Tuesday, November 06, 2007

The General fights back

On Thursday of last week, I asked, in the wake of a senior government official leaking to the Globe that Hillier had been issued his "marching orders," just how much of this the General would take. Looks like we have our answer today, five days later: "Hillier says he won't curb outspoken style."
Canada's top soldier is unapologetic about his outspoken style and vows to keep talking publicly despite suggestions his political bosses want him to tone it down.

Chief of Defence Staff Rick Hillier says he works for his troops as much as he does for the government — and says he's proud to act as their voice.

He has also suggested that promoting their work is an essential part of his job — so essential that anyone who can't perform that duty should be replaced.

"I will be the public champion of those brave men and women," Gen. Hillier told a group of broadcasters.

"They are Canada's sons and daughters, ladies and gentlemen. If we can't market Canada's sons and daughters back to Canada's moms and dads, we need to find somebody to replace us to do the job.

"Because that's what needs to be done."
Hillier should be entitled to speak, objectively, about the facts of the Afghanistan mission in the appropriate forums, i.e., parliamentary committees where oversight of the mission should properly be exercised. That's it. He's not a beleaguered military champion and I'm not sure the nation requires military boosterism at this point. There's no issue that people "support the troops." The more boosterism that occurs on the part of Hillier et al. with their red t-shirt days, etc., however, the more we venture into an Americanized environment where the military is sacrosanct and criticism of any aspect of a military mission is immediately deflected by the "support the troops" shield. That's nonsense we don't need to let take root here. Let the military do their job and let the politicians and Canadian public have their debate. Whatever the outcome, the Chief of Defence Staff should enable it, not stake out a position that inhibits it.

What's interesting about this broadside from Hillier is his subtle daring posture to the government in making the above remarks. Maybe someone's decided he's not interested in that extension after all...could be an interesting few months.