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Howard’s way: Y’know, some books just get better with age


 

From Right Side Up: The Fall of Paul Martin and the Rise of Stephen Harper’s New Conservatism:

In scrums and interviews, Harper hotly claimed he’d never called for real live Canadian soldiers to be sent, in any quantity, to fight in Iraq. All he’d ever asked for was “moral support” — and besides, the Liberals had left Canada’s army in no shape to fight a shooting war in Iraq.

So on May 13, [2005] when Tonda MacCharles showed up to compare Harper’s claims with the record, he took it badly.

Harper was doing a series of pre-election interviews. MacCharles, the Toronto Star reporter whose beat assignment was to cover the Conservatives, showed him a press release from January 28, 2003, on the letterhead of the Office of the Leader of the Opposition. The release was from Stock Day, the party’s foreign-affairs critic. Its title read, “Canadian Troops Must Join Allies in the Gulf.” The text made no reference to moral support. “More Canadian troops should now head to region to help enforce U.N. resolution, disarm Saddam.”

When faced with the evidence, MacCharles wrote, “Harper became visibly angry, and insisted he did not have to ‘revisit’ these questions. ‘If it was so important, you should have asked me about it at the time,’ Harper said, refusing to look at the release.”

At the time? Nobody would have thought to ask Harper “at the time” whether he really wanted Canadian troops sent to Iraq to disarm Saddam Hussein because “at the time,” Harper was leaving no room for doubt on the matter. As his biographer William Johnson has pointed out, Harper spoke in the Commons on Iraq thirty-seven times between October 1, 2002 and May 5, 2003. He maintained that his Canadian Alliance would “urge the necessary military preparations that make the avoidance of war possible” — a line of argument that was being pursued, at the time, by George W. Bush and Tony Blair. He predicted that the Liberals under Jean Chrétien would “eventually join with the allied coalition if war on Iraq comes to pass” — but that Chrétien’s government would be ill-prepared for war, whereas an Alliance government would be well prepared.

When Chrétien finally did decide not to send Canadian troops in any significant number to Iraq, Harper openly mourned what he saw as Chrétien’s failure. “Reading only the polls and indulging in juvenile and insecure anti-Americanism, the government has, for the first time in our history, left us outside our British and American allies in their time of need,” Harper said.

Harper would argue, ex post facto and with an admirably straight face, that he had mourned only a lack of “moral support,” that in his mind — “at the time” — Canada could have lived up to its historic obligations to its British and American allies by offering them a hearty clap on the back as they filed on to the troop ships. Coul, in fact, have offeredno more because the Grits had let our armies rot. But there was the small matter of the press release from Stockwell Day. And thirty-seven interventions in the House during which Harper failed to make the distinction he would claim, in 2004, to have made so clearly. And the small matter of a vote in the Commons on March 20, 2003, on a supply-day motion from Bloc Québécois leader Gilles Duceppe:

“That this House call upon the government not to participate in the military intervention initiated by the United States in Iraq.”

The fifty MPs who voted Nay included every Alliance MP who voted that day, except Keith Martin. Stephen Harper was one of the fifty. If Tonda MacCharles had asked him on that day whether he really meant what he was saying, it is reasonable to suspect he would have become even more “visibly angry” than he did, thirteen months later, when she asked why the story had changed.


 

Howard’s way: Y’know, some books just get better with age

  1. By the end of the election, I’ll have read the entire book in excerpt form without actually having to buy it!

  2. Not if I have anything to say about it….

  3. Can we all get past Iraq? We didn’t join, it was a good decision, it has nothing to do with this election now.

    Why, oh why, 2 weeks before an election, is this NOW an issue? Seriously folks, this is absurd.

  4. Riley: It was a shooting war that left an awful lot of people as dead as they could be. Remind me what the statute of limitations should be on taking decisions with regard to war seriously?

