Of all the decisions faced by federal politicians, committing the nation’s soldiers to war must rank as the most serious.
You expect the leader of a national party to have his own thoughts on the matter, and be able to convey them to the public.
But clearly that’s not the case.
Perhaps the most troubling thing about Stephen Harper’s 2003 speech, cribbed holus-bolus from then-Australian prime minister John Howard’s declaration of war on Iraq, is the thoughtlessness.
Harper, who was Opposition leader at the time, did not participate in the drafting of the speech, which some supporters lauded as his best to date.
Now we know it was nothing but dogma.
Harper was forcefully arguing to commit Canadians lives to a war — one that, with the benefit of hindsight, was neither justified nor beneficial to the region, or the world — and yet it wasn’t really his argument. Or his words.
He was simply parroting a document prepared by Owen Lippert, a mere speechwriter. According to Lippert, Harper knew nothing of the deception, which raises questions about what the leader contributed to this most important speech.
Harper probably contributed nothing specific. He simply farmed it off to a writer to do for him, and then read it.
In fact, there was little room for him to contribute. Lippert lifted about half the words from Howard’s presentation to the Australian Parliament two days earlier.
It’s more than deeply embarrassing for Harper.
It shows he was willing to argue for Canadians to be sent onto foreign soil to fight, and possibly die, without any genuine thought, beyond his expressed support for the US war.
We still don’t know, really, what Harper’s argument was for sending troops to war. We just know Howard’s and, from that, we must assume that Harper wholly agreed with it.
Harper is probably not the only politician guilty of such callous disregard for an issue of national importance, but he’s the one who’s been caught.
And he wasn’t arguing the merits of a money bill, or whether to bolster national security or police.
He was espousing war.
And, when it comes to arguing to commit Canadian lives abroad, citizens must expect more of their leaders.
The task shouldn’t simply be farmed out to a lackey.