April 19, 2002



For those of you from other countries, trust me, this isn't extremist reaction. This is typical up here today:

I am appalled at President Bush's casual dismissal of the "friendly fire" incident in Afghanistan that took the lives of four Canadian soldiers and left eight others injured. Indeed, it appears that the President would not even have publicly acknowledged the tragedy had it not been for the prodding of a Canadian journalist who caught Bush on camera as he attempted to scurry away.

...a bevy of incompetent officers commanded by a President who obviously doesn't give a damn about anything Canadian.

It's going to get worse before it gets better. I'm not saying they're right... if it had been an accident involving dead Americans, would Bush have said anything in the way of regret before being prompted? I don't know. But uphere the chances of our government not winding down the Afghan mission in a couple months are diminishing almost by the hour...

Posted by BruceR at 02:51 PM



Joshua Micah Marshall is doing fine work in unravelling the growing evidence of American official support for Venezuela's failed coup... pointing out the $200,000 in payoffs from a Miami bank account to two Venezuelan generals as the most promising lead...

Do I really need to remind everyone that the first item of evidence that connected the Watergate burglars to Nixon 30 years ago this June was the FBI's discovery that the money in their possession had been drawn from a Miami bank account, that of burglar, ex-CIA man, and Cuban exile Bernard Barker, who had gotten his money in turn from the Committee for the Re-election of the President?

Need I also mention that assistant secretary of state Otto Reich, himself also a Cuban exile, who has given contradictory evidence about what he knew and when with respect to Venezuela, was engaged in covert funding of illegal activity during Iran-Contra? A House foreign affairs committee report concluded:

Senior CIA officials with backgrounds in covert operations, as well as military intelligence and psychological operations specialists from the Department of Defense, were deeply involved in establishing and participating in a domestic political and propaganda operation run through [Reich's] obscure bureau in the Department of State which reported directly to the National Security Council rather than through the normal State Department channels…. Through irregular sole-source, no-bid contracts, [Reich's office] established and maintained a private network of individuals and organizations whose activities were coordinated with, and sometimes directed by, Col. Oliver North... These private individuals and organizations raised and spent funds for the purpose of influencing Congressional votes and U.S. domestic news media. This network raised and funneled money to off-shore bank accounts in the Cayman Islands or to the secret Lake Resources bank account in Switzerland for disbursement at the direction of Oliver North.

For more on Otto Reich's Iran-contra days, read here.

Posted by BruceR at 02:14 PM



One bizarre reference in the Steyn column, BTW, about Canada's Fenian troubles of 1866-71:

In the 19th century, when the Fenians launched raids on Canada from upstate New York, the British thought nothing of infringing American sovereignty to hit back -- and Washington accepted they were entitled to do so.

Not to be pedantic, but I've written a lot academically on the Fenians. (Don't ask why.) And while I suppose it's possible the right of "hot pursuit" might have been invoked by the British diplomatically at some point in that conflict, and I suppose it's just possible some American might have consented to the arrest of Irish-Americans on American soil by a foreign army, to my (again, really rather extensive) knowledge all the arrests of Fenians on American soil were by U.S. police or military authorities. All anti-Fenian actions taken by Canadians took place after they crossed to our side of the border, and stopped the moment they crossed back.

I suspect Steyn is actually confusing the Fenian raids with actions taken by British and Canadian authorities during Canada's own 1837 rebellions, which involved chasing down Canadian rebels and their American sympathizers: in particular the "Caroline affair" of 1837, when a U.S. steamer supplying the rebel "provisional government" on Navy Island was seized at the dock at Schlosser, N.Y, set on fire, and sent in flames over Niagara Falls. (One American died.) If the Americans did accept "hot pursuit" applied in that case, it was only later, in rarefied diplomatic circles: at the time a rather angry General Winfield Scott showed up with a lot of soldiers, shut down the border to rebel sympathizers, and made it quite clear to the British authorities he would not accept any repeat occurrence... or else. Scott was the kind of guy, in his prime, you simply didn't screw around with: the British never attempted to test what the "or else" was...

