Saturday, June 24, 2017

Canadian record kill shot - advice and assistance or combat?

There's been a lot in the Canadian press recently about the record-breaking "kill shot" by a Canadian sniper in Iraq the other day.
The Joint Task Force 2 sniper, who remains nameless for the time being, presumably so that his family do not become the targets of reprisal actions, used a McMillan TAC-50 rifle to kill an Islamic State fighter 3,540 metres away, disprupting the imminent IS attack, and allowing Iraqi security forces to continue their advance.
It seems that Canadian sharpshooter are among the best in the world. This record shot blew away the previous world record of 2,475 metres, which was by a British sniper in 2009, but the two record sniper shots before that one were both by Canadian soldiers.
It was certainly an extraordinary feat, especially considering that a bullet takes about 10 seconds to cover that distance, and is subject all sorts of variables like wind speed and direction, the curvature of the earth, and of course gravity. In fact, it's almost too good to be true, even if it was independently verified by at least two different sources. Could it not have been just blind luck? Could he actually have been shooting at the guy next to the one that died?
Anyway, I don't mean to demean the achievement. I'm just a little concerned that we are talking about this like it was just another entry in the Guiness Book of World Records, along with the world's fattest cat and the largest outdoor yoga class. This was an assassination and someone died in the setting of this record.
The other thing that few people are taking about was brought up by Thomas Mulcair, leader (for a while at least) of the federal NDP party. Mulcair contends that, although the shot was a technical marvel, it represents an act of war, and is effectively ground combat under another name, which goes directly against the repeated claims of the government that Canada is only in the Middle East in an "advise and assist" capacity. Mulcair: "It seriously calls into question [the] government's claim that Canadian Forces are not involved in direct combat in Iraq."
Now, you could argue that Mulcair is just taking cheap political "shots" against Justin Trudeau, as his job description requires, and you would have a point. I'm also not sure that I agree with Mulcair's assertion that milirary actions and shots like this are called by politicians (and specifically by Justin Trudeau, to hear Mr. Mulcair tell it), and not by the military forces on the ground. I would have thought that such an action could well come under the auspices of "advise and assist", and whether it constitutes "combat" (which Mr. Trudeau was elected on specifically avoiding) is largely a matter of semantics and opinion.
But I think that Mulcair is right to bring the point up. Someone (and who better than the leader of an opposition party) has to keep tabs on the government's foreign policy, to ensure that there is no "mission creep", and to make sure that the government sticks to its election promises. This is particularly important since, in recent months, a lack of transparency has started to become a worrying trend for the Trudeau Liberals.

No comments: