Friday, December 05, 2008
There is a soldier who has been to Afghanistan, deep in the valleys with the Afghan people. He has fought with and for them; Drunk chai; Broken read. During his time served in Afghanistan he posted on his blog Bill and Bob's Excellent Afghan Adventure some of the most insightful and certainly the most literary pieces of writing to date on the subject of why we are fighting.
Now that he's home he's still writing; still analyzing the situation and doing it brilliantly. What follows is an excerpt from a recent post. At the end of the post you will find a link to a soldier who has taken up the pen and writes to us from the valleys, among the people and soldiers of Afghanistan. His blog is called AFGHANISTAN SHRUGGED . I urge those of you who might have an interest as to the significance of our role in Afghanistan to bookmark these sites.
"We like to believe that our intentions are noble, and stating unequivocally that our purpose in Afghanistan is, at its root, in our own self-interest does not remove the nobility of our purpose. Sacrificing for the sake of one's children is noble. Leaving our children with the same type of society that we were fortunate enough to have been born into (through no virtue of our own) is noble. In the meantime, it turns out that what we are doing in Afghanistan (and by extension in other GWOT-involved countries) is noble.
If we strive to get it right in Afghanistan, we don't give up, and we succeed in leaving a stable, independent, Islamic Republic with a growing economy and secure borders, the long-suffering people of Afghanistan will be so much better off than they have been for the past thirty years. It turns out that by doing the noble thing for the future of our own children, we have to do noble things for Afghanistan's future, too.
Let's maintain a sense of reality as to what this is all about. Let's not lose the simplicity of some basic truths about what we are involved in because of that fast-flowing data stream carrying the detritus of daily events swirling through our line of sight. Let's not be distracted by the shiny objects we are presented with on a frequent basis.
This is all history and overview type stuff. If you haven't already, I would recommend that you read Afghanistan Shrugged's post about the challenges of the Rubik's Cube at the local level. It's a great post and deserves the widest possible dissemination. It tells it like it is about security at the local level; the key to the rest of the job."
Thursday, December 04, 2008
The Governor General has granted Prime Minister Harper's request to prorogue parliament. During this respite, surely Canadians will have an opportunity to take the time to understand what such a sleazy, self-serving bunch of assholes the opposition "Coalition" really is. This has everything to do with Dion, Layton and Duceppe for their own nefarious gain.
"Last Friday, I asked Canadians to give us their opinions on the parliamentary situation. That feedback has been overwhelming and very clear. They want Canada's government to continue to work on the agenda that Canadians voted for -- our plan to strengthen the economy," Mr. Harper told members of the press.
"I believe Canadians across this country have as their main priority, the economy. The opposition criticism is that we have to focus on the economy immediately and today's decision will give us an opportunity... to focus on the economy and to work together."
"Unfortunately, even before the government has brought forward its budget, and only seven weeks after a general election, the opposition wants to overturn the results of that election," Mr. Harper said. "They propose a new coalition, which includes the party in Parliament whose avowed goal is to break up the country."
One unamed foreign diplomat was quoted as saying that this makes Canada "look like a Banana Republic with snowflakes." No shit!
Thursday, November 13, 2008
The security situation in Kandahar, where the attacks took place, has been deteriorating in recent months due to an increasing number of attacks on innocent afghan citizens. Kandahar province is the Canadian Forces area of responsibilitiy. The Taliban know they can't take on the CF directly so they target the innocent instead.
Canada's Minister of Defense, Peter McKay is asking NATO once again to pony up with some troops who are willing to fight these scum. (Many NATO troops from other countries are not allowed to fight the Taliban due to caveats in their deployment contracts.)
Warning: The video below is graphic.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
The soldier’s who volunteered to fight for King and Country on the battlefields of France and Belgium forged a bond that would forever mark their sense of self as Canadians.
In his excellent book ‘Shock Troops: Canadians Fighting the Great War 1917-1918, Volume Two’, author Tim Cook writes “The Great War was Canada's war of independence. The Canadian forces' battlefield success pushed the nation towards full autonomy and international recognition. In 1919, Canada signed the Treaty of Versailles, which formally ended the war, and that signature, separate from Great Britain's, revealed that something had changed in the relationship between the two countries.
Canada also joined the newly created League of Nations as a member state in its own right, although most of the prime ministers of the 1920s and 1930s did their best to avoid making any commitment that might again drag Canadians overseas from their isolated "fireproof house, far from the sources of conflagration," as one senator famously described it in the 1920s.”
Veteran, and later historian, G. R. Stevens recounted that during the war, "Canadians had become deeply conscious of a national identity and of their own superb performance in the field; they no longer felt it necessary to adopt without question usages, manners and behaviour simply because they were British. They were a branch diverging from the parent stem and the relationship of Mother Country and offspring never would be quite the same again."
“Most Canadians had come from somewhere else: losers and castoffs, the displaced and unwanted, the prosecuted and those seeking a better life had all come to carve a new life out of the vast Dominion's geography. Until the early years of the 20th century, those who lived in central Canada might never visit the east or west coast, and certainly the rural parts of the country spawned men and women less likely to travel beyond the closest towns or cities.
The war changed that. Canadians from across the country were pulled from homes and hearths and sent overseas in the largest diaspora of Canadians up to that point in the Dominion's history. Close to 7% of the country's total population left Canada during the war years, which included an astonishing 20% of the total male population between the ages of 18 and 45. And when they arrived in the camps, and later in the fighting formations of the Canadian Corps or other units, they met men who hailed from across the country.
English Anglo-Saxon Protestants served next to Frenchspeaking Catholics; east-coast fishermen rubbed shoulders with big-city Toronto factory workers; Natives, blacks and Japanese fought side-by-side with men who might never have seen them in Canada, let alone talked to them.
This is not to suggest that the Canadian Corps was one big, happy family that experienced no friction or fights. But the country did come together in its corps, taking great pride in the significant victories on the Western Front, which created a new pantheon of national heroes. The corps' success in the war also created a new sense that Canadians had done something important together, that indeed something "Canadian" existed beyond the political federation of provinces and localities.”
On this day it is imperative to remember those who sacrificed, from Passchendaele to Dieppe; From Korea to Kandahar; on this day we remember those who served and still serve this great country of ours in the name of freedom
Monday, November 10, 2008
I've read a couple of comments suggesting that Scott is trying to pull a fast one by mixing Canadian Forces footage in with other footage. I know quite a bit about Scott Kesterson, and playing fast and loose with Canadian Forces is not his style. Scott went into battle with The Red Devil's on behalf of an Oregon TV Station which broadcast that footage. In fact Scott's videos of Canadian Forces in combat have received almost 2 million viewings in total on YouTube alone.
Currently, Scott is back in Afghanistan embedded with American troops. His main mission is to get the message out about what soldiers are achieving in Afghanistan. For more information go here: http://bouhammer.com/wordpress/?p=1981 to Troy's announcement. The bottom three videos on his site are clearly labled as the Red Devils.
On this evening before Remember Day, it is most important that we honour all of the Allied Forces fighting for freedom in Afghanistan. I salute Scott Kesterson for his outstanding honest work with soldiers.
Thursday, November 06, 2008
Finally the government of Canada, historians, artists and others are making an effort to reconnect Canadians with our history and honour these valiant men and women. It's so very important to remember that, now especially, when we have men and women of the Canadian Forces making these same scarifices in Afghanistan, that Freedom isn't Free.
May God bless Canada.
Below is an excellent 50 minute documentary on Canada's role during the invasion of Nazi occupied France.
Monday, November 03, 2008
The Canadian Corps arrived in Europe in 1914 as loyal subjects of The British Empire. On the battlefields of France and Belgium, they fought, died and worse, as Canadians. They also achieved some of the most significant victories of the war. Those that returned home, returned as Canadians without hyphens.
The six episodes below, 50 minutes in total, taught me things about my ancestors that I didn't know. Perhaps you might find it worth your while.
May God bless Canada!
Monday, October 27, 2008
The following editorial appeared in the National Post this past weekend, Saturday October 25, and rightly points the finger at Pakistan as the key to either a solution or a much greater war than Iraq turned out to be. My own personal concern is what the hell is going on with our British Allies. Not the troops on the ground; they've been fighting like the the Brits we know and love.
It's the general staff that concerns me. They insisted on treating their part of the Iraq war, Basrah, as if it was Northern Ireland in the waning days of the troubles. Consequently, Basrah became ruled by the thugs and murdering scum of the Mahdi Army and other competeing mafia stylye Militias.
