Friday, July 15, 2005

New chief of Canadian armed forces talks tough

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. As Jack mentioned at the time, my previous post (Is President Bush evil?) inspired a post on his 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.


At 3:18 PM, July 15, 2005, Blogger Jack's Shack said...

I was pleased to see this.

At 4:08 PM, July 15, 2005, Blogger Bill said...

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

At 4:35 PM, July 15, 2005, Blogger Stephen (aka Q) said...

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.

At 9:15 AM, July 16, 2005, Blogger The Misanthrope said...

This is the first I heard of Canada going to Afghanistan. I think it was smart not to go to Iraq.

At 11:16 AM, July 17, 2005, Blogger Jack's Shack said...

Hi Q,

I agree with you here about taking the war to them. Waiting to see if it shows up on your doorstep is playing with fire, at least in my estimation.

It is similar to watching a wildfire crawl up the canyons around your home. It could be extinguished before it reaches you or redirected, but if it is not you could face a raging inferno with no alternatives.

The fundamentalists are not interested in negotiating with us. Read their words and you can see that there is a problem.

The man who killed Van Gogh made a point of spelling this out:

"After the prosecution's closing statement Bouyeri, who had refused to say anything about his motives during the trial, took the opportunity to make a final statement.

"I can assure you that one day, should I be set free, I would do exactly the same, exactly the same," he said, speaking slowly in sometimes halted Dutch.

He said he felt an obligation to Van Gogh's mother Anneke, present in court, to speak, but offered no sympathy.

"I have to admit I do not feel for you, I do not feel your pain, I cannot -- I don't know what it is like to lose a child," he said as Van Gogh's family and friends looked on.

"I cannot feel for you ... because I believe you are an infidel," he added.

"I acted out of conviction -- not because I hated your son."

At 2:32 PM, July 17, 2005, Blogger Stephen (aka Q) said...

I'm aware that some of the language I used in my response to Bill's comment is taken straight from George "Dubya" Bush's hymn book, including the line about taking the war to the terrorists. It's surprising, because (as should be clear from my previous post) I'm not a fan of the current President.

But it's the right strategy, in my opinion. We can't identify every potential suicide bomber. As recent events in London illustrate, you can never tell who might be next to enlist in the terrorist cause.

Instead, we have to dig terrorism up at the root: i.e., root out the people who recruit terrorists, train them, raise funds, acquire the materials used to make bombs, plan and coordinate the attacks, produce hate propaganda, etc..

Presumably, those are the kind of people JTF2 is going to search out and destroy in Afghanistan. And God bless them in their endeavor, I say.

At 7:59 PM, July 17, 2005, Blogger Bill said...

I tried to post this once before but it did not seem to work so I am posting it again. If this appears more than once please forgive me. I am not trying to beat anyone over the head with my pacifist manifesto...

I'm going to choose not to debate this topic, because as a pacifist I know that it is hard to win in a debate such as this because emotions are more powerful than words especially the emotions stirred up against ones enemies, but I'm going to leave with a some last words.

First we teach our children that it is better to walk away from fights when the opposition is an irrational bully.

We treat revenge as something deplorable and make such crimes of passion illegal.

Someone attacks me I get a bigger stick and hit them, then they get a bigger stick and so on and so on.

Aggression breeds aggression.

Its like the old Itchy and Scratchy cartoon on the Simpsons. The cat hits the mouse the mouse hits the cat they each get bigger weapons each time. It's a great satire on violence, but is it funny?

JTF2 is just another big stick.
The official line is that "Due to the strategic nature of its operations, the unit answers directly to the Deputy Chief of the Defence Staff in the chain of command." this to me is a license for abuse, if not a license to kill without being caught. It comes down to who polices the police.

Q you know more about law, would this be legal if it was a domestic fight? (sending a team of crack fighters to attack our neighbour and kill him without taking him to court, seems like sending your cousin Viny to do the job, because he has muscles and a piece)

Why are the laws we apply to society not the same as the laws we apply to states.

I can see the Americans doing this as they believe in capital punishment but Canada outlawed it years ago, because we learned it is just revenge and doesn't stop crime.

