Canada's Covert War in Iraq

(published under the title "Canada's Secret Complicity in the Iraq War," The CCPA Monitor, Sept. 2008, pp.7-8)

By Richard Sanders, coordinator, Coalition to Oppose the Arms Trade; editor, Press for Conversion!


We've all been bombarded with media-spread mantras lulling us into the delusion that Canada’s Liberal government bravely stood up to US pressure and refused to join the so called "Coalition of the Willing" against Iraq. This sly official narrative is so powerful that most Canadians—even those on the "left"—have difficulty accepting the truth about Canada's active participation in this US-led war.


However, Canada's support for the Iraq war was gratefully acknowledged by then-U.S. Ambassador to Canada, Paul Cellucci. On March 25, 2003. during the "shock and awe" bombardment of Iraq, he admitted that "ironically, Canadian naval vessels, aircraft and personnel...will supply more support to this war in Iraq indirectly...than most of those 46 countries that are fully supporting our efforts there."[i]


Although Cellucci only scratched the surface of Canada's initial support for the war, at least he let the cat out of the bag. Only a week earlier then-Secretary of State Colin Powell had explained, to much fanfare, that "We now have a coalition of the willing...who have publicly said they could be included in such a listing."[ii] Canada's absence from Powell's list of publicly admitted supporters is used as proof that Canada actually opted out of this unpopular war. Ignored is the fact that Powell went on to say that "there are 15 other nations, who, for one reason or another do not wish to be publicly named but will be supporting the coalition."[iii]


Canada was, and still is, the leading member of this in-the-closet coalition of governments that are more than willing to support the Iraq war but refuse to be "publicly named."


Because Canada's avid, but furtive, participation in Iraq has remained shrouded in secrecy, the following facts about our government's profound complicity in this war should be disseminated as widely as possible.


Leading, Protecting and Supplying the Coalition Navy

At the war's onset, a Canadian destroyer—the Iroquois—led a fleet of 20 warships from six nations through the Persian Gulf. Task Force 151 was commanded by Canadian Rear-Admiral Roger Girouard from February 7 to June 15, 2003.[iv] The role of this fleet—which included four multi-billion dollar Canadian frigates—was to "protect US aircraft they were in a position to lend direct assistance to coalition forces in transit to or engaged in operations against Iraq."[v] Operating right up to the shores of Kuwait, this Canadian-led naval force put US warships safely in place to conduct the deadly, "shock-and-awe" bombardment of Iraq. Besides performing these "force-protection operations," Canadian warships contributed vital "fleet-support" functions that were "crucial to sustaining coalition naval operations."[vi]


Putting Army Generals in Command
In January 2008, Brig. Gen. Nicolas Matern—former head of Canada's JTF2 "counter-terrorism" commandos—began work in Iraq as Deputy Commanding General of the U.S. Army's 18th Airborne Corps.[vii]  Matern reports directly to the US general who leads the 170,000-strong Multi-National Corps‑Iraq (MNC‑I), "the tactical unit responsible for command and control of operations throughout Iraq."[viii]


Maj. Gen. Peter Devlin—who was Deputy Commander General of the MNC‑I from early January 2007 until at least May 2008—said during his deployment that "It is an honour to be serving with the Coalition Forces in Iraq and I am fiercely proud to be wearing a Canadian flag."[ix]


Throughout 2004, Maj. Gen. Walt Natynczyk was the Deputy Commanding General of MNC‑I. (See "George Orwell meets Canada’s General Walt Natynczyk in Iraq," p.X.)


Providing War Planners

Months before the Iraq war began, Canadian military planners working with U.S. Central Command at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida, became "directly involved in planning the war against Iraq."[x]. Twenty five Canadian war planners were transferred to As Sayliyah, Qatar, a US military base in the Persian Gulf[xi]—the "command-and-control headquarters" where the Iraq war was orchestrated.


Helping Conduct the Air War
Canadian military personnel, working aboard American E-3 "Sentry" Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) aircraft, helped coordinate the air war by providing surveillance, command, control and communications services to US warfighters.  AWACS are nerve centres for data used to "gain and maintain control of the air battle" and direct warplanes to their targets.[xii]  As Commanding Officer of the Canadian Component at Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma, from 2001 to 2004, Canadian Colonel M.P. Galvin "was responsible for Canadian Forces members flying with US AWACS crews in contingency and combat operations over Afghanistan and Iraq."[xiii]


Providing Airspace and Refuelling

Countless U.S. warplanes carrying weapons and troops to and from the Iraq war have overflown Canada. Newfoundland airports have been used for refuelling and crew changes. As Gary Vey, CEO of the Gander Airport Authority said in March 2003: 'We've been getting roughly 2 or 3 U.S. flights a day, with probably 1000 troops coming through each day."[xiv]"


Providing Air Transport

Three Canadian CC-130 military transport planes supplied coalition forces during the Iraq war, said Lt. Gen. Michael Moseley, commander of Central Command Air Forces, in “Operation Iraqi Freedom: By the Numbers.”[xv]


Freeing up U.S. Troops

On February 5, 2003, Brian Tobin—who had recently resigned as the Liberal's Industry Minister—wrote "The U.S. needs to free up key logistical and military assets on the ground in Afghanistan for the coming campaign in Iraq. Canada can, and should, offer to fill the gap."[xvi] A week later, Defence Minister John McCallum announced a major troop deployment to Afghanistan.[xvii] By August, more than 1800 Canadian soldiers were in Kabul.[xviii]


Providing Ground Troops

After many denials, the government finally admitted in late March 2003 that about 31 Canadian soldiers on exchange missions with U.S., Australian and British forces were engaged in Iraq.  "We are behind them 100 per cent," said McCallum.[xix] One of these soldiers, Maj. Ghislain Sauve, entered Iraq with British forces on March 22, 2003, "wearing his Canadian Forces uniform 'with flags and everything,'" while back in Canada, his government was still denying that Canadians were in Iraq. Sauve—who was "second in command of a team...setting up military camps" in Iraq[xx]—was inducted into Britain's "Most Excellent Order of the British Empire," a rare distinction for a Canadian. The award was pinned to his uniform by the Queen at Buckingham Palace.


Facilitating US Weapons Testing

Two types of cruise missiles (AGM-86 and -129) and the Global Hawk (RQ-4A) surveillance drone, used extensively in Iraq, were tested over Canada.


Depleted Uranium (DU) Weapons

Canada is the world's top exporter of uranium. DU is a waste product left over when uranium is processed for power plants. The US has used DU munitions in Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Iraq. Also, many US missiles, bombs and warplanes used in Iraq contain DU ballast.[xxi]


Providing RADARSAT Data

From the war's onset, U.S. military "Eagle Vision" ground stations have controlled Canada's publicly-funded RADARSAT-1 satellite and downloaded its data for weapons targeting in Iraq.[xxii] Since its December 2007 launch, RADARSAT-2 has also been accessible to US warfighters in Iraq.


Diplomatic Cheerleading

Then-Prime Minister Jean Chrétien not only said the U.S. "had the right to invade Iraq,"[xxiii] he "urged Canadians...not to criticise the U.S. for attacking Iraq because this could be construed as supporting Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein."[xxiv]


Training Iraqi Police

RCMP officers stationed at the heavily-fortified, US-built "International Police Training Center" outside Amman, Jordan, have helped "train 32,000 new Iraqi police officers who are being deployed to replace war-weary US soldiers."[xxv]


Training Iraqi Troops

Between 2005 and 2006, Canada provided $2.5 million to NATO Training Mission‑Iraq (NTI‑I) to "conduct leadership training and mentoring for Iraqi security forces."[xxvi] Canada was the leading donor to this centre and provided "30 instructors."[xxvii] A Canadian Colonel, David Marshall, was deployed to Baghdad as Special Advisor to the Deputy Commanding General of NTM‑I.[xxviii] Another Canadian Colonel, R.B.Fawcett, "led the planning efforts for...the Iraq Training Mission."[xxix]


Supporting Iraq's Interior Ministry

Since May 2003, Canada has provided "senior police officers" and financial support to Iraq's Ministry of the Interior (MOI)[xxx] whose death squads are "responsible for abduction, torture and murder."[xxxi] In 2006, the UN's human rights chief in Iraq reported that "[h]undreds of Iraqis are being tortured to death or summarily executed every month in Baghdad alone by death squads working from the Ministry of the Interior."[xxxii]


