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The official website of Paul Franklin: a father, veteran, activist, motivational speaker, and proud Canadian.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

For ex-army amputees, Edmonton's rehab centre a state-of-the-art gem

Keith Ross, physcial therapist at the Canadian Forces base has been working with Brock since he returned. Pte. Brock Blaszczyk will be in the CAREN (computer assisted rehabilitation) suite at the Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital, going through a therapy session on the huge computerized system in Edmonton, Alta. One leg is damaged and the other is amputated from above the knee from stepping on an IED in Afghanistan.

Keith Ross, physcial therapist at the Canadian Forces base has been working with Brock since he returned. Pte. Brock Blaszczyk will be in the CAREN (computer assisted rehabilitation) suite at the Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital, going through a therapy session on the huge computerized system in Edmonton, Alta. One leg is damaged and the other is amputated from above the knee from stepping on an IED in Afghanistan.

Photograph by: Candace Elliott , Edmonton Journal

EDMONTON — Paul Franklin says he was in the best shape of his life when he nearly died.

He was a 200-pound marathoner, mountain climber, medic and master corporal in Afghanistan when a bomb exploded his G-wagon on Jan. 15, 2006, killing diplomat Glyn Berry and ripping off Franklin's left leg and mangling his right. Tourniquets and his team saved him.
By the time he reached Edmonton two months later, Franklin had gone through 26 surgeries, including amputation of his second leg, and weighed only 132 pounds.

Franklin's loss could have left him a defeated man.
Instead, he chose his next training operation: physical rehab at Edmonton's Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital.
"As a medic, I knew we were going to have other soldiers come back wounded," Franklin said. "We knew that things had to change and we knew we couldn't keep sending our guys to the States."
Six years later, the Glenrose has become the gold standard in physical therapy for the military.

"In Canada, Glenrose stands out like a 2009 Lamborghini on a car lot dotted with far too many 1970 Ladas," reads a 2008 senate committee report entitled Bringing Our Wounded Home Safely. "It is the committee's belief that Canadian military personnel wounded in the service of their country should receive one standard of rehabilitative treatment when they return home: first class."

At the Glenrose, wounded soldiers have pushed the prosthetics and orthotics team to test the boundaries of artificial limbs and braces. War has brought millions of dollars in technology, including an entire computerized therapeutic room that projects virtual worlds onto huge screens to test the ability of the injured to walk.

Afghanistan has even spurred the establishment of Canada's first Military and Veterans' Chair in Clinical Rehabilitation at Edmonton's University of Alberta, a position that aims to drive academic research across Canada in the areas of pain, post-traumatic stress disorder, amputees and robotics.

When Franklin arrived at the Glenrose, his fellow patients were seniors who had lost their limbs through diabetes and other diseases. The treatment team, led by Dr. Jacqueline Hebert, aimed to teach the older patients basic life skills: transferring from their wheelchairs to the toilet, walking and getting in and out of their vehicles.
Franklin wanted far more.

"We challenged each other," he said of Hebert. "She had a patient who was stubborn, wouldn't listen, and wouldn't accept that I would only get six to eight weeks of treatment. In other words, I was willing to say, 'I want to learn to run, I want to learn to have a life again and I want to continue to serve in the military.'"

Hebert's first response: "Your expectations are way off-base." Especially considering Franklin had to relearn how to sit up. He had to stand using his hips and core muscles, balancing as if on a gyroscope on bendy metal stilts that had no feeling of the floor and no flex in the ankle. That alone took him a month.

"When you have a patient who is highly motivated and wants to get back to 200 per cent, you need to temper their expectations, so we spend time doing that, slowing them down, calming them down and reminding them that rehab is a step-by-step process," Hebert said.
But she's also learned from military people to dream bigger.

"I actually think that maybe, sometimes, we would stop too early in the steps in the past," Hebert said. "What we realized is we could go on with their desires rather than tempering them. We tend to let people try more often now. I say 'no' much less than I used to (and) you let them sometimes fail."

