May 30, 2005

Shotgun history

The Shotgun is approvingly citing Peter Worthington's piece on the Canada War Museum controversies today. The current allegations concern the display of unflattering Somalia-related art by an official Canadian war artist, and the publication of official Canadian statistics for venereal disease (affecting nearly half of Canadian service personnel) during the Korean War. As the Shotgun commentator puts it, "Is the Museum selling out principle for a buck and some notoriety? Or do they genuinely believe that including info about soldiers with the clap will deepen our understanding of the Korean war?"

I said what I had to say about the art controversy previously. For the other matter... I have criticized others in this space for telling untruths about soldiers, sure. But as a soldier myself, I have to say: an army in a democracy have proved able to withstand the truth -- the whole truth -- of war. And the military institution can't solve the problems it has had previously (in this case, the interconnection of STDs with military life) without first acknowledging them. When they start rejecting objective facts themselves, these people do not speak in soldiers' best interests, or the military's. The fetishization of military valour they apparently to want to see in this museum has historically been just about the most poisonous influence any army or a society can fall susceptible to, and Canadians can do without it.

Note: This is not to affirm the Korea statistic in question, which as Worthington has said elsewhere, may be misleading. But that's different from stating that all "info about soldiers with the clap" should be excluded from military history, which is the Shotgun's (and Worthington's) apparent position.

Posted by BruceR at 05:37 PM

May 27, 2005

Lawyer Gittins gets another one off

I see lawyer Charles Gittins, who successfully defended the F-16 pilot who killed Canadians in Afghanistan, got himself another notch this week from the equittal of Marine officer Ilario Pantano.

Gittins reused several tactics he tried out with success in defending fighter pilot Harry Schmidt... specifically the creation of a pro-defendant website and the recruitment of friendly bloggers to support his "wrongfully accused" claims.

The particulars of the Pantano case were never in dispute... after a successful raid of an Iraqi house, two Iraqi men that had attempted to flee in a white car were handcuffed, and their car was searched twice, to the point of having the seats and dashboard removed. Pantano then uncuffed them, ordered the two men to search it again, and ordered the two soldiers who were with him to stand guard facing so that they were not looking at the car. Shortly afterwards, he fired an entire M-16 magazine into the two Iraqis, reloaded, and emptied another into their long-dead corpses. Pantano claimed they had been turning towards him and talking in low voices as if to charge... whether they were planning to attack Pantano, or run, or neither, what is certain is that they didn't get very far, as their bodies had fallen back inside the car. No one else saw what had happened, but one of the other two soldiers said he had heard Pantano say "stop" (or possibly "stop talking")* before shooting them; the other, a sergeant who had a grudge against Pantano, did not. But both witnesses would later give legal statements doubting the need for the shooting.

Gittins showed the same media mastery he showed in the Schmidt case, first stating in the press that his defence would focus on the military record of the grudge case, Sgt. Coburn. That little bit of defamation prompted Coburn to give an interview in New York magazine defending himself, in so doing disobeying a court gag order, a fact which Gittins then used to impeach Coburn on the witness stand. After that, the dropping of the case for reasons of insufficient evidence was probably inevitable.

*What's interesting about the New York piece is Pantano, in his clearest account of what happened, never states the fact that would most clearly serve to exonerate him, that he said "stop," as in "stop moving," before firing. He does say he told the two men to "stop talking," and an witness corroborates that. That same witness, the medic Gobles, would give a series of contradictory statements on what happened... evidently very loyal to Pantano, his story on the witness stand at the evidentiary hearing would later change to his hearing Pantano say just "stop," as if the men were moving away from the car and threatening him, as opposed to simply continuing to talk to each other. It's not impossible to imagine, as I'm sure the Marine JAG officers did, an exasperated and war-stressed Pantano shooting two prisoners in part because they wouldn't shut up when he ordered them to. But with only two witnesses, both found to be insufficiently reliable, there was no case left to prosecute, as the Marines rightly recognized.

Posted by BruceR at 02:57 PM

May 26, 2005

Guardians of accuracy, contd.

LGF's latest entry into the Newsweek riot story: maybe no one actually died!

Of course, that would mean Newsweek did nothing wrong, right? Unfortunately, it's not true. LGF's source:

Not a single name of even one victim has been released. No details of the circumstances of the riots were released from any official sources -- either U.S. or Afghan.

Who were these victims? Were they rioters killed by police or military forces? Were they innocent victims attacked by fanatics? Were they Afghanis? Were they relief workers?

G2B has examined every English-language news story about these deaths through Lexis Nexis. G2B has scoured the Internet, including foreign and non-English-language news sources for any details of these deaths.

They might want to invest in some Google lessons. From Agence France-Presse, May 11 (reprinted at Common Dreams and about a hundred other places):

"Police opened fire in the air to control the mob, and some people were injured. We do not know how many," Jalalabad city police chief Abdul Rehman said.

"Initially the demonstrators were peaceful but then a group joined them and the mob turned violent," he added.

"They set fire to the governor's office, they set fire to a number of police posts, they set fire to some NGOs, damaged a part of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan office, they also set fire to the Pakistani consulate. But things are under control."

Two people were "martyred" at the scene and two others apparently died in hospital, hospital's chief director Fazel Mohammad Ibrahimi told AFP after a survey of the city's three hospitals.

Another 53 injured people, four of them in a critical condition, were in hospital while many others were treated for light injuries at both, he said...

From Pakistan News International:

Deputy health chief Mohammed Ayub Shinwari said two of the dead had been fatally shot, and many of the injured had also suffered gunshot wounds.

Another 53 injured people, four of them in a critical condition, were in hospital while many others were treated for light injuries at both, Fazel said. But the interior ministry later put the number of injured at 71. The ministry didn't identify the victims, however, Shinwari said most of the injured were students.

Same source, next day:

In the southeastern city of Ghazni, witnesses said shooting broke out after protesters swarmed toward a police station and the governor's residence after Friday prayers chanting "Death to America" and pelting the buildings with rocks. Shafiqullah Shafaq, a doctor at the city hospital, told AP that two civilians and a police officer were fatally shot and 21 people wounded, including the provincial police chief.

In northeastern Badakhshan, three men were killed when police fired to control hundreds of protesters in Baharak district, Governor Abdul Majid told AP. Another 22 people were reported hurt, including three police officers.

Another man was killed in the northwest when police opened fire during a protest after prayers in Qala-e-Naw, capital of Badghis province, provincial police chief Amir Shah Naibzada told AP.

