Canada’s military: soldiers or psychopaths?

Posted: July 7, 2012 in Afghanistan, Peace, War
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Canada’s Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Walt Natynczyk Photo: Jake Wright, The Canadian Press

This interview with Canada’s Chief of Defence Staff says more about the psychopathology of militarism than I would have believed could be found in a daily newspaper. Read along with me and ask yourself what kind of madness are we allowing to develop in this country.

My thoughts are in the right hand column. I’d be interested in hearing yours.

Canada’s top soldier says troops ready and eager for new overseas missions

By Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press
Winnipeg Free Press, July 7, 2012

CALGARY – When it comes to future missions for the Canadian Forces, Canada’s top soldier has to battle to keep his eager troops satisfied with staying out of major combat zones for now.

Our military exists, or should exist, to defend this country from aggressors while occasionally helping Torontonians dig out of blizzards and Manitobans fight floods. However, it seems that rather than guardians of national sovereignty and security we have a pack of blood thirsty attack dogs on a leash, restrained only by the herculean efforts of Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Walt Natynczyk.

Canada’s military presence in Afghanistan will come to an end once the current training mission concludes in 2014 and Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Walt Natynczyk acknowledges that’s a disappointment for many soldiers, sailors and air personnel.

If Natynczyk is correct in his assessment, we have allowed our military to become a haven for a large number of homicidal psychopaths. Is this what happens after a decade of war?

“We have some men and women who have had two, three and four tours and what they’re telling me is ‘Sir, we’ve got that bumper sticker. Can we go somewhere else now?’” Natynczyk said in an exclusive interview with The Canadian Press in Calgary.

These men and women need help. Failing that, they should never be allowed to own anything sharper than soup spoons.

“You also have the young sailors, soldiers, airmen and women who have just finished basic training and they want to go somewhere and in their minds it was going to be Afghanistan. So if not Afghanistan, where’s it going to be? They all want to serve.”

I like it when our troops are on hand to fight floods and forest fires. I’d prefer not paying taxes to help them make their bones overseas. If they are really that eager to kill people, our American cousins seem to have an insatiable appetite for cannon fodder.

But Natynczyk is unsure about what is in store for the Canadian Forces or even himself for that matter.

If you believe that, I have some prime muskeg, suitable for agriculture, that you won’t be able to resist.

He has been on the job for four years, which is past the normal tenure for someone in his position, and if he knows what is going to happen next, he isn’t providing any details.

“I’ll just keep on sprinting in this job until I’m told to get off the playing field and recognizing that I’m living in a pretty good time to be in the military,” he said.

Ah, so many people to kill, so little time!

“I never aspired to this job. I just serve. I serve Canadians and the country and look on every day as an opportunity to make a contribution.”

If you really want to serve, Walt, there’s a Starbuck’s near you that is always looking for talent.

Natynczyk said he is telling Canadian troops to keep their “kit packed up” because the world is an unpredictable place right now.

Iran? Syria? Northern BC, if the First Nations don’t allow Enbridge to build it’s Northern Gateway Pipeline?

“The world is turbulent right now and the fact is our allies want more of Canada, more of the men and women who wear Canadian uniforms,” he said.

Our allies want us to kill more brown people who have the misfortune to be in some proximity to undeveloped fossil fuels. We happen to be good at it, I guess.

“I’ve told them all to catch up on that training that lapsed while we had this high operational tempo between Afghanistan and the Olympics and Haiti and Libya, and let’s make sure we have all qualifications and training up to date so when we’re called upon we’re ready to go.”

We’re learning new ways to kill people every day.

The general said outside of Afghanistan, Canada has a number of other smaller missions underway including in the Middle East, Africa and the Caribbean.

Oh, and guess what! We’re opening up seven new military bases on foreign soil in Senegal, South Korea, Kenya, Singapore, Kuwait, Jamaica and Singapore.

Natynczyk said he is satisfied with the success of the Canadian mission to Afghanistan and pointed out that he flew into Kabul on a commercial airliner for the first time when he visited troops in the city last month.

Let’s see now . . . at great cost to ourselves and and a much greater cost to the Afghan people, we’ve helped a gang of drug lords maintain some control of a couple of urban centres which, when NATO leaves, will undoubtedly revert to Taliban control. The good news is, however, when the dust finally settles, commercial airlines will still fly into Kabul – just like they did before we invaded.

He said the departure of Canadian and U.S. troops will give the Afghan forces the little push that they need to succeed.

“It has helped the Afghans in a sense, taking ownership of their own security. One of the real challenges was the sense that NATO and our allies were going to stay there forever. (That) actually was not helpful in terms of their own culture and own atmosphere,” he said.

Natynczyk is a master of understatement.

Natynczyk is focusing much of his efforts now in making sure more attention is being paid to injured soldiers and their families, especially those suffering from the psychological effects of war.

Shattered bodies and broken minds are the inevitable outcomes of war. Why is Natynczyk so eager to get into another one?

“It’s almost easier to handle people with physical injuries, with physical wounds. People can see it. They can understand it, whether it be shrapnel, a broken leg, even these horrific amputations,” he said.

“It’s much more difficult in the mental injury, whether it be post traumatic stress, operational stress injury, traumatic brain injury because we’re just understanding the beginning of a process of understanding the complex nature of this.”

According to The Department of National Defence, 19 men and one woman died by suicide in the Canadian Forces in 2011, up from 12 in 2010. Since 1996, 187 soldiers have committed suicide. How many more suicides are we going to tolerate while the military is figuring out the “complex nature of this”?

Natynczyk said he talked about mental health on his last visit to Kabul, especially about overcoming the “stigma” of mental issues and making sure people come forward if they have a problem.

And how’s that workin’ for ya, Walt?
  1. MoS says:

    The general’s comments reflect an enormous decline in military leadership, certainly over the past decade, and a political apparatus complacent, even deferential to military incompetence.

    We’re in an era of all the King’s horses and all the King’s men proving persistently incapable to delivering meaningful military achievements. In Afghanistan, for example, we have always had our adversaries outnumbered. We have also enjoyed a monopoly on transport and attack helicopters, strike fighters, tanks and armour, artillery, drones and electronic surveillance. Our opponent has fielded gaggles of farmboys armed with Korean vintage assault rifles, light machine guns and rocket propelled grenades. Yet, when we leave the field they will remain, triumphant. For them, not being defeated is winning. When we have every advantage it’s disingenuous for us to claim the same. The Americans never lost a battle in Viet Nam either but they unquestionably lost the war. They were defeated.

    Natynczyk, successor to the scoundrel, safely-retired Rick Hillier, commands an army that has been defeated on the field of combat. We have achieved none of the goals we announced on our way in. Since then we have watered our objectives down to the point of meaninglessness. This character’s swagger illustrates how low we have dropped the bar.

    This reluctance at the top to acknowledge their failure is troubling for it sets a low standard for the future. Like Harper and Hillier before him, Natynczyk is sheltering behind the genuine sacrifice and committment of our first-rate enlisted personnel, NCOs and junior officers. These fine young men and women were sold out to military and political leadership incompetence.

    • Gary bean says:

      I’ve never read such drivel in my life our people are not killing machines they are good honest people who happen to be tasked with keeping us safe. You perhaps should move to any no. Of countries (Syria comes to mind ) where u can write about your beliefs there. Good luck with that.

      • MoS says:

        Well Gary as far as I can tell no one is suggesting the rank and file are anything but good, honest people. The rest of your remarks are hyperbole and a pointless rant.

        Can you even recall the objectives Canada undertook in going to Afghanistan? After all, you send soldiers to war, to lose life and limb, to achieve something. What were those objectives? How many of them did we accomplish?

        Beginning with Paul Martin our political leadership was conned by our military leadership. Hillier said he could do the warfighting job in Kandahar province with a piddly force of just 2,500 out of which he could muster a combat group of barely 1,000. For that job he needed about 15,000 and upwards of 20,000.

        Do you remember when Hillier, having manipulated Martin into going to war in Kandahar, boastfully assured the Canadian public that our soldiers were going over there to “kill scumbags” that he numbered at “a few dozen”? Then, as that few dozen turned into several hundred and then many hundred, did Hillier reinforce the combat group? Did we grow our force to meet the obviously expanding threat? No. Why not? Because of incompetent political and military leadership, that’s why.

        How many Canadian generals, one after another, boasted that we had the Talibs whipped in Kandahar, that the bad guys were on the run and forever a spent force? How many times did we have to refight the battle of Panjwai? Who controls it now?

        As the son of a horribly wounded WWII infantry vet and a former serviceman myself I’m sickened by your pathetic jingoism. Your remarks are actually quite revolting.

