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Harper Rewrites History: Collateral Murder of a Canadian Peacekeeper

Blog posts reflect the views of their authors.
Maj. Paeta Hess-von Kruedener & online message respecting defunct DND Web page
Maj. Paeta Hess-von Kruedener & online message respecting defunct DND Web page

From 2006 to 2008, the Canadian Department of National Defense (DND) held a Board of Inquiry (BOI) into the death of Maj. Paeta Hess-von Kruedener who was killed, along with three other UN soldiers, by a precision guided Israeli bomb dropped on a UN bunker in Southern Lebanon in 2006. The BOI released its report in 2008, but the Harper government later decided to classify the report and remove it from the government’s website. Major Hess-von Kruedener was not any less dead, but evidence of his death had been removed from the official record. It was as if the Ministry of Truth had decided that history required a bit of rewriting.


This story has been brought to light thanks to a report in Legion Magazine (not yet available online) and a report by David Pugliese in the Ottawa Citizen on Christmas day. But the government’s Orwellian tactics have largely fallen under the media’s radar (which is precisely the result the Ministry of Truth is supposed to produce).




The best background to this story is a letter from Cynthia Hess-von Kruedener, the widow of the killed soldier. Ironically, the letter references the disappeared report with a link to the now defunct DND Web page.


In the summer of 2006, Israel was waging an intensive bombing campaign across Lebanon. The campaign was supposed to be targeting Hezbollah militants who had recently captured two Israeli soldiers (in Southern Lebanon or Northern Israel, depending on which side you believe).


Although the Israeli military campaign was widely criticized by the international community, Stephen Harper stood strongly with Israel, calling the Israeli bombing a “measured response” to Hezbollah aggression. Belying Harper’s assertion, however, were numerous reports of massive Lebanese civilian casualties, damage to civilian infrastructure and even potential war crimes.


Some of that inconvenient truth about Israeli military actions was seeping out from a UN outpost in Southern Lebanon where Canadian soldier Maj. Paeta Hess-von Kruedener was observing the conflict. Hess-von Kruedener’s widow told the CBC that her husband had been sending emails detailing Israel’s “campaign of terror against the Lebanese people.”


It is not unreasonable to ask whether the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) knowingly murdered the four UN soldiers when it dropped a 500-pound precision guided bomb on their bunker. After all, the bunker had been hit by IDF artillery on-and-off for a period of six hours, during which the IDF had received a report from the UN Force Commander demanding that the IDF cease firing on the UN post, stating “You are killing my people.”


It was subsequent to the UN Force Commander’s communication that the precision guided bomb hit the UN bunker.


What is the IDF’s position on all of this? Did Israeli forces knowingly murder UN soldiers? We will likely never know the answer to this question. The IDF refused to release its internal report to the BOI (Cynthia Hess-von Kruedener criticizes Prime Minister Harper for failing to protest this lack of cooperation on the part of Israel). Moreover, the UN report on the killing (referenced in the now disappeared DND report) appears to have been removed from DND records. Legion Magazine had made a Freedom of Information request for the UN report, but according to DND, it no longer has the report in its files. The Ministry of Truth has been nothing if not thorough in its erasure of history.


Collateral Murder


Why has the killing of a Canadian soldier been so carefully swept under the rug by the Harper government – a regime that seemingly never misses an opportunity to brand itself as “pro-military”?


It is, quite simply, a matter of maintaining consistency in the War on Terror narrative. Only “terrorists” commit murder. When those fighting the War on Terror kill, it is either self-defense (when terrorists are killed) or a “tragic mistake.” Thus we require doublespeak terms like “friendly fire” or “collateral damage” to name the killing and mutilation of human beings.


The Harper government has decided that Hezbollah forces are the terrorists, which makes Israeli forces our allies in the War on Terror. Any killing done by the IDF can never be allowed to be described as murder, even if it happens to be a Canadian soldier who is deliberately targeted and killed.


David Bernans is a Québec-based writer and translator. He is the author of Collateral Murder, a fictional novel with themes that bear striking similarities to the real-life events described in this article. Follow him on twitter @dbernans.

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