Four demonstrators suffered bullet wounds in a clash with police and government troops in Gardez, near the Pakistani border, and one died later in hospital, provincial police chief Hay Gul Suleyman Khel said.

And in a stunning display in the value of LGF's comments board, as of 4:15 EST they were at 497 comments on this post, and with a singular exception no one has questioned it yet.

Posted by BruceR at 04:11 PM

May 25, 2005

More reader mail

Reader mail on recent posts on the announcement of a new Afghan deployment, and civilian casualties in Iraq, below the fold.

Patrick C. writes, on the lack of media interest in a new Canadian Forces deployment to Afghanistan:

The general reader, looking at the DND press release, would have had no concept of the scale involved. It needs at least some sort of head count, the units due for deployment, and where they're from.

BruceR replies: No argument. The CF's public relations traditionally run the gamut between "out of date" and "appalling." Witness the complete absence of CF comment in last night's CTV National News story on two-year recruiting delays, something I mentioned here back in December... one presumes they saw the TV crew and ran away to hide. (On the other hand, I see Anne McClellan is still her usual charming self.) But it's never all PR's fault when a story sinks like a stone, either.

Warren S., on Iraq civilian casualties:

I just got around to reading your post on the '24,000' casualty figure in Iraq that is now being used to both prove, and disprove, the 98,000 dead figure published by Roberts et al in The Lancet (depending on who you read out of the two Tims).

I think everyone is missing the point with the UN figure of 24,000. If you look at the actual report, you'll see that the survey asked for any casualties in the previous 24 months to April 2004. It then unilaterally decided that all of these casualties happened after the ground invasion, and that none happened before! This can be seen on page 55 of the report.

Thanks to their failure to try and tie casualties down to dates, we have no way of knowing if casualties have even increased since the invasion. In fact I don't think it will be long before some parts of the blogosphere claim that many of these 24,000 casualties preceded March 2003. In the absence of any other information we just don't know.

Granted, Saddam was probably killing less people in the last year of his reign than before (I recall you saying just that rather a few months ago), but the combination of an ongoing coalition bombing campaign, state oppression, and the heavy fighting between the kurds and Ansar-al-islam must have still caused some casualties. It seems strange to assign every single one to post March 2003. When we consider that some of the 24,000 are also Iraqi military or insurgents, I see it as even less supportive of the Lancet study.

What it boils down to here is: UN; 24,000 dead over 24 months up to April 2004, and Lancet, 98,000 dead over 18 months from March 2003.

My understanding of the two figures is that the UN figure is a 'total' and the Lancet one is an 'excess over pre-war'. Now my knowledge of statistical method is hopeless- I could write what I know of stats in crayon on the side of a matchbox- but if I'm reading that part right, the difference may even be greater still.

Tim Lambert has tried to explain the difference is due to non-violent deaths being included in the study by Roberts et al. However, although they published that violent deaths and infant mortality had increased post invasion, they also stated near the end of their report that adult non-violent deaths had not increased. To quote page seven of their findings;

"It is suprising that beyond the evidence of elevation in infant mortality and the rate of violent death, mortality in Iraq seems to be otherwise similiar to the period preceding the invasion."

I really will have to post on this myself sometime (lack of time being an obstacle) but I'd have to say the Lancet study is one I'd still question...

Posted by BruceR at 06:24 PM

May 24, 2005

Canada recommits to Kandahar

Marcin S. writes:

I don't think you have commented on this story about a new Afghanistan deployment for the CF. Is this news? I have seen only one brief note on this on the CBC website which very quickly got disappeared under the Budget / Belindagate thing.

Seems like a fairly substantial commitment that doesn't seem to have gotten a lot of air in the press. Is this to relieve pressure on the US so they can reassign to Iraq?

You know what I really love about the Canadian media's coverage of military affairs? They have a collective memory of about 4.5 seconds.

This was nice to see. However you'd think at least one journalist covering it could have summoned up the Defence press release from only one week previously and mention to their readers the Canadian commitment to return to Kandahar, the site of the bombing, in 2006 in larger numbers than the last time... Make no mistake... the number one overseas mission for Canada's army for the next few years will be Afghan reconstruction under NATO auspices, as it has been for a while. This will, of course, be accompanied by a near-complete indifference by the Canadian media to any recent news of interest about Afghanistan, such as the "Newsweek riots" last week, or President Karzai's trip yesterday to Washington today (ignored by the Star and Globe this morning). This disconnect is so constant and fundamental that one has to assume it has some systemic cause.

Posted by BruceR at 11:54 AM

On the riots and Imran Khan

Mark Steyn is right to suggest that, if we were pursuing objective truth, we might have called the shootings of demonstrators in Afghanistan that "Imran Khan riots." The Newsweek item by itself had no power whatsoever to cause riots in the Muslim world until the immensely popular Pakistani cricketer-politician waved a copy of Newsweek around on national television in that country. The American equivalent would, I suppose, be someone of the stature of a Schwarzenegger or perhaps a Crowe voicing strong anti-Muslim sentiments of some kind in that country.

But as far as I know, Khan doesn't have any kind of following in neighbouring Afghanistan. His on-the-air translation may have served to finally carry the Koran-desecration meme over the Hindu Kush, but as American generals and impartial commentators (such as a former colleague of mine, Phil Halton, whose direct experience with and insight into the Afghan insurgent scene is unrivalled in my own experience) it fed into a completely different local dynamic there. Steyn's point should have been that any causality of the Newsweek item is at least one step removed from any actual Afghan fatalities.

Any value to the conclusion he ended up making instead, that Westernized Muslims are somehow a greater threat to us than the other kind, is completely lost to me.

Posted by BruceR at 10:52 AM

May 21, 2005

Torture-killing in Gardez update

More detail on the killing of an Afghan National Army soldier, Jamal Naseer, mistakenly in U.S. custody in Gardez in March, 2003. A criminal investigation was announced last fall. No one has been charged.

In fact, at least eight Afghans, including Naseer, are confirmed to have died under U.S. "interrogation" between August, 2002 and September, 2003. To date there have been no convictions.

SIDENOTE: The Podhoretz lobby that continues to praise the U.S. military's self-policing in Afghanistan is rather reminiscent of the Iraq school-painting crowd. After all, why can't the media tell the GOOD side of all these torture-killings? All those Americans who aren't being prosecuted and those military investigations that are being successfully obstructed and delayed... aren't those good news stories?

Posted by BruceR at 12:02 AM

May 20, 2005

Note to Eschaton readers

The Flit story Atrios is linking to (and thanks for that, I'm sure) is at the bottom of this page... broken anchor tag, partly my fault.