      • @Gary Bean – I appreciate the fact that our military is tasked with “keeping us safe.” However, our wars in Afghanistan, Libya and the former Yugoslavia had nothing to do with keeping Canadians safe. My questions about the sanity of some of our troops were prompted by General Natynczyk’s comments about their desire to go abroad to kill people and their sadness about the end of combat in Afghanistan. If the general’s comments are accurate, those people do need help – because killing people on an industrial scale is not something healthy people willingly seek out.

  2. dan says:

    This article is absolut the biggest rubbish that i have ever read that was written by a canadian on an internet blog.
    First of all it is NORMAL for many soldiers wanting to be deployed, mainly for the reason that they have trained for many many years and that they want to put that training to use. Why train a soldier if he will never get deployed?
    Second thing is that combat troops are trained, well duh, to perform in combat which ultimatively means killing as well. Thats what they are trained for: to kill the enemy and accomplish their objectives.
    And basically you are labeling them all as psychopaths for wanting to use their training.
    Third i am highly sure that our troops, or at least the majority, are not wielding weapons and blood thirstily screaming and wanting to slaughter people like you make it seem they are.
    Fourth thing is that only the troops on the ground in afghanistan are seeing the positive influence and the improvements that our and other countries military presence have created, and them saying that it is too bad that we are leaving is mostly due to the fact that alot more needs to be done in order to improve the afghan goverment and therefore the entire country.
    After skimming over your article with absolut disgust about your lack of respect and your overly hyped up hippie attitude about military in general, i have come to the conclusion that you somehow must have been hurt by the government and/or CF and that you are now holding a grudge.
    Spare your reply to this comment, because i will surely never come back to check for it.
    A future CF soldier

    • sophie says:

      Dan, no one has called Canada or the U.S. to “create positive influence and improvements” in Afghanistan. You are just messing up with other countries with the purpose of extracting their oil and resources to keep the rich of industrialized countries richer. It is totally false that you are helping Afghanistan. Let other countries develop by themselves…. the world doesn’t need a super man to save it…. You need to see the big picture, your point of view is very narrow.

  3. MoS says:

    Dan, you’re hilarious. “only the troops on the ground in afghanistan are seeing the positive influence and the improvements that our and other countries military presence have created” Did you pull that out of your backside? Read CBC’s Brian Stewart’s recent article about books coming out, British and American, depicting Canada’s contribution as essentially hapless. Sorry but that’s what happens when you take responsibility for a province the size of Kandahar that, on population alone, requirese a combat force of at least 15,000 yet you field a miniscule contingent of just 2,500 out of which you can, at any given time, deploy 600 to 800 combat soldiers in the field. Positive influence, bullshit.

    As a former serviceman myself and the son of a grievously wounded WWII infantry lieutenant I hope you give yourself enough time to do a lot of growing up before, in the future, you become a CF soldier.

  4. sophie says:

    They are sociopaths, it is madness what people is allowing to happen these days a madness! Militarism is a pathology. And now you should see how the entertainment’s industry and hollywood and so many other movie makers are promoting this kind of militarism, I should say, pathology.

  5. MoS says:

    Sophie, I don’t believe for a moment that soldiers are sociopaths. If they were it would be rampant in their non-deployment environments – on their home bases, on the streets, in their homes. Sure there may be a small minority of these types but they’re common in any field and usually somewhere near the top.

    Your concern with growing militarism is well taken albeit not as evidence of pschopathology. Read Andrew J. Bacevich’s book, “The New American Militarism.” He chronicles the rise of American hyper-militarism post 9/11 and the emergence of a true Warfare State through the powerful union of radical rightwing ideologues, religious fundamentalists, the military-industrial complex, the Pentagon and the corporatist mercenary industry. The synergies they have achieved from their union are disturbing, even threatening to the United States. The Canadian military brass have been swept up in this American contagion and no good will come of it. Natynczyk is a poster boy for this particular state malady.

  6. david V says:

    MoS raises some interesting points, and he seems lucid, so I won’t take issue with him. In particular he raises points about the size of the battle group that was tasked with a rather large AO. I wouldn’t call Hillier a con man though, I’ve met him and he was always well respected by the troops, as he fought to get them the things they need. However, the writer of this article has earned my eternal disdain thanks to his utterly backwards and uninformed take on the Canadian military.
    The Canadian Forces are not meant to fight fires and deal with floods – what absurd trash. The Canadian Forces are tasked with protecting Canada and Canadian interests at home and abroad. That’s it. Domestic ops are simply the CF filling in when existing services are stretched to the max and disciplined bodies and mobile infrastructure are needed.

