The Invasion Canada Refused To Join

In 2003 the USA, with strong United Kingdom support, invaded Iraq to destroy, the world was told, that nations’ stock of weapons of mass destruction.We were assured Iraq was capable of launching death by loathsome diseases or instant cremation in nuclear fire in 48 hours from a standing start. Saddam Hussein, the dictatorial leader of Iraq with acknowledged record of brutality and ruthless use of chemical weapons against civilians was a monster, a threat to the rest of the world.
It was not Hussein’s first battle with a multi-nation army led by the United States. In 1990 Iraq had invaded and occupied neighbouring Kuwait, and threatened Saudi Arabia. The “free world” responded to Kuwait’s plight with military force. Canada, under Prime Minister Brian Mulroney was part of the mission launched from bases in Saudi Arabia. The liberation was swift, Iraq retreated, shattered – but with Hussein still in power, his nation battered but intact.
The First Gulf War was over but the seeds for a second were already being planted to germinate little more than a decade later with different politicians in lead roles. In the USA Bill Clinton had replaced George H.W.Bush as President. In the UK John Major had passed the keys to 10 Downing Street to Labour’s Tony Blair. In Iraq in 1995 Saddam Hussein calmly called a leadership referendum and to nobody’s surprise a large majority asked him to remain as President for another seven years.
Two years before the referendum there had been an alleged Iraqi attempt to assassinate President George H.W. Bush during a visit to Kuwait to accept that nation’s thanks for restoring its independence. Although the senior Bush appeared to take the attempt in his stride his son George W., inaugurated as Presidentin January 2003 – never forgot or forgave.
During his election campaign in 2002 George W. constantly targeted Hussein as the power behind the growing terrorist threat of El Qaeda referring to him on the hustings as “the man who tried to kill my dad.” He reminded the United Nations Security Council of the assassination attempt during a speech calling for tougher regulatory programs and embargoes on Iraq to bring Hussein to heel.
President George W. continued to warn at every opportunity of “the grave and gathering danger” of Hussein with his alleged arsenal of mass destruction weapons (WMDs) including chemical and nuclear bombs. Hussein had used chemical warfare in his old war with Iran. In 1981 Israel had destroyed his burgeoning nuclear plant (with a reactor bought from France) with a single strike air raid.
The plant was never re-built but President Bush was convinced it had been. United Nations inspectors were allowed in Iraq to search for WMDs but were ordered out of the country before anything could be discovered. In 2002 they were allowed back in with a stronger UN mandate threatening Hussein with “serious consequences” if WMDs were found.
They never did find WMDs so in March 2003 the USA with strong UK support but lacking UN approval decided to invade Iraq to find their own proof of the “dangerous threat.” Like the UN inspectors they found no MDWs.
It was the war Canada’s Prime Minister Jean Chretien had refused to support. He was rebuked by Bush and Blair – and by leading Conservatives in Canada for letting down the side. Chretien stood firm: Canada would always support a United Nations cause but not an unwarranted Unites States invasion.
On July 6 this year Sir John Chilcot made public the judgments of an investigation, demanded by the British Parliament and the people, on Britain’s role in the events and reasons that led to invasion of Iraq. Seven years in the making his 12 volume, 2.6 million word report is three times the length of the bible. It will take years to digest its many findings. For today I list just five to be read with PM Jean Chretien’s and Canada’s 2003 stand in mind. The Chilcot reports states clearly:
1) British and USA intelligence was badly flawed and subsequent assumptions went unchallenged. Their assumptions on WMDs were “presented with a certainty that was not justified.”
2) Iraq was not a threat at the time and could have been “contained” without military action.
3) (A major and telling under-statement): British Prime Minister Blair “overestimated his ability to influence” US decisions.
4) The war and occupation of Iraq was poorly planned and managed. “The evidence is there for all to see. It is an account of an intervention which went badly wrong, with consequences to this day.”
5) And most damaging of the pre-war deceits: “(It)… has produced a damaging legacy, including undermining trust and confidence in government statements.”
Toward the end of 2003 they captured Saddam Hussein, tried him on charges of crimes against humanity carried out before the war, found him guilty, and just before Christmas hanged him.
Other than the many rebukes in the Chilcot report – which hasn’t attracted much attention in the USA – no further action appears to be planned. In one of his initial notes to President Bush when the war in Iraq started to lurch from crisis to crisis Prime Minister Blair wrote:”If we win quickly, everyone will be our friend, if we don’t…. recriminations will start fast.”
We shall have to wait and see if that’s one prophecy he got right.


  1. It is interesting to note that both the UK and USA, being members of NATO, used only one part of the orders for war in their assault on Irag, namely an Operations Order. There is an accompanying one called an Administrative Order. The latter contains a section titled “Civil Affairs and Military Government” (CAMG). The results of looting and destruction, while US troops stood by and watched, clearly indicates that there was no Administrative Order for this war or if there was it, the CAMG was omitted or ignored. PM Chretien told Bush that Canada would not engage in this debacle but would participate in the NATO action in Afghanistan. — from an Old Soldier.

  2. Saddam Hussein, Muammar Gaddafi and Hosni Mubarak were all wicked leaders but they understood their threatening domestic forces and managed to suppress them. We now know why they had to be so brutal. Their countries are worse off without them. And so is the world.

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