Well, it’s Monday again. How about we start the week off with a nice long run-on sentence!
As Canada Command staff officers watched and assessed the situation in Quebec and elsewhere after the raids on the ammo compounds, the growing hints of wider trouble suggested that their worst planning scenario, “a prolonged, coordinated challenge to the government of Canada” by armed militants in the native community, was unfolding before their eyes. The operational staff at NDHQ believed the trouble was confined to Quebec, a rerun, some said, of the 1990 Oka problems, and they meant to keep it there.
Lieutenant General René Lepine, appointed Commander CANCOM some months ago, wasn’t so sure. He stood quietly away from the staff as he surveyed the centre’s large electronic map of Canada. He let his imagination play with the computer simulations as it developed the situation in front of him.
So up until now we’d been moving back and forth between Stevenson’s HQ and the ITAC. As a concept, this literary device wasn’t a bad idea even if it failed in execution. Show two opposing perspectives of the same problem as a way of managing character development and setting the stage for the conflict. Now all of a sudden Bland yanks us away from this back-and-forth to place us in Canada Command HQ (CANCOM), the main headquarters for Canada-based operations, where he introduces a whole new character, Lt Gen René Lepine. But lest you think this is some pansy-assed natural disaster or humanitarian relief HQ, Bland is quick to correct us:
He was responsible for the conduct of all military routine and emergency operations in Canada. The few politicians who even noticed the CANCOM mission statement assumed “operations” meant fighting floods and fire and snowstorms and searching for lost souls. They were wrong.
The new post-cold-war cohort of senior officers, trained and conditioned by more than a decade of messy experiences in the Balkans, Afghanistan, and now in Zimbabwe, worried a great deal about the eruption of similar types of conflicts at home. Senior officers and RCMP officers worried especially about convergence of native grievances and nation-subverting criminal gangs. Canada Command’s real purpose was to prepare for just such a disaster. No plans for this eventuality were committed to paper and no one spoke outside the family.
If you’ve been a regular reader of this blog, you probably have some idea of just how problematic I find this passage. The idea that an army HQ would be created to deal with the possibility of civil insurrection isn’t necessarily a bad thing in and of itself. Here though Bland is suggesting that CANCOM was explicitly built for the purpose of quashing a First Nations rebellion, and that it’s creation was informed by the recent experiences of Afghanistan and the former-Yugoslavia.
In other words, in Bland’s Canada, CANCOM is an army HQ built for the purposes of fighting a race war.
Here’s an interesting bit of CF trivia: For that last decade (at least) of the Cold War, Canada never once trained to fight the Soviet Union, Red Army, or any of the Warsaw Pact nations.
It’s true! If you look at the training scenarios from that time period, there was never any mention of Russia, Soviets, Communists or anything to suggest that our enemies were those red star-wearing characters on the far side of the West/East German border. Instead, our training scenarios were centred around fighting an imaginary enemy called the Fantasians. Fantasia was a completely fictional nation of immense industrial and military power that had assembled an alliance of client and satellite nations to oppose NATO in central Europe.
Now, as it happened, Fantasia bore a striking resemblance to the USSR and the Warsaw Pact, right down to the fact that all the tanks, artillery and planes had the exact same names and characteristics, but that was purely blind luck. We were training to fight the Fantasians. The fact that this training was equally applicable to the Czech and Soviet Guards Armoured divisions facing the Canadian Brigade in East Germany was just a happy coincidence.
In the post-Cold War era, the CF trained for operations in the Republic of Ventora. This was an imaginary post-Fantasian nation that collapsed into a brutal ethnically based civil war and was now divided into the nascent republics of Stromia, Lemgo, Tartan. Any resemblance between Ventora and the former-Yugoslavia was certainly not intentional.
Some time later, the scene changed to the Island nations of West Isle and East Isle. These were two nations situated on corresponding sides of the same Caribbean island. East Isle was a relatively stable, developing nation but West Isle had been plagued by dictatorships, corruption, and civil unrest, only to be further devastated by a massive earthquake that left its already fragile infrastructure in tatters.
And yes, before you ask, this new scenario happened to emerge around the time Canada launched its relief mission for the Haitian earthquake.
This use of a not-so-subtle stand in for existing enemies has a couple of uses. One is to provide a necessary sop to diplomatic relations. No matter what position we may take with a country diplomatically, at some point we will need to sit down and talk things over. Not having our army officially preparing to fight the nation being negotiated with is an important precondition for diplomacy.
So the idea that the CF would have a headquarters not only centred around domestic operations but one that is dedicated to a very specific domestic operation…and that this purpose would be deliberately kept from the civilian government? Yeah. That’s several layers of fucked.
Lieutenant General René Lepine, a hard-nosed infantry officer, was one of the first senior officers to recognize the Petawawa raid for what it was – the opening move in a significant native challenge to the government. Rene knew that it was the product of radicalized natives, and he recognized also the professional army fingerprints all over the operation. After all, he was “of the people,” Ojibwa, born on the Grassy Narrows reserve in northern Ontario. He understood the grievances and problems on the reserves and the power the radicals had over many of the young people.
Our man here is LtGen René Lepine, and not only is he a hard-nosed infantry officer, but he’s (apparently) the only Indigenous soldier in the CF to not get recruited into the NPA. So just to be clear, our tough, manly native characters with European type names are: Gabriel, Grace, Stevenson, Boucanier and now Lepine. Whereas our supporting cast (significantly less manly) have all the unusual names like Whitefish, and Christmas. Later we’ll meet the Grand Chief of the AFN who’s last name is Onanole. Needless to say, he’s portrayed as a complete failure and a caricature.
