Canada's "Open Secret": Deep Complicity in the Iraq War
By Richard Sanders, Editor, Press for Conversion!; Coordinator,
Coalition to Oppose the Arms Trade
A Canadian Brig. Gen., Nicolas Matern, has just arrived in Baghdad. This former commander of Canada's Joint Task Force 2 counter-terrorism unit is the deputy commander of the US 18th Airborne Corps and he now reports to Lt. Gen. Lloyd Austin III, who leads the 170,000-strong Multi-National Corps-Iraq. Its primary task is to conduct "offensive operations to defeat remaining non-compliant forces."
Matern is the third Canadian Forces (CF) general to help lead a command group overseeing the U.S.-led war in Iraq. His predecessor, CF Maj. Gen. Peter Devlin was the Deputy Commander General of the Multi-National Force-Iraq since December 2006.
Prior to Devlin's posting, which started in January 2004, CF Maj. Gen. Walt Natynczyk commanded ten brigades totalling 35,000 troops stationed throughout Iraq. When Gov. Gen. Adrienne Clarkson gave Natynczyk Canada's Meritorious Service Cross, her office extolled his "pivotal role in the development of numerous plans and operations [which] resulted in a tremendous contribution to...Operation IRAQI FREEDOM, and...brought great credit to the Canadian Forces and to Canada."
It may come as a surprise to most Canadians—including many peace activists in this country—that Canada is even involved in the Iraq war. Even more shocking may be the news that the provision of top CF personnel to command posts in Iraq is but one example among many contributions that the Canadian government has made to this US-led war.
Unfortunately, the Liberal government's 2003 pretence that Canada was opting out of participation in Iraq has been repeated so many times that it has become accepted as the truth. Even when presented with multifarious examples of Canada's complicity in this war, some Canadians are loath to believe it. The fact that the Canadian government has been a major player in the Iraq war since its very inception, also directly contradicts the powerful national myth that Canada is a global force for peace.
This Canadian myth has taken on the appearance of a state religion and some of its faithful adherents demonstrate a strong reluctance to question it. This is evident in Rabble's online "leftwing discussion forum" (called Babble) where a debate has raged since the publication of an earlier version of this article appeared in Vancouver's Common Ground magazine (February 2008). Here's the link to that article.
To read the initial Babble discussion about Canada's role in the Iraq war, click this link: This discussion now continues here, if you want to contribute to it.
While many Canadians, even some on the "left," have difficulty accepting the
reality that Canada is deeply engaged in the Iraq war, this fact was admitted
early on by then-U.S. Ambassador to Canada, Paul Cellucci. On March 25, 2003,
during the "shock and awe" bombardment of Iraq, Cellucci gratefully acknowledged
to members of the posh Economic Club of Toronto, 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
Although Cellucci's statement merely scratched the surface of Canada's initial "support" for the Iraq war, at least he let the cat out of the bag. As then-Secretary of State Colin Powell had explained a week earlier, "We now have a coalition of the willing...who have publicly said they could be included in such a listing.... And there are 15 other nations, who, for one reason or another do not wish to be publicly named but will be supporting the coalition."
Canada was, and still is, the leading member of this secret group, which we could perhaps call CW-HUSH, the "Coalition of the Willing to Help but Unwilling to be Seen Helping."
The plan worked. Most Canadians still proudly believe that their government refused to join the Iraq war. Nothing could be further from the truth. Here are some of the other ways in which our government joined the fray:
Protecting and Supporting the Coalition Navy:
Thirteen hundred Canadian troops aboard four of Canada's multibillion dollar warships escorted the multinational fleet, including US aircraft carriers, through the Persian Gulf and right up to the shores of Kuwait, thus putting them safely in place to bomb Iraq. Besides performing such "force-protection operations," Canadian frigates also contributed vital "fleet-support" functions to coalition warships.
Leading the Coalition Navy:
Canadian Rear-Admiral Roger Girouard commanded Coalition Task Force 151, leading 20 warships from six countries during the "shock and awe" bombardment of Iraq which killed thousands of innocent people.
Providing War Planners:
At least two dozen Canadian war planners working at U.S. Central Command in Florida were transferred to the Persian Gulf in early 2003 to help oversee the war's complicated logistics.
