Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Troops home by February, 2009: Why, that's now!

Imagine what the world would be like today if the NDP had exercised a dose of pragmatism (which they were willing to do during the coalition talks, if it meant they got seats in cabinet) and had voted with the Liberals on this motion two years ago:

A Liberal motion to end Canadian combat operations in southern Afghanistan by February 2009 was defeated in the House of Commons on Tuesday.

The NDP joined the Conservatives in defeating the motion, which lost by a close vote of 150-134.

NDP Leader Jack Layton said the vote was nothing more than a green light for an extension to the mission. The NDP wants the troops out immediately.
Yes, that's right. If the NDP had given an inch and voted with the Liberals on this motion, the last of our troops would be home from Afghanistan by now. Something to ponder, I think, as some of my friends on the left take glee today writing about Conservative and Liberal war mongers, and Jack Layton's prescient leadership.

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Robert McClelland said...

If the Liberals had given an inch and voted with the NDP and Bloc to bring the troops home immediately imagine...well, you don't actually have to imagine at all how many Canadian soldiers would still be alive today.

Jeff said...

First of all Robert, classy with the last bit there, so kudos for that.

Second, an immediate pull-out when Canada had committed to 2009 would have been irresponsible to our allies and to Afghanistan. Such a position was never going to fly in the house and the NDP full-well knew it. Little support in Canada for such a view either.

The Liberal compromise position was make clear we will be leaving after our current commitment, and give our allies time to fill the gap. Not good enough for the NDP, so we're there until 2011.

You want to talk about the lives of Canadian soldiers, Robert, like the NDP is so god-dammed righteous? I guess the NDP didn't care about lives when it abandoned its righteous immediate pullout position as part of the coalition talks, now did it? Or do cabinet seats trump lives?

The troops would be home today if the NDP had voted with the Liberals on that motion.


Greg Fingas said...

Ummm...you may want to recheck your facts as to who was willing to compromise in order to pass a motion, and who said "my way or the highway". (Though I'll grant that it's to neither party's credit that nothing ended up getting worked out.)

pogge said...

And if 24 Liberals led by Michael Ignatieff (remember the handshake?) hadn't voted with the Conservatives in 2006 to extend the mission to Feb. 2009, the troops could have been home long before now.

How far back would you like to go?

Eugene Forsey Liberal said...

I completely agree with you on the NDP's morally reprehensible knavery. But to be intellectually & morally coherent, you should also mention that 1/4 of Liberal MPs who voted with the Con Gov't in 2006 to prolong the mission to 2009. As Dion pointed out at time, this should not have been a free vote as it was not some question of very personal philosophical difference, like abortion or capital punishment, but an extremely crucial "normal" public policy vote. Again, as Dion said, a position should have been decided in caucus, one way or the other, and in extremis, those in disagreement should have been allowed to absent themselves or suffer the consequences of voting against the caucus' position. But as you know full well, because Graham, although just interim leader, was committed to the mission, and, more importantly, the then most prominent candidate in the leadership race, Michael Ignatieff, was famously and loudly in favour of the mission and had just enough MPs willing to follow him in the interest of riding his coattails to eventual prominence, our Liberal MPs decided on a free vote. In the end, the motion passed by FOUR (4) VOTES! Ignatieff + one of his supporters would have been enough to defeat it. Had we had even a 1-line or 2-line whipped vote, as Dion suggested, it would have been defeated.

Chrétien engaged in some canny realpolitik, refusing engagement in Iraq but sending us to Afghanistan for a limited period, in Kabul, the most secure area, where we suffered, while JC was in office, not a single casualty, while pleasing the USA by effectively subsidising their Afghan-Iraq mission by taking some of the load off their hands. We all know and understand this. Had Chrétien remained in office, who thinks he would have let us get drawn in further and who thinks he & Goldenberg would have got us out of there asap (perhaps subsidising the USA by doing more elsewhere, like Haiti, which is also good for direct Canadian interests)? Poser la question, c'est y répondre.

The NDP has as much blood on its hands as anyone. But there are some Liberals who are just as bad, as I noted a while back: "When the Afghanistan mission was extended in 2006, by four votes, with Ignatieff's support (had he opposed it, enough of his followers would have done likewise to defeat the motion), Nicola Goddard had just become the 17th Canadian casualty. By February 2007, when we would have normally withdrawn, 28 more Canadians were dead. Now, by February 2009, 111 Canadians have died, 66 more than if we had left in February 2007. Forget for a second the billions of dollars we could better use either in more worthwhile development elsewhere or at home. All those who voted for the extension, the Cons of course, but some of our own Liberals most shamefully, have the blood of at least 66 Canadians on their hands. Not to mention the inevitable coarsening of our military culture and consequent human rights abuses which accompany any occupation (it's not how we see it that counts, it's how the Pushtun perceive it that does - enough of them see it as an occupation to make an occupation)."

Robert McClelland said...

Don't hide behind NATO's skirt, Jeff. Other nations have managed to pass legislation and withdraw their troops from one of Bush's misadventures without letting down their allies or suffering any ill effect from it. The facts are that the Liberals saw political advantage in keeping our troops there and readily agreed to do so even longer than they initially proposed. And no amount of spin will pin this ongoing waste of Canadian blood and treasure on the party that didn't even hold 10% of the seats in the house at the time.

Greg said...

Speculation is fun, but ultimately fruitless. Even if the resolution had passed Jeff, Harper would have just come back for another extension last year. Dion was still your leader and Iggy still controlled his block (and a year ago we were in the grip of Liberal abstention fever) . The chances of the extension not getting passed would have been slim to none. There are just too many folks in your caucus who want us to be in Afghanistan for the outcome to have been different. Think I am wrong? Fine. As I said speculation is fun, but ultimately, fruitless.

Jeff said...

Jurist, your link (and its links) doesn't say just what changes the NDP wanted, other then assuring us they were minor. It's hard for me to pass judgment on them on that basis.

Pogge, no further back than the Boer War, please.

But seriously poggee, and eugene as well, things change over time. I supported the original extension, despite the douche-baggy way Harper pushed it though in the Liberal leadership vacuum. But I never supported an indefinite deployment. I felt that, after that extension, we had done our bit, and it was time to leave after our commitment ended in 09. That's what the 07 motion was about, giving our allies reasonable notice. We couldn't get it passed. This allowed time for the Manley Commission, by which point it was too late to just up and leave, which is why we supported, as a compromise, the 11 date with more focus on development inline with the Manley recommendations. I think many Liberals who were more hawkish in 06 have moved to the we've done our bit camp in the interim, and that's a natural progression.

Robert, hiding behind NATO's skirt, really? First, way to cling to outmoded gender stereotypes. Second, which countries just up and left Afghanistan with little to no notice? And third, isn't it kind of weird that you're arguing the NDP is irrelevant and I'm arguing the opposite?

Greg, who knows what future an alternate past would have held indeed. But the Liberal motion was a product of compromise of all the assorted factions within the Liberal caucus, so they were all behind it.