General takes aim at politics
'Boy Scout' reference insults military
By PAUL JACKSON -- Calgary Sun
Maj.-Gen. Lewis MacKenzie should run for the leadership of the Progressive Conservative party.
That thought came to me as I listened this past week to our country's most recognizable soldier castigate Ottawa for what it has done to our military.
MacKenzie did run in an Ontario riding for the PCs in the 1997 federal election, and, was bafflingly, beaten by a lacklustre Liberal. How dumb can Ontario voters be?
MacKenzie was in our city at a luncheon hosted by the Sharing Our Military Heritage campaign, a group working to raise $6.6 million to upgrade the Canadian War Museum, the Calgary-based Museum of the Regiments and the Alberta Naval Museum.
This is a worthy endeavour, and its patrons are Premier Ralph Klein, Mayor Al Duerr and Edmonton Mayor Bill Smith.
The $6.6 million would be peanuts for Ottawa to provide, but even though the likes of Liberal senators Dan Hays and Joyce Fairbairn have added their names to the cause, it's still being left up to patriotic men and women to try to raise the money.
Seems a bit hypocritical to me for Hays and Fairbairn to put their names to this, rather than insist their government back both the military and military museums to the hilt.
But there we are. What else is new?
MacKenzie, who shot to international fame in 1992 as the first commander of the 25-country United Nations humanitarian relief force, has served our nation with distinction around the world.
His speech was two-pronged: It was an attack on the political establishment's betrayal of our military -- and it was a commendation of rank-and-file Canadians who do view our military, and our military history, with honour.
He tied the two together describing it as a "paradox," that while Ottawa has abandoned the military, the Canadian people are now rediscovering it.
MacKenzie berated Ottawa for pretending our military strength is sufficient and our Armed Forces are able to do a commendable job when neither is true.
Our military is actually in a "crisis" situation. The line being put out is that although our military manpower has been cut from 80,000 to 60,000 in the past decade, our "operational capability" is far, far better.
"If that is true," MacKenzie mocked, "why not cut our forces to 10,000 members and then we'll be an operational superpower?"
He said the political establishment is misrepresenting our military by saying we are a peacekeeping nation and our military, akin to Boy Scouts, can go anywhere in the world where they are needed.
"That's an insult to the Boy Scouts and to the military."
In reality, our military increasingly goes only where things are comfortable and safe, and even though it has a presence at many trouble spots throughout the world, its strength in those spots is down to "single-digit" representation and "tiny, tiny contingents."
We are not where the real action is, and Ottawa knows it.
It's all a charade.
A far cry from our military might in both the First and Second World Wars and the Korean War.
Then, again, I thought, we can't really send our military to the flashpoints on the globe.
Ever since Pierre Trudeau came on the scene in 1968, Liberal governments have demeaned and denigrated the military, savaged their budgets, allowed their equipment to rust out, and paid them so little the men and women who are supposed to be defending our freedom are forced to go to food banks to put food on their tables.
It's a disgrace.
Not at all like at the end of the Second World War when Canada had the fourth-largest navy on the seas.
This valiant hero used the word "misrepresentation" to describe the picture Ottawa' gives of our military compared to the real picture, and he noted that even some top-ranking military figures feel they have to be "politically correct" so as not to upset their political paymasters.
MacKenzie felt the renewed interest in the military by average Canadians was partly due to the fact children rarely brag about what their parents do or did, but do brag about what their grandparents did. Now, the men and women who put their lives on the line for us, are grandparents!
Hence the resurgence in things military.
Aside from being passionate about his commitment to our nation and to the military, he was also witty. In reflecting on his days at CFB Calgary, he noted it had now been dismantled and shipped to Edmonton to boost votes for Justice Minister Anne McLellan. MacKenzie jokingly suggested that perhaps voters should have elected a Liberal candidate.
What Calgarians and Canadians should do is elect MacKenzie to high public office.
It's time we had a real life hero running the ship.
Jackson, associate editor of the Sun, can be reached at [email protected].