Friday, 25 July 2008

Canadian Forces Rewards Disgraced Commander

The CBC and Ottawa Citizen report that:

Canada's military leadership has quietly promoted to general the soldier who led the ill-fated Somalia mission and who was subsequently found by a government inquiry to have failed in his duty as a commander.

The military has not publicized the July 2 promotion of Col. Serge Labbé to the rank of brigadier general.
The CBC reports:
A public inquiry into the affair cleared Labbe of any personal involvement in the killing, but concluded he failed to clearly enforce the rules of engagement. The inquiry, which ran from 1994 to 1997, called Labbe's failure both lamentable and inexcusable.
The Ottawa Citizen reports:
In 1997, the Somalia inquiry concluded Brig.-Gen. Labbé exercised poor and inappropriate leadership by failing to ensure Canadian troops were adequately trained and tested on the Geneva Conventions and that he failed in his duty as a commander.
In the real world a promotion means you take on new duties and responsibilities. The Somalia mission took place from 1992 to 1993. So perhaps the disgraced commander has redeemed himself and is ready to take on the new duties and responsibilities that the promotion entails. But that is not so.

As the Ottawa Citizen reports:
But sources contacted the Citizen about the promotion and the Defence Department yesterday confirmed that the new rank for the officer will be retroactive to 2000.
How exactly do you go back eight years and take on the new duties and responsibilities of a promotion.

But it gets worse, as the Ottawa Citizen reports:
A colleague of Brig.-Gen. Labbé said the officer is currently in Kabul as head of the Strategic Advisory Team, which provides support to Afghan government ministries. He is expected back in Canada in August and is expected to retire after that, according to the general's colleague.
and:
Dan Dugas, the communications director for Defence Minister Peter MacKay, said the minister signed off on the promotion based on the recommendation of Gen. Rick Hillier, who recently retired as chief of the defence staff. "Mr. MacKay takes the advice of the Chief of the Defence Staff on staffing issues," Mr. Dugas said.
So this is not a promotion, but a retirement gift to a disgraced commander. And one that the government takes no responsibility for, preferring to put the responsibility on retired Chief of Defence Staff Rick Hillier.

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Austrian Reflections

We have returned from our Austrian vacation and I hope to post a few commentaries on the vacation and the country in the coming days. But for now a brief summary.

The first thing you notice about the towns and cities is that they are very compact and densely populated without sprawling suburbs. Every town and city has a fair sized walking zone in the centre where no cars are allowed, although bicycles are usually allowed and sometimes streetcars may run through them. Vienna, in particular, is very pedestrian, cyclist and dog friendly.

The country is very big on trains, in particular electric ones - even the freightyard in Vienna was mostly electric trains. They are also big on narrow winding steep mountain roads. Now I know what a Hairpin turn really is.

The biggest negative we quickly noticed was the smoking factor. There appear to be no anti-smoking laws and we had to get used to people smoking in restaurants.

We also had to get used to seeing dogs in the shops and restaurants. The food was great and always with wine, or Almdudler.

The Austrians do not seem very safety conscious - bike helmets being a rarity was not a big surprise but seeing workers on construction sites without hardhats was. On the other hand they are very avid cyclists and hikers.

As befitting the European stereotype, they are not as modest as North Americans when it comes to nudity. Most beaches have a FKK (free body culture) Zone and topless sunbathers are common along the waterfront on the Danube Island. So I was not overly surprised to discover a proliferation of huge three story sex shops. Then I discovered that XXXLutz was a furniture store. But what’s a North American to think when he sees “XXX”.

I will end this introduction with a couple of my favourite signs from Austria.

Bicycles and Wheat Allowed




No Trumpets Allowed