New chief of Canada’s armed forces talks tough


[cross posted from Simply Put]

The purpose of this post is to call your attention to an article in today’s Globe and Mail. The article says that Canada is sending 2,000 troops to Afghanistan to combat terrorism. Canada’s elite “Joint Task Force 2” soldiers, described as a secretive commando team, will be deployed in combat missions against the remnants of the former Taliban regime and supporters of al-Qaeda.

I share this information because of a discussion on Jack’s Shack. My previous post (Is President Bush evil?) inspired a post on Jack’s blog.

I don’t intend to respond to most of what he wrote on Jack’s Shack (The Power of Language), but I agree with the substance of the following remark. Jack wrote:

Maybe I am being hypersensitive, but I have read numerous comments from outside of the U.S. in which they complain that the U.S. should have focused on fighting the terrorists and not on the invasion [of Iraq]. What bothers me about this is that it comes across to me as if they are saying that the US is the sole country that can do this. Where is the responsibility, where is the accounting of how their countries are responding to the threats of terror.

In response, I commented:

I plead guilty as charged. Canada doesn’t spend enough on its military, and arguably (some would say inarguably) we are too soft on organizations and individuals with connections to terrorism.

I hope you and your readers don’t misunderstand my position. I do not fault the USA for responding to terrorism with massive force. Canadians agree with the actions that were taken in Afghanistan, for example.

My criticism is that the war in Iraq appears to have had no rational connection to the war on terror. It is precisely for this reason that I think it was a colossal blunder, one which deflected attention from the real enemy.

Coincidentally, today’s news item speaks to this exchange between Jack and me. Canada continues to support efforts against terrorism in Afghanistan, even as we stay out of the war in Iraq. And Canada has appointed a new Chief of the Defence Staff, who was chosen because he promises to take a tougher line than his predecessor in the position.

In the excerpts from today’s Globe and Mail, I have selected mostly quotes from General Hillier, the new Chief of the Defence Staff:

JTF2 to hunt al-Qaeda

Canada’s elite JTF2 soldiers are heading to Afghanistan as part of a 2,000-troop deployment that will target the “detestable murderers and scumbags” behind the rise in international terrorism, General Rick Hillier said yesterday.

In a blunt briefing that signalled a new aggressiveness at the top of the Canadian Forces, the Chief of the Defence Staff said the impending operations are risky but necessary in light of last week’s bombings in the British public-transit system.

“The London attack actually tells us once more: We can’t let up,” Gen. Hillier told reporters.

He said terrorists are ready to target Canada as much as any other Western country and that Canadians have to be aware that their soldiers are in for some “risky business” as they head out to Afghanistan.

It was the first time Gen. Hillier has confirmed that members of the Joint Task Force 2 — the country’s secretive commando team — will be involved in combat missions against the remnants of the former Taliban regime and supporters of al-Qaeda.

“These are detestable murderers and scumbags, I’ll tell you that right up front. They detest our freedoms, they detest our society, they detest our liberties,” Gen. Hillier said.

“We’re not the public service of Canada, we’re not just another department. We are the Canadian Forces, and our job is to be able to kill people.”

Previous Canadian missions in Afghanistan have provided security in Kabul, the capital. But the next three missions, involving 2,000 troops, will be heavily centred in the southern mountains, where soldiers will be called upon to hunt down and fight the insurgents.

Gen. Hillier said Canada is already in the crosshairs of the terrorists, and he does not believe it becomes a bigger target by participating in military operations that give hope to the Afghans.

He pointed out that during the Second World War, Canadian soldiers did not shy away from fighting the Nazis.

“Did they say, ‘No we might be attacked over here if we actually stand up against those despicable murderers and bastards?’ No, they did not,” Gen. Hillier said.

The native of Newfoundland has been the top soldier in Canada for five months. Bolstered by a growing budget, he is promising a “radical transformation” of the forces to make them more effective in their daily operations.

With his straight-talking style, Gen. Hillier has already effected a major change at the top of the military hierarchy in comparison with his blander predecessor, General Ray Henault.

The recent Canadian rotations in Afghanistan have been centred at Camp Julien in Kabul.

Gen. Hillier said that the coming missions will “shift the centre of gravity to Kandahar,” the area of southern Afghanistan that saw the rise of the Taliban.

The goal is to bring stability and democracy to the area, he said, adding that this is “the exact opposite of what people like Osama bin Laden, Mullah Omar and those others want.”

I must admit, some of General Hillier’s language sends a shudder down my spine. But I sincerely believe that Canada has been too soft to date in its response to terrorism, so General Hillier’s appointment seems to be a step in the right direction.

I also agree with Canada’s general policy, that units like JTF2 are the most effective way to combat terrorism. The military strategy which was employed during the cold war is of limited utility in the war against terrorism.

To conquer an enemy nation will rarely help the cause. It was the right decision with respect to Taliban-ruled Afghanistan, which provided a safe haven for al-Qaeda, but that is a highly-exceptional example. In general, we will need to root out terrorist networks which are hiding within friendly (or neutral) states:  i.e., states which do not sponsor terrorism. (The position in which Afghanistan now finds itself.)

JTF2 is designed to engage in precisely that kind of work. It may be a modest contribution to the war against terrorism, but at least it’s something a Canadian can point to with pride.

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2 thoughts on “New chief of Canada’s armed forces talks tough

  1. [cross posted from Simply Put]

    Being a pacifist this really saddens me. While I can see the need to use JTF2 to work in a aggressive police type role to hunt terrorists, I think it is something we should have to do with a degree of regret.

    While Hillier seems to be doing the right thing, his words don’t make me “shudder” they make me convulse.

    While he is right in saying “We’re not the public service of Canada, we’re not just another department. We are the Canadian Forces, and our job is to be able to kill people.”, I would rather that killing only be done in defence of our nation and then only regrettably so.

    People may not like my take on this, but I think that waiting for the war to come to us might be wiser than kicking the tiger in the rear. So far terrorist have left us alone, just because we can think of a reason that they might attack us does not mean to say they will.

    Hillier’s words are almost over the border of passion and into the realm of Anger, and this is dangerous in a person that controls power.

    I’m not sure where I heard it, but I believe the following, that If a person responds to evil in anger, he becomes attached to the evil and it can dominate him.

    The following is also good advice;

    You have heard that it was said, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” But I say to you, Do not resist one who is evil. But if any one strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also; and if any one would sue you and take your coat, let him have your cloak as well; and if any one forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.

    Jesus Christ – Matthew 5.38-41

    Let there be no injury and no requital.

    Forty Hadith of an-Nawawi 32

  2. I would rather that killing only be done in defence of our nation and then only regrettably so.

    On the first part of your statement, I think taking the battle to the terrorists is done in defence of our nation. Al-Qaeda is our enemy: not because we have labelled them as such, but because they have labelled us as such, and attacked us on that basis.

    When I say they have attacked “us”, I am referring to western democracies. Al-Qaeda is not thinking of Israel, the USA, the United Kingdom, Spain, Canada, etc. as severable nations. We are all one enemy, in the view of Islamic terrorists, and Osama bin Laden has explicitly called for an attack on Canada.

    On the second half of your statement, I share your revulsion at the General’s remarks. But I don’t think we can reasonably expect soldiers to feel regret about killing our sworn enemies, when that is precisely what they are trained to do. They are safeguarding our western values and way of life.

    When I consider World War II, I regard it as a just war. Therefore I cannot call myself a pacifist even though, like you, I am a Christian.

    I believe that taking the war to al-Qaeda is, similarly, a just response to 9/11 and subsequent terrorist acts.
    Q

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