Saturday, February 15, 2003

Canadian Army Bitter Because They Can't Go To Iraq



John McCallum, the Defence Minister, announced that a battalion of soldiers -- likely from the Royal Canadian Regiment in Petawawa, Ont., -- and a brigade headquarters will join an international security force policing Kabul.

This means they won't be able to send any troops to help in Iraq, a decision which is probably designed to placate Canadian citizens who may disagree whether a homocidal maniac should remain in power or not.

But to the Canadian military, smaller each year, with less credibility each year, in a country that has a big brother to the south keeping them virtually unassailable, it was a blow to their confidence.

Major-General Brian Vernon, a retired army officer, said it has left many Canadian officers bitter. "This will have a very negative effect on morale," he said. "It will be seen as running away from a fight, or avoiding a fight, rather than making a real contribution."

Alain Pellerin, director of the Conference of Defence Associations, said the federal Liberals turned that down because they did not want Canadian soldiers involved in combat.

"The army wanted to make a real land contribution to the operation in Iraq, as they did in Afghanistan," he said.

"But the government's never been very comfortable with what the PPCLI did in Kandahar.... It put the army in the public eye and gave them a lot of positive publicity. The government didn't like that."

Mr. Pellerin said by denying the land element the chance to "put their training to use" the government may have set up a future crisis in the military.

"A lot of people [in the Canadian Forces] are reaching the point of retirement ... and there's a lot of frustration, the feeling that the government doesn't care about the armed forces," he said.

"There will be a serious crisis within the next few years."

Article Here

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