on a boundary line between his two brigades... of course it's a div HQ responsibility to sort those things out.)

Nor does Yon ever retroactively criticize his initial source, U.S. Col Tunnell (the commander of 5/2 BCT) which to be clear is a second brigade-level formation alongside the Canadian-led brigade within RC (South), for initially telling him unguardedly and without qualification that it was that other RC (South) brigade, those Canadians (who Yon can't resist reiterating here "increasingly shy from combat") that were responsible for this fatal incident, not any of Col Tunnell's own men.

To recap, before having any of the facts, other than the somewhat wild statement of a U.S. brigade commander who may have just lost a soldier to a bomb, Yon accused a Canadian brigade commander and his "combat-shy" soldiers of gross incompetence in the strongest possible terms. Those two commanders' American divisional-level superior then said no, he alone should take full responsibility, presumably for failing to deconflict between them, but then he also provided Yon confusing or inaccurate information about which of his two brigades would be responsible in future, indicating he still hadn't made any kind of a thorough appreciation of the situation. Yon considered this "courageous" conduct on that commander's part. And Yon is apologizing now only because of objections to his mention of the hockey game, and his call for someone's firing before he had any facts to support it. But he still feels the Canadian commander "was responsible," was "not the only responsible party," and was "ultimately responsible," all in the same paragraph. Glad he cleared that up.

So in short, after kicking up an unholy ruckus in a war zone, Yon... still hasn't quite figured out who's to blame here or why, but he knows it's not going to be an American, even if it's an American who's claimed full responsibility. Check.

UPDATE: Notice also Yon's description of the attack: "the suicide bomber apparently had waited in ambush and had pulled into the convoy as it crossed the bridge." So this wasn't an attack on the bridge at all (the span didn't drop; it was just damaged by the blast) but a rolling IED attack on a U.S. convoy, taking advantage of a momentary lapse in convoy security at a chokepoint. The same thing could have happened anywhere else on Highway 4 where traffic tended to pile up: the bridge in a sense, was almost irrelevant to the action. That wouldn't stop him in his Facebook posts from calling it "the bridge that was blown up" though as if this was an attack on a fixed installation, or blathering, "Yet, as the war progresses, many people understand that we need the bridges more than the enemy does" as if that has anything to do with a suicide car attack on a highway convoy.

The reason there being, if it's seen as a convoy security problem, then the only unit ever directly responsible would be the unit whose convoy it was and whose soldier was lost (5/2 BCT?). The ANP, or their U.S. mentors, or the mentors' Canadian boss, could only ever be held indirectly responsible in a military sense for letting suicide cars lurk in the general area too easily before the U.S. convoy passed by: a failing, yes, but not one that has ever required the firing of general officers in the past.

I also like this bit: "Media outlets chose to cite a source that ignored the fact that a strategic bridge was attacked, and instead focused on diversions, such as the timing of the Olympics, versus the damage to a strategic bridge under the very nose of a NATO general. This diversion might serve to illustrate the ratings-driven focus from “news” outlets seeking manufactured, inconsequential controversy." It was of course, Yon that manufactured any controversy here, being the first and only person to tie the car being able to worm into a convoy and explode to Canadians' watching of the Olympics earlier that night. But because regular reporters quoted someone saying Yon was wrong and that the hockey game was not a relevant factor, therefore they were the ones now "manufacturing controversy."

This bit is also choice: "the [Canadian] TF-K Goliath used Canwest for cover." He's basically saying there that Canadian correspondent Matthew Fisher and his colleagues in the Canadian press are all in the tank for the Canadian military, an allegation I'm sure would be seen as surprising by both soldiers and pressmen. (Sloppy imagery, btw: Goliath using cover? Seriously, guy needs an editor.)

All in all an unusually mealy-mouthed piece of work, even by this disreputable rake of a writer's standards.

Posted by BruceR at 08:12 AM

I ____ the spiders on the wall

Reading about detainees all the time can be a bit of a downer. So... Levity break! I confess I laughed at this.

Posted by BruceR at 08:08 AM