- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 12, 2002

The prime minister of Canada dripped with moral concern about President Bush's drive to oust Saddam Hussein and warned tut-tut that before Canada supports a war against Iraq he wants solid proof of any links between Iraq and the terrorist network. If no proof is forthcoming, Canada won't support such a war: That was the warning that issued from the Bush-Chretien meeting in Detroit earlier this week.

Whatever the final outcome, President Bush knows one thing about our neighbor to the north. Canada's war-making assets are so insignificant they couldn't suppress a soccer riot let alone be of any help in a war against terrorism. This is not to minimize the valor of the Canadian soldiers who fought and died in Afghanistan in the war against the Taliban. What is true is that even if Canada said it would support a second Gulf war, it would hardly matter because its military power is virtually nonexistent.

Just this week, a private citizens' group, Council for Canadian Security in the 21st Century, issued a devastating report on the pathetic state of Canada's defenses. The council, headed by Professor J. L. Granatstein, one of Canada's most distinguished historians, attacked the Chretien government's "business-as-usual" policies, adding that "Canada must be viewed as the easy entrance to the United States, the weak spot in America's defenses." As a confirming headline in the National Post, a leading Canadian daily, put it: "The fact is, Canada has little to bring to a war." Here's the documentation:

(1) Canada's Air Force has few experienced pilots. Since the government refuses to pay a competitive wage, most now fly commercially for Air Canada.

(2) Canada is running low on ammunition. Its meager supply of laser-guided munitions has not been replenished since its F18s flew missions over Serbia and Kosovo almost four years ago.

(3) Canada's navy cannot support more than three warships if that at a time in a battle-zone like the Persian Gulf.

(4) Canada hasn't enough combat physicians to staff a field hospital.

(5) Canada could only muster 40 commandos if called upon.

"Canada's Armed Forces have been allowed to deteriorate," writes Matthew Fisher in the National Post, "to the point where the country has almost nothing to contribute if the United States decides to go after Saddam again."

And Canada wasn't much help in the first Gulf war. Mr. Fisher reveals that Canadian army chiefs at the time wanted to ship tanks from the Canadian base in Germany to help expel Iraq from Kuwait. The Mulroney government vetoed that because "Canada wanted no part of the potentially lethal business of committed grounds troops to Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf's Desert Storm."

With such a bleak warmaking potential, Canada presents another problem for the United States: its porous border, which a Canadian Senate Committee on National Security and Defense a few days ago revealed could turn Canada into a "soft underbelly" in continental security. The report pointed to the number of small harbors "that really have nobody watching them," said Colin Kenny, the Senate committee chairman, adding:

"We think it is possible that you can have weapons of mass destruction that could come ashore in a relatively small vessel, be landed and shipped away very quickly."

The tradition of Canada's elites, especially in its Foreign Office, is to oppose the United States without seeming to. As Robert Fulford, one of Canada's distinguished intellectuals, has written:

"Anti-Americanism holds a cherished place in the Canadian imagination, right beside hockey, health care. It is our birthright, and it is what we have instead of a foreign policy."

And the National Post isn't the only Canadian journal that has pointed the finger at the Chretien government's laggard attention to Islamist terrorism. The liberal Toronto Globe & Mail headlined an expose Sept. 7: "Canadian soil a long-time staging ground for al Qaeda." The article says al Qaeda "has been in Canada for nearly a decade." These terrorist groups "are using Canada as a launching pad to take other targets because the Canadian system is very lax," according to Rohan Gunaratna, terrorism expert at the Center for Study of International Terrorism at St. Andrews University in Edinburgh.

Jean Chretien is coming to the close of his political career and he is seeking some achievements as a heritage to his three terms as prime minister. That is why he has suddenly become a fanatical supporter of the Kyoto Protocol in face of widespread opposition by Canadian opinion, especially in resource-rich Alberta.

If he really wants to be remembered as a great achiever, let Mr. Chretien devote some of Canada's resources to combating the terrorist threat to North America.


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