Friday, May 11, 2007

Memo to Stephen Harper on "The Troops"

Mr. Harper:

Pay attention. (That's military parlance for "Drop what you're doing. It's not as important as this.")

CBC is reporting that you consider a discussion of your bungled handing of Afghan detainee transfers something which is detracting from focusing on "the troops".
Canadian soldiers' heroism in Afghanistan is not getting the attention it deserves as members of Parliament spar over the handling of detainees, Prime Minister Stephen Harper says.


"Unfortunately, those soldiers' stories have been eclipsed by quarrels in the House of Commons with respect to allegations about detainees," said Harper, who joined Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor and Canada's chief of defence staff, Gen. Rick Hillier, at the rallies.
Well, Stephen, before we go too much further, go read this.

Then you said this.
"I sincerely hope their story will come to light when the Governor General officially gives them their decorations."
When have such awards not been thoroughly covered by the media? Your suggestion that something might change is disingenuous at best and completely dishonest at worst. Further, here's the Department of National Defence newsroom with up-to-date press releases. Point out the media releases identifying Canadian service personnel who have been recommended for an award.

Can't find any, can you.

That's because, Stephen, no information on the recommendation for an award is permitted to be made public until it has been confirmed by the Governor General. Her office issued a release on April 24th which was picked up by news organizations across the country, including a plethora of hometown publications. As that release was hitting the streets, your minister of national defence was issuing a release about a "new arrangement" regarding detainee transfers. Given the fact that you had ducked and weaved your way around this issue for the better part of ten days at that point, had changed your story several times and then changed the process, why do you think it odd that the major news organs of this country would focus more on the behaviour of your government?

If anyone stole the spotlight from the valour of our troops, it was you, sir!

Nevermind that, beyond identifying the names, ranks, geographic posting and the title of the award, there is almost no information offered until the presentation is made. Citations are not read out until the Governor General makes the presentation. The more comprehensive media story is available only once the presentations are made, and you know that. Notwithstanding some recipients were provided national coverage, despite your dishonest claim.

The heroism and valour of Canadian troops in Afghanistan will get as much coverage as it always has, and it will come at a time when there is enough information made available to present a proper story. Providing, of course, your government doesn't once again erupt in some stunning event, good or bad, which steals the attention of the media away from those who deserve it.

Your affinity to repeat the suggestion that people are "not supporting the troops" because they have a target lock on the way your government is dealing with Afghan detainees and subsequent transfers to Afghanistan government custody is, to put it bluntly, unmitigated bullshit.

None of it is about the troops. In fact, the issue surrounding the troops is that you and your government are putting them at risk by involving them in possible violations of the Geneva and Hague conventions and, worse, robbing them of the ability to believe they are serving Canadian values by treating captives humanely even if they surrender custody.

This isn't about the troops. It's about you.

And make no mistake about it, you are not, never have been, and never will be one of "the troops". You, Stephen, are a flat-faced, pencil-necked, forked-tongue politician. I would bet good money that, until you actually took office, you couldn't have recited the Canadian Forces rank structure, and I suspect you still don't know the difference between a dragoon and a guardsman.

This isn't about the troops. It's about Gordon O'Connor, who may go down in history as one of the most incompetent defence ministers Canada has ever known. He isn't one of the troops either. He too, is a flat-faced, pencil-necked, forked-tongue politician. The man didn't even understand the prisoner transfer agreement when it was first brought up. He has since wallowed around, rotating on his own thumb while you and his cabinet colleagues produced a different daily story about what you knew and when you might have known it. Have you ever wondered why O'Connor stalled at the rank of Brigadier General? Go on. Ask him. If the whole spectacle wasn't so pathetic it might make good comedy.

This isn't about the troops. This is about Rick Hillier, who is the most politically bent Chief of Defence Staff since J.V. Allard. While Hillier wears a uniform, his willingness to make political statements, which we all know have to be approved, makes him one of your home-boys, Stephen.

Canadians support the troops, Stephen. Those kids don't get to pick the mission; they do as they're told and go where they're sent. The making of policy is not their concern. They carry out the orders they receive. No one has a problem with them.

It's you. You make policy and you pick the mission. If you screw that up, it has nothing to do with the troops.

So, stop trying to hide behind them. They don't deserve to be used as a shield by a flat-faced, pencil-necked, forked-tongue politician.

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