Transcript of Stephen Harper’s address to the House of Commons on March 20, 2003
Below you will find the transcripts of the 2003 address to the House of Commons in favour of the war in Iraq by Stephen Harper along with a video clip and additional resources.
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Australian Prime Minister John Howard give the same speech on Iraq
37th PARLIAMENT, 2nd SESSION
EDITED HANSARD • NUMBER 074
Thursday, March 20, 2003
Mr. Stephen Harper (Leader of the Opposition, Canadian Alliance):
Mr. Speaker, I stand today to speak to a matter of the gravest importance that Parliament can address: the matter of war and specifically the resumption of war against the regime of Saddam Hussein.
We appreciate that our colleagues in the Bloc Quebecois have brought this motion forward today. It is appropriate for two reasons. The first is that it is not from the government, which has consistently acted without vision and values during this crisis, and even today I understand resists a timely vote on these matters.
It is also fitting that this historic motion, which calls on us to abandon our closest friends and allies at this critical time, comes from the Bloc Quebecois, a party that does have values and visions but whose values are different than the traditions that built this country and whose vision is a country where our country as we know it would not continue to exist.
Let us review how we came to this crossroads internationally. In 1991, after the invasion of Kuwait, the world judged the Iraqi regime to be a dangerous aggressor. In the interests of world peace and regional security, the community of nations expelled Iraq from Kuwait; required Iraq to surrender its offensive arsenal, its chemical and biological weapons; and to abandon its nuclear weapons program. Iraq agreed to comply with these demands as an enormous and victorious force of allied troops and personnel, not just American and British but Canadians as well stood ready to invade.
We have waited 12 years for Saddam Hussein to give action to those commitments. With the threat of renewed action from the U.S., the U.K. and others, on November 8, 2002, the United Nations Security Council passed resolution 1441. It was the 17th Security Council resolution regarding the threat Iraq posed to international peace and security. The resolution, which was adopted unanimously, gave Iraq a final opportunity to demonstrate immediate compliance with its disarmament obligations and it promised serious consequences otherwise.
Over the last four months we have seen no evidence to suggest that Saddam Hussein will willingly comply with resolution 1441.
Iraq’s continued defiance of the community of nations presents a challenge which must be addressed. It is inherently dangerous to allow a country, such as Iraq, to retain weapons of mass destruction, particularly in light of its past aggressive behaviour. If the world community fails to disarm Iraq we fear that other rogue states will be encouraged to believe that they too can have these most deadly of weapons to systematically defy international resolutions and that the world will do nothing to stop them.
As the possession of weapons of mass destruction spreads, the danger of such weapons coming into the hands of terrorist groups will multiply, particularly given in this case the shameless association of Iraq with rogue non-state organizations.
That is the ultimate nightmare which the world must take decisive and effective steps to prevent. Possession of chemical, biological or nuclear weapons by terrorists would constitute a direct, undeniable and lethal threat to the world, including to Canada and its people.
As we learned, or should have learned, on September 11, having no malice toward these groups will not absolve the citizens of any country from the hatred they direct toward us and toward our civilization.
The principal objective is the disarmament of Iraq but it has now become apparent that objective is inseparable from the removal of Saddam Hussein’s regime.
Earlier this week President Bush requested the support of his key allies in the participation of a coalition of nations that would be prepared to enforce Security Council resolutions by all necessary means. That same day the allies delivered an ultimatum to the Iraqi leadership: Saddam Hussein and his sons must leave Iraq within 48 hours or face military conflict.
These allies did not seek a military conflict today any more than they sought it 12 years ago. The world has tried other means for years but to no avail. We cannot walk away from the threat that Iraq’s continued possession of weapons of mass destruction constitutes to its region and to the wider world.
In the final analysis, disarming Iraq is necessary for the long term security of the world, to the collective interests of our historic allies and, therefore, manifestly it is in the national interest of this country.
I want to briefly address some of the counter-arguments to this position in support of the coalition of the willing led by President Bush and Prime Minister Blair.
First, this coalition lacks the legal authority to act. Existing United Nations Security Council resolutions have long provided for the use of force to disarm Iraq and restore international peace and security to the area. Security Council resolution 678 adopted in 1990 authorized the use of all necessary means, not only to implement resolution 660 demanding Iraqi withdrawal from Kuwait, but also to implement all subsequent relevant resolutions and to restore international peace and security to the area.
Resolution 687, which provided the ceasefire terms for Iraq in 1991, a ceasefire not an armistice, affirmed resolution 678. Resolution 1441 itself confirmed that Iraq has been and remains in material breach of its obligations, a point on which there is unanimous international agreement.
Iraq’s past and continuing breaches of the ceasefire obligations now negate the basis for the formal ceasefire. Iraq has, by its conduct, demonstrated that it did not and does not accept the terms of the ceasefire. Consequently, authorization for the use of force in Security Council resolution 678 has been reactivated.
I would point out that this view of international law is not new. In fact, our own Canadian deployment of troops to the gulf in 1998 in Operation Desert Fox, strongly supported at the time by the current Prime Minister, was undertaken on the same legal basis. The Clinton administration clearly understood and argued, as the Bush administration does now, that existing Security Council resolutions clearly allow for the use of military force.
