Leadership: Getting Screwed


June 3, 2010: The commander of Canadian forces in Afghanistan (brigadier general Daniel Menard) has been removed from his position for having sex with a subordinate. Like their American counterparts, Canadian forces include some women, and sex is forbidden. But it happens, and is tolerated as long as it is discreet. There are a few pregnancies every year, despite the widespread availability of condoms. U.S. bases make the "morning after" (anti-pregnancy) pill available to female soldiers who believe they need it. Some do.

General Menard (who is married to an army Major and has two children) has other problems as well. Two months ago he ordered an investigation of himself after he accidently fired two rounds from his rifle while at Kandahar airfield on March 25th (and standing next to his boss, who was visiting from Canada). He was loading the weapon at the time. While no one was hurt by the errant bullets, discharging a weapon on a base is a violation of Canadian safety regulations (section 129 of the National Defense Act) . In order to show how serious Canada is about weapons safety, Menard was charged with violation of section 129, and he eventually faced a court martial, and pled guilty. Such weapons discharges in combat zones, or even peacetime, are common. Most of the time, the worst that happens is the offender gets a dirty look from an NCO, or a few sharp words. There is ridicule from other soldiers, which hurts the most. Usually, only repeat offenders receive any official punishment.

Canada takes violations of their regulations very seriously. After Canadian paratroopers were prosecuted for beating a Somali man to death in 1993, the Airborne Regiment was disbanded. This attitude has caused problems with Afghan civilians taken into custody by Canadian soldiers. There have been incidents in the past where Canadian soldiers were prosecuted for punching, or otherwise mistreating, these prisoners. Apparently in response to this, Canadian forces turn over more of their prisoners to the Afghan security forces, than do any other NATO troops. This has raised a call for more monitoring of how these prisoners are treated by the Afghan soldiers and police. The Afghans are known to treat prisoners roughly (by Canadian standards), even resorting to torture   (by Canadian standards). The Afghans stonewall Canadian investigators, causing even more anxiety back in Canada.

Dozens of Canadian soldiers have faced court martial for misbehavior in Afghanistan. One Canadian officer was being prosecuted for killing a wounded Taliban (after being told by an Afghan soldier that the wounded Taliban had a bomb.) Over 2,000 Canadian military personnel are court martialed each year, out of a force of 62,000 active duty and 25,000 reserve personnel (about 25 per thousand military personnel each year). There are 2,500 Canadian troops in Afghanistan, and none have been prosecuted for getting pregnant.



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