Tuesday, August 16, 2011

"My Life Has Been Rooned"

 Ref to:

One of the more notable collateral damages of Canada's Afghan adventure is the sad fate of Brigadier General Danny Minard. His meteoric rise from promotion in January of 2010 to removal from command six months later, to embarassment and demotion, culminating in his retirement and removal, is an object lesson on tripping on one's own sword. A tidbit for the memoirs of the Rt. Hon P.G. McKay Esq. Minister of Defence.

Once said to be on the proverbial fast track to military glory and high command, Brigadier Danny, commander of the CAF contingent to Afghanistan, fell afoul the CAF's  'no-fraternization' policy and was turfed from his post. Afterward he was court-martialled and found guilty of lying and forcing a subordinate to lie, in trying to cover his hindquarters.  He was demoted in rank, fined and dismissed from the service. None of which will bother him much, as he had already resigned, taking his pension at his then-current rank. What is bothering him,  more than the 25G in 'bonus' money lost,  is that he figures 'somebody'  has ruined his life and it ain't him.

He's looking around at the media as suspects numbers one, etc. If it hadn't been for the media, well, what the heck, he would have been able to keep on keeping on.

We're told that he had begun a 'relationship' with an NCO 'well before' they both had found themselves posted to Kandahar.  There are no proscriptions of such 'relationships' at home, save for 'getting caught' by a spouse, or your CO. There are no 'officially' punitive remedies at any rate. Base Kandahar is different, CAF personnel, even married ones, are strictly prohibited from 'canoodling' on the base during their 6 month rotos. It was the latter action that presented the problem.

Actually, it was another 'action', or lack of same,  that presented the problem. A 2010 suicide bomb attack on an ISAF (US) convoy on a bridge near the Base at Kandahar, which killed a US serviceman, was laid at Minard's doorstep insofar as Canadians were supposed to be 'looking after' bridge security. And that, in the minds of Americans,  wasn't being adequately done. The Americans took Minard's 'failure' to heart and a griping campaign about his 'lack of military merit' ended-up on the keyboard of noted American military blogger, Mike Yon.  Yon mentioned that Minard might have been too 'otherwise occupied' with personal night missions to have been doing his job right. If he mentioned Minard's girl fiend's name and rank I don't know, but their liaisons were 'the worst kept secret' on the base. Mike's blog posting started the chain of events.

The military started an investigation. 

That there were unsympathetic members of the CAF who, all of a sudden, started 'leaving Danny out',  is a no-brainer. About the same time everybody at National HQ was trying to disavow knowing a soldiers' soldier who just happened to morph into deviant cross-dresser, panty bandit and double murderer. Balling the help, acceptable in some 'manly' circles, became detrimental to the career trajectory, so did associating with ballers. In fact, some were so 'unsympathetic' that they may have deliberately been proactive in throwing a spanner into Minard's works.

It was just prior to this that Danny 'accidently' discharged his personal weapon in the presence of 'big' Walt Natanczyk, the CinC. No doubt this unsoldierly lapse didn't help when news of his other laps came out.  His 'bad example' to the deployed troops had to be undone by the reappointment of his predecessor who, if nothing else,  had a reputation for  some competence.

The wheels came off Danny's wagon completely. I'm not sure that his Mrs. 'deserted' him, although, given his lack of remorse at a 'stupid rule', she might well have done that. The Major may be affected by that  'career trajectory' stuff, too. Being married to a 'loser' is one of those 'judgement errors' that could shorten the ladder of advancement in the eyes of those who might only have been bamboozled by one.

One has to wonder though, just how Danny managed to advance so far, so fast? It wasn't as if this hubris stuff would have been a 'sudden onset'  sort of malady. Danny's been skating close to the edge of the open water for some time and still would be, we're led to believe, if some media type hadn't shone the light on him, and her .. and the stupid rule everybody else was supposed to be following.

I wonder what Dan would have done with Sapper Jones, caught fraternizing with Gunner Smith?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Car 54 Where Are You?

It seems that they're taking it to the streets all over the place.

There have been a week of protests and camping out in gallant l'il Israel for the past 10 days, over 'social inequalities'. It is a 'welfare state' for the Hebrews, but some of the wealthier ones don't need welfare and, like their American cousins, don't see why they should have to pay for somebody else's. The 'somebody elses' are out on the street.

