Canada's blunt-talking top soldier won praise yesterday for his clear and sometimes brutal description of the coming military effort against terrorist "scumbags" in Afghanistan.
Defence analysts and politicians from the NDP and the Conservative Party said it is time for a military leader like General Rick Hillier, who speaks from the heart about the role of the Canadian Forces in the war on terror.
"Controlled anger, given what's happened, is an appropriate response," NDP Leader Jack Layton said. "We have a very committed, level-headed head of our armed forces, who isn't afraid to express the passion that underlies the mission that front-line personnel are going to be taking on.
"A bit of strong language in the circumstances, I don't find that to be wrong."
Conservative MP Gordon O'Connor said Gen. Hillier "speaks like a soldier, not a diplomat."
"He's starting to give the public an idea that the troops are about to go in a dangerous area and he's trying to explain why they're going there in the pursuit of terrorists," Mr. O'Connor said.
However, Gen. Hillier's vow to hunt down terrorists did ruffle some feathers. Maude Barlow, chairwoman of the Council of Canadians, said Canada should retain a more level-headed approach to events such as last week's terrorist attacks in London.
"I'm feeling it's time for people to be as calm as possible. . . . I would love Canada to play a thoughtful, moderating position in this," she said, denouncing Gen. Hillier's comments as "very aggressive."
In a media briefing two days ago, Gen. Hillier laid out the mission for the more than 2,000 troops who are headed to Afghanistan in the coming year: provide security in the country and, more importantly, go on the hunt for terrorists.
As part of the deployment, the Canadian Forces are sending commando soldiers from Joint Task Force 2 with the expectation that they will be involved in combat.
"We are going to Afghanistan to actually take down the folks that are trying to blow up men and women," Gen. Hillier said.
He also gave a blunt assessment of the role of the Canadian Forces, which he said are designed to protect Canadian interests at home and abroad.
"We're not the public service of Canada, we're not just another department. We are the Canadian Forces, and our job is to be able to kill people," Gen. Hillier said.
The chairman of the Conference of Defence Associations, retired lieutenant-general Richard Evraire, praised the comments, although he said he was slightly taken aback by Gen. Hillier's statement that the Forces are designed to "kill people."
Mr. Evraire said the comments are evidence of a new style in the Canadian Forces, which he accused of camouflaging the truth about military operations in the past.
"It's true that it can be a bit surprising if we're not used to it," Mr. Evraire said. "I don't remember anyone else speaking like that. I think it's time to say things like they are."
Jocelyn Coulon, a military expert, said the Canadian Forces strived in recent decades to pretend they were only involved in peacekeeping operations.
"They never said in the past that people could actually die," said Mr. Coulon, a visiting professor at the University of Montreal's Centre for International Studies. "We need a military leader who is frank, even somewhat brutally so."
But Stephen Staples, a military analyst at the Ottawa-based, left-leaning Polaris Institute, said he found Gen. Hillier's comments "rather alarming."
"Are we seeing an Americanization of the Canadian Forces?" Mr. Staples asked.