Helping Coordinate the War:
Canadian military personnel, working aboard American E-3 Airborne Warning and Control System warplanes, helped direct the electronic war by providing surveillance, command, control and communications services to US warfighters.
Providing Airspace and Refuelling:
Canada allowed countless U.S. warplanes to fly over Canada, on their way to and from the Iraq war. Many of these flights stopped in Gander and Stephenville, Newfoundland, for refueling and crew changes. Gary Vey, head of the Gander Airport Authority, told the Ottawa Citizen that “In recent weeks...we've been getting roughly two or three U.S. flights a day, with probably 1000 troops coming through each day" (March 22, 2003).
Providing Air Transport:
At least three Canadian CC-130 military transport planes were listed by the U.S. military as helping supply coalition forces during the Iraq war.
Freeing up U.S. Troops:
Canada's major role in the Afghan war has freed up many thousands of U.S. troops for deployment to Iraq.
Providing Ground Troops:
At least 35 Canadian soldiers were directly under U.S. command, in an exchange capacity, on the ground, participating in the invasion of Iraq.
Facilitating US Weapons Testing:
Two types of cruise missiles (AGM-86 and -129) and the Global Hawk (RQ-4A) surveillance drone, used in Iraq, were tested over Canada.
Depleted Uranium (DU) Weapons:
Canada is the world's top exporter of uranium. Our government pretends that Canada's uranium is sold for peaceful purposes only, but absolutely nothing is done to stop the U.S. from using DU in their weapons. America's A-10 Wart Hog warplanes have fired DU munitions in Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Iraq, while each cruise missile contains three kgs of DU ballast.
Providing RADARSAT Data:
Eagle Vision, a U.S. Air Force mobile ground station which controls Canada's RADARSAT-1 satellite and downlinks its data was used from the start of the Iraq war. Since December 2007, RADARSAT-2 data has also been available to US warfighters in Iraq.
Then-Prime Minister Jean Chrétien supported the right of the U.S. to invade Iraq, although Kofi Annan said it was an illegal occupation. Chrétien "urged Canadians...not to criticise the US for attacking Iraq," saying that to do so "would comfort Saddam Hussein."
Training Iraqi Police:
Canada has spent millions sending RCMP officers to Jordan to train tens of thousands of cadets for Iraq's paramilitary police force.
Training Iraqi Troops:
High-level Canadian military personnel joined the NATO Training Mission in Iraq to train the trainers of Iraqi Security Forces who are on the leading edge of the U.S. occupation. A Canadian colonel, under NATO command, was chief of staff at the Baghdad-based training mission. Canada was the leading donor to this centre, providing an initial $810 thousand.
Funding Iraq's Interior Ministry:
Canada provides advisors and financial support to this Ministry which has been caught running torture centres. Thousands of its officers have been withdrawn for corruption, and it has been accused of working with death squads that executed a thousand people per month in Baghdad alone during the summer of 2006.
At least 100 Canadian companies sold parts and/or services for major weapons systems used in the Iraq war. For example, Quebec-based SNC-TEC sold millions of bullets to the U.S. military forces occupying Iraq. General Dynamics Canada, in London Ontario, sold hundreds of armoured vehicles to the US and Australia. Between October 2003 and November 2005, these troop transport vehicles logged over 6 million miles in Iraq. And, Winnipeg's Bristol Aerospace sells cluster-bomb dispensing warheads used by US aircraft in Iraq.
Canada Pension Plan (CPP) Investments:
The CPP forces working Canadians outside Quebec to invest their pension money in hundreds of military industries, including most of the world's top 20 weapons producers. These CPP investments include the leading prime contractors for virtually all the major US weapons systems used in Iraq.
So, the next time a proud fellow citizen tells you that Canada didn't join the Iraq war, refer them to this article and then remind them of Mark Twain's famous qwip:
For more information, on the myth of Canada's role as a global peacemaker, read Press for Conversion! and visit the Coalition to Oppose the Arms Trade (COAT) website <http://coat.ncf.ca> An annual subscription to COAT's magazine is $25. COAT, 541 McLeod St., Ottawa ON K1R 5R2. Email: email@example.com
To view COAT's online slideshow about Canada's role in the Iraq War, click on
the graphic of Mark Twain.