Things got so bad in Basrah that Prime Minister Nouri Al- Maliki ordered his generals to draw up a plan of battle in March 2008, without American support and move in and take back control of the city and province. Despite what the early wire service reports had to say the operation was a success. During it Maliki refused to meet with the British commander in the area because he rightly blamed the British for the mess. He was outraged.
Now we have a so called British Brigadier-General saying the war in Afghanistan can't be won! Churchill must be turning in his grave. Monty would have had the man shot! Patton would have shot him himself! (Of course Patton would have shot Monty too if he had the chance. Hee Hee)
In any case, here is a well thought out piece from the National Post outlining the situation we, as allies, face in the very near future. What the writer fails to put into the equation is an Obama Presidency. Give us strength. (Joe Biden says we'll need it).
National Post Editorial Staff, October 25, 2008
The outcome of the war in Afghanistan will be determined as much in the madrassas, safe houses and training camps of Pakistan's north-western provinces as on the roadsides and battlegrounds of Afghanistan itself. The Taliban were an early-1990s creation of fundamentalist elements within the Pakistani secret service-- the ISI -- and they continue to be a force inside Afghanistan today only because they are constantly funded, resupplied and sent new recruits through Pakistan.
So it was encouraging to learn this week that the new Pakistani government has undertaken two new campaigns to eliminate Taliban activity on its soil. Pakistani military commanders have begun enlisting the help of local tribal militias, or lashkars, to battle pockets of Taliban within Pakistan's largely lawless territories. And the Pakistani military has accepted nearly three dozen U. S. special forces trainers to help improve the effectiveness of their own counterterrorist forces.
Both, admittedly, are but small first steps. But at least they are steps in the right direction.
During the past month, many Western leaders have doubted out loud our chances of winning the war against Taliban insurgency outright.
Earlier this month, the commander of British forces in Afghanistan, Brigadier-General Mark Carleton-Smith, told London's Sunday Times that NATO troops may have to withdraw before the insurgents are entirely defeated. "We're not going to win this war," he said. "It's about reducing it to a manageable level of insurgency that's not a strategic threat and can be managed by the Afghan army."
In recommending that NATO nations sit down with the Taliban at the negotiating table, United Nations special envoy to Afghanistan Kai Eide, insisted, "We all know that we cannot win it militarily. It has to be won through political means." Even our own Prime Minister Stephen Harper admitted during the recent election campaign that it was an "unrealistic objective" for Canada and its allies to attempt to defeat the insurgency "in a few short years."
There are several reasons for NATO's inability to dispatch the Taliban, among them the failure of NATO nations -- beyond Canada, the United States, Britain and Australia -- to commit significant forces to combat.
The biggest reason, though, is likely the material support our enemies get from Pakistan, and even from radical Islamic elements with the Pakistani government. When Pervez Musharraf was president, despite his professed devotion to combating terrorism, there were always suspicions that he was wilfully blind to the aid pouring into the Taliban through his nation. Our troops have occasionally witnessed Pakistani agents and border guards loading Taliban trucks or cheering them on as they drive over the Pakistan border and into Afghanistan.
Since General Musharraf resigned earlier this year, the situation in the tribal regions has worsened, and there have emerged hints that the mood in Islamabad has changed. In many foothills regions along Pakistan's western border with Afghanistan, the Taliban are the de facto government, levying taxes, setting up bases and defending supply lines. They even issue business permits and run a rough sort of court system. The challenge to Pakistan's national integrity is so great that the country's government has felt compelled to respond with more than token force.
The Pakistani army is afraid to operate in these areas, so the new national government has recently begun using a tactic that proved highly successful in Iraq, especially in the once Qaeda-dominated western desert region of the country. It now partners with local militias to root out the Taliban and provide a modicum of civil order.
This week, it was also announced that American special forces advisors have been invited by the Pakistanis to help train their counterinsurgency troops. While the Americans have come in small numbers and will be in the country no more than few weeks, under Gen. Musharraf, they could never get invited at all.
Canadians will have to withdraw from Afghanistan at some point, perhaps even before the Taliban have been eliminated. There is a greater chance of the Afghan army and police being able to take over effectively at that point if Pakistan is no longer a sheltering friend for the Taliban.
Friday, October 17, 2008
Scott was sponsored in Afghanistan, by KGW, a Portland Oregon TV Station. According to the KGW website: "Three videos were produced and aired on KGW.com from Operation Mountain Thrust in July of 2006. These videos captured Canadian soldiers in heavy fighting in Panjawi, Hydarabad and Sangin. This was some of the first footage of Canadians in combat since the Korean war. The videos played on KGW.com, YouTube and were awarded the Emmy for Best Photography for web-based media in May of 2007 from the Lone Star Chapter of the Emmy Awards.
Troy Steward, a First Sergeant with the New York National Guard and writer of Bouhammer's Afghan Blog and a friend of Kesterson's, was serving in Afghanistan as an ETT (Embedded Tactical Trainer) with the ANA (Afghan National Army) in very dangerous conditions, situations and locations in Afghanistan at roughly the same time as Scott.
As Steward and Kesterson were writing and posting photos of conditions in Afghanistan, Old Blue, a 26 year Army veteran, was back in his home state of Ohio reading everything they wrote as he prepared himself to deploy to Afghanistan as an ETT. (It turned out to be much more complex than that, but to find out why please read his blog: Bill and Bob's Excellent Afghan Adventure one of the most compelling series of posts from a war zone that you are likely to find.)
Now home from that deployment, he recently wrote "Scott Kesterson touched me deeply with several of his posts, and became one of my heroes for his ability to convey the experience. Having had the experience, my respect for his ability has only grown. I hoped to meet him in Afghanistan; it was not to be."
Of Bouhammer he writes, "Troy's blog gave me the ability to peek inside the mission and get a glimpse of what men were going through seven thousand miles from my home. His blog inspired me and, with my own innate desire to serve, convinced me that the ETT mission was more than worthwhile; it was a calling."
Now back from their deployments in Afghanistan, Old Blue and Bouhammer have been trying to get the word out about what's really happening in Afghanistan and why we need a course correction. And Scott Kesterson? He's back in Afghanistan with the New York National Guard. Scott wanted to get a feel for what motivated these Soldiers, many of whom mobilized and served at Ground Zero in New York City on September 11, 2001, and their view on the mission now. Along with MICHAEL YON these men endeavour to get the word out regarding the importance of the mission in Afghanistan.
Recently Scott Kesterson wrote from Gardez, Afghanistan, "In July 2006 I filmed the operations of 1PPCLI from Edmonton, Canada as part of Operation Mountain Thrust. During a course of three weeks of fighting, under the leadership of LTC Hope, Taliban strong holds were disrupted or destroyed, while key elements of Taliban command and control, disrupted. A large part of the success of the Canadian’s operations were based LTC Hope’s ability to integrate the doctrine of unity of command within the battle space he controlled. In short, unity of command dictates a singular leader rather than multiple leaders or command structures competing for the same thing."
If the situation in Afghanistan is important to you, whether Canadian or American, you need to read Scott Kesterson at Bouhammer's Afghan Blog written by a man who has been in the suck. You can also follow his progress at KGW Afghanistan Blog.
“Sadly, peace is probably only understood by those that have walked in the shadow of death. War is the teacher.” - Scott Kesterson
Three videos Scott shot with 2nd Platoon, 1PPCLI in July 2006, appear below and are a vivid visulization of Scott's words above, taken from a recent e-mail to Troy Steward.
David Leeson is putting the finish to their documentary At War Film, complete with trailers, Bios and Blog at http://www.atwarfilm.com/
Thursday, September 11, 2008
David H. Wilkins,
National Post Published: Thursday, September 11, 2008
Seven years ago on a crystal clear autumn morning, Americans' illusion of their safety and security were shattered into a million smoldering pieces. And all of us -- Americans and Canadians -- began living in a post 9/11 world.
In the immediate wake of the horrific terror attack, so many of us made a silent pact: "We Will Never Forget." The sacred vow was committed to bumper stickers and T-shirts, a promise to the 3,000 victims and the heroes alike that they had not died in vain, that the United States would never again be vulnerable and, yes, that mass murderers would know justice.
For the families and loved ones of those lost and all the rescue workers who saved that day, I imagine the grief remains ever-present. They stay in our thoughts and prayers.
But for the rest of us, time is both a gracious healer and, sometimes, an easy excuse to put aside what was unpleasant and downright terrifying. This is dangerous. We cannot afford to forget the lessons born in great tragedy because history can and often does repeat itself.
There can be no doubt of the tremendous strides we have made in the war on terror these last seven years. Since President George W. Bush promised to make it the focus of his presidency to thwart terror and protect the American homeland, he has been true to his word: We have seen no successful domestic attacks.
