The Vancouver Scrum

On the move!

Agh! You’re still here? My new site and weblog, is now up and running; new posts are building up over there, never to be mirrored here. Go! What are you waiting for? All the stuff worth keeping has been migrated over to the new server, and I don’t anticipate making any more posts here.

Bloggers and webmasters: Update your links! Simply replace with in your blogrolls or bookmarks to point to the new site. Old posts will remain on this server for as long as the people at Blogger/Google allow them to remain; unfortunately, I’m not going to bother to come up with any way of converting permalinks on this blog to their corresponding posts on the new site. Yes, I plead laziness. I also realize the irony of switching away from Blogger just it starts to add features that the demanding blog nerds insist upon.

Thanks for reading and linking, and see you over at!

—Ian King, December 13, 2004

Saturday, April 05, 2003

Did Eves call Chrétien a coward?

Ontario Premier Ernie Eves didn’t use those words at a pro-war rally in Toronto yesterday, but a press release issued by his office made just that accusation. The release, which criticized the federal government’s decision not to support the war, said, “I want history to remember Canada for its courage and loyalty, not its cowardice.”

Since then, Oilcan Ernie denies knowing anything about the press release, and his communications stooges swear that it was an “erroneous” release—but where, then, was the new release without the offending accusation? How about that ‘quote of the day’ going around in Ontario Tory circles, then? Smells fishy, but that’s nothing new.

My bias is going to show here, but I believe that the pro-war faction in Canada has not been honest with Canadians about their aims or goals. Their demonstrations are sold to the public not as rallies in support of the war, but to support the Americans, or the “coalition of the willing”, or even of “freedom.” Ray Heard, a former Global TV executive who was one of the forces behind Friday’s rally in Toronto, swore that his event was to show friendship with the USA, but not support for the war against Iraq. Yeah, right. How does that jive with Canadian Alliance leader Stephen Harper’s statement earlier that day on CFRB that being pro-American and pro-war are tied together? In his world, there seems to be no room for admiring the United States, its relative freedom and accomplishments, while still believing that this war is unjustified. I would suggest that that’s the point of view of most of the more vocal war supporters, even if they’re not ready to be as blunt as Harper about it.

Anti-war demonstrations are quite honest about the fact that they are not in support of this war. They don’t gussy up their rallies as being “in support of the Canadian position”, although they will talk of the dangers of “unilateral aggression” or “respect for international law.” While some of the anti-war crowd in Canada are reflexively anti-American, this surely is not a term appropriate for every opponent of this war. Even less appropriate is the assertion that every anti-war voice is one in support of Saddam Hussein. Perhaps to fans of George W. Bush’s Manichaean declaration that “either you with us or you are against us,” this is the case, but anyone with a shred of intellectual honesty understands that this statement was supposed to apply to governments that support international terrorism, not individuals’ positions on this war in Iraq.

What also bothers me is the pro-war side’s depth of reasoning. For most pro-war politicians in Canada, the extent of their arguments for supporting the ouster of Hussein is that Canada should stand with its traditional allies, right or wrong. That’s a weak argument—it reminds me of the old question “If your best friend was going to jump off {fill in appropriate tall landmark of your choice}, would you jump with him?” Perhaps it might be better to ask those who say we should participate in the war whether they’d back up their best friend going down to an unfriendly bar to pick a brawl with an old foe. I recall learning from some counsellor-type many moons ago that a best friends will tell each other when they’re wrong, but that’s lost on the pro-war crowd, likely because they thin that the war is right, even in they don’t articulate their position well.

Not every pro-war voice is that simplistic or blinkered. A small number of Canadians who back military action in Iraq have come out with well-presented arguments on why this war is just and why Canada should support this war. They point to UN Security Council Resolution 1441, which foretold “serious consequences” if Iraq failed to comply with weapons inspectors, or how the first Gulf War was a ceasefire contingent on Saddam giving up weapons of mass destruction. While I’d argue that those sorts of resolutions and agreements have been routinely, shall we say, fudged without a war ensuing, at least the idea that there is some sort of legal justification for taking out Hussein does have a bit more rigor than simply going along with one’s traditional allies. It’s too bad that those voices are few, and often when those arguments are articulated, that they seem more motivated by a desire to suck up to W and the boys at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue than anything else.

The human-rights case for getting rid of Saddam is strongest of all in my opinion. Nobody for a moment doubts that Hussein abuses the people he rules, that he condones torture, or that the Iraqi people would be better without him. What has me vexed is that many politicos who normally dismiss he work of organizations like Human Rights Watch or Amnesty International are now citing their findings. Can I now assume that conservative politicians and pundits will perhaps give a little more consideration to Amnesty’s other reports and complaints? I don’t think so. Had the war been argued from the beginning as a fight based on the desire to remove a murderous dictator and not muddled with arguments about weapons of mass destruction that haven’t yet been found or proven to still exist, or of a tangential connection to Al-Qa’ida, and the case for removing Saddam been made by the Tony Blairs of the world, I can’t help but wonder what kind of coalition to oust Saddam night have been assembled. I’ll leave it to the historical what-if crowd to play with that scenario.
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