When someone says, "who could've known?" you're entitled to take that with a very large grain of salt. Usually it's a way to dodge two other questions - who should have known, and, why didn't you know?
This seems to be a favourite excuse from Canadian leadership, political and military. Harper used it when Canada got overtaken, totally unprepared, by the global recession. Utterly dishonestly Furious Leader claimed no one saw it coming. Bollocks, crap, bullshit. Paul Krugman saw it coming. Joe Stiglitz saw it coming. Plenty of others did too and they were writing and talking about it and warning anyone who would listen. Harper was just too deafened by his stupid ideology to hear them.
But now it's Canada's military brass who are playing this same disingenuous game. Commenting on how Canada's Afghan mission fared so poorly, General Walter Natynczyk, successor to safely retired General Rick Hillier, said, "I don't think anyone fully expected the kind of counter-insurgency fight we faced here."
Okay, Walt, but who should have expected this and why didn't they have this figured out? How about your former boss, that swaggering buffoon who boasted to reporters that his troops were going to Kandahar to "kill scumbags" that he estimated to be a "few dozen" strong? Did he just pull that out of his ass?
We weren't the first into Kandahar. We took over from the Americans. What exactly did they tell us about the place? Did they pull a fast one on the Big Cod? Or was Kandahar really more of a transformative opportunity for Hillier, a chance to seismically shift the Canadian Forces from peace keepers to war fighters, real soldiers?
And no one is asking Walt why, if we didn't expect the fight we got in Kandahar, if the enemy was much stronger than he imagined when he and Hillier decided on a 2,500-strong force, why didn't we send in thousands of reinforcements? One candid combat officer told a Canadian reporter that, in the early years, Canadian forces struggled just to avoid being defeated and run out of Kandahar by a gang of religious fanatics and farmers with Korean-war vintage rifles and grenade launchers. How did our soldiers ever come to the brink of a Dien Bien Phu moment? Who allowed that to happen?
Apparently Natynczyk told Canadian press that the fight in southern Afghanistan was 'almost unavoidable.' Of course it was. That's why we went there. Hillier said as much. Does that now take him by surprise?
"We're not the only ones to have gone through this kind of discovery because intelligence is never perfect," said Natynczyk. Now blame the intelligence, Walt. Did Don Rumsfeld write this script?
"Our guys worked very, very hard with intelligence, but the fact is you cannot assess all of the factors, or understand all of the ingredients that go into a counter-insurgency."
Natynczyk said he has been asked over the years why the army didn't have "a perfect" assessment.
"Well, that's a dream, in the same way we could not predict just what occurred in Tunisia, Egypt or now in Libya." Really? It was predicted, especially Libya.
Hillier and Natynczyk have a lot to answer for. Their good luck is that no one - in the media or on Parliament Hill - is going to ask the questions. And that's a damned shame. 157 Canadian soldiers gave their lives in this fiasco, hundreds of more will live with horrible wounds for the rest of theirs. They deserve for those questions to be asked - and answered.