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During the night of March 16, 1993 16-year-old Shidone Arone was caught by members of 2 Commando, the Canadian Airborne Regiment (CAR) sneaking into an empty military compound at the Canadian base at Belet Huen presumably intent on stealing supplies. By morning the Somali teenager was dead. Evidence suggested he had been tortured and beaten to death by his Canadian captors.

Almost one year to the day later Trooper Elvin Kyle Brown of 2 Commando, the Canadian Airborne Regiment marched into an Ontario courtroom at the start of his Court Martial. When the trial was over, Brown was found not guilty of murder in the death of Shidone Arone, but guilty of the charge of manslaughter. He also had the distinction of being the first Canadian soldier convicted on the charge of torture.

Scapegoat is Brown’s story and offers a first hand and factual account of one of the most shameful incidents in Canadian history. Noted Canadian journalist and author Peter Worthington, himself a former soldier and Korean War veteran became interested in Brown’s situation. That interest evolved into this book, a shocking story, not just of a brutal and unnecessary killing, but also of corruption and cover-ups.

The entire Somali mission soon became entangled in a sordid scandal in the Canadian media. The deaths of two Somali nationals under questionable circumstances shocked average Canadians who refused to believe that their soldiers were capable of such actions. The attempted cover-ups of the activities in Somalia, the trials, and the public inquiry would have far reaching consequences.

Worthington’s research reveals that contrary to what the findings of the court martial(s) in 1994 were, Kyle Brown does not appear to have been guilty of the crimes he was accused and convicted of. In fact Worthington argues that of all the participants Brown the most junior ranking member involved behaved the most honourably.

There were several factors that appear to have caused Shidone Arone’s death in a machine gun bunker that March night. Command failures, unclear rules of engagement, poor morale, a breakdown in discipline among a few individuals, a birthday party, and even the possible side effects of an anti malarial drug, all in some way contributed to the tragedy that happened.

Worthington notes that the Canadian Airborne Regiment, the elite of the Canadian Army, had some internal problems mainly concerning a few problem soldiers in 1992 prior to its overseas deployment. The Commanding Officer pointed this out to his superiors and suggested that perhaps his unit should not be deployed, or delayed until he could sort out these discipline cases.

Rather than accept his suggestions, his superiors had him relieved of command on the eve of the deployment for the Somali mission. His replacement chosen for political reasons turned out to be a chronic alcoholic who was less than competent.

In addition the CAR’s mission in Somalia was changed just prior to deployment. Rather than being sent to a relatively “pacified” area of the country to act as traditional peacekeepers they were given the task of securing the area around Belet Huen a much more dangerous mission.

Prior to deployment all the troops were given Mefloquine an anti malarial drug. Some reports showed that when it was issued to soldiers during the Gulf War that it caused severe side effects including, mood swings, and nightmares.

On arrival in Somalia the CAR discovered that their living conditions would be more primitive than expected. The overall commander of the Canadian mission based in Mogadishu due to budget constrictions could not supply then with kitchens and cooks.

They would eat field rations for almost their entire 6-month deployment. The same overall commander they soon discovered had an excessive and lavish staff in Mogadishu equipped with all the amenities denied the troops in the field.

Official policy was that soldiers were limited to two beers per day per man when off duty. Soon after arriving in Belet Huen Brown was part of a patrol that discovered their new commanding officer wandering around in the dark with the RSM (the senior ranking NCO) both drunk. As far as the soldiers were concerned after that the two-beer limit was a farce. Among some drinking to relieve the boredom became rampant.

The rules of engagement were inconsistent, unclear, and it seemed ever changing. Especially those that dealt with the ever-increasing Somali’s slipping into the CAR’s camp to steal anything they could.

The commander of the regiment issued an order that looters could be shot, but only wounded. Shot between the “skirts and flip flops.” This was a ridiculous order to trained soldiers. It was matched by a boast from the overall commander of the mission to reward the first Canadian soldier to get a “kill” with a case of champagne.

The commander of 2 Commando Major Anthony Seward requested advice on how to deal with the looters from local Somali officials. The Canadians captured the Somali infiltrators and turned them over to the local police. The police then immediately released them and they headed right back to the Canadian camp.

The police official told Seward to kill three Somalis to discourage the others. Not wishing to do this, he issued verbal orders to his men that they could “rough up” prisoners before handing them back to local authorities.

