Thursday, May 03, 2007

General Rick Hillier Makes a Foray into Politics

Chief of Defence Staff General Rick Hillier says Canadian soldiers are mighty disgruntled that their mission in Afghanistan has been eclipsed by allegations that prisoners handed over to the Afghans by Canadians have been tortured.

“Let me just come out and say very frankly here that I’ve met a variety of soldiers who are pissed off,” Hillier told reporters in Kandahar.

Over the past two weeks, the Harper government has been raked over the coals in the House of Commons and in media reports over the issue of prisoner abuse. With his comments in Kandahar, General Hillier has crossed the line into the terrain of political debate. That is not the job of a military commander in a country where the civilian political leadership establishes national policy.

The “pissed off” comment is clearly aimed at cooling the ardor of the opposition parties in pressing their case on the prisoner abuse issue in the House of Commons. If Hillier wants to participate in national political debates, he should resign his military commission and go into politics.

He might find the going tough on the hustings. Unlike Americans who love to reward generals with high political office----George Washington, Andrew Jackson, Zachary Taylor, Ulysses S. Grant, Rutherford B. Hayes, Benjamin Harrison, and Dwight D. Eisenhower were all generals who became president---Canadians don’t turn to men in uniform for political leadership.

Even in the United States, when generals get too big for their britches, the civilian leadership calls them to account. In the spring of 1951, at the climax of a great national debate between President Harry S. Truman and General Douglas MacArthur, commander of U.S. forces in Korea, about who should call the shots in the war, the president relieved the General of his command. MacArthur returned to the U.S. after a fourteen year absence and was feted by millions of Americans in the streets of the great cities, the finale being a ticker-tape parade in New York City. He went to Washington and testified before a Congressional Committee. From there his political fortunes dwindled. While he had seemed likely to become an unstoppable presidential candidate in the next election, his vanity and imperial bearing frightened Americans. It would be sometime before the old soldier died, but he did fade away. In the next election, Americans turned to a general, but Dwight D. Eisenhower was a firm believer in civilian control. He did not have a Caesar-like glint in his eye.

It’s time for Hillier to stop quoting soldiers he does not name as though their service in Afghanistan ought to give them extra standing in determining Canadian policies in the war.

Meanwhile the politicians ought to spend more time considering the fact that on a per capita basis more Canadians soldiers have died in Afghanistan than has been the case for any other NATO country. That’s something that does "piss off" Canadians.


Anonymous said...

And it pisses me off when civilian Afghans are being killed by the Western soldiers (the last incident happened yesterday, which even the puppet president, Hamed Karzai, couldn't remain silent about that) and all you westerners care about is if your soldiers are pampered enough or not!
Please get out of Afghanistan before it becomes too late!

Anonymous said...

Love your blog. With all the books you have written, you must be following the news story about Yann Martel and how he is sending books to PM Harper. There has been a lot of commentary that's been in the Star about it the past few days. I'd be really interested to know your thoughts on this.

Anonymous said...

I just discovered your blog and I am very much agreeing on what I am reading here .And not only about the Afganistan war.

This Afghanistan "story" is getting worst with each day,.
Harper put the whole thing in the worst light as he Implied it as showing our "manhood with pride"???
Sorry For the drastic wording but I am really angry when I see this kind of implications anywhere .

This is Mission Impossible.
wrongheaded and disastrous.

I was wondering if you are involved in the actual political "forces' ?? We need people like you to work for good causes....
marta from Vancouver

James Laxer said...

I'm replying here to the second and third comments: I think Yann Martel's lonely effort to educate Stephen Harper by providing him with the classics to read is a valiant project. I love it.

I'm a little stymied by the question about what ought to be done. I'm up for involvement if someone shows me the way.

gary_mh said...

First off, quite a few pols are making ridiculous statements about foreign policy, why not hear from the odd general. We do not seem to have many of this species in Canada, so it is interesting to see how they compare to the American loud mouths of the same type. Then too, it does seem to me this particular general is such a chump he bellieves his present style of me wear hard hat and say hard things is actually welcome generally in Canada. Just because a lot of people are amused and distracted during the breaks in the hockey game by Grapes locker room garbage does not mean anyone respects him or will be guided anywhere except on a rink (and right in front of a goalie) by his abusive comments. I am content to see the General help reduce the foreign policy to the vapid political game it is, to our collective shame and guilt, with his comments. Let the General rant, he is heping the cause, although not the one he signed up for.

Mark said...

Yeah far be it that the people actually doing the fighting should hold an opinion on said fight. Just shut up and listen to the professors eh? I'd rather take my military advice from General Hillier than Professor Dion or Activist Layton.

Anonymous said...

Dear Anonymous @ 4:18

Do Afghans killing civilian Afghans upset you much?

Especially if they are killed for working as teachers in girls school or things like that?

Or pushing walls over on homosexuals?

Or for anything modern or secular?

Anonymous said...

James you are a typical bleeding ass liberal.General Hillier is a Great Canadian and also a great leader for the Canadian troops.Talk to the soldiers who he leads and you might realize what a great leader and great person that he is.James you are the typical loud mouth who sits at home and mouths off about the people who serve and protect your sorry ass.As far as the comment about American loudmouths come on down for a visit and speak your piece you spineless invertabrate.It must be nice to live the life of a jellyfish while the BRAVE CANADIAN MEN AND WOMEN of this country along with GENERAL HILLIER are protecting your sorry ass so you can get a good nights sleep.I will be signing off now I wasted enough time responding to a cold and timid soul such as yourself.Thank GOD it's not the critic that counts.Sleep tight weak one.