    As for Afghanistan, of course soldiers want to deploy. When on my basic training, I remember multiple times when the entire CFLRS was halted for a moment of silence for a lost soldier. Every pushup, every run, every march, from sunup to sundown, was carried out with that one goal in mind. Calling the troops psychopathic is the refuge of cowards, spineless citizens who not only lack the willpower to fight for their country, but also try to hide this fact by demeaning the people they could never be. Do I sound like a psychopath? Are all of my brothers and sisters that have happy marriages and beautiful children psychopaths? When Canadian and American soldiers stand in front of civilians because they have armor on their bodies to protect them, is that psychopathic?

    MoS: You raised points about not being able to beat the Taliban. I assure you, if we did not have to check fire every time near a village or mosque, it would have been a lot easier. And in every combat encounter with the insurgents, they lost horribly. The main reason they were not able to be crushed is a wily neighbor – Pakistan. That about sums it up. Chinese rockets, sold to Pakistan and filtered into Afghan, insurgents moving through a porous border and Chechen mercs funded through drug money and assisted by the ISI. Not to mention the obvious advantage of fighting on your own turf.

    Sophie: You clearly understand the situation like a child. In no way did we go to Afghanistan to create positive influence and improvements. We went there because of article 5 (NATO) that dictates an attack on one nation is one on all. Afghanistan was a failed state due to warlords and occupation – and became the primary training ground for Al Qeada. This is a fact. I could write pages here about the country, but I’ll simply say that all the improvements put into Afghan were merely an attempt to help the National Army and Police of Afghan be able to control insurgency on their own. Your other argument that we went for resources is the most laughable thing I’ve seen in print. Do you know anything about that dirt hole? Go ahead and visit. Check out how many resources there are too take. Meanwhile, Canada has far more oil potential. You’re wrong, plain and simple. On a personal note, if you met me, you would find me to be articulate and polite (a little funny too.) You might never even guess that I am a soldier and have deployed to Afghanistan.

    Dan: Good luck on your endeavors. Don’t let what people say get you down. The military will make you mature faster then the average person anyway, and you made some good points.

    The people that have a taste of action and want more, the people that want to go – at the most you could call them adrenaline junkies. I’d accept that. But Canada went through almost a decade of combat without any Somalia style failures. We acted with professionalism and honor, and earned the respect of every nation we worked with.
    Paul Graham, I won’t even begin to write the things about you that flash through my mind. But I will say that you are a gutless excuse for a Canadian, and even though I’d still take a bullet for any Canadian, the thought of doing it for you leaves a shitty taste in my mouth.

    Dave V.

    • @Dave V: I’ll refrain from commenting on your character or mental state. Instead, I will suggest you examine some of your core beliefs about the role of the military in Canada.

      My view is that Canada’s military should exist principally to defend Canada against aggressors. When it is not doing that, it performs a welcomed public service by helping in disaster relief situations, searches and rescues and so forth.

      Invading Afghanistan and bombing Libya, to name two recent examples, do not fit with my idea of what our soldiers should be doing. Neither country posed a threat to Canada. We had no business going to their countries and killing their citizens. Neither did our political leaders have any business placing the health and the lives of our troops in danger in these wars.

      A close reading of your commentary suggests that you believe our military has a larger role. In addition to defending “Canadian interests at home and abroad.” Can you take a moment to identify which “Canadian interests” are served by fighting wars with farm boys in Third World nations? I’d appreciate it if you would enlighten me. Perhaps we can have a civil discussion about this.

      My father served in the RCAF in WW2. I grew up on military bases. This provided me with some keen insights into military life and values. I have tremendous respect for those of my father’s generation who defended our country against fascism. I also saw how many of them were damaged by the experience of war and this has taught me that military responses to disputes should only be taken if there is no other choice.

      No doubt many of the men and women who are in the Canadian Forces are motivated by a desire to serve their country. I simply would prefer that they serve their country at home.

      As gutless as I appear to you, if Canada were ever invaded, I would not hesitate to defend you.

  7. MoS says:

    Dave, you describe a war Canadian troops fought in Afghanistan. What you overlook is that there were two wars being waged in that country, one that we were fighting and the other than we were not. Of the two, our war was inconsequential to the fate of Afghanistan. The other war, the war being waged by the Taliban that we did not fight was the determinative conflict.