The Brits are 'going nuts'. This is being laid to a number of reasons, from the need to 'refit with some valuable new 'kit' for going back to school',  to the 'protest of the marginalized at a harsher and more restrictive social welfare policy in a diminishing economy'. Some rather civilized areas of London have been affected and the unrest seems to be spreading to trendy shopping areas of northern cities. A real 'run on the stores' is underway.

The Greeks have been protesting all summer about the Euro-imposed draconian measures required to have the government qualify to borrow the money needed to keep on paying the interest on the national debt.

There have been protests about the same thing in Portugal and Spain.

The Arab spring has morphed into the Arab summer. Tunisia seems to be settling down as somebody announced that bikinis would be welcomed  again - preferably wrapped around Swedish tourists and that booze would be available for the ferenghi - heads up Brits! Egypt seems on the point of another melt-down but this time the 'enemy' is less distinct, although it could be the Army. The Syrians are embroiled in on-going anti-government 'protests' and government protest suppression. And the Libyans are still 'discussing' the pros and cons of Muammar Ghaddafi with heavy artillery, anti-tank weapons and rigorous NATO humanitarian bombing. Let's hope things cool off in the Fall.

What is marvellous in all this is that the people who should be out on the streets, demanding that their government stop the jacking-around, are all at home running garage sales and kajiji -ing the 'toys' to raise cash. When you're trying to figure out how you're going to make your next credit card payment with another maxed-out credit card, there's not much time, or use, to be smashing the windows in upscale stores and stealing the kids some new Keds. The closest America has come to 'disorder' was this Spring's Wisconsin protest by public servants. That soon stopped when the 'Governator' 'bought off' the police 'protestors' with a new contract. Americans are just too 'American' to complain that going to the Mall and not being able to buy much isn't any fun.

Achmedinejad, the 'rogue' leader of Iran,  popped-off again to-day about the topic. He was wondering, out loud, where the UN Security Council was in the face of the British riots? For we all know where the UN was in the face of the Arab disorders - fixing it so that some world powers could be executing their 'obligation to protect' the rioters. The UN so far isn't siding with the Tottenham rioters, or perhaps that's only because it hasn't been asked.

I think we're going to see more rioting in future as food prices, and prices in general, continue to rise. There are parts of the world where starvation because of the inability to afford to buy food is becoming a growing reality. It's only a matter of time before the folks who can't afford a $25 baseball cap or $80 jeans will be hitting the streets, too. They might even do that sooner if they can't afford the school lunch program.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Reality TV

One of the most popular diversions these days is watching 'reality' on the television. It used to be that documentaries were as 'real' as it got, but since the advent of 'Survivor' - 'real' world entertainment has come to the fore. Now we have 'Celebrity Rehab', 'Big Brother', 'Bachelors' and cross-referable 'Bachelorettes' in a full-time (3 month) reprise of the Dating Game - with more smooching. There are a gang of brain-damaged people from 'New Joisy' who make the Three Stooges look like a brains trust and give some indication why somebody would ever want to call an Italian a 'wop'.

But some of the best reality - and this only occasionally in the media - is some of the stuff brought home from Afghanistan in some body's field pack. Of late there seems to be a lot of this stuff available.

Soldiers have always been fond of keeping mementos of where they've been and what they've done. In the 'olden' days that came in the form of looting the dead. To-day it's more apt to come in  the form of recordable media. If it hadn't been for some eager photographers, the events of the Holocaust would lack a very important visual dimension. It's hard to deny the photographic record.

No less so to-day. There is a narrative that we've all been exposed to. It's the one that justifies and defines and continues to shape what the 'civilized world' is doing in parts of the Third World. It's the one that's taken as conventional wisdom, very successfully, for it has been motivating for more than a decade now, with new motivations happening daily. The media has been co-opted into constantly reprising the narrative but, from time to time, a glimmer of another story sneaks through the cracks, often from those who are at the 'pointy' end of things. 