Podhoretz's clarification on his post that prompted mine is curious, btw. He seems to be demanding that the New York Times should have covered the leaked government report before someone (disgruntled at over two years of inaction, culminating in another round of the charges of four low-level servicemen last week) leaked it, because that's when it would have been relevant. Um, okay. He also suggests the tone should have been more positive: something like "Good news: of 27 servicemen indicted for fatal torture, still only 7 charged!" I suppose.

Posted by BruceR at 04:57 PM

Reader mail: Sudan

Joseph B. writes, in reference to my recent posts on the Darfur crisis:

All respect to Canada's humanitarian tradition and sensitivities, but does it not seem faintly ridiculous to you that prominent Canadians are debating whether they should hold a dumbbell at arm's length across the Atlantic and the breadth of the Sahara Desert?

You could have made a case for doing something similar 11 years ago in Rwanda, because UN troops were on the ground already and there was no country nearby with the strength and influence to halt the genocide there. That isn't the case with Sudan today.

Have you noticed that every media discussion about Darfur seems to assume that Egypt is on another planet instead of directly to the north? With Egyptian will to act against genocide Canadian troops would not be needed, and neither would ours. Maybe the policy debate Canadians ought to be having is whether to have, say, their UN ambassador point this out, note that neither Arab governments nor Arab media have had much to say about genocide being committed by Arabs in Darfur, and ask his Egyptian counterpart in particular whether his country considers itself part of the civilized world or not.

Let the damned Arabs be insulted, for God's sake. Egypt could end the genocide within weeks, and Saudi Arabia pay for more aid than Darfur could use out of petty cash. And without even a glance at the possibility of using a rhetorical 2X4 across the snout to try and address this problem with means available in the area, Canadians are expected to consider sending thousands of their own troops thousands of miles across ocean and desert to confront alien and hostile conditions for who knows how long?

I suppose it's no more absurd than expecting a people and culture indifferent or worse to genocide to be reliably hostile to terrorism, but still...

Posted by BruceR at 02:48 PM

British and French on U.S. tactics

Couple interesting reports from European militaries:

From Britain:

"British defence chiefs have warned United States military commanders in Iraq to change their rules for opening fire or face becoming bogged down in a terrorist war for a decade or more."

From France, much the same thing:

"Ce n'est parce que la France n'a pas participé à la guerre en Irak que ses experts militaires ne se devaient pas d'étudier la façon dont les Américains ont conduit les "opérations de stabilisation" menées de mai 2003 à décembre 2004. Ce travail critique a été réalisé par le Centre de doctrine d'emploi des forces (CDEF) que dirige le général Gérard Bezacier, et a fait l'objet d'un numéro spécial de la revue Doctrine. Il en ressort que les tactiques des forces américaines ont évolué à la lueur de l'expérience, mais que les erreurs des premiers mois ont eu de lourdes conséquences..."

UPDATE: Carl Conetta, whose military-historical work I greatly respect, has drawn much the same conclusion, as well, pointing to a series of in retrospect disastrously stupid shooting and bombing incidents at demonstrations and checkpoints, plus the demobilization of the Iraqi army, as significant contributing causes to the ongoing insurgency (plus an overly ambitious political reformation strategy... more here.) While you're there, also read his excellent essays on the impact of battlefield air support in the 2003 war. (Also here.)

UPDATE #2: A study that no one seems to quibble with puts the Iraqi death toll in excess of 24,000 after the first year of occupation. Bark at the Lancet all you want, but that's a lot of dead people.

Posted by BruceR at 01:47 PM

The guardians of accuracy speak

A John Podhoretz entry on the Corner from yesterday morning, still uncorrected:

"The New York Times continues the bizarre act of carrying Newsweek's water in the wake of the false Koran-desecration story (which I write about this morning here). The paper's lead story is a lurid account of the vicious treatment of two Afghan prisoners by U.S. soldiers -- events that occurred in December 2002 and for which seven servicemen have been properly punished. Let me repeat that: December 2002. That's two and a half years ago. Every detail published by the Times comes from a report done by the U.S. military, which did the investigating and the punishing. The publication of this piece this week is an effort not to get at the truth, not to praise the military establishment for rooting out the evil being done, but to make the point that the United States is engaged in despicable conduct as it fights the war on terror. In the name of covering the behinds of media colleagues, all is fair in hate and war."

Instapundit linked approvingly, with the addendum: "Something you probably won't hear from Wolcott and Atrios... If the news media policed themselves as well as the military does, Newsweek wouldn't be in this kind of trouble."

Well, no you probably won't hear it from them, in fact, because it's not true. From the original story in question:

"Even though military investigators learned soon after Mr. Dilawar's death that he had been abused by at least two interrogators, the Army's criminal inquiry moved slowly. Meanwhile, many of the Bagram interrogators, led by the same operations officer, Capt. Carolyn A. Wood, were redeployed to Iraq and in July 2003 took charge of interrogations at the Abu Ghraib prison...

"Last October, the Army's Criminal Investigation Command concluded that there was probable cause to charge 27 officers and enlisted personnel with criminal offenses in the Dilawar case ranging from dereliction of duty to maiming and involuntary manslaughter. Fifteen of the same soldiers were also cited for probable criminal responsibility in the Habibullah case.

"So far, only the seven soldiers have been charged, including four last week. No one has been convicted in either death."

PS: A shorter version of the Newsweek riots story might be: "Some people rioted in Afghanistan, and so our proxy forces had to shoot them. This is somehow Newsweek's fault." Given that apparently all but one of the dead in the fatal Afghan riots were, you know, rioters shot by U.S.-backed local police, I do wonder at the repeated references to the death of "innocent" Afghans. Innocent rioters?

Here's the total so far that I culled from the international papers:
May 12:
Jalalabad: 4, killed after police open fire on protest (Le Monde)
May 13:
Jalalabad: 2, killed after police open fire on protest (AFP)
Chak (Wardak province): 1, ditto (AFP)
Gardez: 1, ditto (Pak. News Intl.)
Qala-e-Naw: 1, ditto (Pak. News Intl.)
Badakhshan: 3, ditto (Pak. News Intl.)
Ghazni: 2 civilians and 1 policeman killed in an attack on a police station (Pak. News Intl.)

I can't find the others people have cited, so I'm still short a couple, and certainly some innocents have been non-fatally injured here. And yes, it's absolutely true that trying to ransack a police station will increase your chances of getting shot in any culture. I'm just saying that use of the word "innocent" in this context to describe the fatal injuries collectively may indicate a lack of thorough thought on the part of its user.