Anyway, Gen Lepine is ‘one of the first people to realize the significance of the raids,’ and has since been sitting in his HQ, studying a giant map and…what exactly? Just as with the spooks in the ITAC, Lepine doesn’t seem to have taken any concrete actions to prepare for the uprising he is sure is immanent.
Now I get that Bland wants to portray the CF as helpless before the vast crushing power of Political Correctness and weak-kneed politicians, but just from where I’m sitting I can see imagine a half dozen different things that he could do to prepare that wouldn’t require formal government approval.
There’s no mention that he has been in contact with any of the formation commanders who are likely to be in charge when the fighting begins, he’s made no effort to reach out to civilian police forces and give them at least an informal warning. Although Stevenson, Gabriel and Boucanier are all now on the government radar, he’s made no effort to contact any of their colleagues for information in order to size up his future enemies.
Amazingly enough, there’s no sign that he’s reaching out to other Head Quarters, which is particularly bewildering since briefings seem to be Bland’s specialty and I can’t imagine he’d pass up the chance to include more in his book.
But luckily for Lepine, someone has been doing work! It seems that a certain staff officer’s hobby is about to pay off…
“Excuse me, sir, sorry to interrupt your thoughts.” Lieutenant Colonel Erick Brandon approached Lepine carrying a handful of notes and his own wrinkled map. “You asked me to go over the scenario files. I did that and I remembered an exercise Bill Coupland and Doug Harrison and I did, a computer game, so to speak, some time ago. We thought you might like to see it – it’s all unofficial, but a bit too close to today’s event to let slide.”
“Thanks, Brandon, what have you got?”
“Well, sir, perhaps you remember, some time ago Roméo Dallaire – after his retirement as general – well, he was speaking in a Senate committee meeting, and General Dallaire asked what would Canada do if the native people found a leader and got organized. He answered himself and suggested that they could cause problems all across the country.”
“Yes, I recall something like that. No one seemed to notice the exchange, thought.”
“Yes, sir, it seemed to pass in the night, so to speak. But Bill, Doug, and I, we were working then on some staff college computer simulations and in our spare time we worked up a sort of war game on e weekend to see what might happen in the Dallaire scenario.”
“They must be getting slack at the war college in Toronto if you guys have time to play games not in the curriculum. So what happened?”
Brandon, blushing slightly, shuffled through his notes and unfurled a large marked-up map, and put it on the table in the centre of the ops room. “Well, sir, we did, more or less, mark out all the vulnerable points across Canada that rebels might take over and use as negotiating chips with the government. Then we tried various ways the native radicals could best bring pressure to bear on the government, and we came up with three options.”
Ooooh! He brought a map! Maps are essential (as we can see with this post’s Featured Image)!
LCol Brandon then goes on to explain how the only winning move perfectly mirrors the actual plan being implemented by the NPA at this moment!
We know that Brandon is a Real Soldier® because he is careful to defer to Lepine’s authority, and acts suitably embarrassed when Lepine comments on his spare time. Apparently, LCol Erick Brandon and his buddies have been hanging out in the dorms of the staff college secretly wargaming all kinds of scenarios including a Native insurrection. As it happens, LCol Brandon is also bang on with his assessment, perfectly predicting the NPA’s eventual strategy and all of the risks involved! Too bad they weren’t talking regularly to the ITAC, or they might have been able to save them five days of work to confirm their theory.
It’s worth pondering the question of whether Douglas Bland spent his days at RMC (or some other staff position) war gaming all kinds of scenarios. I can imagine this being some kind of wish fulfilling scene where the neglected staff college type suddenly hits upon the key strategy of an enemy force and manages to pass it up the chain of command in time to save the day…or at least cover their ass so that the failure isn’t their fault. Almost wonder if maybe Douglas Bland made came up with an unsolicited scenario that was dismissed by his superiors, despite his obsequious presentation?
Maybe this whole novel is a bit of wish-fulfillment?
Lepine turned back to the map. He re-read his notes, then went back over the intelligence file on the National [sic?] People’s Army, re-read Molly Grace’s public speeches and declarations, as well as analysis from think-tanks in Canada and the Unisted States. He checked the CSIS files and found them to be, as usual, well behind rapidly unfolding events. Finally he let his imagination roam once more. The obvious scenario, another Oka-style problem in Quebec, seemed to pat, too predictable. It was, he decided, an unacceptably ordinary explanation for the entirely extraordinary set of skilfully coordinated raids on Canadian Forces bases that had started whatever was happening.
I hope to God we make the right choices, he thought. There’s no road back once we deploy.
It’s interesting to note that no one proposes trying to arrest Boucanier, Gabriel or Stevenson, despite the fact that Gabriel at least should have an arrest warrant hanging over his head.
I hope to God we make the right choices, Lepine thinks to himself. But he’s only thinking of his choices as a response to Molly Grace’s actions. Once again, there is no effort made it terms of pre-empting enemy action, or at least trying to gather better information.
René Lepine is supposed to be a Real Soldier® but he sits helplessly, waiting for his enemy to make the first move and praying that he will be able to dance to her tune.
But at least he listened to his war-gaming staff officer.
***Featured image from the final scenes of MGM’s 1983 film “WarGames” (found at imdb.com), where the super computer scrambles to find the solution for World War III.***
 The only occasion in which we did not go through the trouble of inventing a fictional scenario for operational deployments was during the Afghan War. Obviously, that was an actual war, which meant that the CF was the diplomatic effort (to use the Clausewitz-ian term).
 Foreshadowing by pun! Or not. We don’t hear from B.C. again and I don’t really think Bland would be that clever. Maybe sub-conscious foreshadowing by pun?
 Wait! I think I got it! Doug Harrison and Bill Coupland! It’s fiendish in its intricacies!