Thursday, March 1, 2007

hillier attacked; poor boy feels he has been abused

Hillier insulted by political 'prop' label: Liberal MP's comments worse than being shot at, top general says
The Ottawa Citizen 2007.03.01

Canada's outspoken top soldier says he's been shot at, targeted by suicide bombers and called every name in the book. But none of that was worse than being called a political "prop" by a Liberal politician.

Gen. Rick Hillier, the chief of defence staff, has fired back at Liberal defence critic Denis Coderre for levelling that accusation against him two weeks ago.

Gen. Hillier drew Mr. Coderre's ire after he referred to Liberal cuts to defence spending in the 1990s as a "decade of darkness" during a speech to hundreds at a major military symposium in Ottawa. "I never thought he would become a prop for the Conservative party," an angry Mr. Coderre fumed afterwards.

At the time, Gen. Hillier said he was not taking sides politically.

But in an interview with the CPAC television network that was broadcast yesterday, Gen. Hillier was asked again about what he thought about being called a "prop" by the Liberals.

"I've been shot at. People have attempted to blow me up. I had a suicide bomber targeted against me when I was the commander in Afghanistan. And I've been called every name in the book, I'm certain," Gen. Hillier replied. "I don't think I've ever been so insulted as to be called a prop for a political party."

Gen. Hillier reiterated the purpose of his speech at the Conference of Defence Association annual meeting was not to pick sides politically, but to talk about the state of the Canadian Forces Indeed, he has used the same "decade of darkness" metaphor in the past.

"I'm not a politician. I'm a soldier and I call things the way I see them, factually, and I try not to put the slant on that," Gen. Hillier added. "I do that because I think the government of Canada needs that honesty from the chief of the defence staff."

The Liberals cut defence spending by nearly one-quarter in the 1990s, but in 2005 infused $13 billion into the defence budget, the largest increase in military spending in a decade.

The Conservatives have pledged an additional $5 billion over the next five years, and announced $17 billion in large equipment purchases for the Forces.