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Op-Ed: Trump’s missiles whistle and Trudeau changes his tune

Trudeau said that the international community had to do more to investigate the the Syrian chemical attack. He roundly condemned the attack that killed more than 70 including children. Trudeau said: “We’re all shocked and horrified by the terrible images and actions that just happened in Syria with chemical weapons.” Trudeau said the Canadian government ‘obviously, unequivocally” condemned the attack and “pushed the international community to do more to condemn, to find out what’s going on.” He did not blame Assad as the U.S. and others had already done.

Yet after Trump unilaterally, without waiting for a UN resolution or investigation, fired Tomahawk missiles at a Syrian airbase, Trudeau came out in support of his action. Trudeau said that Canada was briefed in advance, about an hour before the U.S. missile strikes on the Syrian airbase. He said U.S. Secretary of State, James Mattis, called Canadian Defence Minister, Harjit Sajjan, Thursday night and Sajjan immediately briefed Trudeau.

For some strange reason, Trudeau’s account contradicts what Trump’s Press Secretary Sean Spicer had to say. Spicer said: “Missiles were launched at 7:40 p.m. during dinner. Foreign leaders and congressional leaders were notified starting at 8:30 p.m., just as first impacts were hitting the ground.” It seems a bit odd if Canada had been warned ahead of other nations but Trudeau repeated his claim in a later speech. Trudeau also said that Canada would continue its mission in northern Iraq but that the government would continue to work to see how it could help in Syria.

Trudeau had a phone conversation with Trump on Friday morning. Trudeau told Trump that Canada fully supports the “limited and focused action to degrade the Syrian regime’s ability to conduct chemical weapons attacks”. Conservative MP Pierre Polievre during question period in the House of Commons, claimed that were inconsistencies in the Trudeau governments’ response to what has happened. On Thursday, Trudeau had suggested there were continuing questions about who exactly was responsible for the attack and that the UN Security Council should launch an investigation into who was responsible. Polievre said Trudeau’s rapid change of position shows Canada had been “completely out of the loop” on developments in the region. Polievre said: “Now [Trudeau] says he fully supports the United States’s unilateral missile strikes against the Assad regime. The government’s position seems to change with the wind.” It was not exactly the wind but the phone call from Trump on Friday that changed the policy. On Thursday, Trudeau had been “out of the loop” not realizing that like other U.S. allies he was supposed to blame Assad before any investigation as the U.S. and shortly after many U.S. allies had done.

Trudeau’s story is that the U.S. had provided him with information about the attack: “Secretary Mattis called Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan to confirm that Bashar al-Assad and his regime were responsible for the horrific attacks on civilians of a few days ago. A trusted and reliable ally in the United States informed us that the Assad regime was responsible for these chemical attacks.” Sajjan told the House that Assad’s repeated use of chemical weapons must not continue. Canada was back in the loop, accepting the U.S. narrative before any investigation and not questioning the missile attacks but supporting them. Maybe Trump will call and thank him.

Interim Conservative leader, Rona Ambrose, of the main opposition party also supported the missile strikes saying: “The global community cannot sit idly by while deadly nerve toxins are unleashed on innocent civilians.” Murray Rankin of the NDP said the Assad regime must be held responsible for these shocking crimes. An NDP statement on its website is somewhat more reticent about blaming Assad already. A CBC article discusses viewers questions with Brian Stewart an award-winning Canadian journalist.

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