I’ve already made the observation that half of good writing is the editing process.  If Bland had taken this concept seriously, then this next section, where Molly Grace and Bill Whitefish give another briefing in the Complex at Akwesasne, would probably have been merged with her confrontation with the Council, or else cut out altogether.

Most of what happens over the next seven hundred words is stuff we’ve covered before, and neither advances the plot nor develops the character.  There is, however, a few bits and pieces of original material scattered throughout, so instead of trying to work out a consistent theme that would just be a repeat of previous posts, I figure I’ll do more of a short list of those items that caught my attention:

Molly and Bill walked into the main ops room at the Complex.  Her planning staff sat eagerly anticipating the opening moves of the campaign they had devised over the summer, rehearsed on paper so many times, and dreamed of for years.  

As usual, Molly offered no pleasantries, just dropped her notebook on the table and said, “Right, what are they up do?”

Bill clicked on his PowerPoint displays

This reads an awful lot like the author was a person who’s been on a lot of exercises, but not in an actual war.  Opening moves?  Uh…they raided Petawawa four days ago, and the preparations for that raid had been in the works for at least several weeks before that!  They’ve killed at least one man so far[1] and that’s not counting whatever violence might have gone into recruiting and controlling all that organized crime they’re allegedly working with.

This is the difference between an exercise and a war is that the exercise has a defined beginning and end, so you can literally have everyone sitting at their positions, waiting for the moment when the order is given and they can start soldiering.  In a war, while particular operations may begin and end, the war itself is ongoing.

In Afghanistan, even if all the combat troops were safely back in the FOBs, there was still that perpetual hum of background activity as equipment got repaired, information got analyzed and new plans got made.  Even if there was a point where the entire Battle Group could stand down and relax for a moment, there’d still have to be a minimum level of readiness since the enemy wasn’t likely to respect our down time as they carried out their own operations.

There is absolutely no reason for the Ops Room in the Complex to be sitting around doing nothing.  They have troops in the field right now (they’re pretending to be protestors, but still) and there should be a constant feed of message traffic coming in from their various units in the field as they get themselves ready for the actual fighting to break out.

This briefing should be happening in a separate room, and be attended by a few key personnel.  And these people will likely be fidgeting at being cut off from the nerve centre where they need to be.

Also, ‘Power Point displays’ (plural)?  What the fuck?  Does Bill Whitefish actually have multiple Power Point presentations running on multiple screens?  Is the information from his various sources being sent to him in .ppt format or did he actually prepare these slides in advance before leaving to go get Molly?

That’s not…like no.  That’s not the way you do that.

“NDHQ is collecting information and holding meetings with the RCMP and CSIS.  They have picked up the situation we set out for them, including the fact that Boucanier is in Radisson and talking to Neetha and other ‘discredited Rangers,’ as the security forces call the dropouts.  The agencies are suspicious of these meetings, but haven’t done much about them…seems the SQ doesn’t want to play.  So, basically no resources have been sent to the region; they’re nibbling the bait but haven’t taken the big bite yet.  The situation in Montreal and Quebec City also has them very worried, but at present they think the SQ can hold on.  Units in CFB Valcartier have been assembled and are ready to move, but the prime minister has the brakes on, so our sources tell us.

So as far as plot line is concerned, this paragraph doesn’t give us anything new, but it does fill in a few blanks that I’ve been wondering about.  First off, this paragraph confirms that the Rangers under Boucanier’s command have left the CF, apparently as a kind of mass resignation.

So, Bland just drops this in as a random tidbit, indicating again that he has little idea who or what the Rangers really are.  It will later be revealed that Boucanier’s Ranger force numbers around one hundred and ten, all ranks.  This is essentially every Ranger from the James Bay region that has left the CF (en mass) to join the NPA.

In real life, this would have been a National emergency.  This is the kind of thing the CDS would have had to explain to the Prime Minister.  Rangers, as we have already discussed, are a crucial part of Canada’s Search And Rescue (SAR) capabilities.  They are the local experts and eyes on the ground who are vital to any kind of emergency response across huge swaths of Canada, especially the Arctic.

Losing over a hundred of them from one single region?  Basically, a giant hole just got cut into the map for the CF’s SAR coverage.  This would have immediately set off alarm bells across multiple government Ministries, not to mention their Provincial equivalents.  James Bay would have instantly become their centre of attention, and everyone would be looking to the CDS to tell them what the hell just happened?[2]  Any CF members with roots in the region or experience with these Rangers would likely be dispatched to the region immediately to investigate.

An action like this would put the entire region under a very intense government microscope.  Just weeks before the Uprising began…

The question of Bob Ignace and his actual job remains pretty unclear.  This paragraph seems to confirm that Ignace isn’t SQ.  Other than that, there isn’t much.  He could be RCMP or Band Police, but nobody seems to be listening to him.  The main thing here is that this confirms that Gen Bishop has (and will continue) to ignore PM Hemp’s implied command to support the SQ in handling Provincial security.  No warning has been sent to Radisson, and the Robert Bourassa Dam will receive no reinforcements or security before the NPA strikes.

