Lewis MacKenzie (Interview)

WITH THE U.S. OCCUPATION of Iraq going so badly, it's hard these days to find a prominent Canadian who'll admit to supporting the invasion. But retired Maj.-Gen. Lewis MACKENZIE isn't shrinking from the position he took as the war ensued.

MacKenzie, Lewis (Interview)

WITH THE U.S. OCCUPATION of Iraq going so badly, it's hard these days to find a prominent Canadian who'll admit to supporting the invasion. But retired Maj.-Gen. Lewis MACKENZIE isn't shrinking from the position he took as the war ensued. Long an advocate of ousting Saddam Hussein, MacKenzie, the former commander of UN forces in Sarajevo, argues the beliefs that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction and was linked to terrorism weren't the best justifications for the war. But that, he says, does not mean the war was unjust.

What are you telling the I-told-you-soers?

It's relatively easy. Over the last few weeks, the UN Security Council has been debating the definition of genocide and whether it applies to Sudan. But Iraq qualified. It qualified by way of its treatment of the Marsh Arabs, the Kurds up north and even some people from Saddam's own tribe. In addition, Saddam had been defying UN resolutions for over a decade. So, from my point of view, the war was justified, and perhaps overdue.

Did the U.S. fail the world by focusing on Iraq rather than on weeding out terrorists?

I don't think their responsibility is to the world. It's a sovereign nation. Based on a questionable process and intelligence, some decisions were made that I'm not sure they'd do the same way again. Not to sound cavalier, but it's like a dog chasing a bus: it's really fun until he catches it. America chased Iraq and got it. Now it's stuck with it.

Do you envision any role for Canada in Iraq?

I do, whether it's setting up a judiciary, social safety nets or medical systems. Or election organizing and supervision. But at this stage, it's too dangerous. There will come a time when these skills will be invaluable.

What about our military?

There's just hardly anybody left. It would be a token, modest kind of contribution, and it would pick on the people in the military who are constantly being picked on - the engineers, the mine lifters, the construction people. And there are just so few of them.

Do the Americans have real, tactical options as the uprisings and attacks continue?

Yeah: leave or stay. It's pretty difficult to leave. You have to try to phase out your operation. If you stay, you have to - as quickly as is practical - hand over responsibilities to the people you're training.

Is George W. Bush a good leader for world stability and security?

Certainly a man of convictions. But I'm concerned about his ability to establish adequate relations with nations that have contributed in the past to peace-support operations. Given time, the sore [over Iraq] will be soothed. However, it will be more difficult for George Bush to do that than someone else.

Maclean's August 23, 2004