That new attitude has spilled over to the general patient population, too. If older patients want to golf or downhill ski, they can try if they want.
"They don't have to be happy with just getting back to work and walking around the house," Hebert said. "It's opened up the understanding that we want people to get back to more things in the community and we want them to know right at the start that it's a possibility."
Walking with artificial legs was crucial for Franklin, even though he will likely never use them without canes, substantial nerve pain and occasional falls. He largely uses them at public speaking engagements and to travel.

"I just saw it as a new challenge, as a new way to train," Franklin said. "That's one of the reasons I was successful at it, because it was a new me, a new normal. . . . It gives me a huge sense of freedom that someone using a wheelchair will never have."

Franklin admits running was beyond his new normal, since he had to swing the carbon fibre Cheetah blades awkwardly with each stride, with no knee to pull them up and under.

But he said the specialized technology at the Glenrose taught him to walk with some grace. He watched himself walking on video recordings and computers, his movement tracked through adhesive markers placed on his skin.

"If I didn't have that, I wouldn't be able to walk as well as I do today," Franklin said. "I would be much more clunky, much more ineffective, with much less ability, to be honest."

While the gait technology was available before Afghanistan and without military dollars, the military bumped up its efforts at the Glenrose as more injured returned home, even paying for a part-time prosthetic and orthotist technician for three years.

"Ten years ago was pre-Afghanistan. Ten years ago was pre-Iraq, the big involvement," said Mike Stobbe, who started working as a prosthetist at the Glenrose a decade ago. Military interest rose in 2004, when American casualties spiked, Stobbe said. That changed the goal in rehab from getting a person back to an acceptable level of function to helping young soldiers move beyond.

"These guys are all athletes," Stobbe said. "They've worked really hard. They've protected us. They've represented us in dangerous ways. What can we do to help them the maximal way?"

Following a visit to Washington's Walter Reed Army Medical Center by a Glenrose rehab team and military contingent, soldiers became eligible for three prosthetics rather than one.

C-legs, for instance, couldn't be used for sailing or quadding because the microprocessor knee can't get wet, Stobbe said. Some chose swimming legs with flippers, while others chose a short stubby with a tiny, sticky climbing shoe at the end to cling to a rock surface.
"All of a sudden, all the upper-end technology was available," Stobbe said.

Many patients who had legs that didn't function properly turned down traditional hard plastic ankle and foot orthotics made for walking. Some soldiers demanded the light carbon-fibre version that would allow them to run.

More therapeutic tools became available when Hebert and her team asked the military for equipment used commonly by American therapists. The list included more treadmills, rowing and biking machines and balancing devices that pushed patients further.

"The real tweak is that (the American military therapists) treat their patients all like athletes and they treat even their severe injuries and amputations like sports injuries," Hebert said. "So they would take their trans-tibial (below the knee) amputees and treat them like they had an ankle sprain. And their above-knee amputees, they treat them like they've had a blown ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) repair."

"It's a different way of looking at your patient, not as missing a body part but as having a new body part," Hebert said. "That's what opened our eyes the most."

After that, instead of gym exercises, patients were sent outside to tie a fly and cast a line for fly fishing to improve manual dexterity. Instead of rowing machines, patients went to the swimming pool with a kayak.
"The military really encouraged and helped us a lot," Stobbe said. "Paul Franklin was really upfront and getting the awareness out there: How can people help the Glenrose? How can the military help us help people better?"

In June 2011, $1.5 million from the Department of National Defence equipped the Glenrose with a computer-assisted rehabilitation environment system, called the CAREN. Another went to Ottawa for eastern Canadians.

Cpl. Brock Blaszczyk, 22, uses the Edmonton system every week, strapped in as he stands on a round movable platform in front of a giant video screen.

No need to head outside in -30 C to climb snow hills and risk falling. Patients practise walking along virtual paths, driving virtual boats and reaching for virtual tools in their garages as their physiotherapists monitor progress.

Blaszczyk's running orthotic on his left leg isn't the problem. His foot was blown off April 3, 2010, when his team was walking along mud walls in search of explosives.