  5. I am amazed the issue hasn’t been bigger. Even if we are unlikely to send troops to Iraq, the world is still an unstable place. The fact that Harper couldn’t see that Iraq was a bad idea speaks volumes about his lack of judgment on foriegn issues. Will he make the right decision the next time we have to decide whether to follow America into battle?

  6. I find it slightly incredible that people don’t seem to have a memory for “milestones” such as when Harper contradicts himself wildly on an issue of real substance. Those are about the only things the non-specialist can remember quite easily.

    I blame the news media, of course; after lengthy tedious, mystifying reporting on the details of a process, everyone loses interest. Then, when the next shiny thing appears, whatever happened before is quickly forgotten. No one ever thinks to bring up the goal, which reveals itself eventually.

  7. Can we all get past Iraq? We didn’t join, it was a good decision, it has nothing to do with this election now.

    If this topic doesn’t interest you, I’m sure there are others elsewhere you can discuss.

  8. Riley:
    Possible reasons:

    * Because somebody only just noticed now.
    * Because the CPC is doing their hardest to make this about the personalities of the leaders — which makes anything that reflects on the leaders’ professional lives fair game.

  9. I wonder how many other leaders around the World gave the same speech. Surely they all had similar talking points.

  10. Riley,

    Given that Harper has already played political Twister with our plans for troops in Afghanistan, it’s a perfectly relevant and fair topic to pursue. We’re talking about humans dying here, and many of us would like to know if Candian military interventions are undertaken as part of a reasoned and principled consideration of various factors, or simply the result of some broader game of trying to appease Americans while placating Canadian misgivings.

    Remember, Harper is the one who is running almost solely on the “trust me, I provide certainty, Dion is risky” message – absent of platform. Flip-flops and fibs about his position on Iraq speak to the vailidity of that message.

  11. There is almost no room in politics for a change of mind. How much better if Harper was to admit that his fervor to go to Iraq was a mistake, but how impossible it would be to imagine anyone allowing that such an admission was a good thing, instead of evidence of inconsistency, or poll-chasing or whatever.

    Harper was wrong about Iraq, he should say so, and we should move on. Instead, we have the depressing spectacle that Paul describes.

  12. Paul Wells,
    I’ll buy your book if in it you detail the influence of Leo Strauss’s ideology on the Calgary School of Political Science and on Harper’s brand of conservatism.
    Shadia Drury, scholar and critic of Staussian political philosophy, Canada Research Chair of Social Justice, Prof in departments of Political Science and Political Philosophy at U of Regina, author of ‘Leo Strauss and the American Right’ and ‘The Political Ideas of Leo Strauss’ was interviewed by Michael Enright on The Sunday Edition in 2005. At the time, she was still teaching at U of Calgary School of Political Science. Her interview is still linked on the right side of her website can be heard thanks to CBC archives. http://www.uregina.ca/arts/CRC/
    During the interview she expresses her concern that Harper’s conservatism has been nutured by Straussian ideology.
    So, let me know …to buy or not to buy?

  13. IF the Tories are able to bring up all the bad Liberal decisions even after the Tories have been in govt. for 2 years, then the Iraq stuff is totally fair game, and extremely important. How could the Tories not expect this?

  14. That’d be a great big Don’t Buy, Jacqui.

  15. I hope the rest of Paul’s book is better researched than the Howard sections.

  16. You would however love the chapter on “Harper als Uebermensch: Entwicklungen und Darstellungen des Konzervatives Nietschabteilung als Martinkritik.”

  17. Sorry that should be Nietzschabteilungs. My bad!

  18. And to think the editor wanted that chapter cut out.

  19. Before I paid much attention to politics (the good ole days) my first real impressions of Harper was during the lead up to the Iraq war. Fond memories those.

  20. comment by Mike T. on Tuesday, September 30, 2008 at 11:13 am:I am amazed the issue hasn’t been bigger. Even if we are unlikely to send troops to Iraq, the world is still an unstable place. The fact that Harper couldn’t see that Iraq was a bad idea speaks volumes about his lack of judgment on foriegn issues. Will he make the right decision the next time we have to decide whether to follow America into battle?

