When controlling media, look like you’re not.

The other day Lisa LaFlamme of CTV News was actually gushing when she said she was reporting from Northern Iraq. She was flattered and delighted to be reporting from just down the road from where the dreaded Daesh, or ISIL or ISIS, or pretenders at being an Islamic State are holed up in the Iraq city of Mosul. She had been selected for this honour by the Department of National Defence. CTV and the Toronto Star were following the chief of the defence staff on a tour of Canadian operations in Northern Iraq with Kurdish peshmerga army troops.

It was the best piece of self-serving media manipulation we have seen recently. You can only conjecture on what the military were selling to want to be baby-sitting reporters that close to a war zone.

And inviting experienced media people such as LaFlamme and Bruce Campion-Smith has other risks. These are not kids just off the rewrite desk. They know what questions to ask and they can be persistent.

And what has Defence got to sell? The only thing that seems to be in flux at this time is the question of rethinking the dumping of the Lockheed Martin F-35 stealth fighter. Some people are saying that National Defence wants the F-35 back in play. The over-priced, attack fighter hardly fits any of Canada’s defence needs and is the last aircraft that Canada should be considering.

But Defence’s top sales guy was there to carry the message. The reporters were treated to an extensive briefing by the chief of the defence staff. Lieutenant General Jonathan Vance said a few things that caught our attention. While he said we would be arming some of the elite Kurdish forces the Canadians have been training, there is to be no attempt to upgrade the equipment of the regular peshmerga soldiers–which means the Kurds will be on their own in confronting the confused leadership in Bagdad after the Daesh forces in Iraq have been destroyed.

And Vance bravely said Daesh would be destroyed. That is a strange promise for a general who is not going to allow his Canadians to enter Syria.

It seemed to be no secret that the peshmerga are to be used to mop up the Daesh fighters when they try to escape Mosul by heading north to the Syrian or Turkish borders. That seems to be on the assumption that the Iraqi forces (with their American ‘trainers’) are able to chase them out of Mosul.

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Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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