Doctors later amputated the leg halfway through the knee.
The blast took 55 per cent of the soft tissue and 88 per cent of the nerves on the calf of his right leg. To make his right foot work, his Achilles tendon had to be lengthened and his tibia and fibula shortened.
"I'm doing this Terry Fox thing right now, the Terry Fox hop," Blaszczyk said. "It's just a flat trail, and it's run as hard as you can for 200 metres."
Blaszczyk wasn't a runner before, but he misses being able to dash to catch a runaway grocery cart. He's progressed to a fast walk.
"I look a little more like I'm jogging than a penguin hobble. The form is getting better."

He said sometimes the civilian physiotherapists are too cautious. When he practises in the field house at the Edmonton Garrison, his military fitness specialist uses no straps.

"If you're so trusting on being harnessed in, there's no real point in progressing," Blaszczyk said. "The military physios . . . they know that us military guys, we don't mind getting a few scrapes and bruises. That's always how we've been. We don't mind taking a tumble here and there."
Cpl. Mark Fuchko of Calgary, who lost his legs in Afghanistan in 2008, trained to climb Mount Kilimanjaro in 2011 on the CAREN'S 18-degree slopes. More virtual worlds are being invented by students from the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology and the U of A.

"In rehab, technology is the way of the future," Hebert said. "It's amazing the leaps and bounds, the way things have expanded in the last five to 10 years."

But will such technological leaps fall back as Canada pulls out of Afghanistan?

"With Vietnam, which was a similar experience, they did taper off," Stobbe said, noting that studies on amputees and prosthetics changed dramatically between 1968 and 1973. "We glided on that for years and years and years. That could happen, but I think now there is so much more awareness in society of disabled people, period, that they don't disappear anymore."

Andreas Donauer, an orthotist who builds and modifies braces, said while the push isn't as strong, the promise of possibility is.
"It's like you open a door to a new world (and) you realize, OK, there's more to explore yet," Donauer said. "What the military did is just open that door. We have to explore the new world."

That's already happening at the Glenrose, where Hebert and a group are testing bionic limbs through what is called targeted muscle and sensory reinnervation. Operations have already been carried out on amputees, including on a military veteran who lost his arm following a car crash.

Surgeons find the nerves that formerly opened and closed the hand, then plug them into the patient's biceps and triceps to regrow. The veteran is then literally armed with an intuitive prosthesis. When he thinks about moving his arm, the action happens instinctively.
Similar work is being done to give patients the sensation of feeling and touch when they pick something up.

"We are within reach of having real bionic arms that can feel," Hebert said. "It's unbelievable. It's a far greater level of advancement than we ever would have seen, and we do have the U.S. military to thank for that and their extensively funded research programs."

Yet Franklin said it's not the technology or the CAREN system alone that makes the Glenrose the luxury sports car of rehab medicine.
"As with anything, if you have good physios and a good doctor and a good prosthetic guy, you don't need a computer, you don't need any of that good stuff."

Plus, the army guys are covered, he said, and don't need more specialized centres than the ones near military bases.
"We can get the care we want with a computer or without a computer. It's just a tool. But that will help the civilians and help the medical system more than anything else and that's was the idea with all of us: you focus on these (existing) centres, make them better.

"It's actually not for the army guys, it's for civilians."
Edmonton Journal

‘Devil’s Brigade’ to be honored by Canadian Embassy in D.C.