But success does not make a good news story. So the same media outlets that day after day brought us the worst news from the front lines, neglect to tell us the empowering news that freedom is on the march and al-Qaeda badly diminished.
Thanks to the surge and our heroic troops, Iraq is well on its way to a sustained democracy. Even the most vociferous opponents of the surge are now forced to admit the success of the surge strategy.
Since Sept. 11, 2001, the United States and our allies around the world, including Canada, have prevented numerous acts of grave terror on the scale of 9/11 or worse, saving untold lives thanks to smart law enforcement and intelligence sharing. The verdict in the U. K. earlier this week convicting the three ringleaders of a terror plot that targeted Canadian air routes is yet more proof that working together, we can defeat those who would harm us.
And while the road to ending terror in Afghanistan began with enormous success in routing the Taliban, serious challenges remain. The enemy is fierce and desperate to reinstate a stranglehold on Afghanistan. America continues its commitment to freedom for the Afghan people and Canadian heroes have been instrumental in this fight as NATO partners there. We will never forget that on America's darkest day, our Canadian friends opened their hearts and their homes to thousands of stranded airline passengers, offering a safe respite during a frightening time.
In his proclamation declaring Sept. 11, 2008 "Patriot Day," President Bush said, "We must not allow our resolve to be weakened by the passage of time. We will meet the test that history has given us and continue to fight and rid the world of terrorism and promote liberty around the world."
The victims and the heroes of 9/11 remind us that the enemy is ruthless and freedom's cause ever just. We cannot afford to let our success make us complacent, or worse, convince us the threat is gone. Terrorists need but one opportunity to shatter another beautiful day, and with it, untold lives.
- David H. Wilkins is U. S. ambassador to Canada.
Tuesday, September 02, 2008
The new troops, better known as the Ramrods or the 2-2's come from the 2nd Infantry Battalion, based at Fort Hood, Texas, arrived in Kandahar in early July and are setting up a base in Maywand district, which is northwest of Kandahar city and borders on Helmand province wher the British and the Marines are fighting the Taliban.
U.S. Lt.-Col. Dan Hurlbut commanding, said the Americans have been scoping out the area for a few weeks. Maywand is considered a dangerous place, overrun by the Taliban, and NATO troops haven't spent much time in the area.
"Our initial impression is there are some folks who are happy to see us. There are other folks who are probably reluctant, at best, because of the Taliban presence that's been there for so long," Hurlbut said.
The Americans will come under the command of Canadian Brig.-Gen. Denis Thompson, who said the U.S. battalion's mission is to disrupt the flow of Taliban money and weapons in Maywand district, making it safer in areas where some of Canada's soldiers are based.
"I am confident that their presence in this district will contribute greatly to the overall security situation and will assist in the expansion of reconstruction, development and capacity building initiatives," Thompson said.
Friday, August 29, 2008
Like many of us I was aware that Vladimir Putin was causing trouble for his Gerorgian neighbours and former Soviet state. I was unaware of the history; the nature and the breadth and depth of Russian meddling.
Fortunately we have Michael J. Totten to enlighten us. " Georgia didn't start it on August 7, nor on any other date. " Totten writes from Tblisi, capital of Georgia. "The South Ossetian militia started it on August 6 when its fighters fired on Georgian peacekeepers and Georgian villages with weapons banned by the agreement hammered out between the two sides in 1994. At the same time, the Russian military sent its invasion force bearing down on Georgia from the north side of the Caucasus Mountains on the Russian side of the border through the Roki tunnel and into Georgia. This happened before Saakashvili sent additional troops to South Ossetia and allegedly started the war."
Totten interviews participants and historians in Tblisi and clears the air for a better understanding of the evil intentions of Vlad the Impaler II and his minions. Read it here"
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan -- Canadians must convince their government to pull out of Afghanistan or face more attacks like the one that killed two Canadian aid workers last week just south of Kabul, the Taliban have said in an "open letter" addressed to "the Canadian people."
Shirley Case and Jacqueline Kirk of the New York-based International Rescue Committee were shot to death in a Taliban ambush in Logar province Wednesday, along with an American woman and their Afghan driver.
The Taliban said while they don't want to kill Canadians, they have no choice as long as Canada continues following the "American" agenda.
"Events such as Logar will happen again, because occupied Afghanistan looks at all actors that are established in the interest of America with an eye of hostility," said the letter dated Aug. 15 and sent on behalf of the "Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan."
"You have to convince your government to put an end to the occupation of Afghanistan so that the Afghans are not killed with your hands and so that you are not killed with the hands of the Afghans."
In the letter, the Taliban suggested Canada "sacrificed" its national and international self-respect by not following a "neutral agenda."
They also blame Canada for injuring and killing many Afghan men, women and children and suggest last week's attack was revenge.
But a spokesman for Prime Minister Stephen Harper called the Taliban threat a 'propaganda exercise.'
"It's not surprising the Taliban are targeting aid workers, they're targeting their own civilians ... " said Kory Teneycke.
"This is a propaganda exercise. We're not going to respond to threats, and certainly it will have no effect on Canadian policy."
In an interview with The Canadian Press, Taliban spokesman Qari Muhammad Yussef affirmed the Taliban position that it does not wish to harm Canadians or be harmed by Canadians.
"Canadians are working under the policy of America. It is a big mistake," he said. "Don't sacrifice your politics for America."
In reality, Canada is among some 40 countries that are part of NATO's United Nations-mandated International Security Assistance Force.
While the United States is part of ISAF, it is also part of Operation Enduring Freedom, a parallel Afghan mission involving the U.S., Afghan forces and several other countries.
By: Toby for Canadian Press
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
A Canadian soldier has died in Afghanistan after insurgents attacked a remote outpost in the volatile Panjwaii district. It's the second death in three days.
Master Cpl. Erin Doyle was killed early Monday in the attack. He was a member of the 3rd battalion of the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry, based out of Edmonton.
Up to 10 gunmen attacked the outpost before dawn. Canadian soldiers returned fire and called in artillery and air support, killing or wounding all of the insurgents.
"Master Cpl. Doyle was killed while he was protecting his position and his fellow soldiers," task force commander Brig.-Gen. Denis Thompson told reporters.
It was the third tour Doyle had served in Afghanistan.
"Erin was a big, tough, mountain of a man who enjoyed the outdoors," said Thompson. "He was a true warrior and just the person you would want beside you in a firefight."
Friends described the 200-lb. man as a "friendly giant." Chief Warrant Officer Chris White knew Doyle for five years, and said he was the kind of guy you want to "sit down and have a beer with."
Doyle leaves behind his wife Nicole and daughter Zarine.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper released a statement Monday saying Doyle was an exceptional and courageous soldier.
A second soldier was injured and taken to the multinational hospital at Kandahar Airfield, where the bulk of Canada's troops are based.
The attack happened at a small outpost beyond the forward operating bases in Kandahar province, according to the Globe and Mail's Gloria Galloway, who is currently reporting from Kandahar Airfield.
She told CTV Newsnet that soldiers have been "devastated" by the loss of two comrades in a span of just three days. Doyle is the 90th Canadian soldier to die in Afghanistan since 2002.
Last weekend, Master Cpl. Josh Roberts was killed during another firefight with insurgents. A convoy of Afghan civilian security personnel was travelling through the area at the time, and the Canadian military is investigating any possibility of friendly fire.
Canadian and U.S. soldiers are interviewing members of two private security forces who were in the convoy. The two groups are called Compass and USPI.
"Their normal contact drill is as soon as they get hit with something, it's 360 -- open up on everything that moves," Canadian soldier Maj. Corey Frederickson told Stars and Stripes, the overseas newspaper for the U.S. Armed Forces. "That's probably what happened. And in the meantime, we think maybe a coalition soldier got hit."
In video footage shot by Stars and Stripes, U.S. soldiers ask members of USPI and Compass whether they fired any ammunition during the incident. When one man says no, a soldier accuses the group of lying.
The soldiers then search vehicles operated by members of USPI and Compass, and find unauthorized heavy weapons and police uniforms.
"The Compass convoy is the one we suspect opened up on the Canadians," U.S. Army Maj. Kevin J. Reilly told the newspaper.
The Canadian military is still investigating the incident and no reports of friendly fire have been confirmed.
Canadian military officials have said private security teams are essential for keeping security in Kandahar, especially in turbulent regions like the Panjwaii and Zhari districts.
With files from The Canadian Press
Friday, July 18, 2008
"This is a different Iraq than the one I left two years ago in so many ways. I am constantly surprised this trip when something subtle points to such an obvious change. It is often only much later that you recognize the measure of what you have witnessed and often it’s the absence of things such as explosions and small arms fire in the distance that point to the progress having been made." Read the whole thing. You'll be glad you did.