    If Freedom Watch merges with move on .org and steve becomes Obama’s pet female dog we will prosper ?

  21. Before I paid much attention to politics (the good ole days) my first real impressions of Harper was during the lead up to the Iraq war. Fond memories those.

    It remains the reason why my attitude towards Harper has been so unforgiving.

    This wasn’t a small matter. The Iraq invasion continues to have disastrous consequences, especially now, as the financial repercussions of Imperial overreach are being felt everywhere.

    And those who’ve been paying a lot of attention since the launch of the Project for the New American Century, it struck as unbelievable, at that time, that Harper could not have been aware of the fabrications that were being used to construct the casus belli for Iraq. Either Harper’s the “smartest man” in the room, a cunning strategist whose strategy didn’t pan out the way he though it would, or a morally bankrupt liar.

  22. I am more forgiving . Aligning jelly beans , criminal justice , bank meat regs , sawmills in northern states , credit card debt , forgiving those that trespass etc is what goes with father knows best blue sweater .

    Someone said of gw ” I knew he had one more screw up in him before he walks back to Alberta “

  23. Paul,

    Libs brought this up in 2004. Again in 2006. Now again in 2008. I’m not saying there should be a statute of limitations on things but what I am saying is that this election has been thus far about NOTHING other than “gotcha” crap.

    The fact that blogs like this (and you know I love this blog) and other media are discussing this issue, and not say, the fact that GDP rose 0.7% in July, or that the Conservatives have yet to reduce medical wait times, is really frustrating.

    Not to say that campaigns have to always be about heady, important policy issues… but that MAYBE.. just MAYBE they shouldn’t always be about what the latest opposition research gaffe/report is.

  24. Hey Paul – have you had occasion, or will you have occasion, to ask Uncle Steve if he still agrees with his original position, and if thinks Canada should’ve gone to Iraq?

    Would you get a straight answer?

    My view on this election campaign is that there has not been enough debate about AFGH in particular and how Canada should think about participating war in general….what is the “Harper doctorine?”

  25. This is just another event of Harper’s trip into the right wing envy/copy/beliefs. It’s a pattern. It’s not just a little copy of some inspirational moment….it’s part of his growth into what he is today.

    “Your country, the USA, and particularly your conservative movement, is a light and an inspiration to people in this country and across the world.”

    – Conservative leader Stephen Harper, then vice-president of the National Citizens Coalition, in a June 1997 Montreal meeting of the Council for National Policy, a right-wing American think tank.

  26. More ranting, but it just strikes me that the mainstream media and media blogs have mostly focused on opposition research this election, and not on their own. If the CPC war-room says that a Liberal said such and such, woah we’re all on it. If the LPC says an NDP candidate smoked up – Live at 11!

    What is this election about? Is it about those things? Is it about the Iraq Wat? A war we had very little to do with before and after? I’d rather the media hold Harper to the fire for not focusing on Afghanistan and his lack of interest in THAT war than in some speech he made in 2003.

    I shouldn’t be taking this out on this blog, but normally I come here to get the inside skinny on strategy and ball-game analysis, not a chorus repetition of “people died in this war”. A war that Canada did not participate in and is not about to participate in.

  27. Maybe the Conservatives should release their platform then, eh?

  28. I shouldn’t be taking this out on this blog, but normally I come here to get the inside skinny on strategy and ball-game analysis…

    I’m sure you can live with the disappointment.

  29. Ti-guy,

    Of course I can live with the dissapointment. But it just kills me that two weeks to go in the election, and we’re once again focused on something the opposition dug up, that wasn’t exactly HIDDEn in the first place, that we’ve discussed ad-nauseum for two previous elections, and we still have yet to focus on an important issue.

    Even the economy is not being discussed other than Harper says “we’re fine” and Dion says “He’s driving us to deficit”.