Another objection is that we need only more time, that the inspection process is working and that diplomacy should be given another chance. Let me address this. The inspections process has been a failure. It has not resulted in disarmament. However, more important, the inspections process is not intended to force or compel disarmament. It is only intended to monitor compliance. To the extent that Saddam Hussein has complied, it has only been through the constant threat of force. Force has been the only language that Saddam Hussein’s regime has ever understood. Yet even the threat of force has only convinced Saddam Hussein to engage reluctantly in the token, piecemeal destruction of weapons, and only the most reluctant revelations of the existence of weapons and weapons programs.
Even with over 200,000 coalition troops massed at his borders, he quibbles about how interviews are to be conducted with his scientists and how many of the reconnaissance aircraft supporting the inspectors can fly at one time. He simply plays a game of cat and mouse, and he will play it indefinitely. After 12 years he does not believe that the international community has the will to act. He clearly believes that ongoing diplomacy will ultimately be hijacked by those who simply want to delay and who ultimately want inaction.
In recent months this party, the Canadian Alliance, has been strongly supportive of these diplomatic efforts. However it is clear now that in some cases Saddam Hussein has guessed right. For example, Jacques Chirac and the Gaullists of France have once again been preoccupied more with agendas targeted on the Anglo-American word than on the regime of Saddam Hussein. In other cases, however, Saddam Hussein has clearly made an error in judgment, a final misjudgment. He underestimated our American and British allies and their many friends around the world.
That leads to a final criticism, that the coalition is somehow inadequate because it is not unanimous and because it is led by the United States of America. Ironically, as even our Liberal government has acknowledge, America, with Britain in particular, has given strong leadership to the world on the issue of Iraq. What has been accomplished in recent months has only been accomplished solely because of the American-British coalition and their allies and their determination to act. Indeed, without strong leadership of leading powers, usually the U.S.A., the failures of the United Nations are too numerous and too grisly to even mention.
We in the Canadian Alliance support the American position today on this issue because we share its concerns and its worries about the future of the world if Iraq is left unattended. Alliances are a two-way process. Where we are in agreement we should not leave it to the United States to do all the heavy lifting just because it is the world’s only superpower. To do so, I believe, will inevitably undermine one of the most important relationships that we have. In an increasingly globalized and borderless world, the relationship between Canada and the United States is essential to our prosperity, to our democracy and to our future.
The coalition assembled by the United States and the United Kingdom is now ready to act. It is now acting. It will bring this long run conflict to an end once and for all. It will bring to an end the regime of Saddam Hussein and the militarism, brutality and aggression that are the foundations of his rule.
Since Saddam Hussein came to power in 1979, more than one million have died as a consequence. They have died through killing and torture as individual opponents, real and imagined. They have died from acts of civil war and mass genocide in the north and south of the country. They have died in invasions launched against his neighbours. Now his final bloody chapter is being read. As it is being written, make no mistake, this party will not be with Saddam Hussein. We will not be neutral. We will be with our allies and our friends, not militarily but in spirit we will be with them in America and in Britain for a short and successful conflict and for the liberation of the people of Iraq.
We will not be with our government, for this government, in taking the position it has taken, has betrayed Canada’s history and its values. Reading only the polls and indulging in juvenile and insecure anti-Americanism, the government has, for the first time in our history, left us outside our British and American allies in their time of need. However, it has done worse. It has left us standing for nothing, no realistic alternative, no point of principle and no vision of the future. It has left us standing with no one. Our government is not part of the multilateral coalition in support of this action and it has not been part of any coalition opposing it; just alone, playing irrelevant and contradictory games on both sides of the fence, to the point where we go so far as to leave military personnel in the region without the active and moral support of the government that sent them there.
This is not an act of independence. In fact, as we find ourselves isolated from our allies, we find ourselves under the government more dependent on them than ever before, economically, culturally and, of course, militarily.
My great fear: A country that does not embrace its own friends and allies in a dangerous world but thinks it can use them and reject them at will. Such a country will in time endanger its own existence.
However, to have the future once again of a great country, we must do more than stand with our friends in the United States. We must rediscover our own values. We must remember that this country was forged in large part by war, terrible war, but not because it was terrible and not because it was easy, but because at the time it was right.
In the great wars of the last century, against authoritarianism, against fascism and against communism, Canada did not merely stand with the Americans, we, more often than not, led the way. We did so for freedom, we did so for democracy, we did so for the values of civilization itself, values which continue to be embodied in our allies and their leaders and are represented in their polar offices, embodied and personified by Saddam Hussein and the perpetrators of 9/11.
Therefore, we will not merely vote against this motion today, we will tell the Americans and the British that we are with them.
We will of course pray for the innocent people of Iraq and hope that they may have a better future than the one they have had under this tyrannical regime, and we will wish that they may have a future where they have the democratic freedoms that we enjoy, that every man and every woman, yes, even in the Islamic world, is entitled to in every part of this earth. We will stand, and I believe most Canadians will quietly stand with us, for these higher values, which shaped our past and which we will need in an uncertain future.
Mr. Speaker, in the days that follow may God guide the actions of the President of the United States and the American people; may God save the Queen, her Prime Minister and all her subjects; and may God continue to bless Canada.
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