Canada's defence minister apologizes for embellishing role in Afghan operation

For embellishing his role in an iconic 2006 Afghanistan offensive, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan has apologized to the public and the troops he leads.


His mea culpa for saying “I was the architect of Operation Medusa” came across as sincere.

But will it be enough? The House of Commons Monday will be interesting.

“The response to my remarks about Operation Medusa has been a good reminder of something important for me as a leader — always set a standard that honours those you serve. Another reminder is to own your mistakes,” he wrote in a statement on Facebook. “I made a mistake in describing my role. I wish to retract that description and apologize for it. I am truly sorry.”

However support for a second chance was not gaining traction Saturday.

“I am sickened by this very real fraud perpetrated on Canadians and in particular the good men and women of our military,” said former Associate Defence minister and Veteran’s Affairs minister Julian Fantino. “How does this square, with the sacrifices real soldiers made in Afghanistan, some of whom paid the ultimate sacrifice? How sad.”

Calls for him Sajjan to resign were growing by the hour. And the joke, meme writers and cartoonists were waging their own assault.

“While I was in Afghanistan not only was I the architect of Operation Medusa but I even killed Bin Laden with more own bare hands,” was one.

Veteran, MP and Conservative Leadership candidate Erin O’Toole tweeted “Minister Sajjan, your planning of Operation Overlord & the D-Day landings was inspiring. #SajjanBattles,”

Some who served in Afghanistan were not impressed — expressing “disappointment” online for the attempt to take credit for others’ glory but also disrespecting the memory of those who died or who were wounded in that very battle.

“You live or die by your decisions and Harjit knows that as an officer and as a politician,” said one wounded veteran.

Another said “if he planned Operation Medusa all by himself, he can figure out how to get out of this mess all by himself.”

That said everybody I spoke with acknowledged Sajjan did serve in Afghanistan with distinction but seems to have got carried away with the celebration of being a “bad ass” soldier in that big job.

People have done worse and kept their jobs. There is a fellow member from the Liberal cabinet who didn’t get the truth down on what country she was born in.

“He knows no one person was the architect, but he decided to try to impress people who were already impressed,” said a veteran.

So far the troops are not going to war for him — including his top generals who on Saturday were keeping it zipped. Chief of Defence General Jonathan Vance, who Sajjan in 2015 claimed called him the architect, had not commented.

For Sajjan to survive this the troops ultimately have to be okay being led by him.

Some are telling me Sajjan may have a hard time with that since he has not exactly set the world on fire on files like PTSD, the F-35s, broadening of missions, pulling jets out of fight on ISIS, the investigation into the Navy Admiral for alleged espionage, anti-malaria drugs, pensions, mental health, sexual assaults, new equipment, budget allotments and assistance for our Afghanistan interpreters.

But Sajjan, the MP for Vancouver South, seems to be pressing on: “While I am proud of the role I played during my deployments to Afghanistan, my comments were in no way intended to diminish the roles of my former superiors and fellow soldiers. To them I offer my sincere apologies.”

He added “Operation Medusa was successful because of leadership of MGen (Ret’d) Fraser and the extraordinary team with whom I had the honour of serving...I am honoured to serve the women and men of the Canadian Forces today as their Minister.”

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