The Black Rod

The origin of the Usher of the Black Rod goes back to early fourteenth century England . Today, with no royal duties to perform, the Usher knocks on the doors of the House of Commons with the Black Rod at the start of Parliament to summon the members. The rod is a symbol for the authority of debate in the upper house. We of The Black Rod have since 2005, adopted the symbol to knock some sense and the right questions into the heads of Legislators, pundits, and other opinion makers.

Location: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

We are citizen journalists in Winnipeg. When not breaking exclusive stories, we analyze news coverage by the mainstream media and highlight bias, ignorance, incompetence, flawed logic, missed angles and, where warranted, good work. We serve as the only overall news monitors in the province of Manitoba. We do the same with politicians (who require even more monitoring.) EMAIL:

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Today's topic: "Help me, Canada."

"Help me," said the forgotten man.

Six days ago Mohammed Niaz was helping Canadian troops in Afghanistan. He was an interpreter travelling with Charlie Company west of Kandahar when they came under attack by Taliban insurgents who had been surprised in the act of setting up an ambush.

Today he's pleading with Canada to help him. He lost both his legs in the battle and he's asking us to help him recover from his wounds.

Niaz worked as an interpreter for Canadians for a year and a half. As Canadian troops went on patrol in Panjwai district, he went along -- and found himself in his first battle.

The initial reports from Afghanistan said five Canadian soldiers had been wounded when their G-wagon was hit by a roadside bomb. Four of them had only minor injuries. The fifth was being flown to a military hospital in Germany, but his injuries were not life-threatening. There was no mention of Mohammed Niaz.

The second day's stories said "an interpreter" had also been injured. Some of the stories said his wounds were "serious." That was the last time he was recognized by the Canadian press.

The real story came out a day after that. It wasn't an IED. A rocket propelled grenade had passed through the LAV-III the men were in during a running firefight.

The commander and the second-in-command of Charlie Company were among the wounded. One soldier lost three fingers of his left hand. Sgt. Vaughan Ingram was sprayed with shrapnel. Three of the injured were from the Princess Patricia's. One was artillery. One was a medic.

There was no mention of the interpreter who had suffered the most devastating injuries of any of them.

We discovered what happened to him when we came across his story on National Public Radio.

Niaz is 21 years old, married and the father of a young girl. He's in the hospital at the coalition hospital at Kandahar Air Field. One leg was shot off in the G-Wagon and the other was amputated by doctors. His father is a police officer and a regular visitor.

Niaz says he spends his days crying. And wishing the Canadian government remembers him.

"Actually I want help. Whenever their [soldiers get] hit, they are sending them to Germany or Canada right away. I've been laying here for one week now. Come on! Help me."


Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan have brought some unique tactics to the job.

Like the Americans, our troops use UAV's (Unmanned aerial vehicles) to watch for insurgents at a distance. U.S. troops went for stealth, using quiet micro-UAVs (small, battery powered, low flying) or larger ones like Predator that fly too high to be heard.

Canadians like 'em noisy.

The Sperwer UAV used by Canadian forces sounds like a flying lawnmower. It turns out that Taliban fighters, thinking they hear a fighter plane, fall flat on the ground until, they hope, it passes. They may have blended in to the terrain to an airplane, but to the low-flying eye-in-the-sky, which also carry heat sensors, they stick out nice and sharp.

So while they lie down on the job, the UAV's lead Canadian troops right to them. The thing to do would be to shoot the UAV's down, but, of course, if Canadian troops are close enough, they hear the shots know the rest.

Rachel Morarjee, the Financial Times' Kabul correspondent, has returned from a one-week trip to Kandahar and has written an online journal of her experience. She wrote about one of the many unusual situations that confront Canadian troops there.

I was taken to the Kandahar jail where I spent an afternoon with 20 children who were serving sentences along with their mothers. Many of the women were jailed for so-called moral crimes, often when they tried to escape abusive marriages.

The jail is a sorry place to grow up and the children have no access to education, but repeated appeals to the Canadian troops for help have met with no response. One soldier told me the troops were reluctant to be seen helping those considered to be criminals. But Malalai and others have been pressing on regardless, trying to find ways to raise money for the children growing up within the prison walls.

And finally, we came across a little-reported poll conducted May 16 to May 18 by Ipsos-Reid regarding Canada's involvement in Afghanistan.

The question:
Do you strongly support, somewhat support, somewhat oppose, or strongly oppose the use of Canada's troops for security and combat efforts against the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan?

The answer:
58 percent of respondents said they strongly or somewhat supported the mission. But if you added those who "somewhat" opposed, you discover that almost 3 out of 4 Canadians favour, or barely object to some element of Canada's military commitment to Afghanistan.

Peacekeeping or peacemaking, it doesn't make a difference to Canadians.

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