Friday, March 21, 2008

Afghanistan and Iraq are one war: CF colonel in Iraq

The Globe and Mail sheds some light on the "little known" fact that several Canadian Forces officers are serving with American units in Iraq. The paper's Mark MacKinnon interviews a charming Canadian colonel (Lieut-Col Darryl Mills, pictured) who likens the welcoming looks he gets as a lonely Canuck to being "the pretty girl at the dance":

For Canadian, serving in Iraq is a source of pride
MARK MACKINNON - Globe and Mail

March 21 - When Lieutenant-Colonel Darryl Mills walks through the halls of Saddam Hussein's former palace on the outskirts of Baghdad, people tend to stare at his left shoulder. The red-and-white Canadian flag he wears is a rare sight for Iraqis and U.S. soldiers alike.

He doesn't mind the odd looks. He says he's both proud of his country and of being one of the few Canadians taking part in what the U.S. Army calls Operation Iraqi Freedom.

"I feel like the pretty girl at the dance party," Col. Mills said of the stares, adding that he's chosen to wear a larger-than-standard flag to make sure everyone knows he's Canadian. "From a soldier's perspective, I wouldn't call it razzing. It's, 'Oh, I thought Canada didn't support the war.' "

Canada refused to join in when the United States, Britain and a collection of allies invaded Iraq in 2003. That Col. Mills and four other Canadian officers are serving in Baghdad under an exchange between the U.S. and Canadian militaries is little known, and little publicized by either government.

The Department of National Defence website makes no mention of Col. Mills and the other officers being deployed to Iraq. ...

Col. Mills has also served on the other major front of what Mr. Bush calls the "war on terror," the PPCLI being the first group of Canadian soldiers to deploy to Kandahar, Afghanistan, in 2002. Like the U.S. President, he sees the two conflict zones as part of a single struggle.

"You can't look at them as separate, distinct fronts. What happens in one place will clearly affect what happens in the other place," he said, noting that Afghanistan's Taliban seem to borrow tactics that have proven effective for Iraqi insurgents. "It's all about global stability." ... (link)
Note that MacKinnon writes that "Canada refused to join" the Iraq war. But that's not quite the way it happened, according to Lang and Stein's recent book, The Unexpected War. Indeed, co-author Eugene Lang was the Chief of Staff to then-Minister of Defense John McCallum when he and his boss attended a Pentagon meeting called by Donald Rumsfeld a couple of months before the invasion of Iraq. Lang told the CBC that "Rumsfeld did not envisage a Canadian military role in Iraq - particularly in the invasion phase."

From a review of the book by Professor Peter McKenna:
Stein and Lang inform us that former U.S. secretary of defence Donald Rumsfeld and the Pentagon had no objections to Canada sitting out the Iraq invasion -- as long as it took up the leadership of ISAF in the Kabul region for one year and thus freed up U.S. forces for the Iraq campaign. ... (link)

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