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
Lt G has since been promoted to Captain and is still with The Gravediggers. Obviously they realize what a superb officer he is. He now has an LT of his very own. Not only is he a superb officer he's an absolutely brilliant writer with a wicked sense of humor.
After 7 months in Iraq with no serious injuries to The Gravediggers PV2 Hotwheels was filling a generator with gasoline when he was accidentally set on fire. (In Iraq you can't shut down a generator to re-fuel it because so much depends on it.) You can check on his condition here: (http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/matthewwheeler)
For anyone interested in what all the fuss was about KABOOM, there's a way find out. While the Army can force CPT G to shut down his blog and delete all the files; they can't do the same with Google which keeps a cache version of it here: http://kaboomwarjournalarchive.blogspot.com/
Hi final blog entry on June 27, 2008 received an astounding 159 comments. I've also put a link to the archives on the right. If you like to read good writing and haven't read him you owe it to yourself to read KABOOM from the very beginning.
Thursday, July 10, 2008
Ironically Pte. Willmot was not originally slated to join his peers from 1 Field Ambulance to deploy to Afghanistan. When he learned of the deployment he started bugging his regimental sergeant major to include him on the mission. Finally a vacancy opened up and he got his wish.
He was flown to CFB Trenton yesterday for a formal ramp ceremony and today there was another convoy of hearse and black limousines on the Highway of Heroes. RIP Pte. Willmot.
According to Canwest News about 15 family members attended a repatriation ceremony at the Canadian Forces Base in Trenton, Ont., Wednesday for a Canadian soldier killed in Afghanistan on the weekend.
An Air Bus plane carrying the body of Pte. Colin William Wilmot touched down at CFB Trenton at about 2 p.m. for the traditional ceremony to honour fallen military personnel.
Defence Minister Peter MacKay attended the sombre affair for Wilmot.
Lt. Annie Morin with CFB Trenton said as well as friends and family, a man with a tractor-trailer painted brightly with the words "support Our troops" attended the service to show his support.
"It was nice," she said. "We don't normally see that."
The 24 year old, who has been described as an easygoing young man with a keen intellect, had recently returned to the war zone from leave and was extraordinarily proud to be engaged to his fiancee, Laura.
Thursday, July 03, 2008
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — Maureen Eykelenboom's son was a medic with the Canadian Forces in Afghanistan who saw things most Canadians couldn't fathom let alone would ever come close to having to experience. Andrew, known to his friends as Boomer, once plugged the severed legs of an interpreter, hit by a rocket from bleeding out, thus saving his life. He and a fellow soldier did this while a battle raged on around them. Another time, the corporal scooped together into a body bag the pieces of a blown-apart comrade.
Boomer, 23, was packing his bags and getting ready for vacation when he volunteered on one last convoy to the volatile border town of Spin Boldak. His armoured G-Wagon was spotted and targeted by a suicide bomber, and Boomer, like dozens of other Canadian soldiers serving in Afghanistan since 2002, was himself blasted to death on August 11, 2006.
His mother, sporting the shiny Silver Cross on her lapel that next-of-kin get when their children, husbands or wives die while serving their country, made an emotional trip back to Kandahar for Canada Day, when she addressed Canadian soldiers on the current Roto, telling the mostly young volunteers that they don't have to die to become heroes, but that they are heroes just by willing to sacrifice themselves in the service of others. It's a message she and others here wonder whether others back home really understand.
Read the rest, it's well worth it:
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
"The handover of Anbar is expected to take place in the next 10 days," Lieutenant David Russell told reporters, declining to provide an exact date.
Anbar would be the tenth of Iraq's 18 provinces to be handed back to Iraqi forces by the US-led coalition amid a push to transfer security control of the entire country back to Baghdad.
Anbar province in western Iraq, the country's largest, was the epicentre of a brutal Sunni Arab-led fight against the US military after the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime in 2003.
In the early years of the insurgency, US forces fought raging battles in the province, especially in the capital Ramadi and the nearby city of Fallujah.
Fallujah became the symbol of the ultra-violent insurgency before it was virtually razed to the ground in November 2004 by a US military assault launched to seize control of the city.
This province was being touted as a write off on only two years ago. Marine CAPT Travis Patriquin and Sheik Sattar, both since killed in Anbar, are largely responsible for setting in motion what became the Anbar Awakening. May they rest in peace.
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
I created this blog just to have a way to post comments on his. I never really intended to write in this space. Buzzell became a sensation in the blogossphere and inspired many others. My favorite CB inspired blog from Iraq was of none other than The Suspect!
CB as everyone calls him was with the very first Stryker Brigade ever deployed. Prior to deployment the Strykers had a lot of detractors but in the field they proved to be a major success story.
The Pentagon started reading his blog! They didn't know whether to shit or go blind. There were at that time no regulations that covered blogs. What to do? Finally he was told that he could keep on writing but wouldn't be allowed to go outside the wire any more. He loved his job as the M240 Bravo Machine Gunner for his Stryker so he shut her down.
When he got back he wrote a book about his experiences, MY WAR: Killing Time in Iraq, which I highly reccommend. What follows is written by CB:
RETURN TO SENDER
Name: Colby BuzzellPosting date: 6/5/08
Returned from: Iraq
Hometown: San Francisco, CA
Milblog: My War
When I voluntarily enlisted in the Army, I remember asking my recruiter about the fine print on the contract about being called back up to active duty once my enlistment was completed. He assured me not to worry, that every contract said that and it would only happen if "World War III" broke out.
That was a little over five years ago. After serving in Iraq, I elected to use my GI Bill to enroll in a photography course at San Francisco City College. I felt good, and I had a feeling that the days to come were all going to be good as well.
On way out of my building two weeks ago, I checked my mailbox and found a letter from the Department of the Army with "Important Document" printed in all caps on the middle. I immediately felt sick, so I went back to my room, locked the door, grabbed a beer from the fridge and stared out my window for a while.
People outside were all wearing sunglasses and walking about enjoying the sun. I took a picture.
I got out of the Army three long years ago, and since then I've never really talked ill of the military, the people in it, or expressed any regrets at all about enlisting. If I had to do it all over again, I honestly would have. Granted, I got lucky and made it back with all my body parts intact. If I hadn't, my answer might be a little bit different than what it is now.
As terrible as this might sound, whenever someone asks me about enlisting, I'm tempted to encourage them. I figure that the more people who enlist, the slimmer the chances that I'll get called back up. But of course this is ridiculous: No one in their right mind would enlist now, whereas I've already signed the papers. I'm now going back to Iraq for a second time because people like me -- existing service members -- are the only people at the Army's disposal.
Looking back, would I have joined the military if I were doing something that I loved? Or had a job that paid $100,000 a year? Probably not. Those are the men and women I feel that we need to mail these letters to.
Let's see what happens when they receive letters telling them to put on a uniform and ship out immediately to the front lines in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Many people believe that the draft ended the Vietnam War. I'm convinced that reinstating the draft would definitely end this war. Rich, connected people will always find a way to evade mandatory service, but what about the rest of America? The middle class -- people with good jobs and nice lives -- would perhaps riot if the government even suggested that it expected from them what the Army expects from veterans.
What if there were a war and none of the veterans who were called up showed up?
Every time when I hear about a soldier's death now -- which is always reported very briefly -- there always seems to be a short mention that it was the soldier's second or third deployment, and now my name might be among them.
I know I won't get any sympathy at all from the "you dumb ass you signed the contract!" crowd, which is fine, but I really was looking forward to applying my GI Bill to photography classes so I could learn how to take pictures. But now, thanks to not enough Americans volunteering for military service, I have to worry about my picture appearing on the second or third page of my hometown paper with the words, "it was his second deployment" in my obituary.
Colby Buzzell proudly served as an infantryman in the U.S. Army and participated in Operation Iraqi Freedom 2003-04. He is the author of My War: Killing Time in Iraq, for which he won the Lulu Blooker prize in 2007. He lives in San Francisco and spends his free time going on long walks with his camera.
Note: This post was previously published in the San Francisco Chronicle.
Friday, June 06, 2008
Monday, June 02, 2008
People spontaneously started lining the overpasses with Canadian flags as an expression of solidarity with the families and to honour the fallen. This practice grew as more Soldiers were killed. The stetch of highway 401 for CFB Trenton to Toronto has been officially renamed the Highway of Heroes by the provincial government.
This past Friday there was a rally on the Highway of Heroes.
'Red Rally' honours fallen soldiers
Cheers greet Highway of Heroes convoy for 83 lost soldiers
By JENNY YUEN, SUN MEDIA
The Toronto Sun
Juanita Bartsche misses her son Cole's smile every day.
