An ex-soldier speaks out: An Open Letter to Defence Minister McCallum

1 April, 2003

Dear Shunpiking,

I thought you might find this interesting given the topic of the talk of Tony’s recent radio program, “Canada’s Secret Military Record.” The attached is a letter I sent to the PM and McCallum, the Defence Minister. The references are to comments by NDP Ms. Libby Davies in the House of Commons regarding the status of Canadian soldiers serving as exchange personnel with US/UK forces in or near Iraq. The question being

(1) are these members at war?; or

(2) if not directly at war, what are there rules of engagement if they find themselves coming under effective enemy fire? In the end similar questions ­– with serious ramifications.

It is my contention, as the letter states, that the Minister of Defence, in NOT defining their role, is acting in dereliction of duty. He is ultimately responsible for setting policy, but what is the policy?



* * *

Mr. McCallum,

I am a former serving member of the 2nd Bn Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry. I served during the aftermath of the 1991 Gulf conflict (UNIKOM 1) and during the tour in the former Yugoslavia of which the Governor General has just awarded the C-in-C medal (UNPROFOR-Medak Pocket). In both these operations I was given clear mandate as to whom I was working for and what rights I had as a peacekeeper in those areas of operation. But in regards to the soldiers now serving in Iraq as exchange personnel I have to reiterate Ms Libby Davies’ question regarding the rules of engagement and Canadian soldiers.

If a Canadian soldier serving in Iraq comes under effective enemy fire how does this soldier respond? If he is to engage the enemy how is this Canadian soldier not participating in the conflict? If he doesn’t engage the enemy (and survives) will he be in dereliction of duty under US/UK command? In regards to the latter case I know from direct experiences that if I fail to do my duty as it exists under British rules then I am in dereliction of duty under both Canadian and British regulations and orders (debrief with the British soldiers I was on contingent exchange with in Cyprus-UNFICYP, 1989).

As a former soldier I cannot imagine not being given a warning order regarding rules of engagement under US/UK command. So what are the Canadian soldiers serving in Iraq rules of engagement?

When, in 1962, the US moved against Cuba (and Russia) one of the major issues out of that incident was the fact that the Canada’s NORAD forces were committed to follow the US move to DEFCON three days before Diefenbaker had committed to the US in the move to DEFCON 2. This is not to admonish or chastise Diefenbaker’s decisions of the era; it is, however, a reminder of the danger of committing troops to action where mandates between nations differ. This is clearly the case here. Either the Canadian soldiers are operating under the US/UK mandate and, therefore, technically fighting, or they are not and, therefore, should be pulled out. To not pull them out is irresponsible to their lives.

Finally, it is irrelevant that the airmen/women are playing an indirect role. Not only is it lacking insight it is disregarding those service personnel. If an AWACS crashes, the Canadian service personnel will be treated as combatants. YOU then have a responsibility to them to let them know whether they are or are not involved. Just being in theatre threatens them. This is why they need be pulled out of harm’s way. To do otherwise is a dereliction of your duty to them. And you have an obligation to let Canadians know!

What, then, are the rules of engagement for members in the Iraqi region, should they come under effective enemy fire or fall into Iraqi military hands? And remember, please, that you are replying to an ex-serving member, who knows all too well what these rules are in proper circumstances.

Awaiting your reply,

Will Cullen (ex-PPCLI)

830 McLean Street (Apt. #34)

Halifax, N.S.,



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Filed under No Harbour for War (Halifax)

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