Do you still think we should have gone to Iraq?

Monday, April 19, 2004


Written by Scott Piatkowski

This time last year, Canadians were actively debating whether our government should send troops to Iraq as part of George W. Bush’s “Coalition of the Killing”. Those of us said no can feel a sense of vindication, given what we now know about the consequences of the American invasion and the fabrications that were used to justify it.

But, I have to wonder how Canadians who were on the other side of the debate feel. I’d imagine that it must be pretty humbling, and downright embarrassing, to know that their position on the war could have led to hundreds of Canadians loosing their lives. Or, is it possible that these Canadian war hawks feel not one shred of remorse for their ill-advised stance in favour of the war. Dare we even consider the possibility that they still think we should have sent troops?

This is not just an exercise for academics and trivia buffs. Some of these Canadians will soon be asking you to vote for them in a federal election. Knowing whether they feel are willing to make any show of contrition for accepting lies at face value is an important consideration for voters. Canadians deserve to know, so that we can determine whether these same politicians would employ sound judgement when confronted with the next difficult issue.

While there were a disturbing number of hawks a year ago, let’s focus on holding two people -- Conservative Party leader Stephen Harper and Defence Minister David Pratt -- accountable for what they said then. Here’s a small sampling of what Stephen Harper had to say in 2003:

  • “Thank you for saying to our friends in the United States of America, you are our ally, our neighbour, and our best friend in the whole wide world. And when your brave men and women give their lives for freedom and democracy we are not neutral. We do not stand on the sidelines; we're for the disarmament of Saddam and the liberation of the people of Iraq.” Friends of America Rally, April 4, 2003.
  • “Mr. Speaker, the issue of war requires moral leadership. We believe the government should stand by our troops, our friends and our allies and do everything necessary to support them right through to victory.” House of Commons, April 1, 2003.
  • “This government's only explanation for not standing behind our allies is that they couldn't get the approval of the Security Council at the United Nations -- a body (on) which Canada doesn't even have a seat.” CTV’s “Question Period”, March 30, 2003.
  • “It is inherently dangerous to allow a country such as Iraq to retain weapons of mass destruction, particularly in light of its past aggressive behaviour. If the world community fails to disarm Iraq, we fear that other rogue states will be encouraged to believe that they too can have these most deadly of weapons to systematically defy international resolutions and that the world will do nothing to stop them.” House of Commons, March 20, 2003.

As for David Pratt, his position in favour of the war is of great concern because of Paul Martin’s curious decision to promote him to the position of Defence Minister. The New York Times, accurately in my opinion, suggested that this appointment was one of several that Martin made in an attempt to “mend fences” with the Americans (a suggestion that was almost immediately born out by Pratt’s eager complicity with the proposed missile defence shield). Canadians may want to know whether Pratt still stands behind the following statements:
  • “The Americans, the British and the other coalition allies that were involved have done the world a great favour. When tyrants fall, I think it's cause for celebration... [Canada] got caught up too much in the multilateral aspect of this - seeing multilateralism as an end in itself rather than looking at the morality of what was right under the circumstances… And in my view, getting rid of Saddam Hussein was always the right thing to do.” Reported on the CBC, April 10, 2003.
  • “Mr. Chairman, I fear the former leader of the official opposition [Stockwell Day, who had just spoken] may have had a peek at my speech.... Should the United Nations fail to accept its responsibility and enforce its resolutions, I believe that this country working with our traditional allies, the United States, Great Britain, Australia and others, should, indeed must, keep its options open in terms of participating in a coalition of like-minded countries to disarm the regime.” Defence Committee, January 29, 2003 (remarks which Alliance Defence Critic Leon Benoit noted, “quite frankly sound more like a Canadian Alliance presentation”.)

So, Mr. Harper and Mr. Pratt: With everything you know now, do you still stand by these statements; or are you now prepared to apologize to Canadians for being willing to risk the lives of our soldiers in Iraq?
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