    In 2003, David Petraeus commanded a mixed civilian/military team that produced a new US counterinsurgency field manual, FM3-24. It digested all the lessons from this sort of warfare going back to Julius Caesar. They boiled those lessons down into a number of maxims that were promptly forgotten and that pre-ordained our failure.

    We fought “our” war in which we had all the attack helicopters, strike fighters, artillery, tanks and armour, advanced communications, drones, etc. and a vast superiority in both numbers and quality of troops deployed. They fought with AKs, LMGs, rocket propelled grenades and improvised explosive devices – primitive stuff wielded by marginally trained farm boys. “In every combat encounter they lost horribly.” Of course. How could they not? But the point is, it didn’t matter so long as they survived at the end of the day when we packed up to go home.

    We didn’t fight their war, the war envisioned in FM3-24 or the writings of Caesar or T.E. Lawrence. We would have had to flood the cities and countryside with combat troops to do that but we chose, instead, to fight on the cheap – relying on high-tech firepower which was no substitute. In unveiling FM3-24, Petraeus made some key points to the reporters assembled. One was that counterinsurgency warfare was the “most labour intensive” of all. Our side, he noted, either had to go big or go home. Another was that firepower was often counterproductive in asymetrical warfare. A third point, another we ignored at our peril, was that counterinsurgent forces have a very finite shelf life before, in the minds of the locals, they go from liberator/defender to occupier/oppressor.

    We didn’t fight the war that mattered, contenting ourselves to a war of “whack-a-mole” in which we essentially babysat Afghanistan’s unresolved civil war.

    About three years ago, the Pentagon’s think tank, the RAND Corporation, ran an analysis of every insurgency since WWII from which they identified criteria that reliably determined the success or failure of the government side in this sort of warfare. They then examined Afghanistan on those criteria and concluded that, by a large margin, our war was an irretrievable failure.

    Why do these wars drag on for years after the issue is decided? That’s because we can continue to wage “our” war until we simply succumb to fatigue. They can’t defeat us at “our” war. They lack the weaponry or the numbers but that doesn’t matter to them. Our war, the military war, can roll on until we run out of steam. Their war, the political war, can simply stand aside and wait. We win the tactical engagements, they prevail on the strategic struggle.

    Yes, Pakistan played a role but no greater than that of the Kabul government we installed. We failed to purge the warlords and instead enshrined them in power. Real monsters like Dostum and Fahim and many others like them, took the reins of power and, with that, so ended our aspirations of achieving democracy, civil rights and anything resembling peace in Afghanistan.

    And, as for Hillier, when he cajoled Paul Martin into approving the Kandahar gig, the PM demanded his assurance that the CF could handle this and have sufficient force in reserve to be tasked on a similar effort elsewhere. What nonsense. Either Hillier was dishonest or he was hopelessly incompetent. Kandahar, the very heartland of the Taliban. Kandahar city. And he was going to tame them with a combat force on paper of 1,000?

    What did we achieve for those dead and broken soldiers? Sweet Fanny Adams, that’s what. And now General Walt is gunning for the next shooting war? As things now stand, with a decade of experience on which to judge, I wouldn’t assume Canada’s military leadership competent to hold a short arm inspection. They repeated proved themselves conclusively out of their league in Afghanistan. They need to come out and tell us where they went so terribly wrong and what they intend to do about it before we should even entrust them to lead Canadian soldiers into another war like this.

  8. MoS says:

    A couple of other points you mentioned, Dave. Afghanistan, it turns out, has significant mineral reserves. China, while we were bashing away on the Talibs, got a lock on the massive copper fields in the north and is running a railway line straight to them.

    Oil and natural gas are also key geo-strategic assets. Before he became VEEP, Cheney, on behalf of Haliburton, tried to get the Clinton State Department to lift sanctions on the Taliban in hope of winning their approval for the TAPI or trans-Aghanistan pipeline initiative. Afghanistan is critical to American hopes of accessing Caspian Basin oil and gas reserves via routes that keep them out of Russian control. The idea was to run them through Afghanistan into Pakistan and on into India. This issue remains very much alive. It is a big factor in China and Russia’s decision to entice Pakistan and India into the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (their fledgling equivalent of NATO). The Chinese also want to bring Pakistan into their sphere of influence so they can run an overland route to Iranian oil fields.

    There are wheels spinning within wheels in South Asia and Washington’s interests are often divergent from their ISAF allies, something we never reconciled in our planning and war efforts.