Arone was not the first Somali killed by Canadian soldiers. Earlier members of the Recce platoon set an ambush in an empty compound with assorted food and water for bait. One Somali was shot and killed presumably while attempting to escape. The medical officer though later determined that in fact he was probably killed “execution style” at closer range.

An attempt was made, unsuccessfully to cover this up by military authorities in both Somalia and back in Canada. The commander of this platoon would later turn out to be somewhat of a sadistic individual who in retrospect should not have sent on the mission. He would later face a court martial and discharge from the military.

Shortly afterwards Brown’s platoon commander attempted an ambush using a van to lure Somali gunmen into attacking so they could be captured and their weapons confiscated. The attempt failed, one of the few operations mounted by the Canadians that did not succeed, and the platoon commander came in for some good-natured ribbing.

March 17th is the birthday of the PPCLI, the parent regiment that provides troops for 2 Commando. The Commando would enjoy a day off from their regular duties and play sports and enjoy a bit of a party. Many members of the Commando began celebrating the night before, March 16th. The logic was if the CO could wander around drunk, so could they. In addition March 16th 1993 was a Tuesday, the day of the week that soldiers took their weekly Mefloquine.

That night members of the Commando captured Arone trying to sneak into the compound. He was placed under guard in a machine gun bunker. During the evening one of the soldiers tasked to guard him was Master Corporal Clayton Matchee. Matchee according to Brown and others was a bully who enjoyed intimidating those he considered weaker.

Matchee announced that he intended to adhere to the orders of Major Seward “to rough up” the prisoner. The man he relieved Sergeant Mark Boland replied, “just don’t kill him” before going off duty.

For most of that night the other members of 2 Commando including most of the officers and Senior NCOs relaxed and got an early start on the Regimental birthday celebrations. In the bunker Matchee began to systematically torture and beat Arone. Throughout this other soldiers came and went including Brown, either because they were on duty of just out of curiosity. Many also took a couple of hits on the bound and gagged young Somali.

Brown admitted he was one of them, but only hit Arone a couple of times and only because he felt intimidated by Matchee. Brown’s testimony also showed that he tried to get Matchee to stop and also tried to get help to no avail.

At one point Matchee told Brown to get his camera. Brown took several pictures of both Matchee and Arone. Later these photos would make the front pages of newspapers in Canada and shock a nation.

Sometime during the night Arone died. The next morning Shidane Arone’s body was turned over to his family and a cover up into the actual cause of death was attempted. Eventually the truth began to circulate around the camp and many involved began to distance themselves from the incident.

During this time Trooper Kyle Brown came forward and gave a statement as to what he had witnessed. He also provided the film he had taken that night.

Matchee was immediately arrested and a military investigation team was sent out from Canada. Then the real scandal began according to Worthington. Matchee in custody attempted suicide by hanging himself in his cell with bootlaces. Quick actions saved his life, but he suffered what appeared to be irreversible brain damage. Clayton Matchee was deemed not fit to stand trial.

Soon after Kyle Brown who up to then had believed that he was a key witness for the prosecution found himself the main defendant. Worthington surmises that Brown was a defacto sacrificial lamb or scapegoat. Had Matchee been able to stand trial he would have. Conversely had he died then it would have been seen to all that justice had been equally served and the whole incident blown over.

Worthington takes us through the botched investigations and politically motivated trials that followed which resulted in only the most junior members being charged and convicted. Brown received the worst punishment including incarceration and dismissal from the Forces. Other junior soldiers also served jail time and/or received discharges.

Senior officers including those who it was demonstrated contributed to the murder either through orders issued or negligent leadership received little more than reprimands. Other higher-level officers who attempted to interfere and cover up the investigation received little or no punishment.

The fall out from the Somalia incident was immense. The embattled Government under pressure from the Opposition parties and the public and facing an election immediately called for a Royal Commission into the entire mission.

It wouldn’t be enough to save them politically. The Conservative Government of Prime Minister Kim Campbell who had been Defence Minister during the Somali incident went down to the worst political defeat in Canadian history.

Later when the same commission which had a wide ranging mandate began to investigate the cover up and certain key senior political and military figures it was disbanded before it could further embarrass the military and the new government.