And as for Hillier the term Scumbags isn't an appropriate insult for a chief of staff to use.

We can call them amoral or evil or any other descriptor that makes them look bad, but using the word Scumbag simply makes Hillier look childish (and to clarify I did not say it made him childish, just look that way.)

I like to think of a future society without war, even a war on terrorism.

Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr, Budda and Jesus these are heros, not G W Bush, Tony Blair, Ronald Regan or even Winston Churchill.

Humans are better and achieve more when they are not fighting.

Call me naive, but I am in good company Thomas Paine, Mahatma Gandhi, Budda, Martin Luther King Jr., and Jesus Christ all good naive pacifists.

Canada has enjoyed a reputation for peace and diplomacy ever since Lester B. Pearson came up with the peacekeeping solution for the Suez Crisis in 1956. (Hey lets just march in between the two waring parties) We've also been recognized for our as supporters of human rights issues, nuclear disarmament, and the International Criminal Court.

And in response to Q’s comment.
“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.”

1. Almost every soldier that describes his first kill describes it with revulsion if not regret.(the national archive is full of letters that describe this I can send you some when I have time) this guilt and regret finds part of its manifestation in Post traumatic stress.
2. I expect the military to defend the lives of the citizens not our values and way of life. Like religion this to me is best spread by example and gradual conversion.

I respect the anger the tears the terror and the grief, that might lead someone to revenge or an aggressive defence, so I will not ridicule or blame any anyone for reacting in hate or vengeance but don’t expect me to respond well to what is happening. I grew up in relative peace I live in relative peace I will practice peace. Everyone can go on thinking that this is right, that is their choice and it does not make them a bad person it just makes them human, however I think humans can rise above this sort of aggression.....

At 10:26 PM, July 17, 2005, Blogger Stephen (aka Q) said...


First, I admire you for taking this stand in the present context. It's very difficult to defend pacifism in the aftermath of 9/11. It takes guts to speak out when you know you're almost certainly in a minority position.

You mention that people's emotions are inflamed, and obviously that's true. But you're also having an emotional response to this subject. As a result, I don't think you've heard me very clearly in what I've said here.

In particular, this comment:
I will not ridicule or blame any anyone for reacting in hate or vengeance

I spoke of self-defence. Not hatred. Not vengeance. There's a valid distinction.

I invite you to visit Kerckhoff's Coffeehouse (Dr. Bean's blog); specifically, a post called The Enemy Within. You'll see that I have responded to Dr. Bean's post by offering an analysis of the Qur'an. The thesis I'm defending is this:

As a Christian, I am aware and ashamed of the bloodier eras of Church history: the Crusades, the Inquisition, antisemitism, etc. … I don't think I am in a position, as a Christian, to issue a blanket condemnation of Islam.

I think that comment, posted three days ago, plainly demonstrates that I do not hate Muslims nor am I lusting for revenge. You're viewing my remarks through some kind of distorting lenses; you're not seeing my position objectively.

If I advocated killing Muslim civilians in retaliation for their killing of, say, British civilians — then we would be talking about revenge. But I would adamantly oppose any such policy.

As I explained in response to Jack, I support the killing of those who recruit terrorists, train them, raise funds, acquire the materials used to make bombs, plan and coordinate the attacks, produce hate propaganda, etc. This, in my view, is a policy of self-defence, not a policy of vengeance.

You write, Aggression breeds aggression. Often, that is true. But sometimes, when you're dealing with a bully, standing up for yourself is an effective response.

Sometimes, people respond with aggression when they perceive you as weak. In fact, that is precisely how Osama bin Laden perceives the west. He believes that we are cowards at heart: that we have grown soft because we have it easy in the west, and we will respond to terrorism by regressing into the fetal position, sucking our thumbs, and whimpering like babies.

If we, in the west, show any weakness, al Qaeda will go for the jugular. If we consistently respond with "pluck", as Paul Wells characterizes the British response to the terrorist attacks in London, I believe the terrorists will eventually conclude that their strategy cannot succeed.

Finally, I want to assure you that Buddha, Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., and Jesus Christ are heroes of mine, too. Winston Churchill is also a hero of mine, though it may seem paradoxical or even self-contradictory.