UPDATE: Glenn Reynolds has updated the Instapundit entry, which is a useful correction on his part. But given that most of the Americans charged for torture at Bagram so far were only charged last week, I think his statement in that update that the leak of this report is not "breaking news" is rather odd. There is a similar big and obvious difference between Podhoretz's original whinge that this all happened two years ago and the U.S. Army has already taken care of it, and the truth of the matter: that these deaths were over two years ago, but those apparently responsible are only getting charged now.

Posted by BruceR at 12:47 PM

May 19, 2005

Mackenzie on Dallaire

For Canadian military buffs, an important piece in the Globe today where Lew Mackenzie calls out Romeo Dallaire for standing with the government that just made him a senator on the Darfur issue.

I look forward to the inevitable rejoinder. Both men have a point... Dallaire in the old-school UN view that military intervention in a nation's internal matter without that nation's buy-in is a recipe for disaster, genocide notwithstanding... and Mackenzie for the Gladstonian appeal to DO something about Darfur.

The rejoinder to Mackenzie is the same point I made earlier re David Kilgour... advocating a larger Canadian role in Sudan necessarily means pushing for a more robust multilateral intervention, engineered by NATO, or an ad hoc coalition of the willing including Britain and/or the U.S. (or possibly France). If you want to advocate that Canada push for that eventuality, then fine, but spell it out (as Mackenzie does, reasonably well, because he's not hung up over U.S. intervention so much); don't just cavil about the low numbers of Canadian troops and keep everything else vague, a la Kilgour. We are proposing to send all the troops that the Sudanese will accept from us on their territory: ie, not many. To change the last thing, you have to change the first thing.

Dallaire and the Liberals' problem is they believe (he certainly knows) a UN-led approach won't work without host permission, which isn't going to come. Any other position involves calling on the US to engage militarily in another part of the world (with a few Canadian troops riding shotgun, naturally). This is not a position the Liberals can adopt, even if there was evidence the U.S. was willing. Hence the African Union approach, which is better than doing nothing.

Mackenzie's position (let's forget our old way of doing things and work with the U.S. to solve the problem, regardless of what the Sudanese government wants) creates as many problems as it solves in the long-run (what other problems do we acquiesce in having the U.S. solve for the world?) but at least it's morally and intellectually consistent.

Posted by BruceR at 03:19 PM

May 18, 2005

If the great shoes fit

Swear to God: overheard conversation this morning, between two young, apparently apolitical women at my local Tim Horton's:

"Did you hear? Belinda Stronach joined the Liberals."
"Is she the attractive one?"
"Yeah, you know, the dipstick."

Sexist misogynists.

Posted by BruceR at 03:22 PM

Readers write

Reader thoughts, and my responses, on a couple recent pieces on Conservative military policy and Kingdom of Heaven:

Darren M. writes:

I was very interested to read your account of the "real" Balian d'Ibelin.

Did Balian and Raymond of Tripoli cut deals to escape Hattin?

According to the Wargames Research Group book "Armies and Enemies of the Crusades 1096-1291" by Ian Heath, Raymond of Tripoli was with the vanguard at Hattin and was called on by Guy to deliver the first charge about midday on July 4th:

"Taqi ad-Din had opened his ranks to avoid the impact and so let them through, though inflicting heavy casualties on them as they passed (Raymond himself receiving 3 wounds and one of his sons being captured). Seeing how hopeless the situation was and that he could not get back to the army, Raymond rode from the field and withdrew to Tyre. It was probably at this stage that Prince Reynauld of Sidon and Balian d'Ibelin escaped from the rearguard, as did a small number of Templars."

A couple of points I would be interested to get your response to.

1. A general failing of historical and fantasy movies is to have too many combatants. According to the sources I looked at, the Crusader army at Hattin was 25-30 000 men. How many men were there in the film? Way too many I reckon. I will have to wait for the DVD to make a better count. The Lord of the Riings would be the worst offender. The Uruk Hai army that marches to Helms Deep was 10 000 strong in the book. In the movie it is more like 1 million. It is understandable if movie-makers want to increase the spectacle but in real life it was very difficult to supply or command armies much over 50 000 men. So the movie -makers are doing violence both to the historical facts and the reality of battles in those times.

2. Movie-makers show no regard for armies' formations, tactics and weapons. Eg when Balian's little band make their suicide charge they charge with drawn swords, the lances they do have are too short, they look for a moment like they are correctly going to form a wedge and then spread back out again. Excuse me but lances were always used in the first charge. Lances, heavy armour and big horses were the reason the crusader knights were so dangerous on the charge were they not? You get no indication of the basic difference between the Islamic and Crusader armies ie skirmishers vs heavy knights. Was this time period too early to see the knights riding Destriers aka Military Clysdales?

3. The biggest false note of Kingdom of Heaven to me was the overly familiar relations between the commoners like Balian and the Nobles. What happened to the tugging of forelocks and bowing and scraping by the commoners, and where was the arrogance of the nobility (besides the buffonish Guy of Lusignan)? What was the etiquette of that time? Where were all the pages, esquires, and heralds? I have no doubt that feudal manners are an affront to our modern sensibilities but to me they are vital to get a real feel for the period (and besides pageantry and rarefied manners are cool). How should the scenes before Balian is ennobled have really played out?

BruceR replies: As I hinted in the original entry, the official story of the severely wounded Raymond of Tripoli's remarkable solo escape from the Hattin massacre, the only knight allowed to reach the life-saving water, strains credulity. The man was a walking ransom payment, with thousands of well-mounted archers in the vicinity... for him to just walk away from a battle like that implies that some Saracen, at some level, said, "let him go." He had to have been a recognizable figure, and there's no doubt the Muslims generally considered him a fair man. The historical Balian d'Ibelin's escape from Hattin is even less well understood... but the simple fact is the leaders of the only two feudal domains that had opposed both war with Saladin and the current king of Outre-Mer did not die or get captured, and nearly all of those who had supported the king did. Either it's the greatest act of poetic justice in military history, or there's something there we don't understand.

I think it might be a little early for Clydesdales, and it's possible the prevalence of lances might be overstated a little... what would be ubiquitous in a joust, or a prepared battlefield, with retainers to accompany you and carry the thing, might not work on an ad hoc encounter on the Jordanian plain. (Those things are heavy). Lots of cavalry through history have done very well with just swords. I also think the reliance on skirmishing and the bow, at least with Arab armies, may be overstated a bit. Certainly it was the central feature of Turkish and Mongol armies of the time, but the original Arabs of Muhammad were not horse archers... the hammer blows of the first jihads were delivered by mounted lancers.* There's no doubt that the Crusaders had to deal with horse archers, too, but there's ample evidence that the Arabs didn't mind mixing it up in a melee when the circumstances were right, as well. You're right that the actual tactics of that charge are nonsense (why do they split into two groups, again?) but I didn't think the weapons choices of both sides were wholly indefensible.