The 23-year-old soldier was sent to Afghanistan on two tours of duty -- but he didn't make it home the second time around last July.
"He was with six guys and they ran over a bomb and got blown up," said Bartsche, 50, while tears welled up. "He loved being in the military. It was just a calling -- the people and children there made him want to go back. My biggest fear is that people will forget him."
Bartsche came from Whitecourt, Alta., to Downsview Park yesterday to honour her son among the 83 fallen troops who fought in the war-torn country.
A massive "Red Rally" convoy estimated to be 1,000 motorcycles and vehicles long snaked along Hwy. 401 between Trenton and Toronto throughout the afternoon to retrace the route fallen soldiers take when they are repatriated to Canada.
The rally included 83 red vehicles, the donated lead car bearing the names of all those who have died while serving in Afghanistan.
A painted transport truck depicting a Canadian Forces motif and a bus loaded with the relatives of 13 deceased soldiers also joined the convoy, which was greeted by cheering supporters at every overpass along the highway.
Lance Arnold solemnly watched the bagpipe players later in the afternoon as he recalled his time with his 32-year-old brother Glen, who was killed by a suicide bomber in September 2006.
"My family didn't get the opportunity to make the trip with him after he was repatriated," said Arnold, 26. "We went back to Petawawa where the services were held, so this is the first chance to see the banners on the overpasses.
"It breaks my heart and I appreciate it a lot. This is the first chance I've met (all the families) and everyone understands what we're going through," Arnold said.
Organizer Brian Muntz, whose parents were liberated by Canadian troops in the Netherlands during World War II, said it was important to preserve and celebrate Canada's armed forces heritage.
"There's a heritage in Trenton that every Canadian soldier that has been lost in battle has repatriated there. It's coming here to this park which is a heritage of our forces base."
Muntz added that all proceeds from yesterday's event would benefit war veterans by buying beds that vibrate to signal a fire alarm. Many veterans have suffered hearing loss since returning home.
The original founders of the Red Fridays campaign, which urges Canadians to support the military by wearing red on the last day of the work week, raised concerns about the rally earlier in the week, suggesting some military families didn't approve of having their loved ones' names printed on a vehicle.
"This is all about respect for the families, who have suffered the ultimate sacrifice," Friends of Veterans Canada president Randy Young told the Sun. "This isn't political."
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
National Post Published: Monday, May 12, 2008
May 12th, 2008, marks the 50th anniversary of the historic Canada-U. S. defense partnership, the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD). We have a lot of things to be proud of in the most successful bilateral relationship the world has ever known, and the most profound example may well be the 50 years of security provided to our people through this important partnership.
NORAD was born a decade after the valiant heroes of the Second World War had confronted and defeated the tyrants of their day and returned home to Canada and the United States, determined to keep the homeland secure.
Their vision would become the most successful and unique peacekeeping agreement the world has ever known. In May, 1958, the people of our two sovereign nations partnered to form NORAD, monitoring the skies, and now also the seas, for man-made threats to North America.
And we've have many occasions to be thankful for their vision since.
During the murderous attacks of September 11, 2001, when North American air space was closed and the U. S. Air Force were ordered to shoot down any threatening aircraft, a Canadian general was sitting in the NORAD chair making those life and death decisions. It was a vivid example of the breadth and depth of trust that exists between our nations.
Today, as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of NORAD, the relationship remains even more vital. We face a different enemy with different tactics on different battlefields, but one whose goals remain the same: destroy what freedom has built. And so today we face the same choices: confront terror and tyranny or look away.
Happy Anniversary, NORAD, and may God bless all who protect and all those they willingly serve.
By David H. Wilkins, ambassador of the United States to Canada.
Wednesday, May 07, 2008
'Stand up guy' killed in Afghanistan
Gwendolyn Richards, Sarah McGinnis and Stephane Massinon , Canwest News
ServicePublished: Tuesday, May 06, 2008
CALGARY - Cpl. Michael Starker had already dedicated years of his life to the Canadian military when volunteers were sought to serve in the dangerous Afghan mission.
Despite having a wife and a burgeoning career as a Calgary paramedic, the medic felt the need to serve one more time.
What was anticipated to be his last tour fighting in Afghanistan proved deadly for the Calgary reservist, who was killed Tuesday during an ambush that also injured another soldier.
The 36-year-old member of 15 Field Ambulance was on foot patrol when the group was attacked in the Pashmul region of the Zhari district.
Starker is the 83rd Canadian soldier to die during the Afghanistan mission.
"We have lost a fine soldier today and our thoughts are with his family and friends," said Brig.-Gen. Guy Laroche, commanding general of Task Force Afghanistan.
"He died helping Afghans build a better future for themselves and their children. His dedication and sacrifice will not be forgotten."
Starker had been with the Edmonton-based unit for the past five years and "his dedication was second to none," 15 Field Ambulance commanding officer Lt.-Col. Roger Scott said in a statement.
"At the time of the incident, our soldiers were conducting a civil-military co-operation patrol in the area, when they came under attack," said Laroche in Afghanistan.
"Our Canadian Forces are making immense sacrifices. They are working to bring security and democracy to the people of Afghanistan, while also protecting and promoting Canadian values," Prime Minister Stephen Harper said in a statement.
"Cpl. Starker made the ultimate sacrifice, and his efforts will remain a source of pride for all Canadians."
Friday, April 18, 2008
'I Feel Him Here'
Ryan Cormier, Canwest News Service
Published: Thursday, April 17, 2008
KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, AFGHANISTAN - Shortly before he went to Afghanistan, Trooper Darryl Caswell invited his mother to CFB Petawawa, near Ottawa, and insisted she buy a pair of military-issue hiking boots just like the ones he would wear overseas.
"He said the good thing was, Mom, your boots will never get to Afghanistan," said Darlene Cushman.
This week, they did. Ms. Cushman wore the boots when she stepped off a plane at Kandahar Airfield on Tuesday and throughout her two-day tour of the mission for which her son died.
"I wanted to see what my son had dedicated and given his life to," she said. "I wanted to feel as much as I could about what Darryl felt. It's difficult, yet it's comforting. Even though Darryl is resting in Ottawa in the military cemetery, I know that I feel him here."
Trooper Caswell, 25, of Bowmanville, was killed by a roadside bomb on June 11, 2007.
His mother and sister, Jolene Cushman, joined family members of four other soldiers who have died in Afghanistan to tour the Kandahar Airfield and be briefed on the progress of the mission.
The military offers the trip to all family members of those killed in Afghanistan as a step in the healing process, said Lieutenant-Colonel Gerry Blais, director of casualty support for the Canadian Forces. It is the second such trip, after a similar one in November. The military limits each trip to members of four or five families to sustain a close feeling among them.
Some take the military up on their offer, others don't.
When the invitation came to his Bridgewater, N.S., home, Jim Davis decided to go "in a heartbeat." His son, Corporal Paul Davis, 28, was killed when the light-armoured vehicle he was in crashed and rolled on an Afghanistan road six weeks after he arrived.
"I always wanted to come when I heard my son was killed," Mr. Davis said. "I knew I had to come to Afghanistan. He sacrificed his life for what I believe was a good cause. I believe in that cause. I wanted to come here and see it for myself."
As part of his trip, Mr. Davis rode in the same type of vehicle in which his son died.
For Barry Mellish, the trip from Truro, N.S., was important for two reasons. He wanted to confirm for himself that there was still progress being made in the country and to see how his son was being remembered.
As he sat next to the Canadian cenotaph, his eyes watered whenever a soldier passed and saluted the monument to fallen soldiers.
Warrant Officer Frank Mellish, 38, died during a ground offensive on Sept. 3, 2006.
Each family was provided with a military escort who served with their son in some way. For Barry Mellish, it was Master Warrant Officer John Barnes, who was standing near his son when he died and was injured in the same attack.
"He was right there," Mr. Mellish said. "We were able to ask him questions about the incident. You look them in the eye and they look you in the eye and you know they're not misleading you. You see their feelings, too. They have a lot of memories, hurt and pain from losing fellow comrades. It helps to see that."
The trip concluded yesterday with a memorial ceremony attended by family members, senior Canadian officers and members of the Afghan National Army. Each family laid a wreath at the cenotaph in honour of their sons and brothers.
