Friday, July 25, 2008
Support our troops
According to today's Ottawa Citizen, one Serge Labbé has been promoted to Brigadier-General, and the appointment will be made retroactive to 2000. Formerly a Colonel, Labbé was the senior officer in charge of Canadian forces deployed to Somalia as peacekeepers in 1992. Under his watch, a Somalian youngster was tortured to death by Canadian paratroopers of the Canadian Airborne Regiment, and other civilians were shot in the back after being lured within firing range with food and water "bait."
The Somalia Commission of Inquiry (before it was abruptly stopped by Liberal PM Jean Chrétien in 1997) had a good deal to say about Labbé's negligence at the time. In fact the Inquiry excoriated him:
Col Labbé's cavalier approach to ROE [Rules of Engagement--DD] training amounts to little more than lip service and, in effect, denies the sanctity of human life. It is irresponsible and an affront to the concept of modem military training that a commander of Canadian overseas forces would suggest that such a training method was acceptable.
Although his lack of knowledge of the state of training at the time of deployment and his view of the nature of ROE training are profound shortcomings in a commander, even more lamentable and inexcusable is Col Labbé's failure to take action to determine whether his troops in fact trained adequately on the ROB [sic] developed by the Chief of the Defence Staff and understood them properly. He erroneously placed his trust in the sufficiency of a readiness declaration issued before the ROE were prepared and relied unduly on casual or incomplete comments regarding readiness from his subordinate, LCol Mathieu. Col Labbé performed no independent inquiry to determine whether any deficiencies in training existed and required correction. He failed to ensure that the members of Canadian Joint Force Somalia were trained in the ROE and understood them properly.
There's a lot more of this sort of thing in the report, for those with strong stomachs. The mission was a colossal failure, and some of our troops behaved...well, like Nazis. The Canadian Airborne Regiment, now disbanded, held a mess dinner to honour Marc Lepine in 1995. Nearly 20% of the Regiment had a police record of some kind.*
In Somalia, Labbé was alleged to have offered a case of champagne to the first soldier who killed a Somali. This he has vigorously denied. With reference to another comment, however, that he was "looking forward to my first dead Somali," he claimed that the remark had been "misinterpreted."
In 2001, defence critic Art Hanger, speaking for the opposition Canadian Alliance, denounced the Liberal government for having sent Labbé to Kosovo as a NATO negotiator. According to Hanger this indicated that the Liberals were "unwilling to make hard decisions on leadership." But bygones, it seems, will be bygones.
Labbé's promotion was recommended by the former chief of defence staff, General Rick Hillier. He will no doubt continue to be a key player in the Afghanistan mission.
*Sources: "Soldier Confirms Airborne Held Massacre Party," Ottawa Citizen, November 9, 1995, A3; Pugliese, David, "Almost 20% of '85 Airborne Unit Had Police Record, Report Found." Ottawa Citizen, October 4, 1995, A4.
Posted by Dr.Dawg at 9:42 AM