Michael's Dispatches

Canadian Cover Up?


04 January 2010

(Unfortunately, this news comes as I wait to board a flight from Hong Kong to the United States.  It must be written quickly and without editing.)

A reporter at Canwest News Service emailed Saturday asking for information on the four Canadian soldiers and the journalist who were killed on December 30 in Afghanistan.  I supplied a portion of the unpublicized information, and the reporter emailed Sunday that the Canadian military is “trying to suppress our telling of your information.”

The reporter also wrote, “While the Canadian military confirmed to me much of the information you provided, they are trying to prevent us from publishing it, saying it would breach our agency's embedding agreement.”

There is nothing classified or sensitive about the information supplied to Canwest.  This smells of a classic cover-up that has nothing to do with winning or losing the war, but more likely something to do with saving embarrassment.

Some information provided to Canwest:

According to my sources, the attack happened during late afternoon on 30th.  At least some of the Canadian soldiers had been dismounted doing an “engagement patrol” in district 2 of Kandahar.  The soldiers and Canadian reporter Michelle Lang were in the area of the district center and the Dand district border.  On the way out (apparently) a LAV (armored vehicle) was hit by the bomb on route “Molson,” flipping the LAV.

Four apparently died on scene.  Sgt. Kirk Taylor apparently died at KAF or on the way to KAF (Kandahar Airfield).  Five wounded were flown to Germany.  One soldier was apparently thought to be dead, but was pulled from the wreckage about three hours after the blast and may have started showing signs of life during helicopter flight.

The five Canadians were killed with about 500lbs of explosives, apparently made from fertilizer, buried under route Molson in Kandahar. A wire approximately 150m long was used to command detonate the bomb using a radio receiver.  The radio receiver was outside the ECM bubble.

For more discussion, please see.

Insofar as the apparent censorship attempts by the Canadian military, any censorship of non-classified information is fraught with peril.  Both the British and U.S. military have at times done the same, leading to non-productive confrontations for everyone involved.  To whit, regarding American stonewalling: CENSORING IRAQ

Immediately after that dispatch, General Petraeus emailed to me.   When the matter was brought to his attention, the matter was solved.  The censorship stopped.  His openess with the media – good, bad, or ugly – has been incredibly productive for everyone.  Of course there are lumps involved.  Everyone gets lumps in this fight.  The upshot is that media overwhelmingly trusts General Petraeus, as do I.

Then came the British, to whit: BULLSHIT BOB

Many of the British officers know that censorship is counterproductive, but they’ve still got too many monkeys in the cockpit to fly straight.  Many Americans are under British command in Afghanistan, and so British censorship in Afghanistan becomes American business, just as any censorship by us is rightfully British business. 

Though I have been around British enough to trust and admire their fighting abilities and moral compass, censorship from MoD is steaming toward severe confrontations during 2010.  The MoD is not of high IQ; British soldiers are something to brag about.  British troops are national treasures and should be in the news every day, yet their MoD is dumbed-down and is not tough enough to handle the media.

According to my communications from inside the Canwest News Service camp, Canwest feels censored and realizes the Canadian military is covering up the situation in Kandahar.

Today, U.S. troops are under Canadian leadership, so any hint of Canadian censorship suddenly and jarringly makes Canadian business in Afghanistan into U.S. business.  With U.S. blood under Canadian command, the Canadian military is on limits.  U.S. families and citizens have a right to know who is leading their troops.  This is very serious.  In this war, especially in southern Afghanistan, the British have a right to know what’s going on with the U.S. and Canadians.  The Canadians and U.S. have that same right, as do other partners.

Access is a two way street.  The Canadians can freely give access and gain a chance to tell their side of the unfolding stories, or they can deny access and access will be taken without terms.