Independent Record | Posted: Wednesday, February 29, 2012 12:00 am | The First Special Service Force, born at Fort Harrison in World War II, is one of the few units ever in which American and Canadian soldiers fought alongside one another in identical uniforms and under each others’ commanders.
Wednesday night in Washington, D.C., the Embassy of Canada will recognize the history of U.S.-Canada relations and honor members of the so-called “Devil’s Brigade,” which captured more than 30,000 prisoners, was instrumental in the liberation of Rome and helped set the stage for elite fighters such as the Green Berets and the Navy SEALs.
U.S. Sen. Max Baucus, sponsor of a bill along with U.S. Sen. Jon Tester to award the First Special Service Force a Congressional Gold Medal, will speak at the event, as will Gary Doer, the Canadian ambassador to the United States. U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg is co-sponsor of a similar bill in the House honoring the unit.
First Special Force Association Executive Director Bill Woon of Canyon Ferry, whose father served in the First Special Service Force, will also be on hand, along with some of the approximately 230 surviving members of the unit, members of Congress and others.
The event will include a screening of the film “Daring to Die: The Story of the Black Devils,” and a discussion with writer/director Greg Hancock.
The First Special Service Force was trained in alpine combat, covert amphibious landings, airborne operations and other unconventional methods. The force suffered 2,314 casualties, won five U.S. campaign stars and eight Canadian battle honors.
It battled Germans in the mountains of Italy and in southern France after initially preparing for a potential role in the liberation of Norway.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Taliban incite Afghans to kill 'Crusaders' over Koran burning

The big question is what does the future hold as the Taliban use the burning or the Koran as an excuse to incite the locals to attack ISAF.  ISAF has pulled its trainers and others from working directly with ANSF....

Could we see this event as the cause for the Obama administration to draw down the combat mission not one year earlier as planned but even more quickly?

The Taliban have urged all Afghans to move beyond "mere protests" and attack US military personnel throughout the country for burning copies of the Koran. The Taliban's call has been echoed by some members of parliament.
"We should not be satisfied with mere protests and empty slogans but the military bases of the invaders, their military convoys and their troops should become a target of our courageous attacks," said a statement that was released today on Voice of Jihad, the Taliban's official website, and signed by the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.
"Kill them, beat them, take them as prisoners and teach them such a lesson that they never summon the courage to abuse the Holy Quran again," the statement continued.
"The target of revenge of the protestors should only be the American occupiers, their facilities and properties and not those of the ordinary people," the Taliban said.
The Taliban statement also urged Afghans to target members of the Afghan government and security forces who protect NATO forces during protests. The Taliban described these Afghans as "the despicable backers of the invaders who have turned a blind eye towards the unforgiving crime of the infidels due to their cowardice and as defense of them...."
Finally, the Taliban urged "all the Muslims of the world, their governments and people, religious officials of the two sacred mosques [Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia] and the religious centers of Darul Uloom Deoband [in India] and Al Azhar [in Egypt], as part of their religious obligation and fervor to take a united stand against the desecration of our common book by the American aggressors. Condemn their unforgivable crime both practically and verbally and back the legitimate struggle of the Muslim Afghans against them."
The Taliban's incitement to attack US forces takes place as the terror group is negotiating with the US to reach a political settlement to the Afghan war. But Zahibullah Mujahid, the Taliban's official spokesman, told AFP that the call to attack US forces will not impede negotiations.
"We condemn the desecration of the Holy Koran in the strongest terms, but this issue will not affect this process in Qatar," Mujahid said.
Afghan Police fire on protestors....
Some members of the Afghan parliament have echoed the Taliban's rhetoric and urged Afghans to wage "jihad" against the "invaders."
"Americans are invaders, and jihad against Americans is an obligation," said Abdul Sattar Khawasi, a member of parliament from Parwan province, The New York Times reported. The Koran-burning incident took place at Bagram airbase in Parwan.
"Standing with about 20 other members of Parliament, Mr. Khawasi called on mullahs and religious leaders 'to urge the people from the pulpit to wage jihad against Americans,'" The New York Times article stated.
During the three days since the incident, protests have spread throughout Afghanistan, and a number of them have been violent, according to Reuters. In Nangarhar province, an Afghan soldier shot and killed two US soldiers and wounded two others, Tolo News reported.

Read more: http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2012/02/taliban_incite_afgha.php#ixzz1nSLDwxst

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Women in combat in Afghanistan

Marine as part of the Female Engagement Team in Afghanistan
Female Engagement Teams (mainly US marines but some work under the Green Beret banner) are working in Afghanistan on local matters that engage 50% of the population.

The real question is it better to show Afghans and Afghan women that we separate our women into separate units to help them with their issues or should we do as Canada and other countries do and have them completely integrated into combat arms units?