Lately,  Danes and now Dutchmen who have been part of the Afghan 'assistance' force are producing media based on video and photography recording the events experienced by the troops - a la "Restrepo". Two of these are "Armadillo" - winner of a European award and "Fokkin Hell". These live-actions are interspersed with interviews, with the soldiers involved, that flesh-out their perspectives. Not surprisingly they emphasize parts of the narrative the regular media plays down, and they introduce some things the regular media wouldn't show at all. What we're actually doing is way off the PR spokeperson's 'talking points'.  In fact it bears little resemblance to what we've been, and are being told, at all.

One of the notable things portrayed in the European work is the notion of  how disliked the ISAF forces are. In a couple of scenes Afghan youngsters ask these young soldiers from Denmark, in one case, and Holland on the other what they think they're doing in Afghanistan and then disabuse them of any 'ideal' of actually helping  anybody, or being welcomed to do it. There are the other scenes of Afghans trying to niggle compensation from soldiers unwilling to pay it. At least the Europeans don't seem to find the same need to 'jack around' with the locals portrayed in Restrepo. But the notion that 'they're on the take' is prevalent.

Another is the obvious anti-Afghan (anti-Taliban but who can tell the difference?) attitude held by the young soldiers. Every Afghan is a potential enemy, and so every Afghan is a potential target. It's a tribute to discipline that more Afghans aren't shot during the daily round of observation and patrol - just due to the omnipresent threat. There isn't much about 'rebuilding' in any of these works, unless it's rebuilding a firebase. But that could be because these are shot in 'hot' areas, as opposed to the more civilized spots. A further observation could be made about the men and their weapons, if the Afghans aren't awed by western firepower, the awe is certainly compensated in the western militaries. Bomb strikes, artillery stonks or missile impacts are all attended with 'oohs and aahs'. And the 'free shoots' seem to be heartily enjoyed by everybody with a trigger finger.

The casualties, the wounded, are depicted in remarkable isolation from the actual events. The camera only sees aftermath and there an impression given by the obviously unwounded that it's a fluke to be hit. If the western forces are as successful hitting their targets, there should be thousands of wounded Afghans not being medevaced out. But they must be hiding.

One other aspect that shows up in one of the pieces is the notion of unit integrity and keeping 'secrets'. In the Danish film the unit NCO gets hauled on the carpet for shooting wounded Taliban after one of the unit writes home to his parents about the deaths of three Taliban in a firefight. While the incident is depicted in all its bloodthirstiness, one can empathise with soldiers in the heat of battle, confronting an armed opponent. To say there was some 'overkill' involved is perhaps making an understatement, but that, too, is to be expected in such circumstances. What is notable is the Sargent's telling-off to his unit and his reminder that they had only done what they 'had to do' and it was the 'right' thing. That 'only those who were there share an understanding of what happened', that civilians, even nice family ones, can get it 'wrong'. When nobody raises a disagreement, "Tak! That's the story, move on.".

I think there is a whole lot more of the 'realistic' type of photojournalism that will appear after the military censors have returned to barracks. That should go a long way toward doing for Afghanistan and Iraq what a string of dissonant narratives have done to the Vietnam experience. Once again the glory  and honour of 'serving' in war - especially an unjust war- will be magnified as a fool's game. I can't see our latest round of vets getting any more respect than their Vietnam daddies and granddads, they certainly won't be compared favourably to their grand sires of the World Wars.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

The Peripatetic News

It's been almost a whole fortnight since last I applied digits to keyboard in another Blogger deposit. And what a fortnight it has been! If it wasn't for all the actual world-shaking events I'm sure the hyperactive media would have been hard pressed to drum up any kind of interest. But events overtook them.

 First off was the Oslo bombing and avantgarde shooting spree. I was actually 'en farte' on the internet when I noticed the first little media 'heads up' about 8:30 in the AM - an explosion reported near the office of the Norwegian PM. Within the hour, the US  news blogs lit up like a hannukah candle with the 'work of jihadi terror' mantra going great guns based on the readings of the magickal 8 ball. Sadly, that turned out to be far from the case. As the day's events morphed into the work of a crazed gunman - a mass shooting more common to US college campuses - the other part of hyperactive media kicked into play to explain why this had happened. And since then the crescendo was reached, newsorthily speaking, followed by a denouement of rationality that might suggest 'it wasn't all that bad' after all. With the exception that they're burying more of the victims to-day.

