Tag Archives: bob rae

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.

Politics Of Fear

[Attack literature is] not something I would ever do to you [Don Meredith] or do to your leader [Stephen Harper] or do to you in an election campaign. You look at my literature, you will not see a note of denunciation of you or your leader and you will not see it because we are running a positive campaign on our ideas and what we stand for and I think it’s shameful.” – Bob Rae, Thursday February 28th, 2008

The Harperite farm team is an offspring of the Republican Party of the United States. These guys will do whatever it takes to win themselves, and do whatever it takes to help their friends in the United States…they will do what is necessary to help Republicans. They’re a nasty, unprincipled bunch, who are incompetent to boot.” – Bob Rae, March 4th, 2008

Those of you who have been following my writing know that I’m not a big fan of Stephen Harper or his party (particularly in its current incarnation), but the above shift in Bob’s rhetoric concerns me. Yesterday I gave him credit (and exposure) on this website for rightly advocating positive campaigning and condemning ad hominem attacks. Since Bob spoke those words last week, however, he has shifted to a discourse of fear. Just as our Conservative opponent has tried to exploit fear of crime for votes, Bob is increasingly trying to frighten people with the spectre of those “nasty” American Republicans and their “Harperite farm team.” Further, he has suggested that people should essentially settle for the Liberal party (mirroring the way the Liberals “settled” for a mediocre budget), and that if they vote NDP or Green they aren’t doing their part to stop this scary evil force.

There are two problems with this. One, using fear for votes is cynical and lowers the level of discourse, just as the Conservative attack literature does. Two, it’s completely irrelevant to this by-election. The Alliance/Conservative party is not a factor in Toronto Centre. In the last election they received only 18% of the vote, and in the election before that only 14%. One could reasonably conclude that their decision to fire their duly nominated candidate and parachute in someone who doesn’t live in the riding (or the city for that matter) will hurt them even more this time around. Even the Conservative candidate has said repeatedly that his election would be a “miracle.” So, barring divine intervention, everyone including Bob knows that in the context of this by-election his fear mongering is, well, just that.

The people I’ve talked to are tired of this kind of politics, and rightly so. They know that our political leaders should never tell Canadians to settle for less than what’s possible, or to act out of fear. And they know how to send that message with their vote.

“One of the most offensive things I’ve ever seen”

Toronto Centre offers an interesting preview of what each party’s plans are for the next federal election. This is more true of the Conservatives than anyone else because, as we now know thanks to the firing of the previous Conservative candidate Mark Warner, they are running a “cookie cutter” campaign that is to be deployed identically into every riding across the country. One particular aspect of this campaign is a series of flyers that portray all issues as being black and white—or, rather, red and blue—with the Conservatives on one side and the Liberals on another. They are extremely simplistic, and feed my previously stated theory that Stephen Harper thinks you’re stupid. For example, their flyer on taxes simply says “higher / lower” (applied to the Liberals and Conservatives respectively), and their flyer on crime simply says “tough / soft.”

Watch the following video, recorded during last Thursday’s debate at Rosedale United Church, to see how that’s working out for them. This is Bob Rae at his best, Don Meredith close to his worst, and me somewhere in the middle.

Further, here’s my opening statement from the same debate.