    And your interpretation of Article 5 of the North Atlantic charter is arguable at best. The United States was never attacked by Afghanistan or by any other state actor. The events of 9/11 were criminal, not acts of war. Recall in those days the Bush gang were freely using any contrivance to launch wars of choice. But our mission morphed enormously under the Harper administration. Our prime minister prescribed the purposes of our war in Kandahar and did so very clearly. They were to establish democracy and civil rights in Afghanistan and to rid the country of the Taliban for good. We achieved none of those objectives, not one.

  9. yves engler says:

    WWI & WWII were about defending the British Empire not Canada (WWII of course had positive side effect of stopping nazis). phase the CF out over the next tens years & put the money towards expanding social programs, ecological improvements & First Nations. find those currently in uniform more socially useful employment.

  10. Sara Arenson says:

    ‘Natynczyk said he talked about mental health on his last visit to Kabul, especially about overcoming the “stigma” of mental issues and making sure people come forward if they have a problem.’

    I suspect what this actual means is convincing people traumatized in war that they should now take numbing, dangerous drugs that can cause early death and suicidal and homicidal ideation. Like the soldiers with PTSD being prescribed Seroquel and dying in their sleep from heart attacks. I don’t know the Canadian military’s practices, though. Nonetheless, any sentence containing a reference to reducing ‘stigma’ is simply arguing that people should regard their traumas as genetic brain diseases and go get a prescription. Which makes little sense in most cases, but even less sense when it comes to veterans of war.

  11. davidveldman says:

    Well Paul, I’m very happy that you’ll refrain from commenting on my character or mental state. It’s very generous of you.
    Your view on the Canadian forces raison de etre is very nice, and close to the actual stated goal, which is: To protect and Canadians and Canadian interests at home and abroad. Helping in disaster relief is all well and good, but that wasn’t why we deployed to Afghanistan. We deployed there because we are a member of NATO, and article 5 dictated that it was our responsibility to do so.
    While invading Afgh and bombing Libya may not fit with your idea of what our troops should be doing, this is in fact irrelevant; you do not personally dictate which missions should be undertaken, and while you are entitled to your opinion, slandering the men and women of the forces by calling them psychopaths is at least weak minded, and at worst maliciously ignorant. Personally, I did not agree with the logic behind supporting the Libyan rebels, as I would have rather supported Ghadaffi in the interest of stabilizing the region. However, my personal opinion does not alter the fact that the Canadian pilots aquitted themselves well in the air, and made excellent choices that minimized collateral damage.

    I do believe that the military has a larger role then fighting forest fires. The reason to deploy to other countries and fight ‘third world farm boys’ (which by the way is inaccurate as many of the ACM were Chechnyan professional Jihadists) is that fighting a battle over there, prevents damage here. If you don’t recognize the legitimate threat posed by the extreme elements of Islam then this probably won’t mean very much to you. Regardless, the true purpose for the intervention in Afghanistan was to prevent the blatant setup of training bases for terrorist Islamic activities; buidling schools and digging wells was just part of the third block war, in order to bring a sense of stability, thereby allowing the Afghans to police themselves and prevent a resurgence of extremists.

    @ MoS – again you raise valid points, but your information is too American specific, and does not do justice to the efforts of the Canadian forces. Recognizing what you implied, that pouring troops into city centers and leaving the mostly rural areas to be flooded with insurgents, the Canadian Battle Groups made several SPECIFIC efforts to combat this.
    PRT (Provincial Reconstruction Team) and CIMIC (Civilian Military Cooperation) teams were embedded INTO villages to live there. Small COPs (combat outposts) and PBs (patrol bases) were also established in number, thereby spreading out the troops into a wider area, increasing saturation and allowing great community with the locals.
    Your vision of ‘attack helicopters, strike fighters, artillery, tanks and armour, comms, drones and a vast superiority of numbers’ did not happen for Canada. It’s simply not true. Canada went into the Kandahar province underequipped and undermanned, and only the sheer quality of soldiers prevented a catastrophic bloodbath of Dieppe proportions. Many of the combat encounters were between a platoon of Canadian troops and at least as many insurgents attacking them while on patrol. In addition, the insurgents were capable of blending with the local populace – an infuriating but staple part of a counter insurgency war.
    You are also understating Pakistans involvement. Pakistan is a cesspool of conflicting allegiances, and now the true home of the Taliban.
    As for Hillier, he was a brilliant soldier, and a good leader. Canada did not fail in Kandahar, and did not even sustain massive losses. When the Canadian troops were pulling out in 2011 and the Americans were taking over the AO, they lost 74 people in 8 days. I should know, I saw the funerals.
    What did we achieve? We proved to the world that Canada honors its commitments. Commitment is not a one way street. If we expect allied forces to help us out when we are in danger, then it is the least that we can do to show ourselves willing to reciprocate. Also, we transformed our military from a shaky group to a combat hardened, relevant modern force far more capable of acting on the world stage.
    As for the forces desiring to be in another mission, this is completely natural. People don’t join the military to sit in Canada waiting for a forest fire (well, some do to my chagrin) but they desire to test the skills they have earned at hard training. Many Afghan veterans I know have actually left the military now that the conflict is over. They desired to DO something with their lives, and for their country, and while many bear scars, I have almost never met one who regrets it.