Do we change who we are as a modern open and tolerant society to only show Afghans and others that our culture has to change to fit their model?

Or is this the better option?
We in the west have to make a decision as miltarys from around the world suffer budget cuts and troops strength draw downs...

Who do we want to serve?

Do we want capable, fit, intelligent people.....   or do we cut 50% off the top and say they cant fight because of some bizarre 14th century idea?

As America debates the idea of women in combat even though in the ideas of total war there is no more front lines.... we will see if they decide to join the other nations that accept only the best and brightest... no matter who you sleep with and no matter if your male or female.

US announces a 'surge' of military trainers to Afghanistan


The US Army recently announced the next round of unit deployments to Afghanistan. Five brigades and one army headquarters will deploy to Afghanistan between April and August 2012. While deployments are a regular part of normal troop rotations overseas, this deployment differs significantly from previous ones.
  • These units will not be assigned to regular combat operations. Their mission is specifically to train and support the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF).
  • In the past, full brigades were deployed, each brigade consisting of about 3,500 troops. This time, less than 300 troops per brigade will be deployed; and the troops deploying will be only the brigade leaders, officers, and senior non-commissioned officers.
  • The brigades will be configured to better assist the training and support mission. They will reorganize into small independent teams, each consisting of 18 personnel.
  • Overall, five brigades plus an army HQ of officers and NCOs constitutes quite a large training contingent.
Rangers from 1st Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, as part of a combined Afghan and Coalition security force operating in Ghazni province, Afghanistan, await a CH-47 for extraction. Photo by US Army Private First Class Pedro Amador.
This announcement pertains to US Army units. It is likely that the US Marines, which also has combat troops in Afghanistan, will make a similar announcement.
The new Afghan strategy
This deployment plays an essential part in the new Afghan strategy. The strategy was described in detail in a previous Long War Journal article. In summary, the US plans to draw down its forces by 33,000 (from 100,000 to 67,000 troops) by the end of September 2012, thus ending the surge of US troops that started in late 2009. The goal is to have most US troops out of Afghanistan by the end of 2014. The US plans to end combat operations, however, by late 2013. By then, US forces will transition from the leading fighting force to a training and support force primarily supporting the ANSF. At the same time, the ANSF will take over the lead in combat operations, assuming the main role fighting the country's insurgency. The ANSF goal is to take responsibility for 50 percent of the Afghan population by the end of 2012 and all of Afghanistan by the end of 2014.
Standing up the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF)
This strategy places a heavy load on the ANSF. Afghan forces will have to take over combat operations very quickly. The ANSF is still an immature force, however, and will need a great deal of training and support during the transition in order to be successful. A problem that has continued to plague efforts to develop the ANSF is the shortage of military trainers in Afghanistan. The deployment of a large number of US trainers this spring is intended to address this issue.
US Army and Afghan National Army soldiers, along with members of the Community Based Security Solutions police organization, climb a steep path above Pata Tili village, Laghman province, Afghanistan, Jan. 29, 2012. The US soldiers are assigned to the 45th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, Company A, 1st Battalion, 179th Infantry. The soldiers were returning from a meeting with a leader in nearby Nacha Tili during Operation Aluminum Python, a mission to clear Taliban fighters from the Mayl Valley. US Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Bill Steele. 
The organization of the US training teams is another important feature of the upcoming deployment. Until recently, the ANSF's primary developmental emphasis has been on growing its size. Training resources have been concentrated in centralized training camps where new ANSF units are recruited and trained. However, the growth of the ANSF will end in September when it reaches its end state goal of 352,000 troops. The training emphasis will then shift from the training camps to supporting the existing units deployed across the country. The large number of US training teams will be dispersed across the country, attachi
ng to individual ANSF units in the field. There they can advise and support the ANSF units in ongoing combat operations.
Specialized US training units
Another interesting feature of this deployment is that two of the units are not regular combat brigades. They are specialized training units deploying overseas for the first time.
  • 162nd Infantry Brigade. This training brigade specializes in training foreign security forces combat advisers. Based in Fort Polk, La., it trained the advisers within the combat brigades before they deployed overseas to Iraq and Afghanistan. Now for the first time, the brigade itself is deploying.
  • 1st Army Headquarters. This is not a regular combat HQ. It is the headquarters for the army's readiness and training units within the US. Now also for the first time, it will be deploying overseas.
Note that this surge of US trainers to Afghanistan was facilitated by the withdrawal of US forces from Iraq in late 2011. Before being reassigned to Afghanistan, several of the US brigades were either already deployed to Iraq or were planning to deploy there.
An Afghan soldier enters an elder's home while clearing compounds with US Marines during Operation Tageer Shamal in Afghanistan's Helmand province, Jan. 4, 2012. US Marine Corps photo by Corporal Reece Lodder. 
The US has already announced a drawdown of forces from Afghanistan. The surge of trainers is essential for "Part Two" of the Afghan strategy, standing up the ANSF. By the end of 2012, the US will have reduced its combat strength in the country by withdrawing a number of combat troops. At the same time, the intent is to enhance the capability of the ANSF by increasing the number of training and support troops.

