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Liberals are Canada’s natural war party


June 7, 2017

Justin Trudeau is following President Trump in supporting regime change in Syria, and Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland has announced major increases in military spending.

This may have been surprising to some, but not if we look at the history of the Liberal party when it comes to war. Far from being a party of peace, the Liberals have rarely met a war they didn’t endorse. So Trudeau is just carrying on the brutal tradition of his predecessors. As Freeland explained, “Canadian diplomacy and development sometimes require the backing of hard power,” adding this “is part of our history and must be part of our future.”

20th century

Canada has been, whenever possible, bomber number three in the trans-Atlantic alliance. The US may be the dominant superpower – and they can always rely on the UK to follow in a vainglorious attempt to revisit the murderous empire of the past. But Canada is never far behind.

It was Liberal Prime Minister Wilfred Laurier who took Canada to both the Boer War and WWI in support of British imperialism.

During the Second World War, Mackenzie King did initially oppose the war. Not on humanitarian grounds – but because he was completely enamoured with Adolf Hitler, commenting that the world would “yet come to see a very great man–mystic in Hitler”.

Lester Pearson did officially keep Canada out of Vietnam, but made sure Canada played a role supporting the US invasion diplomatically, as well as overseeing the sales of $2.5 billion in weapons including Agent Orange and napalm to the US forces.

Canada and the ‘War on Terror’

In January 2003, then Defence Minister John McCallum stood on the lawn of the White House beside George Bush and declared that Canada would be a member of the “coalition of the willing”. After massive demonstrations on February 15, 2003, the Liberals slightly changed their tune and decided that they would support the war only if the UN endorsed the actions.

They then proceeded to try and develop a “Canadian Compromise” at the UN to secure that endorsement. The compromise was to extend the search for non-existent weapons of mass destruction and, if unsatisfied, the UN would then support the war.

It was not a compromise at all but rather a slightly longer timetable to invasion. It didn’t work, and the UN didn’t endorse the invasion. The final nail in the coffin was the massive 250,000-strong anti-war demonstration in Montreal on March 15, 2003 which was followed quickly by Chretien’s announcement that Canada would not go to war in Iraq.

Many hailed that as a smart decision and the Liberals certainly like to play up this position to bolster their perception as a party of peace, but we know that wouldn’t have happened without the anti-war opposition in Canada.

The attempt to bring the UN on board with the war shows us that the Liberals tried everything in their power to join the war. They just lost the battle for public opinion.

It is also worth noting that when they announced that they would not send troops to Iraq, they simultaneously sent thousands more troops to Afghanistan to free up US troops to be re-deployed. That’s not an anti-war position.

And speaking of Afghanistan, it is important to remember that it was Paul Martin’s Liberals who decided to shift Canadian troops to a combat role in Kandahar, Afghanistan. According to former Canadian diplomat Richard Colvin, it was under the Liberals that the practice of sending Afghan prisoners to torture began.

And again it was Paul Martin who was PM when he appointed General Rick Hillier to Chief of Defence staff. Hillier famously described the Afghan mission in less than peaceful terms, saying that Canada was going to kill, “detestable murderers and scumbags, I’ll tell you that upfront, they detest our freedoms. They detest our society, they detest our liberties.”

From Haiti to Yugoslavia to Afghanistan, and now Iraq and Syria, the Liberal party has always carried on the tradition of being Canada’s natural war party.

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