Defence Today

Bleeding us dry
Defence Today, Front Lines

Bleeding us dry

Osama bin Laden had more in mind than inflicting incidental death and mayhem when he dispatched 19 al-Qaida terrorists to strike at the heart of American economic and military might two decades ago. With hatred rooted in real and perceived abuse and exploitation, he aimed to lure the West, specifically the United States, into a protracted and costly war of attrition on home soil, where devout jihadists would be motivated and readily available. Bin Laden spoke of “bleeding America to the point of bankruptcy.” By doing so, the son of a Saudi construction magnate believed he could engineer the moral and economic collapse of his enemies by bleeding them dry, both in human lives and treasure. The strategy is detailed in al-Qaida manuals and a 2004 al Jazeera broadcast in which bin Laden sp...
The graveyard of empires
Defence Today, Front Lines

The graveyard of empires

The graveyard of empires appears to have claimed another victim. But why couldn’t a high-powered coalition that included the United States, United Kingdom and Canada defeat a radically fundamentalist group of murderous zealots? Many said from the beginning that the post-9/11 invaders of Afghanistan were doomed to follow the Persians, Greeks, Arabs, Turks, Mongols, Britons (three times) and Soviets—none of whom managed a permanent presence or far-reaching impact in the parched and willfully independent land of deserts, mountains and open plains. A successful campaign of liberation relies as much on winning hearts and minds as it does on strategic military successes. Winning over Afghans, as the recent collapse of their national army suggests, was far easier said than done. There...
The eyes of war
Defence Today, Front Lines

The eyes of war

Canadian Paul J. Tomelin’s photograph of a young private waiting for medical aid after battle stands among the Korean War’s most compelling photographs. A sergeant in the Canadian Army Film and Photo Unit, Tomelin was deployed to the Korean Peninsula for one year in 1951-52. He managed to wrangle another six months in-country, during which he said he got some of his best images. None was better than his June 22, 1952, photograph of a bloodied and battered Private Heath Matthews of Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, Royal Canadian Regiment, wounded by shrapnel and looking old beyond his 19 years. Matthews, a signaller, was standing outside a medical tent awaiting attention after a company-strength raid the night before on an enemy position near Hill 166, the dominant feature on the Ch...
Displaced by war: Life on the edge
Defence Today, Front Lines

Displaced by war: Life on the edge

While the world fights the coronavirus pandemic, families displaced by war in Yemen are combatting malnutrition and rampant disease, most of which has long been eradicated in the West. Recent reports from inside the embattled country say increasing numbers of children living in displaced-persons’ camps are coming down with malaria, cholera, polio and diphtheria—and often dying. In Bajil, a district in western Yemen bloated by uprooted civilians, 35-year-old Amal is among thousands of internally displaced persons (IDPs) struggling to support a family while a particularly brutal civil war approaches its seventh year. More than four million Yemenis have been forced to flee their homes, making the country “home” to the fourth largest internally displaced population worldwide. Amal ...
Military orders new boots; soldiers are skeptical
Defence Today, Front Lines

Military orders new boots; soldiers are skeptical

An army may march on its stomach but it’s the feet that take the heat—and if soldiers don’t take care of them, they aren’t going far. For years, Canadian soldiers have complained about their army-issued footwear. It was so bad that many claimed to have bought their own. Since 2018, military members have been reimbursed up to $340 a year, depending on their branch of service. “With regard to the Mark III [boot], might as well just have a couple of hockey pucks...taped to your feet,” said Dominic Turgeon, a retired combat engineer now living in Edmonton. The military struggled to find a replacement for the Mark III, paying the cost of orthotics for those who needed them before introducing the boot reimbursement program. Many soldiers complained the Mark III’s successors were not as ...
Diver discovers suspected wreckage of Halifax Explosion
Defence Today, Front Lines

Diver discovers suspected wreckage of Halifax Explosion

Tufts Cove is a shallow, innocuous little inlet nestled at the back end of Halifax Harbour on the Dartmouth side between a power station and the abandoned military neighbourhood of Shannon Park. Because of its proximity to the 56-year-old generating plant and what was once housing for Cold War-era sailors and their families, the cove is fenced off, blocking access to both the water and land. No one ever goes there, anyway; they have no reason to. Water access is too shallow for much more than a rowboat and the cove itself is little more than four metres deep at its deepest point during high tide. And for decades before a nearby treatment plant was built, the cove was filled with raw sewage. Diver Robert (Bob) Chaulk wasn’t even thinking about the cove’s proximity to the Dec. 6, 19...

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