One point that Sir Ridley seems to have seized upon was the relative egalitarianism of the "frontier" of Outre-Mer in the 1180s. And there is no doubt there was a little bit of a "Wild West" atmosphere to the place, and a significant degree of social mobility and relative personal freedom unseen in Western Europe at the time. I think he overplays this aspect (for instance in the confrontation between Reginald and the King that I commented on) but in that context I understand his decision to downplay the forelock-tugging. Outre-Mer, like early America (or Canada or Australia), was a classic labour-scarce market... to some degree, personal freedoms rose out of the need to treat your people fairly, or lose them to some other employment. So I find it at least plausible that the nobles would get their hands dirtier, and put up with a little less social distance, than their peers might back in Europe. Ditto the movie's relative absence of retainers and pages... I imagine keeping any kind of large retinue, at least a wholly Christian one, would have been very difficult given the labour conditions (any promising squire, for instance, would always be looking at his chances with the Hospitallers or Templars, or in the army of a raider like Reginald)... Muslim retainers, on the other hand, should have been fairly plentiful.

Dave T. writes, about the same story of putting soldiers in Goose Bay I commented on:

I'm speechless. I'd say it's so implausible that promising it constitutes a lie. Surely the DND brass would never accept this. I'm no expert by any means, but here are just a few issues that come to mind:
- lack of sane road connections to other military bases and facilities with which the battalion would have to interact;
- lack of easy access to a full-service, all-season port facility;
- inability of the local economy to absorb spouses seeking a wide range of jobs to match their skills;
- needless isolation of families during separations while personnel are on mission assignments that could be six months (or more);
- substantial increases in costs of operation without any sort of actual advantage or necessity;
- climate and topography completely different from anywhere the unit is most likely to be sent and so it's useless for training.

If I were a member of the CF and heard this plan, I'd run like heck away from the Conservatives at full speed.

If they're prepared to buy a seat in Labrador with the needless misery of hundreds of Forces families, needless waste of resources, and decreased operational abilities,...well...Belinda may be on to something.

BruceR writes: Yup. I once said the Tories were "fundamentally unserious" about defence issues. They still are. My choosing to vote for them or not is entirely unrelated to their position on questions of military policy, which is no stronger in any real respect than the ruling party's is.

*I'm not saying that the Crusaders didn't face mounted bowmen... they certainly did. But it was just one mode of Arab warfare at the time. Toledo and Damascus did not get their reputation as possessing the greatest sword-makers in the Western World for weapons that were purely ornamental, after all.

UPDATE: I forgot to add my entire agreement with Darren's statement concerning the movie Kingdom's careless use of army-size numbers. I have no idea where the quarter-million man army of Saladin came from: not from any history I've read. A similar problem annoyed me the other night watching the otherwise passable series Battlefield Britain, when it repeated Tacitus' claim (not the blogger, the historical one) that Boudicca's army vastly outnumbered the Romans under Suetonius. Delbruck said all there was to say on how far to trust a winning side's chroniclers on the size of barbarian armies well over a century ago.

Posted by BruceR at 09:49 AM

May 16, 2005

Cdn. military news this week

The Canadians are quietly closing down their half-battalion commitment to UNDOF, on the Golan Heights. It's been our largest UN commitment by far for some time now... essentially this means that by the end of this summer Canada will have withdrawn all but token representation from all UN military operations, with the number of soldiers working with the international organization dropping to near-zero for the first time since 1956. (Our remaining major international commitment (ie Afghanistan) is under a NATO flag.) Regardless of whether you consider UN peacekeeping a good thing or not, it's a significant milestone. The Martin government talks a mean foreign policy game, but in practical military terms they have been the most isolationist national Canadian government since Diefenbaker's day.

Of course, that could still all change now that Darfur has become an issue that could sink them. The real difficulty here is there is no framework, other than support for the African Union's efforts, under which a Canadian force of any size could deploy.

The African Union troops that are doing little in any case hardly need a larger number of Canadian military support staff. (It's doubtful they'll get much use out of the 60 the Martin government is already proposing to send: what they really want right now is air transport, which we no longer have to lend.) The only way you could get more Canadian troops on the ground doing something useful to stop the fighting would be to get a real multilateral peace-enforcement organization in to support or supplant the AU, that would deploy a force that the Canadians could join their battalion to, against the Sudanese government's will. Those organizations boil down to three: the UN, NATO, and a U.S.-led coalition. The problems with the last of these should be obvious... NATO is tied up in Afghanistan and the former Yugoslavia, and the UN has no real generally accepted mandate to intervene contrary to a host nation (Sudan)'s wishes. (It's worth noting there has never been a Canadian deployment of troops overseas in the absence of a coalition involving either the U.S., Britain, or the UN.)

We are up here against the limits of our national power, both hard and soft. As Jean Chretien found out in the Congo, what David Kilgour wants to achieve here, an actual Western military presence, is only achievable in the wake of a new and broad agreement among some kind of transnational alliance (presumably including at least one country with spare transport planes)... and those alliances really aren't interested in joining into this dance at present. Defeating the Martin government would seem to make exactly zero difference to that fact.

As for the Conservative opposition, they're off making more silly military promises of their own: promising to keep CFB Goose Bay in Labrador open by putting an army battalion there makes zero military sense and is basically a pork-barrel promise to the voters in the upcoming byelection there. So in a nutshell, you have an Independent MP who will sell his vote to whomever will send Canadian soldiers on a new and risky mission overseas, a Conservative government that mostly wants to use them to buy votes, and a Liberal government that is quietly bringing them all home and hoping nobody will notice.

Note to David Kilgour: When Romeo Dallaire, previously the other loud Canadian voice on the Darfur question, says there's not any more use for any more Canadian troops than we're already sending, maybe just maybe that means that there isn't.

Posted by BruceR at 01:57 PM

May 09, 2005

Okay, from now on, first question in the interrogation: who the hell are you?

A classic example of the comedic form once popularized as "Keystone," from the Times:

Abu Farraj Al-Libbi's arrest in Pakistan, announced last Wednesday, was described in the United States as "a major breakthrough" in the hunt for Osama Bin Laden.