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  • This commment is unpublished.
    Armchair Warlord · 10 years ago

    The idea of the Canadian armed forces being burnt out on your deployment tempo, which is a fraction of the American one, is ridiculous. The Canadian armed forces are not burned out, they are being ordered into a disgraceful retreat by a political leadership that has missed the bus. Talking about needing to "refit" is a poor excuse when American forces have been "refitting" on the battlefield for years now.

    As for Canadians "holding the line" - go ask the Polish if anyone held the line for them. We at least were not in a position to do so. I also seem to recall that the American contribution to Afghanistan has always been at least as large as the rest of NATO combined, sinking the idea that Euro-NATO has somehow been manning the barricades in Afghanistan without a serious American commitment.

    As for myself? I swore to serve my country and I go where my orders take me - Americans do not have the luxury of volunteering for deployments. I wish to remain civil, so I'll leave it there. Maybe you should ask your brother for his opinion on the subject instead of fronting your government's party line - I dare say you might learn something.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Danger Girl · 10 years ago
    All the Canadian Military wanted from the CANADIAN PRESS was that the story didn't come from THEM directly as opposed to coming from Mike Yon, who is NOT a first hand source in this incident. That is why the MILITARY provided CANWEST with an interview on this event.

    As for Canadian Censorship - that is nothing but pure BS and typical American hyperbole - the US and the Brits have tried to silence SOME things Mike wrote about, but the Canadian Military has NOT done the same, and the Canadian Media has excellently covered the war in AFG for 8 yrs. Some of the embed reports surpass anything from the American MSM embed reports. not to mention the coverage of the repatriation ceremonies. Canadians have no problem allowing media coverage honoring those who died in the line of duty.. Our media has always been respectful and Ive not seen any cases of the media politicizing the ceremony.

    As for some of the comments made by SOME people on this page----sadly in the years I spent living in the US - I found plenty of people who exhibited arrogance wrapped in ignorance when it comes to all things Canadian..and most things globally. Somethings never change.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Arlene · 10 years ago
    My sympathies go out to the families of these brave Canadian troops and the journalist. Commentors here who have not read anything about the long history of Canadian Military involvement in past and present wars are just ignorant (education, education, education) and I would suspect that Michael would agree with me. Michael's piece was run in a hurry (a good writer is going to give you a snippet of info on a subject in order to draw you in and keep you coming back to the blog, eh?) and I am sure that he will give us more information on this as soon as he takes care of the little mishap at the Seattle Airport. I will be waiting for more info on both subjects.
    God Bless ALL the troops!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    John CS · 10 years ago
    Canadians have a proud heritage, just as US does. We share some of the same history. My Canadian and British Brothers and Sisters in arms share common bonds with the US Military. They are to be respected. Michael Yon did not say Canadians were isolationists and he has written about how much he respects thier warriors.
    All the coalition do their share. And as Michael says: the war in Afghan has truly begun. That is not because of the Brits or Canadians. It is due to the US not taking that theater seriously (politically) until after Iraq quieted down. --USMC (Ret)
  • This commment is unpublished.
    covan · 10 years ago
    Just glad Michael did not first land in Canada!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Peter Gray · 10 years ago
    Looks like this chestnut if out of the fire again. There could be a thousand reasons why M.Yon has had his embedments curtailed. I suspect none of them relating to censorship as any google search will clarify. Are you just trying to justify your reports? By the way, as a Brit I am a great supporter of USA and our Canadian, Australian, sub-continent et al commonwealth brothers in arms. History shows that we, the english speaking peoples, have stood firm against tyranny and oppression and the world is a better place for it.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Scaleyback · 10 years ago
    Reading through the comments, I am disgusted at the attacks on Canada. I am a Brit, and have no axe to grind with the US or anyone else, (outside of Europe anyway). I do not live in Canada . Some of the commenters have very short memories. Canada was not drawn in war by the British 'Empire'. Canada fought along side us out of choice. They have done so consistently over the years, but always by choice. Canada is a member of NATO and has never hesitated to join a fight when she feels it right. My anger has at least been tempered by some of the latter comments in defence of Canada.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Chris Johnson · 10 years ago
    Though a regular reader of Michael's work, I was "sensitized" to this post by the bit of a furor I encountered on a Canadian site. So, I read the article and all of the comments (seriously; some of you need to grow up).

