• Canada’s Changing Mission in Iraq

    March 9, 2016 // 7 Comments »

    air force


    Think what it must be like to be one of America’s allies.


    You enjoy some trade, groove on uber-Americanos like Beyonce and Brad Pitt, and visit Disneyland. But then there’s America again at your cubicle, asking again that you join some coalition, get some troops into another wacky American overseas intervention for freedom, or regime change, or to stop another impending genocide only American can stop. What can you do? It’s hard to say no, but given how poorly the last one worked out, and the one before that, and the one before that, nobody at home is in favor of another round. Still, you’re stuck giving something…

    And so it is with Canada, that big snowy place near the U.S. that is not Mexico (why doesn’t Mexico have to join these coalitions anyway?)


    New Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau fulfilled one of his most contentious election campaign promises, as Canadian military airstrikes on Islamic State in Iraq and Syria ceased in mid-February. Canada is still indirectly involved in the aerial campaign, and in training Iraqi security forces.

    “I’m very happy that the government has decided that there may be more productive things that they can focus on than bombing,” said one independent research and advocacy group based in Ottawa. “They’re indirectly continuing to participate in the air campaign, but at least they’re not directly participating and I think that’s an important step forward.”

    Canada formally announced it had stopped all air strikes in Iraq and Syria on 15 February. They will continue to fly aerial refueling missions, and conduct reconnaissance from the air. More significantly, Canada will up its small ground forces, who are engaged in what has to be the longest and most thorough training mission in human history, inside Iraq.

    As a side note, somebody from the West has been training Iraqi and Kurdish troops since around 2005. After 11 years, you’d think they would be the best-trained soldiers in the world (HINT: They are not.)

    The motion presented to the House of Commons about changing the Iraq mission stipulates that Canada will work to engage with political leaders in the Middle East in the aim of “finding political solutions” in the region. No one in Canada has elaborated on how it plans to aid Iraq establish good governance. That process, too, has been ongoing since 2003, without much to show for it.

    Oh Canada!



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    Posted in Iraq, Military, Syria

    Merci, and Good Riddance – Canada Withdrawing Fighter Jets from Iraq, Syria

    October 26, 2015 // 3 Comments »

    justin

    America’s presidential candidates go on TV and brag about killing a man with their own hands (one guy) and froth over the idea of starting even more wars (all the others.) In Canada, they get a supermodel as their new king, who speaks French, looks like a young Matthew McConaughey, and who tells America to shove its stupid wars up its overweight *ss.

    Canada’s prime minister-elect, Justin Trudeau, pictured looking fabulous, said Tuesday he told Barack Obama that Canadian fighter jets would withdraw from fighting Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

    Western nations only go to war when coerced by the United States in joining some coalition. No other nation on the planet makes war as often and as unsuccessfully as the United States. No other nation makes war its business.

    So you can imagine the huge hassle it is for Canada to have to suck up to its war-loving, gluten-free neighbor to the south, tossing in a few planes or troops whenever America has another hissy fit and has to invade somewhere. Canada famously refused to be sucked into the 2003 Iraq invasion, for example (though did play in Afghanistan.)

    Quick question: what about Mexico? They also share a border and NAFTA with America, plus America graciously buys up 99 percent of its dope crop, and thus has the same need to suck up, but they also always seem to duck these war calls. Hmmm.

    Anyway, Trudeau said “while Canada remains a strong member of the coalition against ISIL,” he made clear to Obama “the commitments I have made around ending the combat mission.”

    It was not immediately clear if Trudeau added “you warmongering bastard” and/or said he’d nail Michelle with his old man’s “moves like Jagger” at the next state dinner.

    Oh Canada!



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    Posted in Iraq, Military, Syria

    Child, Imprisoned by U.S. in Guantánamo at Age 15, Granted Bail in Canada

    April 28, 2015 // 2 Comments »

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    History will remember us, but not well, and not as good and as just.

    For we were the most powerful nation on earth, and we imprisoned a child named Omar Khadr in an off-shore penal colony, in the 21st century.

    Omar Khadr in Canada

    A Canadian court ordered on April 24 that Omar Khadr, the only Canadian to have been imprisoned at Guantánamo, be released on bail after 13 years in that shameful place. Khadr was thrown into Gitmo at age 15.