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
Into the Valley of Death
A strategic passage wanted by the Taliban and al-Qaeda, Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley is among the deadliest pieces of terrain in the world for U.S. forces. One platoon is considered the tip of the American spear. Its men spend their days in a surreal combination of backbreaking labor—building outposts on rocky ridges—and deadly firefights, while they try to avoid the mistakes the Russians made. Sebastian Junger and photographer Tim Hetherington join the platoon’s painfully slow advance, as its soldiers laugh, swear, and run for cover, never knowing which of them won’t make it home.
by Sebastian Junger January 2008
"The Korengal is widely considered to be the most dangerous valley in northeastern Afghanistan, and Second Platoon is considered the tip of the spear for the American forces there. Nearly one-fifth of all combat in Afghanistan occurs in this valley, and nearly three-quarters of all the bombs dropped by nato forces in Afghanistan are dropped in the surrounding area. The fighting is on foot and it is deadly, and the zone of American control moves hilltop by hilltop, ridge by ridge, a hundred yards at a time. There is literally no safe place in the Korengal Valley. Men have been shot while asleep in their barracks tents.
Second Platoon is one of four in Battle Company, which covers the Korengal as part of the Second Battalion of the 503rd Infantry Regiment (airborne). The only soldiers to have been deployed more times since the September 11 attacks are from the 10th Mountain Division, which handed the Korengal over last June. (Tenth Mountain had been slated to go home three months earlier, but its tour was extended while some of its units were already on their way back. They landed in the United States and almost immediately got back on their planes.) When Battle Company took over the Korengal, the entire southern half of the valley was controlled by the Taliban, and American patrols that pushed even a few hundred yards into that area got attacked."
This is a must read article. It is in depth and there is also video footage as well some of the best war photography that I've seen. Follow the link:
Wednesday, April 09, 2008
This song is a powerfull reponse to the cut and run crowd.
Cpl. David Thibodeaux (active duty U.S. Marine, musician, father, husband, and combat veteran of both Afghanistan and Iraq) along with Toby Keith's Easy Money Band eloquently and cleverly "answer" Dixie Chicks' hit "Not Ready To Make Nice"
Hat tip to Subsunk at BLACKFIVE
Friday, April 04, 2008
BAD VOODOOS WAR is a must see. You can watch it here: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/badvoodoo/
Wednesday, April 02, 2008
JD Johannes went to Iraq in 2005 to embed with his former Marine unit. I have that DVD. It's good. I've just ordered the latest compmpilation. From what I've seen it will be better than the 2005 documentary. It can be purchased as a compilation or as 3 separate discs.
About the Documentary Series
The 'Outside the Wire' series of four documentaries about Iraq started when JD Johannes went to Iraq with his old Marine Corps unit in 2005 to produce syndicated television news reports.
Johannes returned to Iraq in 2007 to see 'The Surge' and the 'Anbar Awakening' first hand.
The 2005 trip resulted in the the release of the original 'Outside the Wire: Call Sign Vengeance' which follows one Marine infantry platoon through their deployment to the Fallujah area in 2005.
The 2007 trip resulted in three documentaries: 'Danger Close', 'Anbar Awakens' and 'Baghdad Surge'.
'Danger Close' is an up-close, in-depth look at a complex attack by Al Qaida on small, distant U.S. Army outpost on the edge of the Euphrates river valley. JD Johannes was the only reporter to witness the attack and followed the US Army paratroopers into combat--nearly getting himself killed.
'Anbar Awkens' shows the greatest turn-around of the Iraq War--the tribes of Al Anbar province joining with the coalition to fight Al Qaida--from the perspective of the Jumayli tribe. The Jumayli tribe--with no prompting from the Coalition--turned on Al Qaida and engaged in a serious gun-battle with Al Qaida before formally joining with the coalition.
'Baghdad Surge' is a look at the surge from asphalt level. This episode follows a U.S. Army infantry Captain through a 'day-of-the-surge' and the modern three-block-war.
The interviews with Soldiers and Marines were conducted at the Combat Outposts they lived and worked at by JD Johannes.
With the exception of digital animations and brief clips of insurgent video--everything was shot by JD Johannes.
Nothing was staged, recreated or rehearsed. The bullets, bombs, blood and bad guys are all real. http://outsidethewire.com/
Wednesday, March 12, 2008
I first saw the video over at Troy Steward's Military and Afghanistan blog. Like him I was familiar with song but never paid attention to lyrics.
The video certainly puts in into perspective. To quote Troy, a decorated Afghanistan War Veteran: "I am glad that My Chemical Romance used WWII as a backdrop for this video and did not try to use the current wars, which would do nothing but spin this video into a political statement of what type or another. The message applies to any war, without a doubt. So even though it uses WWII as a visual for the song, make no mistake this easily applies to today's wars."
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
Sangsar, Panjawi Disctrict, Kandahar Province in Afghanistan.
Canadian and Afghan National Army troops move at night, and engage Taliban forces at dawn. The firefight drags trough the morning. A wounded talib is given first aid and evacuated by a US helicopter to Kandahar Airfield for treatments.
Notice the bullets and RPG rounds wizzing by close to the cameraman. Wicked.
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
POLITICIANS NEED TO BACK SOLDIERS
By SALIM MANSUR
The debate over Canada's role in Afghanistan is the type in which democracies engage, and Canadian soldiers on a mission in harm's way need to know they have the government, Parliament and the people of Canada behind them.
This debate, however, will be heard beyond Canada and it will indicate, despite spin doctoring, that a parliamentary majority is lacking for Ottawa to meet its obligation to the UN-mandated and NATO-led mission to support the Afghan people and the elected government in Kabul.
It will send a message that Canadians are unwilling to see their soldiers engaged in combat missions, and that among the NATO members there is insufficient commitment to sending the minimum number of troops requested for deployment alongside Canadian soldiers in the Kandahar region, where the Taliban insurgency remains robust.
And the message will be unmistakable.
It will tell the enemies of the Afghan people -- Taliban insurgents and al Qaida terrorists -- that while the West is not about to cut and run from fighting, it does not have the stomach to stay in the fight for the length of time needed to eliminate them.
This is what Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar have been telling al Qaida and Taliban fighters from their hideouts in the mountainous caves of the Hindu Kush on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.
This is also what the Afghan people fear, given their past experience of being abandoned by the West after the former Soviet Union withdrew its communist army of occupation in 1989. At stake are the hard-won gains made since 2002 by a society liberated from the cruel grips of savage fighters and foreign terrorists.
But there will be others -- Iranian clerics, Hezbollah and Hamas leaders, Syrian and North Korean dictators, Chinese leaders and African tyrants who have made wastelands of their countries -- hearing the message that the West, except for the United States, is reluctant militarily to secure interests beyond its immediate frontier.
The debate in Ottawa and in the European capitals is revealing about where the world's richest democracies stand in confronting Islamists -- the contemporary enemies of freedom and democracy -- and those who might well be the future enemies in a century that is barely a decade old.
Canada is a member of the original G-7 and a founding member of NATO together with Britain, France, Germany and Italy.
The economy of these allies taken together exceeds $12 trillion. Their combined population is close to 300 million.
Yet the message over the Afghan mission is that these rich democracies are reluctant to send soldiers into combat against an enemy possessing neither an economy nor holding territory -- an enemy that is more or less a pack of medieval-minded brigands. Also an enemy that can well be eliminated with the required resolve, as the American soldiers have succeeded in doing in Iraq.
If Canada and its NATO allies are unwilling to engage in combat missions in Afghanistan, why then should anyone have any faith that the West will defend itself in its own backyard, or intervene militarily elsewhere to prevent Rwanda-type genocide?
The Afghan mission was not designed to test the collective will of NATO countries, nor the leadership capacity of its richest members and show them wanting, yet it has come down to this unpalatable truth.
Tuesday, February 05, 2008
Route clearance involves going out ahead of foot patrols to find and destroy IED's in heavily armoured vehicles. It is dangerous and exhausting work; sometimes patrols went on for 36 hours continuously.
Now he is going back to Iraq as an embedded photo-journalist. You can donate to his embed by buying one of his photos at his website. (See the post New News for the link.)
TD's flight was delayed, so he will try agin tomorrow. In the meantime he writes:
" The trouble I had at the security checkpoint turned out to be for naught. My flight was delayed to the point that I would positively miss the connector to my flight across the Atlantic, so I rescheduled for the next flight out and called my girlfriend: “Hey babe… Want to say goodbye to me again?”
I’m sure it’s a little cruel to shift someone so quickly between tears and laughter, but I needed a ride home. My bag went on without me to my final point of departure from the United States- hopefully it will make it to the Middle East along with me, or I might get to soak up more Kuwaiti sand than I really want to.
Once I get to Kuwait, I will likely be unable to update for some time. I’m told that the damaged cables the Mediterranean and Persian Gulf have brought internet access in the region to a virtual (heh heh) standstill. In the meantime, spread the word that Teflon Don is back in the suck and blogging again." http://acutepolitics.blogspot.com/
Cpl. Etienne Gonthier from St-Georges-de-Beauce was killed by a roadside bomb on Jan. 23.
