Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Harper with Mansbridge. I still want to puke.

Far and Wide Steve's assessment of Harper's responses to Mansbridge in last night's CBC interview is bang on the spot and a "must read".

I would add that what Harper accomplished during that interview was to shed any illusion of possessing knowledge related to the Canadian military.

A corpulent Steve Harper sat there and presented his view; something quite different from the truth.

"If I can be frank about this, you know, in some ways I think we can complain that only a handful of countries are carrying the bulk of the load and the bulk of the danger there," Harper said.

"But, you know, the shoe was often on the other foot. For a lot of the last 30 or 40 years, we were the ones hanging back."
So, what is it: 30 years or 40 years? Perhaps he should have been more specific and avoided the broad generalization.

For what it's worth, Harper, in an attempt to portray Canada's past military involvements as benignly obscure, told a blatant lie.

I don't know what occasion Harper is suggesting Canada held back, but without coming out and saying it we can assume that he would have, had he been more than 6 years old at the time, had Canada participate directly in the Viet Nam conflict.

We already know that had he been prime minister at the time, when the Bush regime invaded Iraq, he would have committed the Canadian Forces - without a question regarding the quality of intelligence or the validity of the threat.

Other US involvements such as Grenada and Panama were exclusively US operations. They neither asked for nor wanted Canadian participation.

We supported the British retaking of the Falkland Islands but were never asked to commit forces, though Canadians on exchange postings served with their British units.

Through the 1960s, 70s and 80s, Canada was the world's most active peacekeeping nation, committing more troops to UN missions than any other country. And peacekeeping was the poor sister of military commitments.

Through that same period Canada was engaged with NATO at the front of the Cold War. While there is justification in criticism of some of the resolve, particularly during the Trudeau years, the truth is the operating tempo of the Canadian Navy, the maintenance of Canadian Forces Europe (Lahr and Baden Baden) and the alert state of the Canadian Air Force was higher than a majority of other NATO allies.

After the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, Canada committed forces immediately to the US-led coalition. While the commitment was primarily air and naval forces, the offer of infantry and armour was made. The holding back of Canadian ground forces during the Gulf War was done at the request of US Central Command - not Ottawa.

We did not hold back in Kosovo.

Harper then added this:

"It's certainly engaged our military," Harper said. "It has made it a better military."
And, just how the fuck would Harper know what makes a better military? The man doesn't know the difference between a good or a bad military.

One can only assume that he feels "sustained combat" is what makes a better military. It's an overly-simplistic and faulty view.

What makes a good military is the conditions that existed before the commitment to combat. A good military is well-led, well-trained, disciplined, adaptable and able to respond to a multitude of emergencies. It is employable in a variety of roles. A military force which is highly motivated before they face an enemy is just as likely to dispatch themselves as well as a group of veterans.

The truth is, prolonged combat operations wear down a military force. With attrition and a high casualty rate, a military force becomes blunted. While blood-spattered combat clothing provides a level of hardening and does heighten individual awareness of the enemy's tactics, it also eats away at the ability of leaders to motivate troops. There is a breaking point, and it isn't a long stretch from baptism of fire to debilitating fatigue.

Of course, Harper wouldn't know or understand any of that. He hasn't spent a second of his life in the military much less experience life under fire. He's a military dilettante and a political thespian. He comes from the ranks of militaristic zealots who talk tough but couldn't find the cocking handle on an infantryman's rifle if their lives depended on it.

Every time I hear Harper mouth the words "ultimate sacrifice" when referring to the abruptly-ended life of another young Canadian soldier my blood starts to boil. "Sacrifice" isn't a word Harper understands. He doesn't make any and the troops who have been killed didn't want to be the ones sacrificed - particularly for this:

"It's certainly raising Canada's leadership role, once again, in the United Nations and in the world community where we used to have an important leadership role," Harper said.
Is that why Canadians are fighting and dying? As the combat casualties mount, the prestige of the Canadian government rises?

I dislike all politicians, but Harper is a particularly odious animal.

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