Posted by BruceR at 01:18 PM



Well, not quite. Interesting though, to compare and contrast the three proposals for an ultimate Mideast solution that were offered by the pundits today:

1) In Slate, Robert Wright takes a well-argued run at the belief that Arafat walked away from Camp David. The implicit, but unspoken assumption: that Barak's Camp David offer was both insufficient and untenable, and a withdrawal to the 1967 borders, or its equivalent, the only possibly acceptable end of negotiations.

2) In the Globe and Mail, Salutin is explicit where Wright was not... the Middle East is actually "the most resoluble crisis in the world," once Israel evacuates their illegal settlements and goes back to the 1967 borders.

3) In the National Post, Mark Steyn comes to pretty much the same conclusion as Ehud Barak and Martin van Creveld have espoused, in other words the unilateralist perspective:

Israel should take what it needs of the West Bank for a buffer, round up every terrorist it can, and announce that the Jordanians are welcome to what's left

The difference in the positions held by North Americans has thus come down to this. One side believes in negotiations, with the ultimate aim of getting as much as possible in the way of guarantees for peace in return for the forcible expulsion from the West Bank and East Jerusalem of 350,000 Jews. The other believes that Israel should defy the world indefinitely, "take what it needs," forcibly repatriate the tens of thousands of its citizens in the completely undefendable settlements, and settle in for a prolonged cross-border war. Face it... there really isn't any other option than those two, is there?

Posted by BruceR at 12:49 PM



The question of whether Canada is leaving Afghanistan now comes to a head, in the worst possible way. If the Patricias had taken casualties from enemy fire, there would have been an almost irresistable urge to extend the mission, regardless of the cost to other CF operations like Bosnia, and a replacement battalion would have been taking shape by now. But that didn't happen, and the upshot of the accidental American bombing of A Coy, 3 PPCLI is still very much in doubt.

The government wants them to come home. Prime Minister Chretien has repeatedly said he wants Canada out of Afghanistan by July. The Americans were pushing them to stay, if only for symbolic reasons related to their need not to be looking to act unilaterally. (That argument is now officially a non-starter with the Canadian public, it goes without saying.) Armed forces insiders have been up and down on this... they know there were no resources to extend the mission at its current strength safely, but were worried about the image of cutting and running with the job halfdone. There were some indications the pro-American side was winning... last week General Gauthier, head of the army in Central Canada, was appointed the new commander of the Afghanistan op. Gauthier's what the British used to call a "thruster," and it was hard to imagine he'd be moving to that operation just to wind it down.

What is clear from yesterday's reaction is that further integration of Canada's forces with the Americans' is off the table, indefinitely. That 500-pound high-explosive accident is slated to become a huge argument, both spoken and unspoken, for all those who want Canada to chart a foreign and defence policy more akin to Europe's and less attuned to the U.S. Because most of that lobby doesn't actually like spending money on the military (about the only impetus in the last 12 years for increasing defence spending has been American exasperation) that almost certainly means continued stagnation of the defence budget, and attrition of the ranks.

As for the immediate Afghanistan question, I'm sticking with my earlier prediction. The government's going to wait to judge public opinion a little while longer. If they believe that Canadians are now ambivalent about an extension of the presence of ground forces in Afghanistan, they simply won't do it, with this accident left as the unspoken argument against it. In the end, only the threat of widespread public unpopularity allowed the defence establishment to convince the government that Canadians needed to be in Afghanistan, not any overriding government objective or policy concern: it is unthinkable that the government will do something both unpopular and against their inclinations now.

As for the troops in Kandahar, if they had any more operations planned before their departure, those are going to be dramatically scaled back now. One can assume A Company (one of the three Canadian rifle companies) is going to be combat-ineffective for some time, with 10 fatalities and evacuated casualties, probably almost all from one platoon. If this had been Taliban attack, you'd see the government pledging today to replace those losses, bring the company back up to full strength, and go on with the mission. The fact no one's saying anything like that today suggests the curtain has begun to draw on our Afghan adventure. The Americans and Brits will likely have to keep this one going alone.

Posted by BruceR at 11:49 AM