The 21-year-old was on his first foreign mission and was due to return from his stint in Kandahar in March.
He had just been promoted to corporal from sapper, but the news didn't have time to reach him before he died.
On Saturday his brothers in arms saluted the man, called Jelly bean by friends, for his commitment to the military.
"He's the kind of guy that always did his best with conviction and that was taking care of others," Sgt. Jean-Francois de Wolfe told all-news channel LCN.
"No matter our living and working conditions, Etienne never complained. He was always in good spirits. That's what I'll remember," Cpl. Philippe Arvisais also told LCN.
Gonthier was the 78th Canadian soldier killed in Afghanistan since the mission began in 2002. He would have turned 22 yesterday.
I offer my sincere condolences to his family and friends. May he rest in peace.
Monday, January 28, 2008
This decision lead to the neglect of our military both personnel and equipment. Under his reign of error Chretien talked big about our military while destroying it behind the scenes.
After September 11, 2001, it was time to s***t or get off the pot. So in early 2002 we sent troops to Afghanistan, mainly to Kabul, in what was essentially a relatively safe tour of duty for the troops. Meanwhile back in the back stabbing world of Canadian politics a guy named Paul Martin managed to oust Chretien, after much plotting, and usurp the role of Prime Minister, which as it turned out he wasn't very good at. (They called him MR Dithers, 'nuff said)
One thing he did do however was let himself be persuaded by NATO that Canada really needed to step up to the plate in Afghanistan and take on some heavy lifting in a combat role in the Southern Afghanistan province of Khanadar which was to begin in early 2006. As a former Canadian Soldier I was pleased as punch.
I was even more pleased (thrilled would be more like it) when Martin called an election and promptly lost to the Conservatives of Stephen Harper. To be certain Harper only has a minority government but he quickly proved to be a major political strategist.
With Liberal party in disarray (oh, the back stabbing was a sight to behold) they held a convention which was basically split between the centre right and the loony left with a few moderates in between. This led to a stalemate that caused Stephane Dion become the Leader of the Liberal Part of Canada. (Like Martin before him he's not very good at it)
To make a long story short Harper called a surprise vote in the House of Commons to extend the mission for February 2008 to February 2009. He won. Then he started beefing up the military.
This has caused a stir in the population as the mission has never properly been explained to Canadians either by the Liberals who started the mission or the Conservatives who prosecute the war.
Now, back the lack of Military helicopters I mentioned above. We only have a relatively small number of Soldiers in the 'Stan, 2,500 to be more exact, but per capita we are taking casualties out of proportion to our allies who are also engaged in combat operations there. I. e. the Americans and the British. That's because our troops have to DRIVE every where. No helicopter insertions or re-supply.
To shed some light on the subject for the populace Prime Minister Harper commissioned an independent panel to report on the situation on the ground currently and recommendations for the way forward. Heading up this panel as Chairman would be John Manley a former Liberal Deputy Prime Minister in the previous government. The report has now been tabled. What follows is the forward to the report.
If I learned one thing from this enquiry, it is that there is no obvious answer to the question of Canada’s future role in Afghanistan. But our presence in that distant land does matter.
Canada’s commitment in Afghanistan matters because it concerns global and Canadian security, Canada’s international reputation, and the well-being of some of the world’s most impoverished and vulnerable people. Our commitment is important because it has already involved the
sacrifice of Canadian lives.
At the same time, I realize many Canadians are uneasy about Canada’s mission in Afghanistan. They wonder what it’s all for, whether success is achievable, and in the end, whether the results will justify the human and other costs. The most difficult decision a country can make is to send its young men and women into harm’s way, particularly when the outcome may appear less than certain. I can assure Canadians that each of us on the Panel wrestled with this question throughout our enquiry.
We find ourselves, with our allies, in a situation of conflict in a land that is far from us, little known by us and where our interests do not seem self-evident. We are trying to help a country whose recent history has been one long, unending tragedy, and whose prospects still appear bleak.
The question of Canada’s future role defies a simple answer. It is complicated by the challenging nature of the mission and by the difficult neighborhood in which Afghanistan is situated, made even more volatile by the recent assassination of Benazir Bhutto. It is made more complex because we assumed responsibility for fighting an insurgency in a dangerous province of the country and we did so with little political debate and not much public engagement. And that insurgency is far from defeated.
Our Panel consulted very broadly – both here at home and abroad. We traveled through four provinces in Afghanistan. We tried to assess progress made to date and the requirements for improved prospects. And we sought to answer the question of Canada’s appropriate role in the future.
Our assessment of the situation recognizes the enormity of the challenge: regional instability; slow progress on reconstruction and development; mounting insecurity and violence; corruption, criminality and increasing poppy production. But there can be no doubt that compared to the starting point in 2001, living conditions in Afghanistan have seen measurable, even significant improvement.
Whenever we asked Afghans what they thought ISAF or Canada should do, there was never any hesitation: “We want you to stay; we need you to stay.” Without the presence of the international security forces, they said, chaos would surely ensue.
The Panel learned early that we must be careful to define our expectations for success. Afghanistan is a deeply divided tribal society. It has been wracked by decades of war and is one of the poorest countries on Earth. There should be no thought that after five or even ten years of western military presence and aid, Afghanistan will resemble Europe or North America. But we came to the conviction that with patience, commitment, financial and other forms of assistance, there is a reasonable prospect that its people will be able to live together in relative peace and security, while living standards slowly improve.
The essential questions for Canada are: how do we move from a military role to a civilian one, and how do we oversee a shift in responsibility for Afghanistan’s security from the international community to Afghans themselves?
To achieve these objectives, much still needs to be done.
Institutions that are respected need to be built and the Afghan National Army and Police need to be further recruited and trained.
Agricultural districts need to be reclaimed from land mines and poppy fields, so that traditional crops can once again flourish where they have in the past.
Both the reality and the perception of corruption in the Government of Afghanistan must be rooted out. They are undermining not only the hope for an Afghan solution but also support for the Western forces sacrificing their lives to help secure the situation.
Roads, bridges and electrification must be enhanced, so that ordinary Afghans can see progress.
With all that needs to be done, no end date makes sense at this point. Afghanistan presents an opportunity for Canada. For the first time in many years, we have brought a level of commitment to an international problem that gives us real weight and credibility. For once, our 3Ds (defense, diplomacy and development assistance) are all pointed at the same problem, and officials from three departments are beginning to work together.
But the cost is real, and it is high.
Canadians don’t need any lessons in sacrifice. Our history is replete with examples of courage and fortitude in conflict against difficult odds when the cause was just and the determination to prevail was present. But our Panel concluded that the sacrifice of Canadian lives could only be justified if we and our allies and the Afghans share a coherent, comprehensive plan that can lead to success, and if our allies are willing to stand with us with the resources and commitment that are necessary to make success possible.
We like to talk about Canada’s role in the world. Well, we have a meaningful one in Afghanistan. As our report states, it should not be faint-hearted nor should it be open-ended. Above all, we must not abandon it prematurely.
Rather, we should use our hard-earned influence to ensure the job gets done and gets done properly.
Honourable John Manley, P.C.
Ottawa, January, 2008
More on the report later but for me reading the words: "Canadians don't need any lessons in sacrifice." Coming from a very powerful member of the Liberal Party of Canada is music. To any Americans reading this John Manley = Joe Lieberman; Stephane Dion = Nancy Pelosi.
Monday, January 14, 2008
Monday, January 14, 2008
I Knew It Was Coming
I actually wondered why it hadn't happened before. Our press tends to assassinate us. In their fervor to recreate the journalistic glory of Viet Nam, you knew that they had to do it. They had to begin to portray veterans of this struggle as "troubled," leaning towards, "murderous." Perhaps it has happened before and I didn't notice it, but here it is;
Here's the headline:
Across America, Deadly Echoes of Foreign Battles - New York Times
Chilling. Dramatic. Oooooh, deadly. What's deadly?
The New York Times actually did a series addressing the "trend" of murderous veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan. No less than 9 journalists and researchers created new demographics in order to suit their needs, drawing the conclusion that veterans are a dangerous lot because so many of us suffer from PTSD and the government refuses to help us. The Viet Nam specter is clearly invoked, and the underlying theme is that hundreds of thousands of mentally diseased trained killers are knowingly and/or negligently unleashed upon the peaceful people of the United States by an uncaring military establishment and a wantonly careless government.
