Monday, December 14, 2009

Part 6 - Activism - Scott Ritter's Influence

A new parliament was elected in November 2000 and we restarted our efforts to get Report #5 accepted by the Canadian Government. However, we now faced a new resistance. John Manley was appointed to the position of Foreign Minister and he took an even closer stance with Washington. During Manley’s tenure Canada moved as close to Washington as Canada had ever been. This caused individual MPs in the Liberal ranks to distance themselves from any initiative that may confront the U.S. We also witnessed a hardening of a pro-American position with the Alliance Party, under their new leader, Stockwell Day. Although we still held the support of the Bloq, the NDP and the Tories, getting majority support was becoming increasingly more difficult. This, combined with the election of the neo-conservative Bush Administration, made the matter of getting a resolution of the Iraqi sanctions almost impossible. It became clear to me that removal of sanctions could not happen without the return of the weapons inspectors and a resolution on the question of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs), which became the buzzword of the Bush White House.

At this time the Bush White House had little or no interest in foreign relations. It seemed hunkered down in an isolationist mentality until the attack on the World Trade Center in September 2001. The ensuing “War on Terrorism” set a course for Bush and his neo-conservative cohorts that continues to affect the world in a seriously negative way. The appetite for war, demonstrated by Bush after the September attack, provoked me to call a meeting of international diplomats and interested individuals, to meet in New York to see what we could do to dampen the US enthusiasm for war. I contacted Denis Halliday and Hans von Sponeck, both former United Nations Humanitarian Coordinators in Iraq at the Assistant Secretary-General level. I contacted Scott Ritter, the former US Marine Major and head of the UN weapons inspections in Iraq from 1991 through 1998. I also asked the former Foreign Minister of Canada, Lloyd Axworthy to join us, along with the president of the Canadian oil company, Oilexco, Arthur Millholland. Lloyd Axworthy had had a change of heart since leaving Ottawa and wanted to see what could be done to ease the pressure on Iraqi civilians. All agreed and a meeting was arranged for the end of November 2001 in New York, ironically held at the Republican Women’s Center. Mr. von Sponeck could not join us but was in contact via phone and email.

Although several ideas were discussed, it became clear that the return of the weapons inspectors was the only way out of the impasse. It was thought that Canada could play a role, given that it had an outstanding reputation at the UN and was not an imperialist nation. Iraq might accept recommendations coming from there. However, John Manley was still Foreign Minister in Canada and not predisposed to anything that may confront the U.S. We decided to continue discussions and to formulate a plan that could be discussed between Canada, Iraq and the UN.

Lloyd Axworthy agreed to discuss our meeting with Louise Frechette, a Canadian and the Deputy Secretary General of the UN, and with Colin Powell, the US Secretary of State, whom he was to meet with at dinner while he was in New York and Washington. Conversations within the group continued over the last part of 2001 and into 2002.

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