One junior intelligence staff officer at NDHQ did write a memo pointing out the vulnerability of the West if everyone were moved east, but our man in the headquarters intercepted the memo and managed to misplace it in the files.

Wow!  So much suffering could have been averted, if only the military establishment had listened to Douglas Bland this nameless staff officer!  This is likely LCol Brandon, the suspiciously Bland-ish staff officer we got introduced to when we got our peak at CANCOM.  Seriously, this is like a Mary Sue character in reverse, where the author self-insert is ignored and pushed to the sidelines, only to have everything go horribly wrong as a result.

It’s interesting to note that the NPA has a man inside CANCOM (I think?  It’s not clear) yet other than blocking this one memo he will have nothing else to contribute to the Uprising.  (Spoiler: Not that it’s a massive plot hole, but this mole will turn out to be in the perfect position to warn Molly Grace about a major event later in the story.  He’ll have been forgotten by then.)

The media are covering the blockades and are predictably split – the French press are against the natives, and the CBC and Toronto papers, except the National Post, of course, oppose any action by the feds.

Again this reads like someone who’s knowledge begins and ends with stereotypes.

So overall Canadian media outlets tend to be liberal, with a few conservative exceptions. Contrary to the text, liberal does not automatically mean unpatriotic or free from racism.  They often favour the little guy in a David vs Goliath contest, but who that little guy may be is going to vary as the protests go on.  Remember, a man’s dead already and there’s now millions of citizens (or subscribers, as the media like to call them) who are effectively blockaded within their own cities.  This itself is happening in the wake of the Railway Massacre as well, so there’s liable to be some serious mixed feelings as to what’s happening.

Bland’s likely right in that the more local the paper, the more likely they’ll reflect the ambient mood of the population.  So Québec papers and news stations are likely taking a hard line against the blockades, which might promote an opposing opinion among people unsympathetic to Québec…although this could have the effect of encouraging the deployment of the army.  A population unsympathetic to Québec would likely prefer the army to go in and deal with things instead.[3]

Contrary to what Bland’s saying here, Canada has more than one conservative media outlet.  The National Post is (was? I don’t keep track of these things) the more prestigious of these, being a nationally distributed newspaper that (coincidentally, I’m sure) publishes Douglas Bland’s columns on occasion.  But even back when Uprising was written, there was still Sun Media, a chain of tabloid-like local papers that generally hewed to a more right-wing perspective.[4]  Not to mention most cities have local talk radio stations that can often be pretty conservative as well.  Whatever the opinion of the big name outlets, there’s going to be a broad cross section pushing for different kinds of action.[5]

It’s also worth mentioning that, at this point, there would be a lot of journalists from print, radio and TV who would have reported from Afghanistan and now Zimbabwe.  This would increase the number of reporters both with military experience, and who are likely to be sympathetic to the military.

Okay, let’s move.  We want a few small car bombs near military targets, the complete closure of the Montreal transit system and bridges, a few non-lethal attacks on rural SQ stations to intimidate the cops, and put the James Bay plan into operation – D-Day early morning Friday.

So remember, this meeting is happening Thursday afternoon, meaning that these car bombs(plural!) can apparently be sent into action in a matter of hours from the order being given in Akwesasne.

 

Source.  These are pictures from the game Command & Conquer: Generals.  It’s a series real time strategy game where you harvest resources to build structures that will build soldiers and fighting machines so you can defeat your enemy.  The series itself went in some pretty freaky sci-fi directions[6], however the Generals instalment featured pretty conventional Iraq invasion-era weapons and equipment.  The main villains of the game are the Global Liberation Army (GLA), a not at all subtle computer game version of al-Quaeda.  Meaning that some of your primary weapons (if you’re playing the GLA) are suicide Bomb Trucks (on the left) which are cranked out by the Arms Dealer building (on the right).

Yeah, it’s more than a bit sketchy that way.

Now from the text in Uprising it doesn’t sound like these are are meant to be suicide bombers.  These car bombs are going to be driven to their locations, abandoned by their driver, then detonated by remote control or timer.  The problem is that Bland seems to think that, just like in Command & Conquer: Generals, car bombs are something that can be kept on standby and rolled out the door on command.

So…this gets into some of the more technical aspects of bomb construction, which makes things a bit sketchy.  I’ve talked about this before, but this is where things drift into territory where I have to balance criticism with not providing serious information about bomb construction.

So I’m going to keep this simple and generalized: Modern explosives work off of a system called the explosive train where the main explosive component generates a lot of power, but is extremely stable.  This is because, for any large scale demolition job, you’re going to have to spend a lot of time planting your explosive charges in various locations around a structure.  It’s usually preferable not to have this stuff go off while you’re working.

The dangerous part is when you connect in the detonator (sometimes called the blasting cap).  This is a tiny device that is low powered (just barely powerful enough to trigger the main charge) and highly unstable (so it can be set off dependably).  Until the detonator is connected to the system, everything is pretty safe.  Most military and commercial explosives (like C4, for example) is pretty stable.  The moment the detonator is connected, the risk factor becomes huge.

