Nothing was said or done without his approval.
A man with no military background, other than partisan ankle biting and cheap shots across the room, thought he knew how to conduct an army in battle.
It was a disaster.
His first decision was to move Canadian troops from Kabul and reposition them in southern Kandahar province, where they were at a greater danger of being killed by roadside bombs. (1) Our death toll immediately escalated.
He then said that the media would be barred from photographing flag draped coffins (he later changed his mind after public outcry, that included the voices of the families of fallen soldiers)
"Look, don't bring the Airbus in, or if you bring the plane in, turn it away from the cameras so that people can't see the bodies coming off, or do it after dark, or do it down behind the hangars, or just bar everybody from it," Hillier quotes the PMO staffers as saying. "They clearly didn't want that picture of the flag-draped coffin on the news."It is Canadian military policy that every Canadian soldier killed in Afghanistan will be honoured as a war hero. Harper's disrespect for soldiers was the last straw for Hillier and prompted his early retirement at the age of 53. (2)When the first reports of detainee abuse began to get back to Canada, Harper personally controlled the spin:
Prime Minister Stephen Harper's office used a "6,000-mile screwdriver" to oversee the denial of reports of Afghan detainee abuse when the scandal first erupted in 2007, according to a former senior NATO public affairs official who was then based in Kabul. The former official, speaking on condition his name not be used, told the Toronto Star that Harper's office in Ottawa "scripted ad fed" the precise wording NATO officials in Kabul used to repudiate allegations of abuse "at a time when it was privately and generally acknowledged in our office that the chances of good treatment at the hands of Afghan security forces were almost zero." (3)All press had to be vetted through the PMO. We were the only country without an independent media on the ground.
Now we learn from Rick Hillier, that Harper wants to have an even deeper involvement in military maneuvers. Hillier believes that this will put our men and women in uniform, at great risk. They will be led by bureaucrats instead of trained military personnel.
Our dictatorship is almost complete. I guess we can next expect our government to start wearing military uniforms. We knew it was only a matter of time.
Canada's former top soldier is warning that "field marshal wannabes" are angling to take a bigger role in directing the day-to-day operations of military forces in the field. Retired general Rick Hillier says a policy paper is circulating around senior levels of the Harper government that suggests the Clerk of the Privy Council and the deputy minister of defence take a greater role to "guide" the military.
The former chief of defence staff writes, in a new postscript for the softcover edition of his memoirs, that there is a growing movement within the federal government to establish a system of micro-management that could extend from the highest reaches of Ottawa all the way down to individual combat units.
...The notion that the military needs greater guidance on how to conduct operations irked Hillier. "What crap!" Hillier writes in the new edition of A Soldier First, an advance copy of which was obtained by The Canadian Press. (4)
1. A Soldier First: Bullets, Bureaucrats and the Politics of War, By Rick Hillier, Harper- Collins, 2009, ISBN-10: 1554684919
2. General Rick Hillier criticizes Stephen Harper, Lilith News, October 3, 2009
3. PMO issued instructions on denying abuse in '07: Former NATO official says response to reports was 'scripted' in Ottawa, By Mitch Potter, Washington Bureau, November 22, 2009
4. Hillier slams 'field marshal wannabes' in revised edition of his memoir, By: Murray Brewster, The Canadian Press, October 11, 2010.