"The New York Times found 121 cases in which veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan committed a killing in this country, or were charged with one, after their return from war. In many of those cases, combat trauma and the stress of deployment — along with alcohol abuse, family discord and other attendant problems — appear to have set the stage for a tragedy that was part destruction, part self-destruction." - New York Times
Not only that, but we are very very very likely to kill our own families. And... SHHHHH... we tend to own GUNS. >gasp! <
Imagine the horror. I, personally, am totally angst-ridden. I can't believe that any responsible government would create monsters like... well, like me... and then unleash us upon an unsuspecting society?!?!? What in the name of all that is decent is going on in this world?
We, ladies and gentlemen, are the Love Canal. We are the radon gas of society. I am the avian flu.
The article actually made me afraid of myself. Since reading the article I am constantly looking around to see if I am sneaking up on me with murderous intent.
Well, let's take a look at that, shall we? With the limited information that I have available on the internet, I've discovered that there are roughly 700,000 veterans of the Global War On Terror who have been discharged. That does not count the number who have not been discharged (remember, there are nearly 1.4 million active duty military members.) I have also discovered that the murder rate in the United States is roughly 7 per 100,000 people per year. That means that in a population of the size of the discharged veterans, you would expect a total more along the lines of 294 homicides over the course of six years.
Now... am I stretching here, or is someone manipulating information to make it appear that I and my brothers (females accounted for 1 of the 121 murders cited) are unconscionable risks to society? Now, remember, 9 people worked full time to produce a printed series on this issue. Tragic stories were told. Tragic graphics were created. Any story of a senseless murder is tragic. You can manipulate all kinds of emotions when you tell stories of a 20 year old father who beats his 2 year old to death.
Unfortunately, that happens several times a year in most decent sized cities. It was one of the cases involved. One. Not a dozen, not a hundred. One. Yes, it is pitiable. Yes, it is heinous. It's absolutely heartbreaking; but it is one guy out of 700,000 in six years.
Again, I say to you; our own media is manipulating this war and the information that is coming from it in some twisted attempt to recreate their society-shaping role of the 1960's. Where were the teeth of the people who run the media at this point in time cut? They were cut on the stories of Watergate, Viet Nam, McNamara, My Lai, and Kent State. Deranged combat veterans are mother's milk to these most esteemed professionals.
Oooops... here's another number; they earlier mentioned 121. Now they bring in another number. Let's see what that is, shall we?
"The Times used the same methods to research homicides involving all active-duty military personnel and new veterans for the six years before and after the present wartime period began with the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.
This showed an 89 percent increase during the present wartime period, to 349 cases from 184, about three-quarters of which involved Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans. The increase occurred even though there have been fewer troops stationed in the United States in the last six years and the American homicide rate has been, on average, lower.
The Pentagon was given The Times's roster of homicides. It declined to comment because, a spokesman, Lt. Col. Les Melnyk, said, the Department of Defense could not duplicate the newspaper's research. Further, Colonel Melnyk questioned the validity of comparing prewar and wartime numbers based on news media reports, saying that the current increase might be explained by "an increase in awareness of military service by reporters since 9/11." He also questioned the value of "lumping together different crimes such as involuntary manslaughter with first-degree homicide." " -New York Times
Uhhhhh-huh. Hmmmm. A little more arithmetic, Copernicus, please? Ah-ha! Okay... now we see that three quarters were combat veterans. Okay. Three quarters of 349 is 274. Now, we already know that we are missing some veteran's numbers... the ones who haven't left the service. Oh, perhaps a hundred thousand or so (out of a pool of approximately 1.4 million, I think I'm being generous.) But we'll just go with the number that we have. We already determined that over a 6 year period, we would see roughly 294 in the standard population, or twenty more than in the comparable military population... actually an admittedly larger population, which should have more homicides, not less.
A crime wave. It's shocking. It's heinous. How can we, as a society, tolerate the wanton abandon with which our veterans murder us??? I demand action.
Thankfully, our press, led by no less than the venerable New York Times, has leapt to our rescue with the greatest of attempts to educate us all about the dangers that people like this bring. Oh, I'm sorry... I mean people like me.
I saw the wholesale slander that was levied against Viet Nam veterans. I remember that it went so far that the Veterans Administration had to run television ads begging people to hire veterans. Laws were passed to protect the rights of veterans. I am protected by those laws at my civilian employer. But where did the man on the street get the idea that war veterans were undesirable? Gee... I don't know. What do you think?
Remember "The Deer Hunter?" You know, Christopher Walken is still crazier than a shithouse rat after that one, just from playing a Viet Nam vet. I'm assuming that's what did it to him. "Rambo"... great entertainment; it played upon that Viet Nam killer vet who's really no good for anything other than killing kind of thing. Hassle him for vagrancy and he'll tear your whole town down. Tens of thousands of Viet Nam veterans struggled for years, practically ashamed of their veteran's status. I remember that. My brother was a Viet Nam veteran. He never forgot what his country... not his government; his country did to him. His country threw dog crap at him and turned their back on Viet Nam veterans for years.
I was wondering when it was coming. Our media is so damned predictable. You knew it had to start sometime. Now it has. Now comes the slander of the soldier. Oh, their statistics are constructed by the best journalists they could find sitting around the assignment desk... at least as reliable as mine, I'm sure. I mean, if you can't find a real statistician, find a journalist, because they are the most trustworthy and accurate people in the world, other than statisticians and tobacco company PR guys.
It's ALL CRAP.
Yep, some of us are going to have problems. Guess what? Lots of people have problems. A Marine just murdered some girl that he apparently got pregnant by raping her and he was apparently afraid of the baby turning out to be his. Guess what? Scott Peterson wasn't even in the military, and he killed someone he got pregnant while he was married to her. Oh, by the way... that Marine was never deployed to a combat zone. That's not a military issue, it's a human issue. That's not PTSD, it's just crime.
I am a tiny voice in a corner of the web. I started this to share with some of my friends and to jog my memories when I get home. I never want to forget what this feels like. It turns out that sometimes people who I don't know read this. So, I will raise my feeble cry and throw the bullshit flag. I will not tolerate this without raising my voice, for I have one.
I just sent a bunch of the finest young men that South Carolina has ever offered the world home. Don't you dare slander them. Shame on the New York Times for trying to paint our veterans with this brush. Shame on them as much as I have ever shamed anyone in my life. Those nine people have earned my everlasting disgust.
Here are their names:
DEBORAH SONTAG and LIZETTE ALVAREZ, Alain Delaquérière, Amy Finnerty, Teddy Kider, Andrew Lehren, Renwick McLean, Jenny Nordberg and Margot Williams
Now, ladies and gentlemen, if you would care to make amends, why don't you come to where I am and see what is being done for the people in the little AO (Area of Operations) that I work in? Why don't you come here and see the flood control project in the village down the road? How about the bridge up the other way? I got a road for you to see. Why don't you come here and see the village assessments, involving the village elders in improving their conditions, the schools that have been built? Why don't you come here and see the huge hearts that these young soldiers have? Why don't you come here and see the clinic on this FOB that is specifically for the local nationals? Why don't you come here and see how we are working to iron out the corruption and improve the Police? Why don't you come here and see how we are working to get this problem-riddled young nation to stand up?
Why don't you write about that? Because it's easier to sit find stories of shocking crimes and heart-wrenching human tragedy. It's easier to manufacture data and then make the blanket statement that our homicide rate is higher because... you say so. Because a school in a tiny valley in Afghanistan doesn't sell. Bastards.
I know that was just wasted electrons, but I had to offer you the opportunity to make it right.
Now, I have seen young men who have been referred for treatment. One was the young man who had a machine gun blown in half right in his face and then just scant days later, he took an RPG in the door and was wounded. Yup, it shook him up. Yup, he needs a little help. Can't blame him at all. That was so scary that most of you can't imagine it. He's going to be fine. The other one from our little group was referred because he saw his friend (the aforementioned soldier) blown up with not one but two RPG's. Of course, he was a half a bubble out of plumb when he got here, so I'm not sure that he counts. It's good that he got a little help, though. Doubtless he needed it.
Just this week a Combat Stress Team came here to the FOB. Leaders were encouraged to have their soldiers talk to the trained mental health professional who was here. Plenty did. Our government has abandoned us and is clearly not taking combat stress disorders seriously. It took a helicopter to get that team here. Total lack of commitment.
There are people who will have problems. There are millions of Americans who will suffer from mental illness this year. There is stigma about mental illness in every sector of American society, including ours. But to manipulate data and emotions to stir the shadow of fear in people about our combat veterans is a careless misuse of the power of the press. Shame.
This article was on the front page of the New York Times web site. Journalistic integrity is an oxymoron.
My sources were the US Department of Justice, the DOD, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and my own eyes full of the dust of Afghanistan.