In addition the new Liberal Government disbanded the Canadian Airborne Regiment. The selfsame Government who while in opposition demanded the Somali Commission be set up to embarrass the Conservative Government in power. Later when they took power and the commission began to probe too close to home they had it shut down to silence it.

Prior to the closing of the commission though all of the country though was treated to the spectacle of the Chief of Defence Staff, the highest-ranking member of the military testifying under oath that he had no knowledge of the events that had transpired. When it was demonstrated that in fact he had been the officer in charge of the information prior to his promotion and that he had actively helped in the cover up, he squirmed on the stand and attempted to blame his subordinates who were of low moral character and had deceived him. For anyone in uniform at the time it was a despicable display of self-serving cowardice rather than leadership by example.

Ironically almost all of the disciplinary shortcomings the CAR had suffered from prior to their deployment in Africa had been put right. On their return to Canada a new commander had swept out the bad eggs and restored morale and professionalism to the regiment. He of course was the same person originally recommended to command the unit prior to going to Somalia, but was passed over in favour of the politically connected drunk. He would complete his task of “cleaning up the regiment” just in time to oversee their disbandment.

Worthington paints Brown as a very sympathetic character. A Metis growing up in Western Canada, his early years and family life seemed almost a cliché of native life, of poverty, alcoholism, and suicide (parents). Brown a quiet rather introverted but intelligent man survived all this and fulfilled his dream of becoming a soldier.

He joined the Canadian Army in 1988, and served with the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry (PPCLI) in Canada, Norway, Germany and on a peacekeeping mission in Cypress. In 1992 he finally achieved his dream and joined 2 Commando of the Canadian Airborne Regiment just prior to their deployment to Somalia. Three months later his dreams died and his nightmare began.

Worthington also deals with the other main characters in this tale. Brown’s co defendants including Sergeant Marc Boland who was nominated for a medal for his actions in Somalia but ended up incarcerated and his military career over.

The senior officers, both those on the ground and those in Ottawa attempting to control and cover up the incident come in for some harsh words from Worthington. He was a platoon commander during the Korean War and his father a General Officer in World War Two. He understands the idea that an officers’ duty is to take care of the men under his command. A concept he notes is lacking in more than one of the self-serving individuals who were supposed to be in charge here.

He also fires a couple of warning shots at the political masters of the military including the highest levels of Government. Worthington finds in despicable that they would willingly sacrifice soldiers that they placed in harms way to further or protect their own careers.

The Somalia Affair has passed into Canadian history, but its events are still with us. Canada lost a lot from the events that transpired that March night. Good soldiers such as Kyle Brown and Marc Boland who only wanted to serve their country and would have been an asset to any nation’s military were forever denied that chance.

The good work that was done by over a thousand soldiers in the far off war torn land was immediately and irrevocably forgotten. The schools opened, the safety and stability restored (albeit briefly) to the region was overshadowed by the graphic photos that graced the front pages of newspapers from coast to coast. Some suggest that our innocence and pride as a nation disappeared that night. The good we had perceived ourselves, as having done on the world stage would forever be tainted.

The scandal of the attempted cover up probably contributed to the fall of the Conservative government. Ironic considering the cover-up was attempted to protect the then Defence Minister as she made her bid to become Prime Minister. The Royal Commission would later force the resignation of another Defence Minister and the Chief of Defence Staff.

An elite and essential element of the Canadian Army was forever removed. In retrospect the Canadian Airborne Regiment would have been an ideal formation to meet the ever-changing security concerns of Canada and it’s global allies in this post 9/11 world. Political expediency though would ensure that never happened.

Finally morale amongst the military would forever be damaged. Not so much because it was discovered that one of them was capable of such actions. Soldiers are aware that every now and then a bad apple may join up. They pride themselves though on the ability to quickly remove such persons.

No the damage came from the actions of the senior officers and politicians who commanded them. These individuals demonstrated in a very graphic way that their own interests were paramount in their minds, and the needs of the rank and file were not. Sadly it is a mindset that appears to still exist a decade later. Even sadder is the troops now know it and that should another incident occur, that anyone of them could easily become the next scapegoat.
Ok I thought a bit about posting this here. I was commissioned to write it for another web site that I contribute to on a regular basis, and published it there months ago.

For the record I wasn‘t in Somali and/or never served in the CAR. Therefore my knowledge of what happened over there ( like most) is second hand. This is a review of Worthington‘s book, and his take on what happened.

