Sunday, February 17, 2008

Did Canada "Just say NO!" or did we just SAY no?

On Canada's role in Iraq :

U.S. Ambassador to Canada, Paul Cellucci, March 25, 2003 :
"Ironically, Canadian naval vessels, aircraft and personnel...will supply more support to this war in Iraq indirectly...than most of those 46 countries that are fully supporting our efforts there."

Secretary of State Colin Powell : "We now have a coalition of the willing...who have publicly said they could be included in such a listing.... And there are 15 other nations, who, for one reason or another do not wish to be publicly named but will be supporting the coalition."

Yeah, well, Powell and Cellucci, celebrated liars both, could have just been padding out the ranks of the 'coalition', as it were. But then there was :

CanWest Jan 19, 2008 : Canadian commander takes a leading roll in Iraq :
"Canadian Forces Brig.-Gen. Nicolas Matern recently arrived in Baghdad as part of the first wave of soldiers and officers from the U.S. Army's 18th Airborne Corps from Fort Bragg, N.C.
Matern is assigned as a senior officer in the Iraq Multi-National Corps which consists of around 130,000 troops."

And he was not the first :

"In 2004 Lt.-Gen. Walter Natynczyk, then a major general, served as deputy commander of the Multi-National Corps during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
At the time, he was in charge of 35,000 soldiers. Natynczyk oversaw planning and execution of all multi-national corps-level combat support operations."
"Canadian Maj.-Gen. Peter Devlin was also recently a deputy commander in the multi-national corps."

Plus there was the 1300 Canadian troops on the four Canadian warships providing Persian Gulf escort, the two dozen Canadian war planners in Florida, the providing of surveillance data from RADARSAT 2, the RCMP in Jordan training Iraqi police, the Canadian advisors embedded in Iraq's Interior Ministry, and, my personal fave, Canadian Pension Plan investment of our money in military contractors who make, among other goodies, cluster bombs and land mines.

Perhaps you read this in the account from Richard Sanders' of Coalition to Oppose the Arms Trade, or COAT, in Common Ground this month : Canada's Secret War in Iraq. An updated version of it is now here.

Sanders is exasperated that most Canadians­, including many lefties and peace activists, are loathe to accept Canadian complicity in the war on Iraq and continue to proudly proclaim that Canada refused to support the invasion of Iraq.

Note to Richard Sanders : Much of this is based on the wish to believe in a past golden age of Canadian autonomy to which we might magically return if we only we could get rid of Harper, and sometimes it's just the pretense to believe in it for reasons of partisan political rhetoric.
Meanwhile the pretense that Iraq and Afghanistan are completely separate and unrelated wars continues unabated, and Dion's new amendment on Afghanistan is so pleasing to Harper that he has asked the Cons to adopt it.

I am grateful that we have relatively few Canadian "boots on the ground" in Iraq - the real reason most Canadians do not consider us to be actually "in Iraq" - and that Canadian complicity consists mostly of our decades-old business-as-usual military integration with the US. It isn't anything to get all smugly Canadian about.

Interesting discussion/hair pulling event about Sanders' essay at Babble here and here. Sanders joins in.
Post title shamelessly pillaged from comments at Babble.


libhom said...

I think Canada deserves some credit for the amount that country has done to resist the war, especially considering how much economic and military power the US has.

Anonymous said...

We may indeed only be pretending not to support the war in Iraq. But I think the act of pretending is a fairly politically important one in something like this. Sure, the Americans are running out of troops to such an extent that our meagre contribution may currently have practical benefits, but the major point of getting countries such as Canada into Iraq was always political cover much more than any actual military assistance we might lend.
Failing to give that political cover remains important even if we ended up giving actual military support in a backhanded way. And I think it remains important that when there are debates about Afghanistan, it's politically dangerous for the Canadian right to say in public that it's about helping the US.
In the end, we're gonna lose and leave, so the question of practical military support will be moot except to the Afghans, who will count our military support to the US in dead bodies. At that point for us only the political questions, who gave legitimacy to whom and who has shreds of credibility remaining, will remain. At the rate things are going there won't be a lot of shreds to go around . . .

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