Let's get an item out of the way here. Anyone in any military theatre of operations coming under hostile fire has every right to return fire and every right to return that fire with full effect. (Yes, that means kill the person(s) shooting at you). That clean little white box is not up for debate.
Here's what the PMO's resident mouthpiece, Jason MacDonald, had to say:
A combat role is one in which our troops advance and themselves seek to engage the enemy physically, aggressively, and directly. That is not the case with this mission.
That definition has been flatly debunked by MGen (Ret'd) Lewis Mackenzie and Col (Ret'd) Pat Stogran, both of whom have extensive combat experience.
MacDonald suggests that Canadian special forces, on the ground in Iraq, providing targeting information and data to CF-18 (and allied forces) air strikes, does not constitute "combat". Worse, however, is that the Canadian Forces, in the form of Lt-Gen Johnathan Vance, provided cover for MacDonald by continuing to advance that ludicrous notion.
What's the issue here? Well, Harper told parliament and the country that Canada would not be involved in ground combat operations - at all. The SFOC troops sent to Iraq were provided as trainers. Which suggests he knew that was never the case and he lied.
The simple fact that Harper's mouthpiece has had to come out with a warped definition of "combat" highlights one very illuminating fact: Harper lied to Canada from the get-go about the nature of the Iraq mission and he knew he was lying.
What else is at issue is the behaviour of Lt-Gen Vance. He should have withdrawn from the discussion immediately by stating that Canadian ground troops were obeying the rules of engagement specified by the Government of Canada ... and then let the excrement land in the laps of the politicians. Vance is now party to a political fight in which he has no place and which erodes public trust in the Canadian Forces.
I have contributed to a lot of "After Action" reports, but in this instance one stands out. In referring to a particular action the report stated that:
"Elements of (unit) came into position where company-strength enemy activity was observed. (Unit) continued to provide situation reports without engaging the enemy. At (time) (unit commander) called for gunfire support from (ship) to neutralise enemy position. After (several hours) of continued bombardment (unit commander) reported that enemy was sufficiently incapacitated to allow (different unit) to advance on final objective. (Unit's) combat action successfully cleared the route to (objective)."See that? The members of the "unit" did not fire a single shot from their position. It did however, provide targeting data and coordinates for the ship. Here's the thing: The guy calling the fire is the guy leading the fight. As each bullet left the ship's guns they became the combat multiplier of the ground unit and the combat action was attributed to both the ground unit and the ship.
If I'm on the ground providing targeting information to an air asset with a bomb, it's MY bomb. Nothing about it is not ground combat.
Harper lied and he knew he was lying. Now he's got others lying for him by trying to change the definition of "combat". It is reminiscent of another politician saying, "I did not have sex with that woman."