Rae Seriously Uninformed Regarding Iraq

Canadian Maj. Gen. Peter DevlinWhile answering a question last night at the St. Lawrence debate, I mentioned that it’s important for us to realize that there are currently Canadian military officers serving in Iraq as part of the American command. Bob Rae interrupted me to object adamantly, almost angrily. “No there aren’t!”

Yes, I said, there are. “No there aren’t,” Mr. Rae said again. “They’re part of our military exchange program,” I explained. (I’m paraphrasing from memory for now, but will be able to check the tape later and will post the video when I can. UPDATE [March 13th @ 10:21pm]: Video of this exchange is now available, in both full and shortened versions.) Strangely, Mr. Rae demanded I tell him where in Iraq our officers were stationed, as if my inability to do so would prove they weren’t there.

At that point, seeing no immediate resolution to our disagreement, I moved on with the rest of my answer. Today, however, having confirmed that I was correct, I’m quite taken aback that Mr. Rae could have been so misinformed about our military’s exchange program with the United States and our direct involvement in the war in Iraq. It’s made worse by the fact that Mr. Rae isn’t just any Liberal candidate: he’s the party’s foreign affairs critic.

Ironically, some of the first criticisms of Canadian involvement in Iraq were directed at the Liberal government in 2003, and came from then-opposition Alliance Leader Stephen Harper. At the time, CTV reported that “there are currently 31 Canadian military officers serving with U.S. forces in Iraq.”

Then on December 14, 2006, according to this US military website, Canadian Maj. Gen. Peter Devlin became the MNC-I (Multi National Corps – Iraq) Deputy Command General. He’s even photographed for the CENTCOM website wearing a Canadian uniform.

Finally, in January 19th 2008, just two months ago and during this election campaign, Canwest News Service reported that Canadian Forces Brig.-Gen. Nicolas Matern had “recently arrived in Baghdad” to take “a leading roll in Iraq.” The report also confirmed that “a number of high ranking Canadian officers have been involved in helping direct operations in the Iraq conflict,” and offered this summary:

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.

For his service in Iraq, Governor General Michaelle Jean, presented him with the Meritorious Service Cross.

At the time, the press release noted Natynczyk’s pivotal role in the development of numerous plans and operations “resulted in a tremendous contribution by the Multi-National Corps to Operation Iraqi Freedom, and has brought great credit to the Canadian Forces and to Canada.”

Canadian Maj.-Gen. Peter Devlin was also recently a deputy commander in the multi-national corps.

Other Canadian soldiers have served in front-line positions. In May 2003 a Canadian Forces exchange officer was wounded near Baghdad airport after a grenade exploded next to the convoy he was traveling in. At the time there were 16 Canadian military members serving on exchange programs with various foreign forces involved in the Iraq war.

So, Canadian officers have been serving in Iraq since at least 2003 as discussed in both the House of Commons and the mainstream media. Further, our soldiers have actually been in front-line positions and even been wounded.

How is it possible that the Liberal foreign affairs critic was not only unaware of these basic facts, but was so sure of the opposite that he forcefully interrupted to contradict me – not once, but repeatedly? Mr. Rae is a good orator and a good candidate, but this raises some serious questions regarding his knowledge of his own portfolio.

16 thoughts on “Rae Seriously Uninformed Regarding Iraq

  1. Based on what I’ve been told by a Canadian officer who participated in an exchange programme with the British in North Africa during WW2, an exchange is different from what you seem to be implying. Exchanges are done as a way of gaining experience rather than as ‘serving’ in the other military. Again, based on what I’ve been told, these kind of exchanges are very common between Canadian and American militaries. I also believe these kind of exchanges take place with the UK, too.

  2. Wow, that sounds like it was an animated few minutes. Sorry I couldn’t make it. I gather it grew out of a good question, deemed worthy. I’m glad Mr. Rae finally learned of Canada’s activity in Iraq!

  3. Whooee! So, can we expect a retraction from BobbyBoy? I think there’s a lotta facts these here Grits ain’t took hold of yet. Like two more years in Afghanistan means two more years of senseless death. There’s only one reason the Grits agreed to 2011 — so they wouldn’t hafta go to the voters. Political expediency takes precedence over judicious, conscientious deployment of Canadian troops.

    I reckon yer gonna give ol’ Bob Rae a run fer his money. I’m pullin’ fer you, ChrisFeller. Good luck next Tuesday.

    JB

  4. Hi Cara,

    Sorry for the delay in approving your comment and responding–I’ve been out canvassing. You’re correct that exchanges are quite common, and I’m sure many will argue that they’re beneficial. I have not, however, said or implied anything that’s incorrect, and I did explicitly specify I was referring to officers who were on exchange last night in my exchange with Bob. The military officers mentioned above are indeed serving as part of the mission, and as the Canwest story mentions, are under US command.

  5. I made this argument in 2006 debate as well, when it was reported, not widely, that Canadian Forces were boarding ships in the Gulf, “looking for the Taliban” the only people that were surprised were behind the lectern with me, the rest of the audience at a St. Catharines’ mosque seemed to scoff at the fact that the official word was that Canada was not involved in Iraq.

  6. Once again, Bobo proves that his failure as premier of ontario was not a one time event. Before the good people of Toronto Centre elect Bob, they must realize that he could end up as PM in the goofy world of Liberal leadership politics. Bob is a good lawyer, mediator, fact finder. That is a good detail man. He is not a big picture guy. Besides his time has come and gone. We have seen all Bob’s tricks and they don’t work.

  7. Having spent 32 years in the CF, I can attest to foreign exchanges and what is involved. For one, there are Canadians (in authority positions) Under Cheyenne Mountain maintaining vigilant watch 24/7. You would appreciate that Mr. Rae would indeed be aware of that fact. Perhaps which is why some of the (present) defense critics (Mr. Coderre and Ms. Black) are not taken seriously by Canadians in the know, who are actually better informed than they are. There is more to being defense critics than – Just the nameplate only! I strongly suggest they do their homework.
    RJ.

  8. I certainly won’t gainsay you about Canadian military personnel serving in Iraq, but they are serving as exchange officers within the US military. Your comment wrt Natynczyk as reported in your blog is rather misleading. The Canwest news article clearly states that he is working under the aegis of the US military, and is not representative of our national foreign policy wrt Iraq. Although I’m a little antsy about CF members serving in combat areas that Canada isn’t involved in, I realize that this is unavoidable in mutual and cooperative defense agreements such as NORAD and NATO. Are you perhaps suggesting that we review our participation in those agreements?

  9. Rae’s gaffe is ridiculous – this should get national coverage, don’t you think? That the Liberal foreign affairs critic is so deeply unaware of his own portfolio is a disgrace to him and his party. I’m surpised the Conservatives haven’t run with this already!

  10. “How is it possible that the Liberal foreign affairs critic was not only unaware of these basic facts, but was so sure of the opposite that he forcefully interrupted to contradict me – not once, but repeatedly?”

    Well, that’s easy. He’s a liberal, and liberals think that if they just wish hard enough — or shout loud enough — things they don’t like or understand will go away. Poof!

    “For the liberal mind, history begins anew every morning.” — W. Buckley

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