In a peculiar epilogue to TPM’s coverage of the Canadian election this week — in which Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative Party won his first outright majority of seats, and the left-wing New Democratic Party overtook the more moderate Liberal Party to become the main left-leaning party for the first time ever — the NDP has gotten off to a rough start as an opposition party, in its handling of the killing of Osama bin Laden.
The party’s Deputy Leader, Thomas Mulcair, publicly expressed doubt that photos of bin Laden’s body actually exist, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reports. “I don’t think, from what I’ve heard, that those pictures exist and if they do I’ll leave that up to the American military,” Mulcair said in an interview. “If they’ve got pictures of a cadaver then there’s probably more going on than we suspect in what happened there.”
As the CBC’s report points out, Mulcair also questioned the legality of the killing:
Mulcair also said the killing requires “a full analysis” on whether it was self-defence or a direct killing because “that has to do with American law and international law as well.”
“I think that if the Americans have taken pictures in that circumstance, it won’t be able to prove very much as to whether Mr. [bin Laden] was holding a weapon,” he said.
The NDP quickly distanced itself from Mulcair’s comments, with the party’s parliamentary Foreign Affairs critic Paul Dewar — the person who would become Foreign Minister if the party were to win an election — releasing a statement. “We have no reason to doubt the veracity of President Obama’s statement,” said Dewar. “As (NDP leader) Jack Layton said the other day, we are happy the U.S. tracked down Osama bin Laden.”
Dewar’s statement also said that the party agreed with the American government’s decision not to release the photos: “The public’s right to know must be balanced with public safety concerns.”
Now, the CBC reports, Mulcair has backed away from the comments, attributing them to fatigue from the election campaign that had just ended. He also claimed to be questioning not whether photos of a dead bin Laden exist per se, but whether there were any photos that would show him reaching for a gun:
“I take full responsibility for the meandering nature of that back and forth,” Mulcair said on air Thursday morning.
“I’ll put that on the account of a certain fatigue and our joy at our victory the other night,” Mulcair added, in reference to his party’s second-place showing in the election.
The NDP MP for Outremont said he referred to the photos in the exchange with Solomon that made international headlines on Wednesday, therefore he implicitly acknowledged them.
“I clearly reference the pictures themselves and say that if the Americans have them and they’re holding them back, it’s for reasons of human decency. So that couldn’t be clearer,” Mulcair said on Thursday.