Read more: http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2012/02/us_announces_a_surge.php#ixzz1nEDsQl2m

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Alien Humanoids Attend Kim Jong Il's Funeral? 2011

Thought-controlled Technology for Wounded Warriors

 – FEBRUARY 2, 2012

“I’m living off base, I’m driving, [and] I’m living with my [infant] son. I’m able to hold him without any open wounds, infections,” said Tech Sgt. Joe Delauriers. “Any input I can put into the program, to help them out, and future amputees, it’s an honor for me.”
“Through this revolutionizing project, we’ve worked with the greatest manufacturers across the globe to come up with modern solutions to loss of an upper limb,” Col. (Dr.) Paul Pasquina.
A new prosthetic arm – operated by an individual’s thoughts – was used by wounded warriors at theWalter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC) for the first time Jan. 24.
With nearly as much dexterity as a natural limb, 22 degrees of motion, and independent movement of fingers, the Modular Prosthetic Limb (MPL) was developed as part of a four-year program by the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL), along with WRNMMC and the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USU).
On Jan. 24, Air Force Tech Sgt. Joe Delauriers began using the nine-pound device, maneuvering its metallic fingers and wrist.
Four months ago, Delauriers was injured by an IED blast in Afghanistan, which caused him to lose both his legs and part of his left arm. He said it’s an indescribable feeling to be where he is today, thanks to advancements in care.
“It’s really fun working with the hand and [exciting] to see what’s going to be coming in the future,” said Delauriers.
With an amputee, the nerves traveling down the spinal cord are still intact, and they’re still connected to some of the muscles in the arm.
The prosthetic limb is controlled by surface electrodes, which pick up electric signals generated by the muscles underneath the skin, then convert those patterns in electrical signals into a robotic function.
“What we try to do is pick up the electrical signals of the muscles that still exist in the arm and interpret those, convert them to a computer signal to then drive a robotic limb,” said Col. (Dr.) Paul Pasquina, chief of Orthopaedics and Prosthetics at WRNMMC and director for the Center of Rehabilitation Sciences atUSU. “When an individual is thinking about closing their hand, muscles will activate and the prosthetic limb will respond accordingly.”
Pasquina added that he’ll continue his efforts to make this technology available to all service members and the population at large.
“The hand in itself is so important in terms of one’s independence. Your ability to dress yourself, feed yourself, do self-grooming and hygiene is extremely important,” said Pasquina. “Many of our injured service members were highly functioning, highly independent, had a great amount of responsibility. To now find themselves in a situation where they have an impairment or disability, that makes them less independent is something that not only affects them physically, but affects them emotionally. Anything we can do to [help] them be more independent and to regain that sense of self is something we’re fully committed to doing and very excited about the opportunities that this presents.”