    As for your resource extraction argument, it’s so tired and old. The United States did not even go to Iraq for oil. That was the big assumption, but it doesn’t hold up. Look up the data of Iraqi oil export growth – you’ll see that levels in 2001 are nearly identical to the levels today. In other words, Saddam Insane sold oil to the Americans, and they’re still buying at levels they used to. Meanwhile, Canada sits on massive oil deposits, much still untapped. Natural gas is too hilarious too even mention – Alberta has so much natural gas it can’t even sell it fast enough.
    Your insistence to cobble together circumstancial evidence instead of facing the obvious is typical. You would rather read into minute coincidence then acknowledge that Islamic extremism poses a real threat, and must be dealt with as possible. My own personal guess as to why the Americans invaded Iraq? Staging ground for Iran.
    Again, YOUR interpretation of when Article 5 should be enacted is irrelevant. NATO invoked it, and Canada followed through to honor a decades old commitment. Afghanistan harboured terrorist training camps, and terrorists, and they had to be removed. They were, the Taliban are the minority in Afghanistan, and Bin Laden was chased to Pakistan (that hole again) were his life was thankfully ended. Sounds like SOME things were accomplished to me.
    You sound intelligent, but it seems like you’re buying slightly too much into counterculture spin – that everything is the fault of some faceless nameless, capitalistic, Bilderberg style corporate plan. And this just isn’t true, and my reasons for believing that are the complexity of the world. I have seen enough to understand that everything has shades of grey, and collaboration of that scale could never succeed.

    @Yves Engler, well you don’t really deserve a reply, posting rubbish about the dissolution of the CF. Phase out the military? Genius. Pure pure genius. Not worth my time.

    @Sara, PTSD is real and a problem. Nevertheless, it is a problem only in a small minority of soldiers. And the stigma applies to fellow troops – some soldiers are not very affected by what they see. They return to their families and have productive lives, while they cannot understand how a comrade has nightmares all the time. I’ve seen it happen, but again, it is rarely serious in my experience.

    I didn’t actually first post here to comment on all of this. I simply came to make my point that calling soldiers psychopaths is ignorant and rude and ungrateful. I think I made that point; I don’t care if people think that Canada doesn’t belong in Afghanistan. I do care if all my brothers and sisters and leaders are tarred with an ugly word that belongs to the ilk of Anders Breivik or Luka Magnotta. Please do not attack people that make sacrifices for their country.


  12. MoS says:

    Dave, you make a couple of points that require some response. You contend that Hillier was brilliant. In what respect? Can you point out examples of his brilliance? Was taking on the combat gig in Kandahar with a total force of just 2,500 and a combat group of barely 1,000 an act of brilliance? That seems to be setting the bar rather low.

    You speak of provincial reconstruction teams, civilian military cooperation teams, outposts and embedded troops. Yet with such an understrength force how could this be meaningful except to fill checklists? There were never remotely sufficient troops for such efforts to succeed.

    Afghanistan’s and the larger, regional resources are a significant geopolitical issue to the United States. Washington has tried mightily to find ways to keep Caspian Basin fossil fuel reserves from falling under the control of the Russians, thereby increasing Moscow’s leverage over Europe. The U.S. has always had its own interests in that region and they’ll continue well post 2014. Meanwhile China, through the SCO, is trying to consolidate its influence in the region.

    I really don’t underestimate the Pakistan factor in this. We’ve known full well since the Soviet days the role that Pakistan plays in Afghanistan. We should have known that going in and we should have addressed that problem accordingly. Our inability to come to some workable resolution with Islamabad reduced our Afghan effort to an endless game of “whack-a-mole” that we could never hope to win.

