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Liberal ministers hawkish on Iraq once upon a time

(PoliticsWatch posted May 14, 2004) OTTAWA - The Liberal attack machine is planning to unleash ads suggesting that if Conservative Leader Stephen Harper were prime minister last year Canadian troops would today be bogged down in a quagmire in Iraq. 

But what the Liberals won't tell voters is that key ministers in Prime Minister Paul Martin's cabinet were just as hawkish, if not more, than Harper on Iraq. 

And these ministers aren't just any ministers, but Defence Minister David Pratt (pictured here) and Associate Defence Minister Albina Guarnieri.

Despite this, the Liberals included a quote from Harper in its party candidate policy and information manual suggesting that he was pro-war.

"We should have been there shoulder to shoulder with our allies. Our concern is the instability of our government as an ally. We are playing again with national and global security matters," Harper was quoted as saying by the Canadian Press in April, 2003. 

However, according to a Conservative Party quote file obtained by PoliticsWatch, while then prime minister Jean Chretien was leaning towards a multi-lateral approach that required United Nations Security Council approval before invading Iraq, Pratt and Guarnieri, who at the time were backbench MPs, were openly advocating total support for the U.S. in the media. 

"We have probably one of the worst dictators in the world - someone guilty of some of the most horrendous human rights abuses in the world - and yet a good portion of the international community seems to have rallied against any effort to enforce the resolutions," said Pratt in a Mar. 18, 2003, quote from the National Post

"The United States has done just an awful job at convincing the international community that intervening in Iraq is the right thing to do, but I think that the basis of the American and British position is the right one."

A few days later, Pratt was quoted in the Victoria Times-Colonist as saying, "I think it's unfortunate that this is the first time where the Australians and the British and the Americans have been involved in a conflict that we haven't as Canadians. That's something of a precedent." 

In the same article, Pratt said that Canada should go with its instincts and "do what you feel is right. And for me, this is the right thing to do." 

Guarnieri also voiced a hawkish stance in the House of Commons on Jan. 29, 2003, saying staying out of the conflict would be appeasing then Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

"In all likelihood just a few weeks from now I think our closest allies will be at war with a murderous regime that gases its own people and has weapons that threaten North American security. We are going to have to make a choice. Are we going to support our closest allies or are we going to give Iraq a vote of confidence by remaining neutral?"

When asked today if he was comfortable with the Liberal party planning to make an issue out of Iraq, Pratt confirmed he was not. 

"I'm not going to get into that," he said. "I think we're going to be running a positive campaign. I think we've got a lot of positive messages to convey." 

Maybe he should tell that to Liberal campaign co-chair David Herle, who the Globe and Mail reported this week told the Ontario caucus the party planned on unleashing the "heavy artillery" next week in an array of attack ads and quotations aimed at demonizing Harper before the writ is dropped. 

However, without providing details on what they plan to do, Conservative MPs say they are prepared for the attack. 

"I think that Stephen has steeled us all for what he thinks will be an inevitable personal attack," said Strahl. "They are going to do their dirty on him and (Iraq) is going to be one of the issues.

"Stephen's approach has been pretty measured and at least intelligible and intelligent," he said.

"The Liberal response is that: 'We want Hussein gone, we hope he's defeated, but we don't support the war. But we wish the allies the best.' It has been an unintelligible mess from the word go.

"I hope they pay a price for that and I hope these attack ads backfire." 

However, Harper's recent comments that he only advocated "morally supporting" the U.S. and would not send troops were muddied this week after some enterprising reporting by the Toronto Star, which found an official press release from then Alliance foreign affairs critic Stockwell Day. 

"Canadian Troops Must Join Allies in the Gulf. More Canadian troops should now head to region to help enforce U.N. resolution, disarm Saddam," stated the headline of the news release issued from Day's office on Jan. 28, 2003. 

When confronted with the press release, Harper told the Star, "I don't recall it, and I don't know what it's about. Okay? Ask Stockwell Day. 

"I spoke for the party. The party's position was clear. I don't know the date of it. I don't know what it said. I don't know why it said it. And I don't know why we're revisiting it."

Now with the positions of some Liberals and Conservatives appearing not to be consistent and clear, one has to wonder if the war in Iraq will be an issue in the upcoming campaign or if it will be the latest victim of the so-called fog of war. 

Check out these related links:

arrow-trans.gif (111 bytes) Selected Iraq quotes from Pratt and Guarnieri
arrow-trans.gif (111 bytes) 
Harper softens his hawkish image (Toronto Star, May 14)
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Liberals plan early ad attack on Harper (Globe and Mail, May 12)

arrow-trans.gif (111 bytes) Grits go negative on NDP and Bloc
arrow-trans.gif (111 bytes) 
PM attacks "vile" Liberal polling practice
arrow-trans.gif (111 bytes) 
John Turner backing Harper
arrow-trans.gif (111 bytes) 
No attack ads here, say Liberals
arrow-trans.gif (111 bytes) 
The Joe Who Factor
arrow-trans.gif (111 bytes) 
PM recycles military spending plans
arrow-trans.gif (111 bytes) A question of timing
arrow-trans.gif (111 bytes) Martin says his Grits are different
arrow-trans.gif (111 bytes) Layton stars in new NDP TV ads
arrow-trans.gif (111 bytes) Liberal MPs ready to go to the polls
arrow-trans.gif (111 bytes) Martin lampooned in new Tory ads

arrow-trans.gif (111 bytes) Listen to the Conservative radio ads

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Opposition says bring on election

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