HMCS Charlettown off Syrian Coast

After their successful engagement in the war in Libya the HMCS Charlottetown is back in the Mediterranean.  
HMCS Charlottetown

HMCS Charlottetown sets sail to the Mediterranean

Postmedia News

Published: Sunday, January 08, 2012
The Royal Canadian Navy began the next phase of its mission in the Mediterranean Sea as the HMCS Charlottetown departed from Halifax on Sunday morning.

The ship and its more than 250 sailors will be participating in NATO's decade-long anti-terror campaign, Operation Active Endeavour. A Sea King helicopter is also aboard the frigate.

HMCS Charlottetown takes over for HMCS Vancouver, which took part in Canada's foray into the war in Libya, enforcing an arms embargo through the popular uprising to oust strongman Moammar Gadhafi.

Canada's continued naval presence in the area comes as Syria descends further into chaos, with protests calling for the ouster of President Bashar al-Asad through a brutal government crackdown.Nova Scotia MP Gregg Kerr, on hand for the warship's departure, said in a statement that HMCS Charlottetown's presence in the Mediterranean would give the government "the capability to respond to any future crises in the region."

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has said al-Asad "must go", saying the Syrian government's violent repression is "disgraceful" and will be ultimately unsuccessful.

Harper did say, however, that Canada will not yet commit any military assets to supporting the protests, as the United Nations Security Council hasn't issued a resolution to support international intervention.
The prime minister said there isn't likely to be any appetite for such a resolution - despite the apparent successes achieved in Libya after a UN resolution.

In a news release, Defence Minister Peter MacKay said international deployments, like that of the HMCS Charlottetown, show Canada's commitment to fighting terrorism.

This deployment will be the second visit to the Mediterranean for HMCS Charlottetown in the last 12 months. The frigate was dispatched to the region last March as part of the NATO-led effort to protect Libyan citizens.

The vessel will be deployed in the region until the summer.

What will the world do to help Syria?

07 Feb 2012  
The Telegraph

Gearing up for a fight: Free Syrian Army recruits doing weapons training yesterday - How do we help get rid of President Bashar al-Assad?

