|Harper took bad advice on UAE file|
One of the most downplayed news stories from last week was the bombshell revelation that the
The troops and civilians based at Camp Mirage were put on 30-days notice to pack up their tents, kit and supplies and get the hell out of the UAE by Nov. 5, case closed.
When word of this development was first made public, Defence Minister Peter MacKay was actually on the ground in
However, the next day, as MacKay and his entourage, which included Chief of the Defence Staff General Walter Natynczyk and Minister of Veterans Affairs Jean-Pierre Blackburn, attempted to fly home to
While Canadian officials may now be attempting to diminish the importance of the loss of Camp Mirage, the fact is that, without this staging area in the Persian Gulf, there is no way we could have maintained our successive battle groups in Afghanistan.
It was in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 that
In the nine years of its existence, Mirage has become quite a comfortable transit facility, complete with an excellent dining hall, airconditioned personnel quarters, a first-class fitness centre plus shuttle buses to the international airport and
What will be a difficult challenge for the Canadian Forces to overcome will be carrying on business as usual in terms of supporting the troops in Kandahar, processing soldiers through their leave cycles and beginning preparations for the planned withdrawal in July 2011—all while breaking down, packing, shipping and re-establishing another regional staging area.
This would be like a hospital at maximum capacity having to continue treating all its patients—including surgery—while preparing the entire facility to be transported to an undisclosed country, somewhere in the vicinity.
At the root of this diplomatic impasse is the fact that, about five years ago, the UAE began pressuring the Canadian government to open up additional weekly flight slots to their two government-owned air carriers, Emirates Airlines and Etihad Airways.
For some unknown reason, the Conservative government failed to see how the UAE could possibly link these two situations together.
On the one hand,
For their part, the UAE were requesting that we reciprocate their generosity by allowing them access to Canadian airspace and landing rights in pursuit of their national interests, namely supporting their state-run airlines. That seems like a pretty straight swap to me. But what do I know?
UAE any compensation for the use of
Unfortunately, those politicians and civil servants who thought they could play in the big leagues have just been taught a lesson in horse-trading by the UAE. Sensing that we were dealing in bad faith, they too saw the looming exit date and decided to act when it would hurt us the most.
According to Conservative Party insiders, Peter MacKay was among a handful of cabinet ministers who pleaded with Prime Minister Stephen Harper to allow the UAE the additional flights requested. If true, I applaud MacKay for understanding the gravity of the situation.
If it was the case, as alleged in the Globe and Mail, that Stephen Harper chose to listen instead to the counsel of former transport minister John Baird, then
Barking monkeys serve the purpose of frightening off smaller monkeys. (And it is an indisputable fact that John Baird has been the Conservative Party’s designated barking monkey since he was appointed to Cabinet in 2006.) However, such primates should never be consulted on matters of delicate diplomacy.
The enormity of Harper’s blunder will soon become apparent as the men and women of the Canadian Forces attempt to deal with the fallout from the Mirage closure.