    I just hope the debates actually bring out some policy, cause the media appears not to be interested.

  30. Riley,

    Harper has just requested the consortium to extend the “economy” part of the debate from 12 minutes to a full hour.

    The other leaders will need to agree. Layton has already done so.

  31. Maybe Harper wanted this election to be about nothing, except his supposed Leadership. Now somebody is filling in the blanks. Where’s their platform? Why not release it before the Debates, so opposition can debate and contrast policy?

  32. “Riley: It was a shooting war that left an awful lot of people as dead as they could be. Remind me what the statute of limitations should be on taking decisions with regard to war seriously?”

    More to the point, why isn’t there any debate amongst the lot (Political leaders/journalists/columnists/ and whatever) on Afghanistan during this “campaign”. After all, death and destruction reigns there as well and to a lesser extent, money from the Canadian tax payer…………

  33. I’m not trying to be a smartass — I know it can be hard to tell — when I say I’m utterly mystified by why I should dismiss Stephen Harper’s record on Iraq because it’s “a war that Canada did not participate in.” So Quebecers should ignore the PQ’s position on sovereignty because Quebec has never seceded?

  34. I’ll agree that Harper’s record on Afghanistan, Iraq, etc should be debated. I’d love to have that debate because personally I think he has dropped the ball on Afghanistan bigtime.

    What I object to (and as I ranted on Kady’s comments section) is this high road about WOAH, it’s so important today! simply because Bob Rae put out a press conference.

    My anger is that the media is hopping all over opposition research and not their own. I’m mad that we aren’t discussing healthcare and education, but the fact that Harper had a similar speech to Howard in 2003.

    Yes, Iraq is a war that Canada did not, and will not participate in. It has been decided. Would Harper be so quick to fall in behind the U.S. in a possible Iranian war? Good question. Ask it.

  35. jacqui, I know Dr. Drury, and trust me, if that’s all your after she will talk your ear off on that matter for free. No need to buy a book.

  36. gadzooks, incorrect choice of you’re vs your. I’m going to comment hell.

  37. Riley, why would we believe harper’s answer on questions about Iran? At this point, he will just say whatever he has polled the popular answer to be. That’s the kind of decision maker he is.

    I take it from your posts over the past weeks that you are a diehard Conservative supporter. Yet you appear upset that this election is about nothing.

    Perhaps you should ask your conservative candidate why we’re having an election about nothing. Also ask how much it costs to hold an election about nothing, and how much it cost to call bye-elections and let them run almost to the full course, and then cancel them in favour of a general election.

    You’ll find that nothing is actually quite expensive. What will happen if Mr Harper is returned into another minority position?

    Hmmmm. I bet we’ll have another election about nothing…until he gets the return he wants, or Conservative Canadians realize we’re all being fleeced, and they’re going along with it.

  38. Why are Harper’s views on the Iraq war relevant? By not releasing their platform, Harper is asking Canadians to allow him to govern as he sees fit, and to trust his judgment. Trouble is, with Harper’s judgment would we see Canadian soldiers dying in Iraq as we speak.

  39. Would Harper be so quick to fall in behind the U.S. in a possible Iranian war? Good question. Ask it.

    Riley: Well, when Harper addressed Iran (during the National Post’s ‘Badges for Jews’ catastrophe) he, without hesitation, asserted that he believed the story.

    So, Harper’s answer would depend on what he’s read in the paper that day…I guess.

  40. “Trouble is, with Harper’s judgment would we see Canadian soldiers dying in Iraq as we speak.”

    Or, look at it in another way, had the world played its part properly there might not have been any soldiers in Iraq afterall:

    “He [Harper] maintained that his Canadian Alliance would “urge the necessary military preparations that make the avoidance of war possible.”

    There is a lot of truth to that, but a truth that most of the world at large could not fully understand and still isn’t willing to understand even now. You see, in order to appear stronger than the likes of Sadam, the world needed to play its cards right, and needed to hold them close to the chest.

