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We're Lucky Harper Wasn't in Charge When the Iraq War Began

03/21/2013 08:03 EDT | Updated 05/21/2013 05:12 EDT
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US Sergeant Daniel Martin (2nd-L) of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division performs a weapons' check before going out on the US military's last combat patrol in Iraq at Camp Adder near Nasiriyah on December 16, 2011. The last US forces left Iraq and entered Kuwait on December 18, nearly nine years after launching a divisive war to oust Saddam Hussein, and just as the oil-rich country grapples with renewed political deadlock. AFP PHOTO/POOL/LUCAS JACKSON (Photo credit should read LUCAS JACKSON/AFP/Getty Images)

The 10 year anniversary of "the war of our generation" has brought back from the shadows the actors of the momentous events of 2003 that dominated the world's political scene. Many of these individuals -- George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Tony Blair, Hans Blix, Saddam Hussein as well as Jean Chretien -- have since made their 'Mea Culpa' to a certain degree. Even our current Prime Minister, has admitted publicly that he was wrong in 2003 when he supported the idea of our military joining the USA into war, and has further confessed that this was not his only big mistake. Despite these public blunders, Stephen Harper's political career has continued largely unfettered by any political consequences. Defying reason, in the last 10 years while the war went on serving as a reminder of Mr. Harper's colossal mistake, he was elected twice!

'Errare humanum est' (To err is human) says an old quote by Seneca. We all make mistakes, every day. Our society has defined clear responsibilities and consequences of our behaviour in order to function; we are subject to fines and penalties of all sorts every time we make mistakes or omissions. We invented the business of insurance to protect ourselves from the consequences of our own mistakes, and we pay for this protection. At the same time, we let the small mistakes slide; "oops, sorry" is enough apology when you fail to hold the door for a second when a stranger approaches, or "I should have listened to you" is enough apology when you leave your young son's raincoat at home despite your spouse telling you otherwise. But if you fail to pay for parking, the city will slap you with a fine, and the consequences grow bigger from there. Harper's costly 'get tough on crime' bills (61 of them, to be exact), and the resultant stresses on our overburdened criminal justice system, would suggest that we are all in favour of holding people accountable for their behaviours.

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In Memory - The War in Iraq, Ten Years On

Politicians have a merciless job: they must always take the right position on key issues, even when they are not in charge (and with the knowledge that certain decisions carry with them colossal consequences if or when they do become the person in charge). There should be no room for error when enormous sums of money and the lives of many people are regularly at stake. We would not entrust a commercial pilot license to someone who fails a flight simulator test on more than one occasion; in fact, he or she may be banned from flying a plane for life. Yet we as a nation have handed the Prime Minister job to a man who, if in charge at the time, would have taken the country to war in Iraq! To err is human, yes, but to entrust an individual with vast decision-making power, in the absence of attending consequences for such decisions, is just dangerous.

While as society we are good at policing those politicians who make small mistakes, we fail to hold to account those who commit the big mistakes, especially when the victim is the society as a whole. When a Canadian senator was charged with assault and sexual assault, he was suspended. When a Canadian MP requested reimbursement for a $16 orange juice, the public outrage forced her out of office prompting a costly by-election (on our dime, might I add). But miscalculating the actual cost of the multi-billion dollar fighter jet program was resolved with a mumbled admission, and not even an apology.

Mr. Harper's decision to take Canada to war in 2003 would have cost the nation hundreds of billions of dollars plus hundreds of military deaths. Luckily for Canada, he was not our Prime Minister at the time. Are we comfortable with the fact that the only reason we did not endure the financial and social consequences of war was sheer happenstance? Apparently so, since we as a nation then took the risk to put him in charge. I just hope that he will not make yet another colossal mistake while in power. As we were once lucky that Chretien was our Prime Minister instead of Harper in 2003, we may now be lucky that Obama is the U.S. President instead of McCain, Palin or Romney.