I only got the basic demolitions course.  This training qualifies be to carry out the destruction of unexploded grenades and pyrotechnics in the training area.  Even then, there’s a whole drill to handing out detonators, where we’re required to crouch down and touch the ground (to discharge any static electricity in our clothes) before we can draw a single detonator from the case.  After that you do all your work at arm’s length (so if it blows, you might only lose a finger or two) and narrate it as you go so that bystanders know what’s going on.

Bomb Factory
From the 1966 film “The Battle of Algiers.”

A scene like this is shown in the movie ‘The Battle for Algiers’ where the FLN launches a bombing attack against a trio of French bars and clubs.  The bombs themselves are put together in the Casbah (the FLN controlled district of the city) then transported out through the military check points by a trio of women.  The women elected to carry the bombs wait at the far end of the bomb maker’s warehouse as he arms each device, until they are called over (one at a time) to receive their weapon.  Until the detonator is connected, the bombs they carried in would be relatively stable.  But once armed the bomb is live and could potentially be triggered prematurely by all sorts of things.

This is why you’ll sometimes hear about bomb makers and bomb factories suddenly exploding on their own.  Or of a suicide bomber spontaneously blowing up before he can reach his target.  Once the detonator is installed, the bomb can potentially be set off by something as simple as the static electricity built up by your clothes.  A terrorist bomb maker will know all sorts of tricks to insulate the detonator against accidental triggering, but terrorist bomb making isn’t something that gets taught in school.  It typically gets learned from other bomb makers, and usually by trial and error.

This is why locating a bomb factory (or capturing a bomb maker) is a big deal in a counter-insurgency.  It’s not that hard to rig up a bomb.  Building one that can be armed in one location, then transported in an armed state to another?  That takes skill.

This passage suggests that the NPA not only has a bomb factory skilled enough to rig up weapons like this, but that they actually have two (or more) car bombs ready to go on command.  That…takes a lot of infrastructure, and a well established command structure to ensure that there’s enough support for the bomb makers to work freely.[7]

The most recent example we’ve had of a situation in which car bombs could literally be rolled out with assembly line speed would be in the siege of Mosul, where the ISIL forces had literal years to dig themselves into the city, build factories to crank out ordinance and ammunition, and yes, fleets of car bombs.

I’m not seeing a lot of evidence of this in the text.

Stevenson spoke to me a little while ago to confirm the change of readiness status. He’s confident that he can pull it off, but he warned that several local bands and some gang toughs – the Warrior Posse, for example – are excited by the Quebec situation and ready to do something rash. Sam is taking steps to control them and has several band leaders making appeals for calm. They’re harmless and don’t know the plans, so it’s all good. They sound sincere, and they are, actually, and the local white leaders who think the band chiefs are in charge are of course reacting like this is the worst time to do anything provocative, so they’re adding to the paralysis.”
Molly pushed her chair away from the table and stood up. “Fine, do it. We will meet later this afternoon to gauge the results.

To wrap this up, take a look at this last fragment and the bolded portion in particular.  The criminal gangs that the NPA has been making deals with are proving to be unstable and out of control.  Not entirely surprising.  Criminal organizations would be hit and miss in terms of self-discipline and patience.  What is surprising is that nobody seems at all concerned with ‘the Warrior Posse’ getting out of control at this critical juncture.

For an actual insurgency, measuring their campaign in months and years, this wouldn’t be a massive problem.  Individual battles can be won or lost so long as the movement itself survives.  If the local criminal gangs rampage and trigger an unexpected response from government forces, then just lie low for a few months and wait for things to settle down.

Bland, on the other hand, is proposing some kind of bizarre hybrid of an insurgency and a modern day full-spectrum military campaign that will crush Canada with split second timing.

You’d think they’d be a bit more worried.

____________________________________________

[1] Fred McTavish.  We remember.

[2] I’m not by any means an expert, but I’ve worked with the Rangers a couple of times, and I know a couple of Ranger Instructors.  I expect the first response would be to wonder if this was some kind of protest.  If perhaps these Rangers had resigned together because they were being mistreated or something?

[3] There’s an ongoing sense in some civilian circles, that when the army intervened at Oka, it was a quick and easy deployment that settled both those pesky natives and those out of control Quebeckers in one heroic swoop.  In other words, like the Face-to-Face picture.  Not something that balanced on a knife-edge of risk and left a lot of long term damage, like the real story behind the Face-to-Face picture.

[4] A old joke from the Royal Canadian Air Farce “Ah!  What a day to sit outside in the park and read the newspaper!”  “No, I’m just going to read the Sun!”

[5] Sun Media now has a TV news station, and we recently added Rebel Media to the national conversation as well.  Some of Rebel Media’s early contributors include Gavin McInnes (founder of the Proud Boys), and Faith Goldie (a full-on white supremacist who ran for Toronto City Council).  Make of that what you will.

[6] The original Command & Conquer series featured “The Brotherhood of Nod” (a global movement of pseudo-religious fanatics not unlike GI Joe’s Cobra), while the Red Alert spinoff had time travel, Adolf Hitler and Einstein (not even going to try and explain it).

[7] Blocks of C4 are pretty easy to hide.  A car full of C4 that’s been rigged as a bomb?  Not so much.

One thought on “47-Molly’s greatest hits…

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