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March 24, 2003

Brian Mulroney, Canada's Former PM, said it first

Regarding the limits of sovereignty

WILLIAM THORSELL writing in Toronto's Globe and Mail

Twelve years ago, Canada's prime minister foreshadowed the revolution in international law that bedevils us today in Iraq. On what grounds is intervention in the "internal affairs" of a sovereign country permissible? And who decides that the grounds exist?

Brian Mulroney was ahead of the curve in stating that national sovereignty should no longer prohibit external intervention in certain domestic affairs. Speaking on Sept. 29, 1991, six months after Desert Storm, Mr. Mulroney said Canada would "favour rethinking the limits of national sovereignty in a world where problems respect no borders." The prime minister cited the fact that, even in defeat, Iraq had blocked UN arms inspection on grounds of national sovereignty, and that other countries had blocked food delivery to starving people, again on grounds of national sovereignty.

"Quite frankly," he said, "such invocations of the principle of national sovereignty are as out of date and as offensive to me as the police declining to stop family violence simply because a man's home is supposed to be his castle." MORE