[shniad at sfu.ca: [R-G] Canada hints at giving U.S. blank cheque]
ehrbar at econ.utah.edu
Fri Jan 10 17:47:06 MST 2003
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John McCallums e-mail address is McCallum.J at parl.gc.ca
His office phone is (613) 996-3374
The Gazette Friday, January 10, 2003
Canada commits on Iraq
McCallum's pledge. We'll do our duty, he tells Rumsfeld, possibly without
formal UN sanction
Defence Minister John McCallum yesterday affirmed Canada's support for a
U.S.-led war in Iraq, and said Ottawa could even commit forces to it without
United Nations authorization.
In the clearest enunciation yet of the federal government's position,
McCallum assured U.S. Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld that Canada will
definitely be "militarily involved" if the Security Council approves an
invasion against Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.
"We are committed to doing our duty if the UN authorizes force," he told
reporters after meeting Rumsfeld yesterday.
Asked whether Canada would contribute forces if the U.S. decides to go it
alone in Iraq, McCallum answered: "Some may say, 'We're doing it only with a
UN mandate.' We're saying we much prefer that, but we may do it otherwise."
The comments signalled a departure from Ottawa's earlier position, which
steadfastly maintained Canada would become involved in the Persian Gulf only
after formal UN authorization.
He cautioned that no firm decision has been made on what will happen if the
U.S. decides to act without the UN's blessing.
"There is no country in the world more committed to the multilateral process
than Canada," McCallum said.
"If the situation is grey or murky, we reserve the right to make our
decision at that time."
In recent weeks, Canada has indicated to U.S. authorities it might be
willing to send elite special-forces troops from the Joint Task Force 2, and
could also commit some navy frigates to assist in a U.S.-led campaign
McCallum said the operational details of Canada's contribution to any
eventual war in Iraq were not addressed in his discussions with Rumsfeld.
Those will be handled by Canadian military officials who are attached to
U.S. Central Command in Tampa, Fla., where the principal war planning is
"It's important to plan for contingencies in the event we become involved,"
While Canada is ready to support a military campaign against Saddam,
McCallum said he didn't get the impression from Rumsfeld war with Iraq is
"Canada remains committed to finding a peaceful solution to this, and
there's certainly no indication from the Americans that war is inevitable,"
He also played down media reports that U.S. and Britain have cut Canadian
military officials out of the war-planning loop.
McCallum acknowledged U.S.-based Canadian military officials were not kept
abreast of certain developments in the early stages, but that has changed as
Canada's position becomes clearer.
"There was a time when we had not indicated our position at all on Iraq and
some planning went on in our absence. But we subsequently indicated we are
interested and the moment we so indicated we were involved in those
discussions," McCallum said.
Canada could also soon be in a position to make more meaningful
contributions to allied military efforts.
McCallum said he is "relatively optimistic" he has successfully made the
case for increased defence spending in the next federal budget, expected in
The United States has loudly complained about Canada's relatively puny
spending on defence as a percentage of gross domestic product.
But McCallum said the U.S. military leadership is satisfied with Canada's
contribution vis-à-vis Iraq.
"The secretary seemed very happy with what I said to him," he said.
The Canadian military has been facing a funding crisis due to a decade of
cutbacks and many analysts say the country has very little to offer a
A Senate committee even went so far last fall as to suggest that Canadian
Forces should not be sent on a foreign deployment for at least two years in
order to address a shortfall in equipment and training.
McCallum told reporters he has requested more money in the budget for
defence. He said he won't know what will happen until the budget is tabled
In his 45-minute meeting with Rumsfeld, McCallum also addressed a number of
North American military issues, including anti-ballistic missile defence.
McCallum said a fact-finding team will travel to Washington on Jan. 20 to
begin discussions on whether Canada should have a role in continental
In December, Rumsfeld announced the U.S. will begin deploying anti-missile
defence systems in Alaska and California by 2004.
One topic the men did not discuss was how to prevent recurrences of last
spring's friendly fire incident, which cost the lives of four Canadian
soldiers in Afghanistan.
The two pilots accused of dropping a laser-guided bomb on the troops, who
were conducting a nighttime exercise, will have a hearing next week to
determine if they will be court-martialed for their role in the tragedy.
When pressed, McCallum said "I would normally comment, but this is a case
that's before the American justice system."
CP contributed to this report; AP; Washington Post, London Daily Telegraph
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