Sunday, October 4, 2009

General Vance strikes again

General Vance's recent tongue-lashing of Afghan elders having caused something of a stir in Canada, spin doctors no doubt set to work to create a more acceptable impression of the general's work. Vance himself evidently went along, giving away candy to children in the presence of the Ottawa Citizen's Bruce Ward, who obligingly produced a puff piece for the top soldier.

How puffy is the piece? Quite puffy. For instance, Ward writes: "Vance is fiercely protective when it comes to his soldiers. His concern for their welfare is one reason why he holds their respect and affection." And Ward's coda for the piece leaves no mystery as to its purpose: "Why does the commander work so hard? 'Gotta win,' he says."

Yet General Vance himself foils the effort, offering an encore performance of his child-chasing routine back in June. Then, a boy threw a rock at the general's convoy - a common occurrence, as many journalists attest. Vance pursued the boy, aiming to teach him a lesson and providing an irksome example for his troops.

This time the culprit is a boy with a laser pointer, a common -- and, given the presence of occupation forces, dangerous -- toy for Afghan youngsters. General Vance, atop a gun turret while riding along on a nighttime patrol, again descended off his steel steed to harangue a child for his impudence.

Besides moving him a few notches up the creepy scale, Vance's second attempt to publicly scald a minor malfeasant is bound to count as a setback in the battle for hearts and minds. Surely Afghans are unlikely to see the general's behaviour as worthy of respect.

A force for change
Bruce Ward, The Ottawa Citizen
October 3

... Lots of kids here carry toy laser pointers that cost pennies. After dark, they make a game of flashing the laser at soldiers passing in vehicles. It's a dangerous trick, which makes it loads of fun for wayward boys and one of them has just zapped Vance's vehicle.

Soldiers on alert for ambush and IED strikes take a dim view of being targeted with the laser dots because certain snipers' rifles do much the same thing in lining up a shot.

The kebab seller says he saw the boy who did it, but the child is long gone, probably laughing about it with friends several blocks away. Lucky kid. If Vance had caught up with him, he would have been told, and told forcefully, what a foolish stunt that was and how he could have been shot.

Vance would not have shouted or lost his cool, but his immense displeasure would have been conveyed to the child...

Vance commiserates with one ANP officer, wounded in a skirmish with the Taliban. It emerges that he has not been paid for weeks and doesn't know when -- or if -- he will get his money.

Although Canada's military has developed a direct deposit system, fraud is still common... (link)
From that last line, one might surmise that Canada bears some responsibility, at least in the minds of Afghans, for cases of non-payment of soldiers' salaries - another hitch in the counterinsurgency effort.

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