While everybody apparently agrees that shooting sixty kids is not something to be done on a regular basis. The pundits who, sort of, share the gunman's perspectives, have regathered the courage to start saying that we shouldn't let his actions stifle the 'Stepford effect' - we shouldn't lessen any efforts to decry the imminent demise of our civilization at the hands of godawful Islam. The only 'real'  mistake made here was in target selection. Had he shot muslims 'Hans Gunnar Quackenbusch' - 'Vanilla Hice' - might have been up for an Oscar, or a Nobel prize - definitely Olympic gold in free-range shooting. Punditry will out anyway.

The shooting was soon eclipsed by two weeks of 'high political drama' in America and much the same sort of activity in the EU. This of course all related to the financial situation which isn't going to go away anythime soon. It was defaults and bailouts on both sides of the Atlantic - Greece went under and was dragged to the surface for some Germanic mouth-to-mouth. Italy and Spain are on tenterhooks and it's problematic that the powerhouses are going to be much able to help. America won't.

The squabble that started when Obama foolishly tried to get the Republican 'rump' on-side at the beginning of his administration, is growiing into the kind of a tumor that should remind any political victor of the ancient tradition of 'cleaning house' when taking office. Leaving the lie-abouts from a previous administrtation thinking that they might be able to swing some weight, let alone have nothing to fear from a change,  is like ignoring a field of IEDs and a very naive way to do politics. And so the Republicans saw Obama down to the wire over a debt extension (due another failed 'initiative') and succeeded in removing any potency left in the truncated programs they had 'signed on to'. In keeping on - and extending Bushco's great Asian adventures, instead of calling the troops home, Obama involved himself in having to extend those debt limits where they should never have been. He got democratically 'boned' for his pains.

As an unpleasant segue to all this, the recent news that Standard and Poor had turned traitor and 'stabbed the nation in the back' by reducing it's credit rating to AA from the traditional AAA added another 'toofay salute' to an already odious stinkeroo. The move served to drop the value of stocks about 23 percent in one day and, theoretically, add another 100 billion the US will have to borrow to pay the interest on the money it already owes. Having to increase the debt to service the debt has never been a sign of economic health.  Maybe it's time that more financial institutions, who don't buy most of the government bonds anyway, start telling the emperor his Ass is bare.

While everybody's worrying about another kick in the retirement savings, to-day another little reminder that some are sacrificing all for us to have such freedoms. It seems some Afghan goatherd got lucky with an RPG round and dropped a chopper full of Navy Seals. Thirty  of the finest fighting men that  money can train, members of the 'Offin' Osama Squad' made their last dive into an Afghan mountain last night. Just what were they doing flying around an Afghan mountain in the dark with at least one other such well-sealed helicopter? Is was nice of you to ask. Well acccording to the press they were:

A) doing the job they were so well trained to do
B) Training the Afghans to do that job almost as well
C) In pursuit of a 'high value' target - a taliban bomb maker who had been unreportedly attacking  ISAF convoys  or
D) Going to the rescue of a unit pinned-down by massive enemy fire
E) Doing the job they loved  and
F) Making the folks at home feel safer and prouder.

There's gotta be a country and western song in this. Would to gracious Sullivan was still going, but there is Vegas,  and the late night shows. Why, the filthy Taliban even killed the doggy one of the nice soldiers had with him as they flew to a midnight raid.

The raid? Yeppers, it was another of those 'midnight rides' of which America is so fond. Months of intel work being brought to fruition at 3 am in a stealth strike on those who hate our freedoms. We are told that, after the crash, another chopper landed nearby and its crew, after a brief firefight, killed eight insurgents. They're darned lucky that that army unit 'under siege' didn't call in the standard air strikes, instead of trained seals. They might have wound up dead by the score. Or like the woman and her 8 kids - killed in another 'accident', down south, when somebody airstruck some Taliban hiding among them. But that news doesn't have the same 'weight' and discussibility.

Let's not forget the royal wedding and its 'ennertainment' value. The last Shuttle flight, the on-goings in Libya and Syria and the existential threats emanating from Iran, Korea, China - your choice. This week there's  the famine in Somalia and floods in other places to keep us thinking about doing something about the environment.

And so the round goes on, the world's diversions and distractions, laid out for their Warhol moments for a 'news hungry' public in welter of  sound bites and bafflegab commentary..