Canada Escalates Gulf Military Role

By Dirlik, John | Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, March 1991 | Go to article overview

Canada Escalates Gulf Military Role


Dirlik, John, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs


Marking a dramatic change in Canada's role in the Gulf war, Canadian fighter pilots, for the first time since the war in Korea, engaged in offensive military action in southern Iraq and Kuwait.

The squadron of CF-18s dispatched to Qatar at the beginning of the Gulf crisis was originally to have played a strictly defensive part by providing air cover for allied vessels on sea patrol.

But on Jan. 19, barely a day after Iraqi missiles first fell on Israel, Canadian fighters began participating in what are known as sweep and escort missions. These missions involve flying ahead of American jets to engage and draw away enemy interceptors, as well as providing escort during bombing runs.

Officials with the External Affairs department have denied that Canada's more confrontational position in the Gulf was directly related to Iraq's attack on Tel Aviv. But skeptical observers point to Prime Minister Brian Mulrooney's statement immediately after the incident that "Canada will not sit idly in the face of unprovoked attacks...We will commit a full and, if need be, a growing role."

During a debate in the House of Commons on Jan. 22, Mulrooney was even more blunt: "We have resolved never to remain indifferent while Israel is threatened with mass destruction," he said.

In the same debate, a motion to reaffirm Canada's support for UN resolution 678 authorizing the forceful liberation of Kuwait was overwhelmingly approved by a vote of 217 to 47. Even the opposition Liberal party, which had denounced the UN resolution before the outbreak of the war, now reluctantly endorsed it, saying Canadian troops in combat deserved their country's full support.

Only the New Democratic Party (NDP), the third-largest party, with 44 seats in Parliament, continued to oppose the war. "We saw the use of military force as a mistake and we continue to see it as a mistake," said the party's defense critic, John Brewin.

After NDP leader Audrey McLaughlin promised that her party would play a leading role in the anti-war movement, a coalition of Canadian Arab groups told her they fully agreed that "although Iraq's occupation of Kuwait is unacceptable, so is Canadian participation in the US-led offensive against Iraq."

Jewish Community Denounces Canada's Anti-War Movement

Members of Canada's Jewish community held emotional rallies in major Canadian cities not only to vent their rage at Iraq for its missile attacks on Israel, but also to denounce the "no blood for oil" peace movement that is spreading across the country.

Braving sub-zero temperatures, 5,000 Montrealers heard fiery speeches supporting the war against Iraq. "This is not the time for peace rallies and demonstrations of weakness," Rabbi Allan Nadler told a cheering crowd that waved Israeli flags. "The pacifists, by demanding the end of the war, are protecting a bloody dictator," he said.

"Peace activists must be taught that war is not an absolute evil and that sometimes war must be fought in order to prevent it," explained Rabbi Reuben Poupko, who told Jewish youngsters they should be ready to go help Israel even if their families objected. …

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