For what it‘s worth, I think his take on the whole incident is probably correct. The reasoning on why the murders (and that‘s what they were, no denying that) happened and the resulting attempts at covering them up seem valid.

Worthington has a long and good rep as a journalist. He seems to pick "causes" and then go to great lengths to publicize them either in his newspaper column and/or his books. This one, the Bambi Lembeneck murder/extradition, and more recently the case of WO Matt Stopford.

He seems to have doen his homework on this one. The research and interviews suggest that.

As I said I thought about not posting this, but decided to any ways. It‘s a touchy and controversial subject no doubt, but that makes it important. There has been some discussion of Somali in other threads around the board. Hopefully one about the book and/or the incident will start here. That‘s the purpose of the site.

A discussion is that though. Let‘s keep it professional and try and stay away juvenile and personal attacks that sometimes seem to follow controversial subjects here.
Maj Sherwood,

I think you would find most of the CF agrees with your opinion. The "Somalia Affair" was a transgression with devastating effects on the morale of the entire CAR and indeed the entire army.

I had the opportunity to hear at length about Somalia from former members of 2Cdo and to hear their tales of time in Somalia makes the horror of the event all the more real. Most of them felt a sense of loss at the disbandment of the Regiment for what was clearly political reasons - to make it look like the Chretien Government had taken some sort of action.

I recent read Peter Desbarats‘ "Somalia Cover-Up", which is essentially the diary of one of the members of the enquiry. He paints quite a picture of the efforts of the Public Affairs Office and of the higher command of the CF to cover up the incident and stall the inquiry.

The soldiers I got to talk to all expressed similar thoughts - that what happened was awful/tragic/inexcusable, but that they had been sold down the river by their commanders who had made a mess of the operation in Belet Huen. They also wanted us to understand just how awful Somalia was - total chaos and a series of rival "tribes" vying for control of their AOR. The Somalis, they felt, placed no value on human life whatsoever, which was why they resorted to such force to defend their camp. They did what they were told to do by their officers, basically.

Most interestingly, the media never really mentioned the schools the Airborne built, nor the fact that the tribal leaders, regardless of their differences, all pleaded with the Airborne to stay when they were finally being withdrawn...

It makes you wonder what exactly peacekeepers are supposed to do when there is no peace to keep.
Most interestingly, the media never really mentioned the schools the Airborne built, nor the fact that the tribal leaders, regardless of their differences, all pleaded with the Airborne to stay when they were finally being withdrawn...

It makes you wonder what exactly peacekeepers are supposed to do when there is no peace to keep.
A side note - I was not a Patricia until after Somalia - but was in Pet durign the run up etc. When some of the FOO parties from the Para Bty (E Bty 2 RCHA) were sent the BC (guns OC) said gentleman some of you are going to war.

It was not a peacekeeping, but a peacemaking mission. This is something that many seem to have glossed over.

Many horrible things happened in Somalia (from what I have read and Somalia vets have told me). All in all I would say it is very unfortunate that several isolated incidents placed a pale upon a very sucessful tour.

Kyle Brown‘s story is his - several others who where there have a different version. Soliders are responsible at all times for their actions - his actions where reprehensible at best.

The incident with the 69 Op ‘execution‘ shooting is ridiculous, and was proven to be a MO‘s active imagination.
I‘m just an 18 year old and probably have no place to say anything here, but I always wanted to be in the Airborne Regiment when I was growing up. When they were disbanded I was only 11 years old, my dreams were shattered, my heart, broken. I cried. Watching history channel a few nights ago, there was a show on which must have been based on this book. When they showed the last jump and the disbandment parade, I was rather choked up.

I am currently chasing my dreams of being a paratrooper, in one of the jump companies. I‘m just going through the application process now to get into the Canadian Forces, so I know I have a VERY long way to go.

I don‘t know why I‘m posting this. I guess I wanted to make it known that there are people from younger generations who have an opinion on this and that we‘re not all just stupid punks who want to join up and say were going to be a JTF sniper or something like that.

Thank you.
Thats hardcore dude, at 11 i think my life long dream was to own a nintendo.
At 11 I had no lifelong dream. 23 now and I still don‘t have a lifelong dream.
At 11 I was just worried about making it to 12.
Tough neighbourhood.

