Hillier vs. Harper - Macleans.ca
 

Hillier vs. Harper

Former chief of defence staff takes aim at the prime minister


 

Rick Hillier, Canada’s former top soldier, once described the Taliban as “detestable murderers and scumbags.” His opinion of the prime minister—and his band of all-controlling minions—isn’t much better. In a new autobiography, the retired chief of defence staff says he was continuously at odds with officials in Stephen Harper’s office. On one memorable occasion, after a media blitz publicizing job opportunities in the Forces, Hillier said he was hauled into a meeting with Gordon O’Connor, then the defence minister. “We want to see less of you,” O’Connor told him. Writes Hillier: “While he was never specific about who had been complaining about my profile, there was no doubt in my mind this ‘request’ was coming from the Prime Minister’s Office staffers.” Hillier also reveals that Harper’s underlings ordered him to ban the media from covering the repatriation of Capt. Nichola Goddard, the first Canadian woman killed during the Afghanistan mission. “Look, don’t bring the Airbus in, or if you bring the plane in, turn it away from the cameras so that people can’t see the bodies coming off, or do it after dark, or do it down behind the hangars, or just bar everybody from it,” Hillier quotes the PMO staffers as saying. “They clearly didn’t want that picture of the flag-draped coffin on the news.”

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Hillier vs. Harper

  1. You forgot to include the result – the PM then decided to let the families decide … and the result was we showed everything so in the the PM comes out on the right side of the fence. According to my read of the book contents so far from what I have seen jsut as much time is spend on severe criticising of the LPC so where are those comments. I am a stickler for equal opportunity punditry!

    • Yeah! like harper and his thugs could not possibly have ulterior motives. Give me a break.

  2. I think that Hillier's assumption that wanting to keep the repatriation of a fallen soldier a lower profile event was for any purpose other than respect for the family, demonstrates that he is bit of a prima donna.

    • If the family had made such a request, he likely would have known about it.

  3. I fail to see the problem with wanting the cameras kept away from the flag-draped coffins. Not only is a media circus disrespectful to soldiers KIA, it would probably have made a serious dent in Canadian morale (particularly w.r.t. the first female soldier killed). If you believe the war should be carried forward then you don't let the media sabotage public support for it.

    I'll have to read the book, but from this excerpt it sound like I'll be disappointed in Hillier (whom I previously held in high regard).

    • What, not sufficiently deferential to his majesty Stevie the last? The soldiers who die and the families who survive them deserve the public display of respect which has become a familiar ritual. It has surprisingly not become the object of a media circus but the occasion for a dignified display of Canadians' gratitude for the service and sacrifice of those who died and their families. The Canadian public and media have demonstrated a dignified respect unfortunately all to absent from the considerations of the vile toadies in the PMO. Except in the simplistic minds of Harper conservatives it is possible for some of us (myself included) to be thankful for and appreciate the efforts and valor of our forces (in which I once had the honor to serve) and at the same time condemn the assinine government policies which put their lives at risk.

      • You obviously have opinions on the Conservatives not all unjustified perhaps, but I think you underestimate the deep respect that Harper has for the job the CF have been doing. Don't forget, he has been responsible for a lot of the reinvestment that was needed, after years of cuts. The previous government had as great an amount of disrespect for the services and cut them while paying lipservice to thier importance. You may not care to admit it, but the CF gets a lot more respect form government than it used to.

        • My opinions of the Liberals are just slightly less negative than for the Conservatives. Harper has so much respect for the forces that he has all but destroyed them as an effective force. Assuming Harper was telling the truth (always a bit of a once upon a time proposition … by the way how did you vote yesterday?) about bringing them home after 2011 it will take years to rebuild the personnel and materiel capacity wasted away in beautiful Kandahar. If he truly respected the forces he would not put them at risk of having to humor his vile little toadies in the PMO.

          • If you recall, he was not the one who sent them there. It was Chretien and Martin, yes he extended the mission, on parliaments approval. He did spend billions on trying to make the forces better equipped for the afghanistan mission, but if you disagree with the mission in the first place we have an entirely different discussion on our hands. Do you understand the need to balance the mission in the heads of canadians? At that time there was a great deal of political BS going on with Jack & Gille and thier despicable ilk trying to make political hay of the situation. (still is come to think of it) It's no wonder the PMO was trying to mitigate the PR damage. Basically they were f**cked either way.

          • Yeah right! Harper so loved the military he would have sent them to Iraq. All Canadians should be thankful that Harper wasn't PM at the time.

          • or Iggy.

          • Such noble motives must be admired by all … not.

    • "If you believe the war should be carried forward then you don't let the media sabotage public support for it. "

      Holding the public in ignorance of the consequences of government and military action is not the answer. The voting public are adults (legally, anyways) and the simple reporting of such events by the media is more of a due diligence to their profession than a sabotage to public opinion, IMHO.

      Unless you beleive the war must be carried forward, public support be damned.

      • That support is properly displayed by representation at the funeral/memorial service. Tracking the transport of the body is a media event and not dignified.

      • That support is properly displayed by representation at the funeral/memorial service. Tracking the transport of the body is a media-contrived event and not dignified.

        • It's called repatriation.

          • I am well aware of that, I was drawing attention to the tracking of the transport.

      • "Holding the public in ignorance" was never at issue: the media reported on the casualties and no one tried to stop them. The issue was whether the media should be allowed not only to report, but to play up video of the caskets arriving for dramatic effect. There was a strong case that doing so would (a) add no new information to the public domain, (b) be disrespectful, and (c) hurt Canadian morale.