Bush called him a "top general" and "a major facilitator and chief planner for the Al- Qaeda network". Condoleezza Rice, secretary of state, said he was "a very important figure". Yet the backslapping in Washington and Islamabad has astonished European terrorism experts, who point out that the Libyan was neither on the FBI's most wanted list, nor on that of the State Department 'rewards for justice" programme.

Another Libyan is on the FBI list -- Anas al-Liby, who is wanted over the 1998 East African embassy bombings -- and some believe the Americans may have initially confused the two...

The best part, though, is at the end, where an unnamed official says the reason this terrorist was never on a watch list was because, "We did not want him to know he was wanted."

Posted by BruceR at 08:14 PM

May 08, 2005

Kingdom of Heaven: Thoughts

Saw Kingdom of Heaven just now. A couple thoughts that may be worth sharing:

1. This movie has been criticized for being too politically correct/anti-Christian. Well, you know, it is about the fall of Jerusalem between the 2nd and 3rd Crusades, simultaneously one of Islam's greatest military victories (by Saladin at Hattin in 1187) and one of the most famous acts of conqueror's magnanimity in history (Saladin's sparing of most of the near-defenseless citizenry of Jerusalem the same year). Hey, once you decide to make a movie about that subject in the first place, then anything that doesn't have the Arabs coming out looking pretty good would have automatically been something of a historical atrocity: this isn't. You could certainly question Sir Ridley Scott's choice of subject matter, but his follow-through isn't as panderingly "politically correct" as it's been portrayed.

2. I'm sorry, but Orlando Bloom is hopeless, even more out of his depth than that Irish kid was as Alexander. Pity... I can only conclude that the producers saw a script about a blacksmith who ends up defending a castle, and say, "hey, Orlando's played a blacksmith (Pirates)! And defended a castle (The Two Towers)! He's perfect!" The deep moral dilemma of Balian d'Ibelin in the movie (not the historical one, the movie one) is that he has to commit a small sin if he is to save the Crusaders' kingdom... he refuses for the sake of his soul, and then is left to play out the busted flush his own need to be pure has dealt him. I tried to imagine the same role played by a Crowe, or an O'Toole, or, hell, Jeremy Irons, Liam Neeson, or David Thewlis, who all drop in for this flick, and it simply could have been a modern classic... but the flat, deadpan delivery of Bloom (who certainly looks pretty and has shown potential in comic scenes, but simply can't externalize the internal conflict this kind of character requires) ruins nearly every scene. The script itself is not strong, either: too many lines wasted on telegraphing the action ("Tell Balian to protect the villagers," etc.). The siege scenes are well done, but the "micro-fight" scenes are choppy and incoherent... yes, I get and support Scott's determination to show war is not pretty or artful, but even the fencing practice between Neeson and Bloom, where there is no such imperative, is filmed too close and edited to splinters. Ridley seems to forget that well-constructed fencing scenes can add tremendously to character depth, something Bloom sorely needs (see also, the "I Know Kung Fu" scene in The Matrix, nearly any duel involving lightsabres, or the end of Rob Roy).

3. The movie has the kind of verisimilitude the way Last of the Mohicans does, which is to say not at all... that is, excellent work from the props department, and a general interest in portraying the characters' circumstances correctly, but a twisting of the actual source narrative beyond recognition. Not that that is a very bad thing. I think I have a pretty high tolerance for this... Mohicans and also Troy were hardly true to their sources, but I could appreciate them as honest attempts to reconnect a modern audience with a complex story from a different era of story-telling. Scott's previous film Gladiator, on the other hand, with its portraying of Maximus' sacrifice as the onset of a new age of peaceful Roman republicanism, right in the midst of the Imperial period, was useless for increasing one's understanding of Rome or Romans, even if the costumes were correct. Kingdom of Heaven is better in this respect: yes the history's a mess, but Scott "gets" Outre-Mer... the place and time is recognizable, even if the individual characters are not. The Crusader Kingdom, with its still mostly Muslim citizenry ruled by Norman barons, and its near-complete absence of attempts at converting the locals, with a leadership constantly internally riven between those who wished to make new war for their own gain and those who wished to accommodate and hold on to what they had, is a strange and unfamiliar place to go, in human history. It was nice to visit there for a while.

4. Okay, so what was wrong? Okay, well, to start with Balian d'Ibelin was not a blacksmith, and his father was not named Godfrey... that man was also named Balian, and he died over 40 years before Jerusalem fell. The elder Balian's third son, Balian (jr.), lord of what is now the Palestinian haven city of Nablus, the guy Bloom is supposedly playing in this movie, didn't end up back in France with Queen Sibylla... he married Maria Komnenos, Sibylla's stepmother and the dowager queen (i.e. "queen mother") of Outre-Mer (the Christian Kingdom of Jerusalem), fully ten years before the siege; they had two sons and three daughters together. He was still in the Holy Land in 1192, being one of the local nobles Richard the Lionheart handed over stewardship of the rump kingdom to on his departure in that year... the historical Balian (jr.) died in 1193.

5. The real historical Balian is interesting, because he ended up as practically the last loyal knight left to Queen Sibylla, possibly a lover to his brother and later his stepdaughter-in-law, years after she had spurned his brother's affections to marry the feckless Guy de Lusignan -- whose incompetence as king had just destroyed their kingdom and both their livelihoods and killed off most of their male acquaintances. There's a curious family dynamic for you. But that interesting story is not the story told in Kingdom of Heaven, though,where Sibylla starts out married to Guy, and has an affair with a boyish Balian as Outre-Mer's about to fall. Guy was actually her second husband... in the movie she says she was married at 16... that was actually to another man, William of Montferrat, who died of malaria in 1177 (any affair with Balian, if there was one, would presumably have followed immediately thereafter, as Balian married her stepmother in that same year). She married Guy, over her brother the king's objection, three years later when she was 30...

6. The story skips over the reign of Baldwin V, Sibylla's son by William, who, aged seven was crowned King of Jerusalem in 1185 after his uncle the Leper King (Baldwin IV) died. The boy-king likewise died a year later, leading Sibylla herself as next in the succession to be crowned: she declared Guy to be her co-regent. Sibylla herself died of disease three years after Jerusalem fell in 1190, along with her two young daughters by Guy. (Guy, last seen naked on an donkey in the movie, was released by Saladin on the promise he would return immediately to Europe... he predictably broke that oath almost immediately upon release, and continued to rule whatever portions of the remaining Crusader kingdoms that would honour his tenuous royal claim until his death in 1194.)