    Here's my near-worthless, but perhaps different perspective:

    I see no journalistic purpose to having included the apparent length of the wire to the detonator, unless there had been an implication made by the Canadian authorities that the distance had been greater, and that had implied that they were providing greater force protection to their personnel than was actually the case. Had the authorities attempted to mislead the public, then this would have been important information to include, especially as the jihadists clearly knew how long the wire was.

    Similarly, I see no journalistic purpose to include the approximate size of the explosive, unless the authorities had implied it was much larger. I see no journalistic purpose to include the type of vehicle the personnel had (apparently) been in, unless the authorities had implied they were protecting their personnel with a MRAP.

    I guess I'm inclined to agree with our Canadian cousins that were upset with the publication of information that added little, if anything, useful for the public's awareness, especially if even one tiny bit of that information may have been of any use to our common enemy. Perhaps, many months from now, when things may have changed, these might be interesting details to learn. At this time, there is only one group of people that might benefit from knowing what vehicle is vulnerable, to what sized explosive, remotely detonated from what distance. I would not consider keeping that information out of the press (especially this soon, before any changes may have been made), to be censorship.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Doug Moore · 10 years ago
    The fact that the religion of Islam employs the Quran as it's primary teaching tool, and the fact that it consistently and specifically advocates the eradication of non-Muslims, is a powerful advocacy that non-Muslims would be wise to avoid issuing a pass on.

    It is my strong belief that the Christian world has a very difficult time in comprehending the severity of the Islamic siren.

    I have recently finished a very good book that deals with our first responder strike team that was sent to Afghanistan a few short weeks following 911 - It, along with a great deal of other literature and blogs I have investigated, gives a powerfully base of for understanding the conflict there, who the Afghanistan people are, what they are up against, what we are up against, and ultimately who we are.

    [Note: url removed by webmaster}

    I think a huge problem with the current generations that are living in America is a failure to understand "terror", origins, motivations, goals, and its advocates.

    The advocates of Islam are telling us very specific things.
    The onus is on the Muslim nation to police its advocates and terrorist appendages.

    Just because we do not wish to believe what they are saying, does not make what they are saying less true.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Paul Michaelis · 10 years ago
    I read many stupid comments here about Michael Yon, none of you critics has the balls to do what he's trying to do. I suggest that take note of what he said, It was information provided to him and he didn't have time to edit it. If your feathers get ruffled, get a life, none of what was said was intended as a put down to Canada. Certainly, no one doubts the bravery of anyone who sticks their head where bullets and bombs fly.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Canadian_Regular · 10 years ago
    I rarely comment or argue here, but in response to "Armchair Warlord" I would like to make a few things clear to ensure his posts don't mislead others. The current Canadian Forces is having problems sustaining their deployment schedule- "burnout" is the current word. Having been a regular Army Infantryman for a long time I can say that this is clearly a fact. Everyone seems to forget that rotation schedules also require personnel to train and run courses between deployments. It boils down to this- Canada has 1/10th the population of the U.S., and until the recent troop surge, we had 1/10th the troops that the U.S. did in Afghanistan- BUT proportionally we have a MUCH smaller military- which is what is creating the problem of burnt out senior NCOs and destroyed equipment.

    On the other hand- I personally DO NOT encourage leaving the war in Afghanistan, we just need a stronger political resolve to better fund the war.

    As far as "volunteering" for deployments, this means someone ACTIVELY SOUGHT deployment. The idea that regular force soldiers can randomly pick and choose their tours is false, for us "volunteering" means that someone actively pursued a deployment when their unit could have replaced them with another available soldier.

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