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Lawrence Martin is Out to Lunch
In a recent Globe and Mail column Lawrence Martin, with whom The Ruxted Group has disagreed in the past, once again demonstrates his abysmal ignorance of matters military. This time it is on several levels.
First is the matter of civilian control. Martin says: “...in view of his [Hillier’s] unwillingness to tolerate the tradition of civilian control, Mr. Harper was not prepared to make that offer [of a two or three year extension to his tour of duty as CDS].” That is arrant nonsense of the highest order. Martin, quite clearly, does not know what civilian control of the military is all about. He is, demonstrably, an ignorant man.
Civilian control of the military is simple: anyone, even the Chief of the Defence Staff, may propose military operations but only the government of the day and parliament may dispose – authorize and fund them. It’s really that simple. There is nothing, not a credible word, anywhere, to suggest that Gen. Hillier did anything but loyally and professionally spend his entire career supporting effective civilian control of the military. To suggest otherwise, as Martin does, is a mean spirited sneak attack by a weakling. He and The Globe and Mail should be ashamed.
But, apparently intent on demolishing his own thesis, Martin suggests that, somehow or other, Prime Minister Harper fired Gen. Hillier by not demanding that the CDS stay in place for two or three more years – that, firing the CDS, must be the ultimate in civilian control. There is no evidence to support such a suggestion. Gen. Hillier and Prime Minister Harper have both stated, categorically, that it was Gen. Hillier’s own good choice to retire in the coming summer – for Gen. Hillier’s own good and valid reasons that include a need for change at the top. But Martin is not daunted by lack of evidence. He hints and insinuates but, at the end offers nothing but his own highly biased bad guess.
The next level of error involves Martin’s baseless assertion that Afghanistan is “Hillier’s war.” More rubbish. The Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, the NDP Defence Critic or even members of the commentariat like Lawrence Martin may propose that, for example, we should send our forces to Darfur or Haiti – just as Rick Hillier is reported to have proposed that we send Canadians to Kandahar. But, as we pointed out , it strains credulity – even Lawrence Martin’s biased credulity, we suggest – to believe that Gen. Hillier did or Lawrence Martin could convince a room full of some of the smartest, most skilled politicians and bureaucrats in Ottawa to conduct military operations they opposed. For heaven’s sake, Gen. Hillier was not even CDS when Prime Minister Jean Chrétien first sent Canadians into combat in Kandahar; how on earth can anyone, even someone as biased as Lawrence Martin, call it “Hillier’s War”?
Gen. Hillier certainly did propose a lot to Bill Graham and Paul Martin and then to Gordon O’Connor, Peter MacKay and Stephen Harper: he proposed a transformation of attitudes and action within official Ottawa and he proposed a change in attitude, towards the military, to Canadians at large. But not even Lawrence Martin can suggest that anyone but Paul Martin and Stephen Harper and their ministers and members of both the Conservative and Liberal parties approved anything. Civilians controlled – as they must and always do.
The third level of error involves the idea, if that’s the right word, that senior military commanders must see a war through to its end. Apparently Lawrence Martin is also abysmally ignorant of Canadian history; evidently the names Anderson, Stuart and Murchie mean nothing to him. They were Chiefs of the General Staff during various parts of the Second World War. Staying on and on and on until a war is won, or lost, is not part of our history anywhere in the West. Martin is making things up.
Lawrence Martin is clearly and completely wrong and wrong again and again and again. It is a pity that a newspaper as well known as the Globe and Mail allows an otherwise skilled political analyst to spout such unadulterated rubbish in its pages. Martin is out to lunch – and, for the sake of the Globe and Mail’s reputation, he ought to stay there.