By Scott Taylor
On June 26, the government of Canada announced an extension to the current mission in Iraq by 12 months, to November 2020. Most Canadians are probably blissfully unaware that we even have troops in Iraq, or that back in November 2018 our military took command of the NATO effort to train Iraqi security forces.
This training cadre consists of 250 Canadians of a total NATO strength of 580 personnel. Based largely in Baghdad, this training mission is separate from the Canadian special forces deployment in northern Iraq, which continues to assist Iraqi forces as they mop up the remnants of the Daesh (aka ISIS or ISIL) fanatics who have remained defiant in defeat.
In announcing the extension, a lot of emphasis was its commander: Maj.-Gen. Jennie Carignan. A veteran combat soldier with tours in the Balkans and Afghanistan, Carignan will become the first woman to command Canadian troops at that rank level operationally.
By all accounts Carignan is a superb officer and I’m sure she and her fellow Canadians will acquit themselves in a most professional manner. What they will not be is successful in their endeavour, for the simple reason that no one has yet to define what success will be in the end for Iraq.
When the NATO mission was first proposed, and Canada agreed to command it, there was no actual objective stated. It was simply a 12-month commitment of resources and money. Now that has become a 24-month commitment and still no final goal has been stated.
No one has defined the size of the security force Iraq needs or how proficient it should be before NATO’s work is considered complete. During Saddam Hussein’s three-decade rule, Iraq had mandatory-conscripted military service for all adult males. From 1980 to 1988 Iraq battled Iran in a bloody war of attrition. In 1991 the U.S. coalition destroyed a fully mobilized Iraqi army in the mother of all one-sided conflicts, and then repeated that widespread destruction of Iraq’s military when America invaded in 2003.
No one ever formally surrendered the Iraqi armed forces in May 2003, the military and police force simply dissolved, and what units remained were disbanded by the new U.S. masters.
However, by August 2003, as the Iraqi insurgency began to coalesce, the Americans began to recruit and train a new Iraqi security force. Over the past 16 years, the U.S. has spent hundreds of billions of dollars, training hundreds of thousands of Iraqis to kill, while outfitting them with the necessary weaponry and vehicles to achieve that objective.
Now the NATO brain trust has determined that yet more young Iraqi males need to learn to be soldiers, and Canada has agreed to command that effort.
Since I cannot wish Maj.-Gen. Carignan success, I do wish her and all the elite Canadian soldiers tasked with this fool’s errand, godspeed and a safe return.
Closer to home on the same topic, there is a new exhibit at the Canadian War Museum. It is entitled ‘Portraits of Courage: President George W. Bush’s Tribute to American Veterans.’ The exhibit features 51 paintings by the former U.S. president depicting former soldiers with visible and invisible wounds, suffered during the wars fighting when Bush was America’s commander-in-chief.
It must be remembered that Canada did not fall for the Bush administration’s lie about Saddam possessing weapons of mass destruction. As a result we opted out of supporting Bush’s Iraq invasion in 2003.
The initiative of bringing the Bush portraits to Ottawa was funded by U.S. Ambassador to Canada Kelly Craft, and her billionaire husband Joe Craft.
What I do not understand is why this collection is being displayed in a museum dedicated to preserving Canadian military history. Paintings of wounded American veterans painted by a former U.S. president are not part of Canada’s military legacy.
If it is intended as a gesture of goodwill to cement Canada-U.S. relations then maybe it belongs in the lobby of Global Affairs Canada headquarters.