Moscow feared losing its last major ally in the Middle East, an arms contract worth billions and its last naval facility outside the former Soviet Union. Vladimir Putin, moreover, did not want to appear weak before the West when he has an election to win next month. Beijing, meanwhile, was happy to ride in the slipstream of Russia’s non-interventionism.
Both powers have been rattled by the ensuing international opprobrium, but a change in their attitude soon is unlikely. So what options are left? A vote condemning Syria could be passed at the UN General Assembly but it carries less clout than the Security Council. The European Union will probably pass a twelfth round of sanctions, but as William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, admitted to the House of Commons, after banning imports of Syrian crude oil, imposing an arms embargo and sanctioning more than 100 members of the ruling elite, there are not many more arrows left in the sanctions quiver.
Mr Hague revealed that Britain has already provided training to civilian Syrian opposition groups in the documentation and reporting of human rights abuses, as well as “strategic communications”, which means mobile phones, radios and advice on messaging. He has appointed an ambassador-level diplomat, Frances Guy, to liaise with exiled opponents of the regime.
Britain will, he said, be a driving force in a new “Friends of Syria” group of nations – an international consensus reaching beyond the US, the EU and Arab League – that will coordinate economic and diplomatic pressure on Damascus. A similar group was formed against Libya’s Col Muammar Gaddafi. But the key difference is that the Libyan Contact Group’s activities were combined with the threat of force, which was authorised by the UN and succeeded in removing a despot.
So why not the same in Syria? UN resolution 1973 authorised the use of Nato air power to protect civilians in Benghazi who were at risk of annihilation by Col Gaddafi’s tanks and helicopters. Such a massacre is already taking place in Homs, and has been unfolding for months as Syrian forces have killed with impunity, taking at least 6,000 lives.
Surely there is a case for the liberal interventionism exercised in Sierra Leone, Kosovo, Libya and the no-fly zones enforced to protect Kurds and Shias in northern and southern Iraq before the invasion? But military intervention in Syria has been ruled out from the start, and not just because Russian intransigence has ensured a UN resolution is out of the question. It is simply seen as too difficult and too dangerous; Syria’s army is too strong and the regime is too close to an ambitious Iran for the West to send in troops. The leadership of Assad’s sizeable forces, consisting of fellow members of the Alawi sect, has remained largely loyal.
Unlike the Benghazi-based opposition to Col Gaddafi, those Syrians determined to remove Assad do not control even a corner of the country from which to launch attacks. They are scattered and easily overpowered. Libya’s National Transitional Council was a comparatively united and competent body, with experienced generals and ministers among its senior figures. The Syrian opposition is an alphabet soup of fragmented factions beset by personal, religious and ethnic suspicions.
“They hate each other more than they hate the regime, in some cases,” says Michael Weiss of the Henry Jackson Society think tank, who is not alone in making the comparison with hapless anti-Roman rebels in Monty Python’s Life of Brian. “There is an element of the Popular Front of Judea versus the Judean Popular Front,” he says.
The Moral authority of the Syrian Army has been lost
The Syrian National Council, the main exiled opposition group, struggles for credibility with its brethren on the ground who are facing Assad’s troops and militia. Led by a Paris-based sociologist, it is beset by disputes between Leftists and supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, the pan-Arab Islamist group that has won the first election in liberated Egypt.
The best known armed group, the Free Syrian Army, successfully presents itself to the world as a coordinated resistance with about 30,000 members. In reality, according to Mr Weiss and others, the armed opposition inside Syria is made up of different brigades operating more or less independently. “Some Syrians joke that it should be called the Syrian Facebook Army,” he says, because its main usefulness is posting videos of atrocities on the internet and issuing press statements.
Sir Malcolm Rifkind, the former Conservative foreign secretary, has become the first prominent voice to call for non-military assistance to be extended to the armed rebels. “We should be talking about logistical, communications intelligence and advice. It might not add up to a vast amount, but don’t underestimate the impact on the morale of these extraordinarily courageous people in Syria,” he says.
Qatar and Saudi Arabia are already rumoured to be financing the Free Syrian Army, which is struggling to defend itself with AK-47s and the odd rocket-propelled grenade. But Jordan and Turkey have so far restricted the movements of heavy weapons across their borders into Syria, fearful of exacerbating the violence.
President Barack Obama’s national security council is reportedly drafting a “presidential finding” – an executive order that bypasses Congress to sanction covert action – to be ready if and when he chooses to sign it. Most intriguingly, the United States and Turkey are said to be discussing the creation of a safe haven for rebels in north-western Syria backed by a no-fly zone as a contingency plan in case diplomacy fails to persuade the Russians to abandon Assad.
Having given up on Assad long ago, the newly muscular Turks are prepared to play a leading role as long as any robust action has the support of the Arab League, according to Sinan Ulgen, a former Turkish diplomat now at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Like Libya, it would be essentially a Nato operation with Arab contributions, but with much less of a Western face.
A safe haven – an idea first presented in public by the Henry Jackson Society and backed by centre-Right foreign policy experts and former ministers across the Atlantic – would almost certainly involve military action to enforce its protection.
“The regime strategy is simple – hang on to power by killing every man woman and child that resists,” says Mr Weiss. “Either the West sits back and allows a slow-motion Rwanda to happen or it acts. We can cluck and thunder and grumble but at the end of the day there is only one thing that will stop Assad.
“I know it is difficult and Syria is not Libya. They have better air defence systems and are operating in heavily populated areas, but they are killing civilians now and if we do get involved with a fortified area, the opposition has more of a chance.”
Apart from the moral imperatives of protecting largely unarmed opponents of a murderous regime, a plan actively to aid Assad’s removal could align with the West’s strategic interests in the region. The more Britain helps in the removal of Assad, the greater the stake it will have once he has left the country, which would then be susceptible to internecine conflict between Sunnis, Alawis, Christians and Kurds. Regime change is one thing, but post-Assad regime implosion would also be a disaster.
Political and public opinion may be unsure about another intervention in the Muslim world, and the question of which rebel groups to back – and how – remains opaque, but with each day, week and month that Assad and his family maintain their murderous grip on power, the case for action will become more compelling.