Truth is always the first casualty of war. And no one should be surprised that it is the first casualty of Stephen Harper's War. Michael Harris writes:
The resolution on the Iraq mission that passed the House of Commons explicitly ruled out ground-based combat operations. Now, Mr. Harper has deployed Canadian special forces in such a way that they have become involved in what the parliamentary resolution expressly forbade: ground combat.
The government’s defence against this egregious contempt of Parliament is fantasy fact-ball, a game in which the PM excels. Mr. Harper says that Canadians agree that our ground forces in Iraq should return fire if fired upon. That may or may not be true, but according to the latest Nanos poll, a majority of Canadians oppose involving ground troops in the fight against Islamic State.
Canada supposedly entered the war to support the United States. But American troops are not involved in firefights:
The Pentagon has expressly forbidden U.S. soldiers from doing what Canadian special forces are doing — because that would be a “combat” role, rather than “advise and assist”. In fact, Canada is the only coalition member whose ground forces have militarily engaged with IS — three times.
Not only are U.S. military personnel forbidden from any role that goes beyond the air campaign, planning ground operations and intelligence-sharing, their movements are carefully arranged to make sure that they are not even inadvertently put into combat situations. As Pentagon official Elissa Smith told the CBC, “We’ve been very clear that U.S. advisers are removed from actual or expected combat situations as part of our advise and assist mission in Iraq.”
Harper's response is that the mission has "evolved." If that is true, it's because Mr. Harper has approved of that evolution. It's the kind of decision an armchair general -- who has no experience of combat -- would make.
But that decision is entirely in keeping with Mr. Harper's character. Truth has always been the first casualty of any mission which Mr. Harper undertakes.