I never had the stomach to read that book and believe me my stomach is strong. He cried at 11 and many I know still do. Like my 81 year old buddy who served Airborne and watched his buddies die. The political disbandment was an insult to all who had ever sweated and died under the Maroon beret. When the **** hits the fan we should always have a few politicians handy to throw out front to draw fire. I tried to suggest that for overseas missions but only the RSM thought it was a good idea. I think it is even more appropriate today.
I don‘t have any great revelations to add. But maybe some will find this interesting.
I went through Cornwallis with Kyle Brown; No family to fight for him or provide outside help when the army decided to throw his particular towel into the fire.
I worked with a Mcpl from 2 CDO who went to MDNC for some reason or other and saw his old buddy Clayton Machetee alive, fully functional and certainly not the drooling idiot that the army says he now is!
The government was whining about the cost of the CABR as early as 1989...they were looking to get rid of the"expensive to maintain" unit well before Somalia!

Just some thoughts...
I have a good buddy that served with 2 CDO and was in M/cpl Machetee section as was trooper Brown
When my Buddy was posted to TRG Cell NDHQ and the trail for trooper Brown was going on.Trooper Brown ask for My Buddy By name to see him in cells before he left from CFB UPLANDS and the MPs told him they would contact him. the MPs called him just before Trooper Brown Got on the plane for Detention Barracks Edmonton. no joy go figure.
I have as yet not read the book, but the revue sums up my points entirely. Just a minor note the question of lying to the defense minister and then the prime minister (both Kim Campbell) I believe is grounds for Court Marshall for all officers involved in the coverup even those that have since retired!!
Perhaps after reading this book young soldiers will understand why Army Command is held in such low esteem. The Canadian people do not trust The Goc or the politicians one bit. They have great respect for the other ranks and understand that you are struggling to do a good job with very little in the way of manpower or resources. But they just can not trust the General Staff and now I guess never will!
Oh God, will the Somolia enqirey ever end? :rolleyes:

Look troops...it‘s done and over with. The guys who are responsible got off scott free and a private was nailed to the cross for everyone else‘s sins.

I know LOTS of guys who were in the CAR. They‘ve moved on, so to speak, why can‘t we?

It was a complete travesty and mis-carrage of military justice. Nothing can or will be done about it, that‘s the way it is.

I have read "Tarnished Brass" and "Scapegoat" and I take it all with a grain of salt. Some of the story was embelished, some was direct evidence.

It‘s been over 8 years since the disbandment of that proud regiment. A completely knee jerk reaction by the powers that be at the time. There was no need of it at all. The new CO at the time was sorting things out, cleaning house BIG time. Then the rug was pulled out from underneath him by the politicians and the media. :mad:

Let it go troops...let it go :salute:


BTW..this response is in no way meant to inflame or insult ANY person who was in the Canadian Airborne Regiment. Just getting tired of absolutly nothing being done about it except for people discussing it. If you want something done, talk or write to your MP. I did...nothing happened.
Do not forget, and do not let rest because those
B*****Ds will do it again in another situation, if you let them. They are treacherous and cowards!
who, politicians? if i had spend over half my life trying to get into power, with all the trials and hardships that go with it, i don‘t think i‘d think twice at getting rid of a "problem" like the CAR; i‘d do it, and then move on, as it seems the public has. the trick, as i would imagine it, is not to become a problem in the eyes of the media, or the public.
I knew Kyle Brown personally and he was an extremely dedicated and hard working soldier but there was a lot that I didn't like in the book.  Kyle had an alcohol problem as do many soldiers and was drinking and possibly exhausted beyond belief as we're many other members at that time.  I felt that he was given a reasonable sentence for what happened simply because he didn't stand up for the beating of the Somalian teenager.  Kyle told me that his initiation to the CAR was that he had to shove a burning plug of toilet paper up his own ass and wasn't allowed to pull it out until he drank ten shots of booze.  I almost can't even believe someone would force another to do that or that my level headed former friend could help kick a child to death.  In my teen years I was a cadet and at 18 I was turned down from the forces for medical reasons and though there was a time I would have loved to be an Airborne soldier, I now look back and wonder how these people could become so dehumanized.  The book needed to be written, but it glossed over a lot of stuff.  I feel bad that Kyle went to prison and some of the things he went through must have been incredibly traumatic in his childhood, but he made the decision to wear the uniform and for whatever reason he didn't live up to what it stood for.