7. The siege of Jerusalem is a bit of a mess... it wasn't a few days after the catastrophic defeat at Hattin, but three months later. Balian didn't knight everybody in the city: just 30 members of the bourgeoisie to complement himself and the one or two other knights left in the city after Guy took every other soldier in the kingdom to fight and die with him at Hattin. Oh, and Saladin wasn't completely merciful... all Catholic Christians had to be ransomed if they were to leave Jerusalem (Orthodox and Jacobite Christians, Jews and Muslims were allowed to stay unmolested) and many could not afford it... some estimates say 15,000 (of perhaps 60,000 total) ended up being taken into slavery. The Church and the Templars would later be criticized for evacuating significant treasure that could have gone toward ransoms, and many of the remaining Christian outposts refused to accept the refugees. This is probably the most objectionable simplification in the movie.

8. Sorely missed is the Regent for the reigns of both Baldwin IV and V, Raymond of Tripoli... an enigmatic figure in that history still hasn't quite figured his motivations out. His miraculous survival of the massacre at Hattin is simply unbelievable in the telling... collusion with Saladin at some level is the only logical explanation. But his generally accepted interest in preserving the peace against hotheads of both sides has been handed over to several of the other movie characters, particularly the "Marshal" of Jerusalem, Tiberias (played by Irons) and the Leper King himself.

9. All that said, the movie does get a fair bit right. The Hospitaller Knights (led by Thewlis and costumed in black robes with white crosses in the movie) did tend to support the Leper King, whereas the Templars (red crosses on white) often did not; it made no difference at Hattin, where both the knightly orders were killed to a man, most of them executed after surrendering. The hothead Reginald (Raynald) de Chatillon, who had once been the Leper King's most valiant fighter, at least three times broke truces his liege lords had negotiated, for reasons that still seem all but incomprehensible unless you assume either psychopathic madness or religious fanaticism... the movie opts for the former. Neither he nor Guy were actual Templars, although they wear Templar garb in the movie, but they were both reliant on Templar muscle and part of a cabal with the Templar Grand Master, the equally fanatical Gerard de Ridefort, so that's a reasonable simplification. The causes of the final truce-breaking with Saladin by Guy and Reginald seem even more baffling in the movie than in real life, with Guy inexplicably ordering Reginald "get me a war:" in reality it seems Guy was more of a weak man who was unable/unwilling to rein Reginald and Gerard in, rather than an active instigator.

10. Interesting side note: Balian actually did fight at Hattin. He also escaped, presumably alongside Raymond, and was allowed to travel from Tyre into Jerusalem just before the siege began by Saladin (the general Muslim respect for the man shown in the movie is borne out by the history texts). When Saladin descended on Jerusalem, he granted safe conduct out before the siege began to Balian's wife the dowager queen and their children, as well, and magnanimously also granted Balian his leave to stay and lead the defence. The part in the movie about Saladin not knowing who his enemy was is therefore also complete fiction.

11. Oh yeah: "Marshal" is spelled wrong in a subtitle, too. That really annoys me. (The Marshal of Jerusalem historically was a minor figure, second-in-command of the military: the military commander and real power behind the throne was called the Constable (At that time it was Amalric of Lusignan, Guy's brother). The names of the Marshals are less well known... that's probably why that's the title given Irons' Tiberias, the Raymond of Tripoli stand-in.)

UPDATE: Okay, that was non-constructive. How would one have fixed Kingdom of Heaven? Sadly, I suspect this was more a case of an interesting original script, probably more true to history, being rewritten to hell. There are a couple lines left in that hint at a more complex screenplay somewhere in the distance (Sibylla: "I loved your father, and I shall love you," etc.). You could actually make this a pretty good movie, by moving it CLOSER to history.

For instance, try this scenario. Imagine Liam Neeson is Balian: he's actually closer to the right historical age. He still goes to France to pick up his bastard son the blacksmith Godfrey (Bloom), who then accompanies him on his adventures. Neeson doesn't die in Italy: maybe is only so badly injured he has to use Bloom as his fighting instrument. Bloom can still do all the slaying, have the affair with the Queen, etc. etc. Balian (Neeson) is offered the throne by the usurpers... he's the matriarch's husband, after all, so he has a legit claim... he and Bloom can still debate whether it's better to commit the "small sin" of quasi-regicide in order to save a doomed kingdom, or not: Neeson, unlike Bloom, may at some point show something like a recognizable human emotion at this point. That crisis past them, the father-son duo organizes the defence of Jerusalem, and at the end Bloom says farewell, as he has done the penance his soul required and learned some valuable life lessons from the father he never knew, and returns to his life in France alone. After you've seen this current trainwreck, tell me that wouldn't be an infinitely better movie.

UPDATE #2: While I'm at it, I just wanted to say that the plagiarism accusations around this movie were pretty ludicrous to my mind. Quoth the plaintiff: "I suppose there is a legal argument... that he [Scott] had it in mind all along, that they knew of Balian of Ibelin, that he got all this from somewhere else, reading 1950's Cambridge, England, stodgy old histories. But I don't think so." I've never read James Reston's Warriors of God, and I knew about Balian and the Fall of Jerusalem... not from "50s histories," either. As I recall, Geoffrey Regan's recent Lionhearts had a fair synopsis, as did a history of the Templars I was skimming last week. We're talking the fall of Christianity's holiest city, an event that shook the Western Hemisphere... this is not obscure history here. Certainly, given the wide departure from historical reality of the final product, any claim of plagiarism from a real historian would probably be laughed out of court, now.

UPDATE #3: Nearly forgot the depicting of the lifting of the Kerak siege in 1183 by King Baldwin. In the movie, the whole thing's set a couple years later: Baldwin shows up, talks Saladin out of going to war, then imprisons Reginald/Raynald for starting it. In reality, Guy was Baldwin's regent at the time, but he was among those trapped in Kerak when it was besieged. Baldwin himself then did ride to Reginald and Guy's aid, Saladin did back off without a fight (as the movie hints, supply problems were probably his chief concern, not any fear of Baldwin), but then Guy, being Guy, refused Baldwin's orders to go in pursuit. Baldwin then dismissed Guy as regent, but he didn't imprison anyone. The key difference here is that Baldwin, who in reality apparently had no problem with fighting Muslims or chasing down a retreating enemy when he had the advantage, is portrayed in the film as an "uncomplex" man with a deeply pacific nature.

Not the worst of its errors (see above for worse), but the whole scene of Baldwin beating up and then jailing one of the leading members of his nobility misses a lot that is essential about the feudal lord-sovereign relationship: basically, it was much more equal than that. By law and custom, while Baldwin could fine Guy or Reginald or deprive them of royal offices or new favours, once Reginald had been installed by Baldwin as Master of Kerak nothing short of an open state of war with the King (or at least annulment of the royal marriage that had ensconced him there) was required to remove him. He wasn't the night watchman for the place, or even the general commanding in that sector... he was the feudal Lord of Oultrejordain (i.e., Transjordan). Big difference.

