Iraq, 10 years later: That time Canada didn’t have our backs

Photo by Flickr user pwenzel

Photo by Flickr user pwenzel

By Andrew Scoggin
@AScoggin

This week marked the 10-year anniversary of the United States and coalition forces’ invasion of Iraq, a poignant milestone for a war that continues to weigh on the American conscience.

It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say every major news outlet had a take on the anniversary, from a New York Times series to Huffington Post, which didn’t even exist at the time of the invasion. President Obama traveled to the Middle East this week, and while he didn’t visit nor speak of Iraq, he offered his thoughts in a statement.

Active combat in Afghanistan drags on, but it’ll be the war in Iraq that’s better remembered for the U.S. going out on a limb. The American-led operation didn’t receive the United Nations’ blessing, so the U.S. moved forward with a “coalition of the willing,” as the Bush administration referred to it.

The coalition included familiar allies, like Great Britain and Australia, and some obscure ones, like Iceland and Tonga. And totally Canada, because America’s hat is always there for it, eh?

Wait, not Canada? Those hosers.

The Great White North isn’t known for its military, but Canada has played a support role as a U.S. ally and U.N. member in just about every major modern conflict, operating under the name of multilateralism, or international governance. And even in Vietnam, where Canada did not actively participate, many Canadians fought alongside Americans anyway.

Iraq, however, was the first time Canada actively refused to support the United States or Great Britain. That’s a pretty big deal, considering the strong Canadian ties with both countries.

Like France and Germany, Canada balked at any Iraq invasion without approval from the U.N. Security Council. The Canadian prime minister, who headed a government controlled by the Liberal Party, did catch some flak from opposition parties, but the country never got involved.

Thing is, people seem to recall the European opposition more than Canada’s dissent. Particularly with the French, many portrayed opposition as a sort of weakness (anyone remember “freedom fries?”). The Canadian PM at the time of the invasion, Jean Chrétien, is French Canadian, so there’s that. But considering Canada’s willingness to fight in other conflicts, that doesn’t seem fit.

An obvious political disconnect existed between the U.S. and Canada, with George W. Bush’s conservative, hawkish administration and Liberal control up north. The Iraq invasion also flew in the face that Canadian policy of multilateralism — while a number of nations ultimately participated, a majority did not. Plus, only the U.S., Britain, Australia and Poland sent troops during the invasion.

Maybe it’s not a good sign when one of the United States’ closest and longest allies has its doubts. It’s a good lesson, if anyone in the States manages to remember it.

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Posted by on March 22, 2013. Filed under Military,Recent News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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