Gandhi's strategy succeeded against the British because they were essentially just and civilized men and women. But Nazi Germany was a different sort of enemy. If the British had responded to Hitler like Gandhi responded to the British, Hitler would have continued his aggression until he had become the Emperor of all Europe.

I assume that Neville Chamberlain is not among your heroes, and with good reason. He illustrates the point that weakness can sometimes provoke aggression, depending on the nature of the enemy you face.

In sum: I believe al Qaeda is akin to Hitler and Nazi Germany. To display weakness would be a mistake. But my support for the war in Afghanistan is not a matter of revenge or hatred, but rather self-defence.

But please, Bill, understand that I respect your integrity for defending this position in the current climate. I don't mean to mock or belittle your point of view, and I hope you won't interpret anything I've said in that way.

At 12:08 AM, July 18, 2005, Blogger Bill said...

Worry not Q if you are taking my points as directed at you. With the exception of the two points labelled in response to Q’s comment

I'm aware that you are not motivated by vengeance or hate but the policy that created the war on terrorism might be so based. Just so everyone knows, I have had many conversations online and through email that would lead me to believe he does not have such motives.

However I disagree with his definition of defence which he outlines in the following quote."As I explained in response to Jack, I support the killing of those who recruit terrorists, train them, raise funds, acquire the materials used to make bombs, plan and coordinate the attacks, produce hate propaganda, etc. This, in my view, is a policy of self-defence, not a policy of vengeance."

Self defence in my view does not need to include killing your opponent.

The hunt and kill approach to the war on Terrorism to me seems unwise.

In killing your opponent without trial you take on a degree of risk. One of the objections to capital punishment is that there is a remote chance that a nonguilty party might be executed. That is more possible here when the judge jury and executioner are not in a court room.

Even the Nazi’s where dragged into a court room in Nuremberg

Also I think that appeasement of Hitler by Chamberlain while being uneffective just delayed the war that was inevitable. I’m not sure Chamberlain was a villain. All he was guilty of was to try peace when peace was impossible.

At 8:39 AM, July 18, 2005, Blogger Stephen (aka Q) said...

Thanks, Bill, for clarifying your position.

I should also offer a clarification. I didn't mean to equate pacifism with weakness, but my comment could certainly be interpreted that way.

Anyone who knows the history of Jesus, Gandhi, and Martin Luther King Jr. must be aware that pacifism requires courage and great inner strength.

My concern is that Osama bin Laden will perceive pacifism as weakness, thereby confirming his low opinion of westerners and inviting further aggression.

I'm aware that you are not motivated by vengeance or hate but the policy that created the war on terrorism might be so based.

It amuses me to find myself defending President Bush's strategy in what he calls "the war on terror" (sic). It's ironic that I should be the one defending him, but I'm in this position partly because of the pacifist stance you've taken.

Post 9/11, it is entirely possible that Americans are motivated, in part, by a desire for vengeance. Moreover, the fact that President Bush has aligned himself so closely with Christian fundamentalists makes him vulnerable to the charge that he is prejudiced against Islam.

President Bush has been careful in his public statements to characterize Islam as a peaceful religion worthy of respect and tolerance from non-Muslims. However, at the same time, he appeals to the worst in people with his binary world view ("you're either with us or against us"). He utilizes polarizing rhetoric to make it more awkward for his political opponents to criticize him.

So I agree that the concerns you express in your comment are valid. President Bush has exploited 9/11 to political advantage, at the risk of feeding people's worst impulses.

At 12:56 PM, July 18, 2005, Blogger Jack's Shack said...

Self defence in my view does not need to include killing your opponent.


I agree with most of what you said including the line above. It should not have to come to this, the problem lies in how others view your position.

Q is right when he says that there are leaders such as Hitler who would have walked all over Ghandi.

It is sad but true.

At 1:51 AM, January 09, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Some people have use the Bible to justify their opinion and misused it in doing so. God has ordained a swift death penalty and Jesus has confirmed it. Protecting our country is a Godly obligation and killing is justified. It is about time that a military leader speaks tough. Lets hope that he will be able to act accordingly and not be bound by minorities with some twisted peace agenda that could allow terrorists entry in our country.


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