Transcript: LPC hopeful Andrew Leslie quizzed on Israel-Hamas — by CPC staffer?

- September 2nd, 2014
Legion event 1

In this picture, provided by the federal Liberal Party, Lt Gen (ret’d) Andrew Leslie, hopeful of winning the Liberal nomination in Ottawa-Orleans, speaks about the Israel-Hamas conflict with a woman who the Liberals say is a Conservative Parliament Hill staffer, Alexandra Constantinidis

Late last week, a recording was forwarded through a third party to the Ottawa Sun and and to my newsroom in Sun Media’s parliamentary bureau. The recording, about five minutes long, contained a conversation from Aug. 19 between Lt. Gen (Ret’d) Andrew Leslie and, at the time we received it, an unidentified woman. In the process of verifying that circumstances and content of this conversation we contacted Leslie and the office of Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau. Leslie also made a recording of this same conversation and, on Tuesday, provided us with his transcript of conversation. His transcript matches the transcript we made from the first recording we received. The Liberals also identified the woman having the conversation with Leslie as the Parliament Hill assistant to Calgary West Conservative MP Rob Anders, Alexandra Constantinidis. Attempts to reach Constantinidis Tuesday to confirm she is the other participant in this conversation were unsuccessful. (Constantinidis’ Facebook page indicates she is a student at Mount Royal University and may well have returned to Calgary to start classes this fall there.)

The circumstances of this rather odd conversation? A public discussion that occurred at the end of a roundtable Leslie held on veterans affairs at a Royal Canadian Legion in his riding of Ottawa-Orleans on Aug. 19. Leslie, who was appointed by Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau to co-chair the Liberal Party’s Council of International Affairs Advisors, is seeking the Liberal nomination in Ottawa-Orleans. The conversation was recorded by both parties.

I have compiled the following transcript from the recording we received and transcript provided by Leslie. I have lightly edited the verbatim record for grammar and syntax.

I have a piece in our newspapers and across our Web sites Wednesday that takes its cue from this conversation.

Woman (Constantinidis?): Can I ask you one last question?

Andrew Leslie: Of course you can.

Woman: I was just wondering what your professional opinion would be on the conflict with Israel. Where would you recommend us standing? What would you do troop-wise? Which side would you support, if any?

Leslie: So, every nation has the right to defend itself. Every nation has the right to defend its people. So keep that as a thought bubble.
Then there’s this little Chinese gentleman about 2,700 years ago who said, in Cantonese: ‘Never do what your enemy wants you to do.’ So, just keep that as a thought bubble . His name was Sun Tzu.
So what does Hamas – who’s actually guided and directed by [whos has] funding and the leadership provided mainly by Iran and Syria – what did they want Israel to do? They want Israel to, essentially, fall into the trap of igniting world opinion against them, by killing civilians.
So, if you know that — and the Israeli Army and the political system are quite astute, because they’ve had to live in that awful part of the world for quite some time, so they know what’s going on — don’t do what your enemy wants you to do.
So, Hamas launches rockets attacks. Up until the moment the Israeli ground forces launch their invasion there had been three fatalities after 2,700 rockets have been fired at Israel, because they have a system to knock them down.
So, tunnels [in Gaza] were not an issue at the time. They go in, they obviously get involved in the street fighting.
Hamas throws more and more resources at it and more casualties are caused by the Israelis using very heavy weapons systems, firing indiscriminately onto Palestinian women and children.
You know what the body count is now. So Israel has actually lost this war.
Because it’s not… all warfare is a continuation of the political dialogue by other means. There’s a guy called Clausewitz…
So if I were advising the Israeli Prime Minister I would say ‘don’t send any ground troops until you really really need to. Because you are just going to do that what your enemy wants you to do.

PMSHAC

A picture posted August 23 on the Facebook page of Alexandra Constantinidis shows Constantantinidis and Prime Minister Stephen Harper in Harper’s Langevin Block office. The federal Liberals says it was Constantinidis who, at an August 19 event in Orleans, Ont., asked Liberal hopeful Andrew Leslie for his views on the Israel-Hamas conflict. A federal government directory indicates Constantinidis is Parliament Hill assistant to Calgary West MP Rob Anders.

Woman: I know you said you were working for Trudeau. How would you advise Trudeau in these areas?

Leslie: If he were prime minister?