    You would do well to read the RAND Corporation analysis of our Afghan war. They dissected every insurgency since WWII and boiled them down to factors that determined success or failure for “government forces” (our side). When they ran the Afghan results in 2009 they declared our war a dismal, irretrievable failure. You can slap as much lipstick on that pig as you like but that does nothing to change the outcome.

    And, before we get our soldiers into another mess like Afghanistan, I’d like to know that our general staff have read and studied the US counterinsurgency field manual FM3-24. In fact I’d like to know that they had passed a test on it. What we did over there flaunted the maxims of counterinsurgency garnered as far back as the days of Julius Caesar and restated quite well in that manual. If you dig around you might find press interviews Petraeus gave when his team finished FM3-24, well before he became a commander over there.

    Here are some of these maxims as stated by Petraeus. #1 – Go Big or Go Home. Counterinsurgency is the most labour intensive form of combat. It requires the counterinsurgents to flood the countryside with boots on the ground to defend the civilian population 24/7 and secure their support for the government side. Our side requires one combat soldier for every 25 to 50 of the civilian population, depending on the activity in the sector. In Kandahar that would have required a combat force between 15,000 and 25,000 soldiers. Yet we were barely able to deploy 1,000 on a good day. #2 – Go In Big and Get Out. As Petraeus told the Washington Post, counterinsurgent forces have a very limited shelf life before they go, in the minds of the civilian population, from liberator/protector to occupier/oppressor. We didn’t go in big. We didn’t go in with clearly indentified objectives and a time table for achieving them. If we had, we would have tailored the force to meet those requirements. And without specifying objectives and time requirements we were left unable to prescribe any exit strategy. This is not rocket science, Dave.

    A State Department officer testified before the U.S. Senate a number of years ago in respect of Afghanistan that there has never been a successful, modern Muslim nation that did not first overcome the toxic scourges of warlordism and tribalism. We didn’t even attempt to build that sort of Afghanistan, just the opposite. And on that we also failed.

    I share your relief that Canadian casualties were relatively limited. As the son of a horribly wounded WWII infantry officer I need no introduction to the savage and bitter losses warfare inflicts. I also know the only way to measure the worth of their sacrifice is in what we accomplish.

  13. Shana says:

    Howdy! This is my first comment here so I just wanted to give a quick shout out
    and tell you I truly enjoy reading your posts. Can you recommend any other blogs/websites/forums
    that deal with the same subjects? Many thanks!

  14. Stephen Stepic says:

    When people stand and praise the troops for “defending our freedoms.” Do the people who do that ever stop to ask themselves whether the troops really are doing that.
    Do they ask themselves whether the Serbian, Afghan, Iraqi, Pakistani, or Yemeni people are really trying to take away the freedom of the Canadian people?
    Why Canadians with British and Francophone descent automatically assume that the people the troops are killing deserve to die?”

    Those who have bombed and killed thousands – they do not belong in Europe or on planet Earth,”

    “Canada had no legal right to bomb anyone for any reason as that is a violation of international law, the UN Charter, Nuremberg Principles etc.,” the scholar underscored. “Their attack was aggression and therefore a war crime and they committed war crimes during the attack.”

    Amnesty International released a report which stated that NATO forces had deliberately targeted a civilian object and had bombed targets at which civilians were certain to be killed.

    Operation ECHO
    Canada sent about 120 Air Force personnel and six CF-18 Hornet fighters to Aviano, Italy

    Operation Deliberate Force
    Canada contributed NATO AWACS program in NATO Air Base Geilenkirchen in Germany. They were detecting ground targets for bombing.

    It was Canadian troops who located the targets and called in the strikes in the spring of 1999 in Kosovo, where American UAVs trolled the skies every night, sounding like lawnmowers.

    Canada carried out aggression to savagely destroy everything – Serbian, Albanian, Turkish

    May God have mercy upon your cruel soul.

    And about 1000 civilians, including 19 children, were killed and more than 4,500 sustained serious injuries,

    Three million children were endangered in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia as a result of war and bombing.

    The RCAF pilots caused death, physical and mental harm to the population of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia; huge devastation; heavy pollution of the environment, so that the Yugoslav population is deliberately imposed conditions of life calculated to bring about physical destruction of the group, in whole or in part.

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