    • Didn't the media cover the story of the bodies being transported along the 401, with the public lining the overhead bridges in tribute/support? Was this sabotage?

      • Maybe the family should have had some say as to what the fallen soldier would have wanted. Perhaps she would have wanted the media to show her casket coming back so that the public could see her for her heroism in serving her country; or perhaps she would have wanted the media not to cover it so that we wouldn't see what is really happening over in Afghanistan.

        • There is no shame involved for the family when a soldier makes the ultimate sacrifice. While the family will always greive, heroism should not be hidden from view, it should be celebrated with due reverence.
          The only shame lies in the politics behind the wars, and quite frankly, if the reasons for being there are that shaky, well, then we shouldn't be there.
          Soldiers die. MP's retire with some of the sweetest pensions money can buy.

          • One might add that (to my knowledge at least) no mp has a family member serving in the war zone. It might be wise in future to restrict the governments' right to deploy troops in a war zone. Requiring that the PM and Defense Minister be willing to send their own children (or siblings) to the war zone might make them think twice before they embark on pointless , doomed adventures. Would Harper be willing to sacrifice his own children for political advantage? He seems to have no problem sacrificing other peoples children in that cause.

          • I see you have the world all figured out then.

            You have every right to your pacifist identity, but your requirements for for war are quite senseless.

            How is one man supposed to commit for another (father for son, etc) to join the military?

            Does MacKay have any sons of age?

            How about we send Harpers son or daughter?

          • No more senseless than the requirements of the fools (conservative and liberal) who led us into the doomed "mission" in the first place. Soldiers will attempt to accomplish any mission they are given. They in turn have the right to expect that the mission they are given is rational, achievable and that they are given the tools to do the job. This has never been the case in Afghanistan and furthermore I suspect that Harper and Martin knew this from the beginning (chretiens' motives were overtly political and minimal. He actually contacted Martin and warned him against deploying to Kandahar). If I and others could figure it from the beginning someone in government must have clued in. They did what they did for political advantage apparently oblivious to the financial cost to the taxpayer or to the cost in blood and suffering to the soldiers and their families.

          • The one good thing to come out of this is that it is the last adventure of its kind. As General Hillier points out Afghanistan is a NATO defeat which will probably be fatal to the organisation. __ When you think about it you have to give the Pashtun their due. As repulsive as their medieval mentality may be, their courage and fighting skills are second to none. After all in the past thirty years they have defeated the two most powerful military forces in history (the Soviet Union and Nato). __

        • I think the family did have a say in it, in the end. And I believe now if a family would prefer that media and the public not be present, they can be accommodated.

  4. I fail to see the problem with wanting the cameras kept away from the flag-draped coffins. Not only is a media circus disrespectful to soldiers KIA, it would probably have made a serious dent in Canadian morale (particularly w.r.t. the first female soldier killed.) If you believe the war should be carried forward then you don't let the media sabotage public support for it.

    I'll have to read the book, but from this excerpt it sound like I'll be disappointed in Hillier (whom I previously held in high regard).

  5. Ex Serviceman: I clicked on positive for your
    comment but it registered as negative. Sorry.

    Nich: Right on as well.

    Both your comments were refreshingly accurate in depicting
    the skewd view of a few politicos eager to hold on to power by
    curving the media's access to important events and information.

  6. So, what really happened to the Canadian Military 007 Jane Bond that had just returned to Afgan. after her friendly fire close encounter of the deadly kind.

  7. Respect is being given, in varying measures, for those who have paid their fateful sacrifices in this unpopular conflict known as the rebuilding of Afghanistan. Guerrilla warfare at its worst, with roadside IUD's the preferred weapon of sabotage, our soldiers have suffered losses proportional with the increasing negative Canadian public opinion concerning the legitimacy of this war. The degree of dignity afforded the fallen varies with the content of one's heart. Whether it is with thanksgiving and prayerful dedication, or with more of a visible display for those preferring all the tangibles, respect is certainly given to our heroes. When Viet Nam brought images of warfare into the living rooms of the western world, it altered the complexion of military exploits as being those of adventure and cake-walk triumphs. Suddenly it became ghastly, filled with death, suffering and unspeakably demoralizing atrocities. Welcome to the modern world. Guerrilla warfare and terrorism. I don't think General George Patton would be too pleased, because there is no way that a conventional military force can grab the enemy and "kick him in the ass".

  8. I heard Hillier interviewed, and he had complimentary comments on Stephen Harper… but we mustn't dwell on anything positive, right?

  9. I actually meant to say IED's (Improvised Explosive Devices) in my last post, as opposed to IUD's (Intra-Uterine Devices). Both have their assigned roles, unfortunately. But one is intended for the taking of life while the other is used for preventing its conception. I apologize for the mixup, and there was no sarcasm intended.

  10. I think the bigger issue raised by Hillier, as reported in some articles, is his comment about how the armed forces is at war but the government is not. In conversations with others I often make the comment that Canada is at war in Afganistan and in almost all cases the other person denies that we are at war.

    This denial worries me and (according to Hillier) it is the same attitude demonstrated by the government. It shows that the miolitary and government exist in two different worlds.

  11. It is true that we are at war, and I believe that should be shown in it's totality.

    I also believe that Afghanistan is a winnable war, and quite possibly worth it.