    You don’t give the enemy an opportunity to look behind the scenes of its enemies. And yet, we seemed more than willing to do just that.

    I would rather put my trust in a leader who is capable of playing the game while holding the cards close to the chest then so-called leaders who arogantly profess to know everything AFTER the facts.

  41. MJ,

    I’m not a die-hard Conservative. In fact I have no idea who I will vote for in this election. Most of my life I voted Liberal but in 2006 I voted Conservative for the first time because I had had it with Paul Martin.

    I think Harper has totally mismanaged the afghanistan file (all talk, no walk) and am 100% against all his tax-credit mumbo jumbo because it muggles up the tax system and has virtually no benefit to the taxpayer. I also think he has done nothing to resolve healthcare issues in Canada and should be taken to task for failing to live up to his pledges on that file.

    I am upset that this election is about nothing because I am a 26 year old person struggling to pay down my student debt, lost a father this summer to cancer, have friends and neighbors fighting a war that the government does not pay attention to, and am worried that education in this country is lagging.

    Real issues, not made up ones, are what I think this campaign should be about. A NDP candidate who smokes up? Not interested. A Bob Rae press conference about a speech Harper gave in 2003 meant to scare us? Not interested.

    So if that makes me a die-hard Conservative to you, then so be it. But I wouldn’t categorize myself that way.

  42. Riley your similar to me in terms of voting patterns and motivation….however when the media refuses to discuss the ‘complex’ and dry issues that really do matter since they wont grab eyes like stealing speeches will….well then I’ll settle for the speech story if it will derail a CPC majority.

    Why? Because I’ve done my own research on their policies and plans – or lack there of – and they don’t sit well with a progressive egalitarian who cares about the downtrodden and the direction of our country such as myself.

    Not to mention Harper’s history and past positions as well as their performance on such things like the environment (Bali), Chalk River (pure party politics ahead of Canada), polling fiasco’s, immigration law tied to budgets, running from the press, attack politics in place of substance and debate, his inept underlings who are apparently our government etc etc etc

  43. JM said: “Harper als Uebermensch: Entwicklungen und Darstellungen des Konzervatives Nietschabteilung als Martinkritik.”

    As Mary Walsh said to Deb Grey “I’m a big fan of Preston Manning, but his speeches are much more edifying in the original German…”

  44. “Sorry that should be Nietzschabteilungs. My bad!”

    Actually, it should be “der Nietzsche-Abteilung”. The noun is feminine and doesn’t take an -s in the genetive (ignoring the fact that the rest of what you wrote was nonsense).

    If you’re going to try to impress with language, you better make sure you get it right. Apparently, the safest way is to plagiarise.

  45. I know, RIchard, I know: that damn feminine. I sat here for ten minutes wondering if I should write in and correct myself again and I just didn’t have the gumption.

    I blame my staff.

    (I still like the sound of Nietzschabteilung, btw, wrong though it may be…)

  46. “I blame my staff.”

    Brilliant!

  47. Hey, though, whaddaya mean my Mr. Wells’ chapter title is nonsense? It’s not “Harper as Superman: Developments and Descriptions of the Conservatives’ Nietzsche Faction as a Critique of Martin”? What could be clearer?

  48. Sorry, just not pleased with the translation. This is more accurate, if a little wordy: “Entwicklungen und Darstellungen der Nietzsche-Fraktion der Konservativen als Kritik an Martin”

    We need to double up on the genetive, I’m afraid, and avoid the final compound in your translation.

    I’d apologise to everyone for derailing the comments, but I’m sure they’ve long since stopped reading.

  49. Riley Hennessey:
    You made me think of a quote.
    “If you’re not a liberal at 20, you have no heart, and if you’re not a conservative at 40, you have no head.”– Winston Churchill

  50. I don’t think the Harper conservatives share much in common with the ones Churchill was thinking of.

    Some puffin. Some neck.

  51. “Some puffin. Some neck.”

    And the thread goes to…Sean S.

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