02 March 2005

Tobin: poor man's Rambo

Check out a CanWest story today on memoirs of a senior federal official involved in the turbot confrontation with Spain a decade ago.

It's also in the Telly under the title "Memoir reveals the war behind the Turbot War".

The account here sounds about right. I heard Brian Tobin recounting this whole affair a year or so after he came back to Newfoundland. He was definitely getting off on enthralling his mostly youngish audience the tale. In the way Tobin told it at the time he seemed to feel like the whole thing gave him some macho leader image.

Fact is, he was nothing of the sort; his whole presentation was more like the juvenile posing of some kid retelling the gory bits of some Rambo movie than the story of someone who had been there. "Oh man, you should have seen it. Blam. Blam. Powy. It was gross, man. Cool."

At the time Tobin was pumping himself up, I had friends of mine who had shot at others and been shot at in anger. A bunch more were set to go overseas and even today, I have friends in different, dangerous parts of the globe. Over the years, I have talked at length to people who have been in real danger and the people who sent them there.

The last thing any of them do is whoop and pose and thump their chests. Often they are closer to tears with the gravity of the situation they faced.

The only thing that came clear to me hearing that story was an unshakeable conviction that Tobin wasn't the real thing. He gave absolutely no sense at all of appreciating the seriousness of the situation at the time, of the very real possibility that the orders being given would lead to closed caskets being delivered back to small towns in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Maybe Tobin has changed with age, but that episode has stayed with me for almost a decade.