Friendly Fire
FTLComm - Tisdale - Thursday, April 18, 2002


The tragedy that occurred last night South of the Kandahar airport is pretty hard for Canadians to take. Over the many years since the Korean conflict Canadian forces have worked all over the world under really bad conditions. I remember the grim and futile stories told to me by people who worked along the DMZ long before most Americans had ever heard of Vietnam and as a country, our people have served us with valour, determination and ever so often paid the price of being in combat locations with their lives.




As a country we all know and understand that those people who serve us civilians in the military, risk their lives every day and they do so willingly because they are motivated and certain of their purpose, convinced that their duty to us and this our country, is worth the price of possible injury or death.




In a combat zone the chance of being killed or injured is about as high as it gets and everyone of us and the families of those who serve, all know what we have been getting or forces into. But that doesn't make it any easier when four of our people are killed and eight more seriously injured. Those are our people and in a little country like our own, four dead and eight injured is a serious matter.



lead by

In World War One our soldiers, sailors and fliers went off to face death under the direct command of British officers and our people were sent to their deaths and eight hundred of them were murdered by the British for being unable to face death in the horror of the trenches. Before that slaughter ended, and it is we Canadians who truly ended that war, we determined that we would not send our brave folks into battle commanded by non-Canadians. We earned that right and when soldiers marched through Belgium, crisscross the Atlantic and fought high above Europe in World War II they were lead by Canadians.



a go

It was not practical to go and do our part in Afghanistan under our own direct command and as a part of NATO we have learned to work with other countries in joint operations. The defense of Canada itself has always been a NORAD coordinated effort. So it is a bitter pill to swallow that an F-16 pilot thought he was been shot at as he saw muzzle flashes below him last night and asked his command and control AWACS if he could return fire with a laser bomb. He was give a go to drop and even though the area was a known practice area only a short distance from the airport, he delivered his ordinance and there are dead Canadians.




It is pretty easy to blame this situation on trigger happy Americans. I remember truck drivers who went back and forth through the Netherlands as convoy drivers in World War II. Phillip Chapman from Wapella said he kept his sten gun wrapped in wax paper and disassembled under his seat because he thought the thing was to dangerous. But both he and his brother Bill, also a Canadian army truck driver, said they had no fear of the Germans. Their enemy was US warplanes who would strafe and bomb anything they saw. Their second greatest danger were US army antitank gun crews and they too shot first, second and third at anything. The facts of those old World War II stories and almost all military mishaps past and present is training.

good movies
bad soldiers

The United States makes great movies but very poor soldiers. They are brave, they are dedicated, but they are almost always poorly trained and even poorer when it comes to leadership. The very nature of American culture to blow about their greatness and amazement at themselves is the way they go to war and as you can see in this conflict, which is right in the pattern of Desert Storm, Panama, Vietnam and Korea, they are far harder on themselves then the enemy is on them. So far in Afghanistan only a handful of US soldiers have been killed or wounded by the enemy. Almost all of the casualties have been as a result of air crashes, screwed up demolition action, or raining ordinance on their own people. The difference with last night's action was that it was Canadian troops instead of US ones baring the brunt of poor training and failure to follow procedure by cowboys who have watched to many John Wayne and Clint Eastwood movies.




American forces just don't have much experience at the real thing. Unlike Canadian forces who have been doing United Nations Peace Keeping in nasty war zones for forty years US troops are trained quickly and sent off to action, licensed to kill each other. Because we have such a small armed forces our people get a few months off then get back on a plane and are in some other God forsaken combat zone year after year. All Canadian Forces personnel are experienced veterans and almost all US forces people are reservists.


Investigations will be held and no matter what is discovered, our folks are dead and injured, but there will be others and there will be many more Americans killed and injured at the same time. We have to accept that if we are going to cooperate with Americans, we are going to have to accept high casualty rates like Americans from "friendly fire."
  Timothy W. Shire