Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Incompetence transcends borders

Babble on.

I just realized I haven't ever posted about the so-called 'friendly fire' incident that killed four Canadian soldiers outside of Kandahar, Afghanistan in the spring of 2002, and injured eight others. I don't like the term 'friendly fire' because, while it may be useful or necessary in specific tactical situations, incoming fire is never truly 'friendly'. Call it 'blue-on-blue' or 'fratricidal' fire - anything but 'friendly'.

With Stone Phillips recently interviewing Maj Harry Schmidt, one of the ANG pilots who bombed the PPCLI troops, for Dateline NBC, the story is back in the news again.

Personally, I believe Schmidt needs to take his head out of his ass and apologize for disregarding the instructions of his AWACS handlers, and killing allied soldiers through his recklessness. The idea that the bombing was conducted in self-defence is ludicrous. Schmidt was flying a high-performance aircraft that could have accelerated out of the area - far beyond the range of the small-arms fire he witnessed - in mere seconds. That would have been the prudent course of action. Of course, if he were a prudent man, he would have accepted the reprimand that his wingman Maj Umbach did and left the Air National Guard, instead of fighting an unseemly legal battle that hurt both him and the families of the men he killed.

Having said that, those who use this incident as yet another excuse to hate the hateful and hated Americans also need to extricate their craniums from their rectums. Would there have been such a hue and cry had an overtired, overzealous, or overworked PPCLI platoon commander screwed up and led his men into an obvious ambush? Had it been an incompetent Canadian officer killing his own men through negligence, would we have whipped ourselves into such a self-righteous frenzy? But put an American face on the pilot, one who exemplifies our own stereotypes of American arrogance and 'cowboy' hot-headedness, and watch our dander rise.

Any time soldiers' lives are squandered through incompetence, it is a tragedy. That doesn't make the soldiers 'victims' or make their deaths 'useless' or make their lives 'wasted'. To characterize their sacrifice that way diminishes it, and that is an unconscionable way to remember these men.

Maj Schmidt should be pilloried. But he should be pilloried for his indefensible actions, not for his nationality.

Babble off.


At 4:29 p.m., Blogger John the Mad said...

As usual you are right on Damian. Schmidt sounds like an arseh***, but this ought not to be cause for hatred of our American cousins.

At 6:27 p.m., Blogger treehugger said...


While I recognize the very valid and veiled point you are making about anti-Americanism from the Canadian left, some perspective is useful here.

First off, Afghanistan was not regarded by the vast majority of Canadians with the same disdain that Iraq was. It was held as a logical and just reaction to 9-11 by all but a few fringe elements on the left.

Secondly, the outrage that Canadians felt at the time came from Bush's lack of acknowledgement of the incident during a media briefing at the Whitehouse the day after the friendly fire incident and the subsequent attempts to whitewash and absolve the US pilots of any responsibility by the Pentagon. The US came across as ungrateful allies in the eyes of many Canadians for the contribution we were making and the loss we suffered as a nation.

The fact that Dateline is only now delving into this issue is an example of how long it dragged on. It lingered well into the present Iraq conflict which has been, rightly or wrongly, upopular in this country, allowing many of the anti-war, anti-Bush, anti-American voices to use it, distastefully, as another example of Bush's failed foreign policy efforts.

Had some measure of closure by way of apology, acknowledgement or due process come closer to the incident itself, the wound for the soldiers families and Canadians would not have been nearly so gangrenous for relations with us and the US.

At 12:45 a.m., Blogger John the Mad said...

So when is the left in Canada going to make an apology or acknowlegement of their role in the utter neglect and degradation of our fighting forces?

The left in this country has lost the moral right to weep for our military dead or their families. Go piggyback on another cause. Your crocodile tears make me sick.

Per ardua ad astra.

At 10:02 a.m., Blogger Babbling Brooks said...

John, TH is one of the few honest Liberals left in this country, and I'm sure his tears in this instance aren't crocodile ones. I don't know that I could say that about many others who share his party affiliation, and I agree with your assessment of the culpability of the Canadian left in the shambles that our CF has become.

TH, you raise some valid points, and some that require rebuttal.

First off, had Bush an iota of diplomacy in his administration, he would have at least acknowledged the Canadian loss. The fact is that his presidency is anything but diplomatic, and while I'm not excusing his omission, it shouldn't be a surprise. But a little context might be useful here, too. The Americans were still reeling from 9/11, and they were shouldering much of the burden in Afghanistan as well. For us, twelve casualties including four fatal ones was a big blow. The U.S. forces were absorbing similar losses far more regularly. Again, not an excuse, but a bit more context.

Your point about the Pentagon trying to whitewash this incident doesn't hold water. The two pilots have been punished - not enough to my way of thinking, but their military careers are done, as are their days flying the planes they love. And I understand U.S. military's reluctance to impose jail time for dropping a bomb in a combat zone. That's what they pay these pilots to do, and too much second-guessing split-second decisions in combat can put a chill on those making the decisions, which can cost even more lives. I still think the punishment for disregarding the direction of the combat controllers should have been more harsh, but I do understand it.

I agree somewhat with your last point, inasmuch as the length of time this has dragged on has deepened the hurt. But I don't think you can saddle "the damned Americans" with that, and that's the sort of thinking I was writing this post to expose and refute. This incident would have been brought to a close much earlier had this idiot pilot been willing to admit his error and take his punishment as an officer and a gentleman should. Blame Schmidt for his intransigence, not the U.S. gov't, which has made sure he won't ever be in a position to exercise his poor judgement ever again.

At 1:05 p.m., Blogger treehugger said...


As I recall, the pilots were not immediately charged and it was not until pressured diplomatically that they were. That is the whitewash I was referring to.

to quote you, on my blog, back in January when I hosted a thread on the future role of Canada's military, in which you took part:

"It'll demonstrate that my Madness is episodic, rather than continuous."


I will take your rather foamy-at-the-mouth shot at me in that spirit and hope that you recover soon.

In any event, I will be sure to raise the topic at the next gathering of "the Left in Canada" convention. It is a really big group these days so it might be tough to get your querey on the agenda, especially given your episodic predisposition to being un-necessarily nasty.

At 5:05 p.m., Blogger John the Mad said...

Damian and Treehugger.

While I do believe the left has much to answer for in its reflexive pacifism and concomitant butchery of the defence budget, I must reconsider what I wrote in light of your reaction to it.

Clearly, I could have been a lot more reflective and made my point without personal denigration. Now that I've wiped the spittle from my lips I apologize unreservedly to Treehugger for my nastiness.
Mea maxima culpa.

According to today's opinion polls the left is indeed growing. But just why that is so is perhpas a topic for another day.

(I surprised myself with my venom.)

At 5:41 p.m., Blogger treehugger said...

No problem John. As Damian can attest, I have been known to lose it on occasion as well.


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