UPDATE #4: Reading feudal royal lineages always reminds me of that scene in Spaceballs, "I am your father's brother's nephew's cousin's former roommate." For instance, Maria Komnenos, Balian's wife and dowager queen of Jerusalem, should not be confused with her great-uncle the Byzantine Emperor Manuel's daughter of the same name, the betrothed of King Bela of Hungary, a man who, after that didn't work out, ended up instead marrying Agnes, the daughter of... Reginald of Chatillon.

Posted by BruceR at 03:49 AM

May 07, 2005

More on 99 percent solutions

Colby Cosh valiantly comes to his own defense on my snide-isms on a couple recent statistical stories.

The connecting issue to me is that in both cases something was alleged with precisely a precise 99 per cent probability factor: in one case that, as the Telegraph put it, "Dr Benny Peiser... concluded that only one third [of a thousand recent studies containing the words "global climate change"] backed the consensus view [that global warming was primarily a man-made phenomenon], while only one per cent did so explicitly."

What I know about global climate change would definitely not fill a book, but I'm fairly certain that more than 1 per cent of climatologists are going to be convinced of something if it's a "consensus" view. As Tim Lambert points out in the link to my previous post, Peiser listed 34 abstracts of studies out of the thousand that he thought were non-consensus, and found exactly one that explicitly refuted the consensus... and that was a commentary in a petroleum journal. If anything, Pieser's "work" confirms the general thrust of the initial Science piece: that, within the narrow scientific sphere that deals with this issue in daily work, the global warming issue is nearly as settled as evolution is in biology circles. And there is no logical connection from that that I can see to Peiser's claim, apparently also in the paper rejected by Science, that 99 per cent of all the academic work on this is "anti-consensus" or at least agnostic. If Science had been presented with a paper that claimed, on... well, on any basis really... that 99 per cent of biologists are secretly subscribing to the Journal of Intelligent Design, I would understand their not publishing it either.

As to the police Trekkie claims, anyone who does analysis work knows of the numerous studies showing that different listeners assign completely different numerical estimates to the English words meant to indicate probability... different people can assign mental values from 51% to 90% or higher when they are told something is "very likely" or "almost certain" to happen, for instance. Less documented is the similar effect in play when laypeople use numerical estimates in a vernacular sense. Saying something's going to be correct "99 times out of a hundred" is almost certainly not going to be a carefully measured probability estimate by the speaker. Outside of Albanian elections, correlations are never that clean in the best of circumstances... basic high school science is supposed to teach people this key fact, but it rarely seems to work. (Never mind the looseness in terminology involved.... note how 99 per cent "hard core Trekkers" turned in later interviews to "99 per cent" with an undefined interest in fantasy, role-playing, or science fiction. )

I agree with Colby that there's evidence worth investigating here of some nerd-al profiling in the Toronto police department... but that conclusion is almost independent from any need to evaluate what the actual correlation might be, for which we have no more useful evidence now than we did before. In the meantime, I'll be hiding my Lord of the Rings boxed set next time my cop friends come over. Wouldn't want to give the wrong impression.

Posted by BruceR at 11:02 AM

May 05, 2005

B.S. detector: replace batteries annually

Some people, when they're faced with a statistic that seems spectacularly hard to credit and against all reason, spend a lot of time trying to confirm/disconfirm it, analyse it, try and figure out if there was some misquotation/misunderstanding involved, and generally beat it to a pancake. For instance, the allegation that 99% of all child porn users are also Trekkies. You can spend your day figuring out what bizarre statistical confluence of events could possibly lead to such a remarkable correlation. Or you could just assume, as I automatically did, that the police sergeant in question was blowing smoke out his ass. A passing knowledge of police sergeants and their general comfort and familiarity with scientifically acceptable levels of statistical and factual accuracy is helpful, but not exactly required.

Or you could try and figure out why, when a person writes a paper saying that fully 99 per cent of climate scientists do not explicitly back the global warming consensus, that that paper was not published? Was it political? Is science now for sale? Or you could just conclude the paper-writer's method must have been obviously full of crap if that's the actual number he came up with, and go back to some more useful activity, confident that somebody, somewhere will actually read the rejected paper some day, and find the inevitable simple error, whether of math or bias that led to such a completely and obviously improbable end-result.

Looky here...

Posted by BruceR at 05:37 PM

May 04, 2005

How to tell you are a cult phenomenon

Random conversation overheard walking across campus yesterday: "I reject your reality, and substitute my own."

In other Mythbusters news, Scottie Chapman's leaving the show, which is a great, great shame.

Posted by BruceR at 06:15 PM

Memorializing war

The new Canadian War Museum opens this weekend. I was pleased to read in the Globe this morning that a centerpiece of the new building are portraits by contemporary Canadian war artist Gertrude Kearns, including Rwandan survivor Romeo Dallaire, Somalia torturers Kyle Brown and Clayton Matchee, and an unnamed PTSD victim.

I've noted some concern in some quarters that maybe these aren't the best subjects for major military portraiture. I haven't seen the paintings myself, but I do happen to know Ms. Kearns... a while ago she and I spent the better part of a week in the same command post in Petawawa, me on a radio, her on a sketchpad, and I found her to be an empathetic and intelligent individual, with a natural affinity for soldiers and soldiering, and a sincere determination to capture their stories truthfully. I have no doubt these will be remarkable images.

UPDATE: You can find some of Kearns' Rwanda images here.

Posted by BruceR at 03:18 PM

May 02, 2005

"Canadian soldier" surveyed

Interesting piece of CF-driven sociological work on Canadian military personnel, available here. Very interesting read, particularly on the differences between Quebec-based soldiers and the others on appropriate uses of military force: there is apparently something to the stereotypes of the Westerner feeling alienated, the Quebecer pursuing different aims within the system altogether, and the Atlantic soldier just being happy he's got a steady job, b'y. Also note the re-asking of one of the key questions of the 1979 Cotton report, which found that one-in-six Canadian soldiers would refuse to go to war (now down to under one-in-ten, apparently).

In other news, the Canadian Royal Military College team beat 43 US and two British military academy and ROTC teams in their annual Sandhurst Competition on the weekend. The RMC team had come second last year, behind one of the RMA-Sandhurst teams, but this is the first time they've ever won overall since they started competing in 1997. More on the competition here.

Posted by BruceR at 09:50 AM