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Scapegoat: how the Army betrayed Kyle Brown.

Heaven help the whistle-blower in Canada's military

By Suzanne Methot

Windspeaker Contributor

Scapegoat: How the Army Betrayed Kyle Brown

By Peter Worthington and Kyle Brown

338 pages, $8.99 (pb)

Bantam-Seal Books

Elvin Kyle Brown did not kill Shidane Abukar Arone. The Department of National Defence has spent the last four years trying to obscure that fact.

Brown is the Edmonton-born paratrooper convicted of man-slaughter and torture in the March 16, 1993, murder of Arone, who was taken prisoner by members of the Canadian Airborne Regiment's 2 Commando during Canadian peacemaking operations in Somalia.

The facts are simple. Arone was tortured and killed by Master Corporal Clayton Darrell Matchee, who was arrested after Brown came forward with information and photographs. Matchee subsequently hanged himself while in detention, surviving with brain damage that leaves him the mental equivalent of a four-year-old child. With Matchee unfit to stand trial, the blame shifted to Brown, who inherited the responsibility of Arone's death. Both Brown and Matchee are Cree.

Scapegoat does a few things well, but it also fails in several important ways. Most importantly, it addresses the issue of race in only the most superficial and self-serving terms.

In its attempts to dispel the media-fed notion that the Air-borne was a neo-Nazi clubhouse, it chucks the baby out with the bathwater and argues that race was so unimportant to soldiers as to be a non-issue even amongst themselves. This ignores the race-related pressures exerted on Aboriginal soldiers by a hierarchical system based, not on bravery, but bravado, a system that stresses conformity and prides itself on breaking people and "bonding" them to one another through methods including dismissal or hatred of anybody deemed an "other."

Item: Matchee was called Geronimo by his fellow soldiers, a term of "affection.." Item: Cpl. Eric Adkins insists that race is not an issue between soldiers, but has this to say. "I don't consider myself a prejudiced person, but Master Corporal [Matchee] was an Indian with an attitude."

Item: Worthington -- clearly the main author of this book -- is obsessed with identifying those of Native ancestry. The races of the other players in this drama are never discussed.

There is precious little analysis in this book. Racist incidents are classified as mere "jokes" or as something called "soldiers' humor." Granted, the media latched on to the racism aspect of the Somalia affair at the expense of measured debate. But soldier Tim Turner, for one, is missing the point when he says he hopes the next peacemaking mission is "against white people, because. . .if you shoot back at someone who's not white, then you're called a racist." (No, not quite, Mr. Turner. Shooting at them isn't really the problem. Teaching their children to say, in English, "Shoot me, I'm a nigger" is.)

The oddball connections and strange bedfellows in Brown's story also fall through the cracks here. For example, Brown's new alliances with Worthington, the co-founder of the right-wing Toronto Sun, and several Reform Party Members of Parliament go unremarked upon. Reformers insist on "equality" for all Canadians, which to them means no special status for Aboriginal peoples and free-market access to Aboriginal land -- all rather bizarre considering that their new found friend Brown declares his intention to gain the Indian status his mother never had.

The book takes pains to document the circumstances of the Airborne's peacemaking --not peacekeeping -- mission. (It's commonly believed that the Air-borne were keeping the peace under a United Nations mandate. In fact, the Airborne entered Somalia under American command in a Chapter 7 engagement war. And since a declaration of war requires the agreement of Parliament, which then-Prime Minister Brian Mulroney neither sought nor secured, then not only was it war, but it was an illegal war under the laws of this country.)

So what's the real story here? Flaws aside, the book makes clear that the real story behind the Somalia affair is what a government can do to someone who speaks out.

What happened to Elvin Kyle Brown when he chose to tell the truth -- his court-martial and subsequent wrongful conviction -- is representative of clear and willful deceit on the part of the Canadian military, and it demonstrates the length to which a government will go to silence someone whose story contradicts the official line.
COPYRIGHT 1997 Aboriginal Multi-Media Society of Alberta (AMMSA)
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1997 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.
Pte Somebody
Lindsey DeWilde (Member): A Great Book. 6/30/2010 11:24 AM
Kyle Browns courage to not only come forward about the violence witnessed but to co-author this book is commendable.
As a military member I know this sort of thing happens literally every day. Not to the magnitude however of Kyle Browns scenario but it happens yet no one will come forward about it for the reasons set out in this book.

This book is an excellent read as it sheads true light on a such an important organization as the military and how members are held to a high standard in society yet fail to conduct themselves as such(regarding the cover-up by high ranking officials/members).

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Publication:Wind Speaker
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jul 1, 1997
Words:713
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