    In 2010, eight years after his imprisonment commenced, Khadr pleaded guilty before a military commission to killing an American soldier with a grenade in 2002 during a battle in Afghanistan that also left Khadr severely wounded. Khadr is now 28, having spent the latter half of his childhood in an American prison.

    Khadr was returned to Canada in 2012 to serve the remainder of the sentence the United States imposed, after he had already served eight years. He is now in a prison in Alberta. Another hearing at the Court of Queen’s Bench will determine when he will be released and will set conditions. The decision noted that the Canadian government challenged evidence that Khadr had been a model prisoner and that he was a “strong candidate” for release. Canada’s Conservative government had been reluctant to accept Khadr now that the U.S. is doing some housecleaning in Gitmo. Canada’s public safety minister said the government would appeal the bail decision. It is unclear whether or not that step will bar Khadr’s release.



    Prisoner at Gitmo

    The Canadians knew about Khadr.

    In fact, they interviewed him in Guantanamo in 2003, observed by his American jailers. Khadr was just 16 then, and cried during the session. The Canadians told the kid that “we know who [your father] is… he is a lost cause.” Khadr responded “He didn’t do anything” and the Canadian interrogators moved on to question him about his brother, his mother and the whereabouts of other family members. Khadr mentioned his education had ended with 8th grade, and said he was forced into fighting in Afghanistan, something that sounds about right from a 15-year-old. He claimed his earlier confessions to his American jailers were false, that he just told them what they wanted to hear, again about right for a 15-year-old being questioned at length by professional interrogators, but you never know with these people, right?

    According to a report by his Canadian government interrogators, “In an effort to make him more amenable and willing to talk,” [Redacted] has placed Omar on the frequent flyer program: for the three weeks before [Redacted’s] visit, Omar has not been permitted more than three hours in any one location. At three hours intervals he is moved to another cell block, thus denying him uninterrupted sleep and a continued change of neighbors. He will soon be placed in isolation for up to three weeks and then he will be interviewed again.” The Canadian writer cheerfully commented “He did not yawn or indicate in any way that he was tired throughout the two-hour interview. It seems likely that the natural resilience of a well-fed and healthy seventeen-year old are keeping him going.”

    The Canadians gave him some food from McDonald’s and his first mail since arriving at Gitmo.

    An Eye for an Eye

    An American soldier wounded by Khadr 13 years ago is clear on his beliefs. “I’m a Western-civilization Christian,” said now-retired Green Beret Layne Morris. “I’ve been raised with the knowledge that people can and do change and improve themselves. I think most of us are trying to do that. But some people aren’t, and Omar Khadr has chosen a path which dictates that, as a result of his religion, he’s got to go to war against our society. Until he changes from that attitude, I’m not sure why we should turn him loose to wreak havoc on our friends and families and neighbors again.”

    The retired Green Beret also has his own thoughts about his wearing a uniform while Khadr did not. “We have a long history of going to war with people who have answered the call from their country. And then when it’s over we’re able to sit down with our former enemies, shake hands and say, ‘we tried our best to kill each other but our countries are at peace now.’ But Omar Khadr hasn’t earned that status. He didn’t put on the uniform of his country. He trashed his country.”

    It all makes sense, at least to retired Green Beret Layne Morris. He was blinded in Khadr’s attack, so an eye for eye seems a fair way to describe his feelings 13 years later.

    Whose War?

    Now somewhere out there is a reader who is saying “But the little bastard killed an American soldier. He deserved to be punished.” Maybe so. Justice is a tricky thing. But no American soldier was punished in Afghanistan for killing on the battlefield, and two presidents of the most powerful nation on earth were never punished for using drones to kill children.




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    Radio Interview: CBC Dispatches

    October 13, 2011 // Comments Off on Radio Interview: CBC Dispatches

    Available now as a podcast, or over the radio in Canada, is my interview with CBC Radio’s news magazine program, Dispatches.

    The interview is described as “A failure in Iraq, from an American diplomat who ruefully admits helping lose the battle for the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people” and includes me reading from several chapters in the book. The questions were very good, very focused, and I think you will enjoy the interview.

    Available online now at CBC Radio.



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