March 29, 2011

A shameful descent into evil

It's hard not to read the Rolling Stone piece on the Maiwand murders without thinking dark thoughts indeed about the entire Afghan adventure.

The thing that struck me the most here was that the one single criminal act that by itself led to a major court martial in the Canadian military... the shooting of an either dead or dying Afghan by a member of my old Afghan unit... is just one of at least three dozen violations of military law, rules of engagement or moral law by the "Kill Team" of 5 Stryker Brigade in this article that I counted, and one of the minor ones at that. The only difference between the acts described in this article and the My Lai atrocity lies in the body count.

The trials continue. But what is unquestioned is that from January to May of 2010, a group of American soldiers were basically shooting indiscriminately at civilians in Kandahar City and in Zhari District, places Canadians worked for years without the remotest claim of abuse of a similar nature, and singling out old men and young boys in Maiwand District who were open-minded enough to trust them for a minute, for thrill-seeking and memento-gathering executions. This occurred despite multiple warnings to their chain of command, none of whom are facing any consequences for allowing this to go on.

I never thought that Afghans would have to pay that high a price for our departure from those districts. I'm frankly just appalled what we abandoned them to here. It's hard after reading this article to think of a good reason why we should be allowed to consider ourselves still on the good side of this fight, or somehow deserving of the win.

One more thing, that the article doesn't say explicitly enough for my taste. Like the vast majority of soldiers in the theatre, these sick little f__ks had as little contact as possible throughout their tour with local nationals, who were about as real to them as sprites in a video game. This was a predictable consequence of all the distance we have put in this military context between Us and Them, the "Them" in this case being the people we were sent to protect. Our whole approach to force protection, with all of its interacting with the host nation only across razor wire or through gunsights, is a concomitant cause of these atrocities. Read in the story how impossible it was for the Afghan friends and relatives of the murdered to even get their case heard, let alone believed, and imagine what you would want done to the organization that protected these evil men. See also Pat Lang.

Posted by BruceR at 11:17 PM

March 22, 2011

Getting your Libya fix

For useful Libya air war information, some of the best poop so far has been David Cenciotti's. His day three brief, among other things highlighted a possible comsec violation over the Med by a Canadian Air Force Airbus.

Cenciotti's day one brief made reference to what may be one of the more interesting tactical questions of this fight so far... what exactly the French Air Force was doing plinking tanks near Benghazi in the very earliest hours of the war, before any air defense suppression of any kind had been done, in daylight, and over 4 hours before any kinetic act by any other NATO country. It's hard not to wonder if that attack wasn't a unilateral, or at least somewhat disjointed-from-the-rest-of-NATO French effort, trusting solely in surprise and speed of action... either that or it was a very deliberate attempt to bait the Libyans into some kind of hasty response, turning on their radars, even scrambling planes, that the still-assembling coalition could take advantage of. Gutsy, either way, though.

In other news, I see NATO has declared an arms embargo, so HMCS Charlottetown should be getting busy again pretty soon, too.

Posted by BruceR at 11:11 PM


A belated best wishes to the Canadian Forces personnel involved in Op MOBILE. I have no doubt they'll do their country credit. And really, you can't ask more in the way of support from one's political class than a unanimously passed three-month mandate, either. (Even World War Two had one vote (J.S. Woodsworth's) against.)

What we've seen over the last few years is a real normalization of small wars, in a way that would have seemed unfathomable to me in, say, the 1980s. If you'd told me 10 years ago before 9/11 not only that Canada would still be engaged in a protracted land conflict while its jets were part of an air campaign against Libya, but that I myself would be working on military-related projects practically full time come 2011 in part as a result, I wouldn't have believed you.

Posted by BruceR at 10:37 PM

March 18, 2011

Our role in Bahrain is pointing to some video of "Canadian-made" Light Armored Vehicles being involved in the Saudi suppression of Bahrain's pro-democracy protests. It does regrettably tend to put Canada's support for "Responsibility to Protect" policies in the Middle East these days in something of a different light. And yes, at around 2:30 in the video you see the distinctive boat hulls of LAVs, most with the 90mm main gun armament that is unique to the Saudi variant. Made in Canada? Yes, most likely.

General Dynamics Land Systems-Canada (prior to 2003 the Canadian subsidiary of the defense division of General Motors) has been involved in equipping the Saudi military with LAVs for years, and continues to be, with the latest $2.2 billion sale of 724 brand new LAV-IIs starting delivery this year. This is not, however, an issue that any party courting the Ontario auto union vote is likely ever to bring up to the public, so this shouldn't be an issue, at least until one of the Saudi drivers runs over a news crew or something.

Posted by BruceR at 10:15 PM