Military Exports

At least 100 Canadian military industries have supplied the Iraq war. For example, SNC-TEC sold millions of bullets for U.S. forces occupying Iraq; General Dynamics Canada has sold hundreds of "Stryker" armoured vehicles that have logged millions of miles in Iraq; and Bristol Aerospace sells cluster-bomb dispensing CRV rockets fired by US aircraft in Iraq.[xxxiii]


Canada Pension Plan (CPP) Investments

The CPP invests Canadian's pension funds in hundreds of war-related industries, including most of the world's top 20 weapons producers. CPP investments include leading prime contractors for virtually every major US weapons system used in Iraq.[xxxiv]


So, the next time a proud fellow citizen tells you that Canada didn't join the Iraq war, send them this article and remind them of Mark Twain's famous qwip:

"It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so."


For more information, visit the Coalition to Oppose the Arms Trade (COAT) website <> and read Press for Conversion! (subscription $25).  COAT, 541 McLeod St., Ottawa ON  K1R 5R2.  Email:




[i] Speech, Paul Cellucci, Economic Club of Toronto, March 25, 2003.


[ii] Interview, Colin Powell, International Wire Services, Washington, DC, March 18, 2003.
[iii] Ibid.

[iv] Canada, US Central Command

[v] Frank P. Harvey, American Multilateralism in Iraq, 2004.

[vi] Canada, US Central Command, Op. Cit.

[vii]Brigadier-General Nicolas E. Matern,

[viii] MNC‑I website

[ix] "Western alumnus is Deputy Commanding General in Iraq," Western Alumni Gazatte, Spring 2007. p.8.

[x] Harvey, op cit. p.234.

[xi] "Canadian to command allied warships in the Gulf,"

[xii] E-3, Air Force Fact Sheets

[xiii] Senior Officer Biography, Col. M.P. Galvin, CD

[xiv] Ottawa Citizen, March 22, 2003.

[xv] April 30, 2003 by CENTAF, Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina.

[xvi] Globe and Mail, February 5, 2003.

[xvii] "Canadian soldiers heading back to Afghanistan," CBC, February 12, 2003.

[xviii] "1,800 Canadian troops headed to Afghanistan," CBC News, May 6, 2003.

[xix] "Canadian troops in Iraq, Ottawa concedes," Toronto Star, Mar. 31, 2003.

[xx] Colin Campbell, "Canada: A Dedicated Presence in Iraq," Maclean's, May 29, 2006.

[xxi] Depleted Uranium weapons in 2001

[xxii] Richard Sanders, "Meet Eaglevision: US Military Bridgehead to RADARSAT," Press for Conversion!, March 2006.

[xxiii] Brian Laghi, “Americans had the right to attack Iraq, Chrétien says,” Globe and Mail, March 21, 2003, p.12

[xxiv] David Ljunggren, "Stop Criticizing U.S. Over Iraq, Canadian PM Says," Reuters, March 20, 2003.

[xxv] Martin Patriquin, "Coalition of the Sort-of Willing," The Walrus, March 2005.

[xxvi] NATO's Assistance to Iraq

[xxvii] Jeremy Sharp and Christopher Blanchard, "Post-War Iraq: Foreign Contributions to Training, Peacekeeping, and Reconstruction," Sept. 25, 2007.

[xxviii] Senior Officer Biography, Col. D.D. Marshall

[xxix] Senior Officer Biography, R.B. Fawcett, CD

[xxx] RCMP International Peacekeeping Branch Review 2004/2005

[xxxi] Iraq: End Interior Ministry Death Squads, Oct.29, 2006.

[xxxii] Andrew Buncombe and Patrick Cockburn, "Iraq's death squads: On the brink of civil war," The Independent, Feb. 26, 2006.

[xxxiii] "Operation Embedded Complicity: Canada, Playing our Part in the Business of War," Press for Conversion!, October 2003.

[xxxiv] Ibid.


Related article: "George Orwell meets Canada’s General Walt Natynczyk in Iraq"