Woman: Yeah. I mean, I know the Conservative Party is just “oooo!” Israel!

Leslie: Ahhh, no, it’s a little bit more black and white than [that], but I know what you are trying to say.
So first of all, you have to establish a dialogue with all the warring factions. Just because you don’t like them, means you shouldn’t stop talking to them.
So if you have a problem with Russia, don’t withdraw your ambassador, ‘cause that’s when you need them most.
If you’ve got a problem with what’s going on in the Middle East, don’t withdraw your ambassador, or actually your special representatives to the Palestinian Authority. Don’t do that.

Legion event 2

The federal Liberal Party says the woman sitting at the front in the blue cardigan is Conservative Parliament Hill staffer Alexandra Constantinidis. The picture was taken during a roundtable discussion hosted Aug. 19 by Lt Gen (Ret’d) Andrew Leslie at the Royal Canadian Legion in Orleans, Ont. Leslie hopes to run for the Liberals in the 2015 general election.

If you’ve got a problem with Iran, you actually keep your ambassador there, so you can do the blah blah blah, conduits for information, back channel and also your eyes and ears on the ground
So that’s the first issue. The second issue is, perhaps a slightly sterner press release than was perhaps issued, trying to address some of the (inaudible) And also, it would be appropriate for us to offer assistance to Palestinian people – and the Israeli people . . .

Woman: Right …

Leslie: Probably in a ratio of about 1 in 10, so nine [parts] going to the Palestinians and one [part] going to Israel.
The Palestinian people are not the enemy. Hamas, absolutely.
You’re talking to a guy who has hunted terrorists for quite some time. You gotta kill them, you gotta kill them. Hey, I’ve got no problems with that. But Palestinian women and children who are taking refuge in a UN-designated compounds?
Come on. ‘Oh, it was an accident.’ Sorry, doesn’t matter to anyone. Shooting dumb artillery close to children is dumb.
Does that help? That’s a really really quick conversation. You have a knack for asking really complicated questions, but that’s good.

Categories: Foreign Affairs, Politics

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8 comments

  1. Rod Croskery says:

    On the basis of this conversation, Andrew Leslie appears highly credible. Alexandra Constantinidis was well within her rights to ask this question, and Leslie offered a reasoned and balanced answer.

    Akin seems inclined to pass this conversation off as a gaffe, but isn’t democratic politics all about the sharing of opinion? Here we have seen the opposing spring principle in operation: thesis vs antithesis = synthesis. It’s the intelligent way to arrive at a policy position.

    What is wrong with that?

  2. Errol Semple says:

    Thank you for the truth and not more politics Andrew Leslie.

  3. Rick Warren says:

    Once again Joe and the rest of the Cons don’t get that this is not a black and white issue. They stick to the George Bush republican mantra of your with us or your with the enemy. Has never occurred to Stephen Harper or his muppet mouth pieces that it might actually take some middle ground and dialog to resolve some of these complex issues. I have heard no one from any political party talk about support for Hamas. Having a discussion about 4000 people being killed seems to me might be appropriate. Don’t forget these were the Palestinians caught in the middle of this quagmire that were being killed. Of course if you value some human lives as being worth more than others I guess you could reach the same conclusions. Or if your real motivation for speaking out was purely for political reasons, lets say to court the vote from a particular group and or to say and do what ever you can in a desperate attempt to cling to power.

  4. Lynda says:

    CPC staffer finished writing talking points and needed something else to do during summer hiatus! Missing Nigel Wright’s leadership, apparently! Watch out for bus tires in the future!
    Was this staffer part of previous “fake” protests the CPC staged?
    No depths are too low for the CPC.

  5. Steven Parks says:

    Seems like a well thought out answer, based on experience and consideration. I think I would want his advice on things.
    All decisions have pros/cons and only the uninformed would immediately jump either way.
    While within their rights to question anyone, it would seem inappropriate not to identify yourself or confirm that you asked the question.

  6. John Stacey says:

    Civilian casualties in any military conflict are a fact of life. Civilian casualties in any war have always far outnumbered military casualties. (Seems to me the safest place for survival is in the military.) Hamas set the stage and is responsible for Palestinian civilian losses by using civilians as shields and launching rocket and mortar weaponry from civilian locations. And killing civilians who refused to cooperate. I find it strange that Mr. Leslie does not recognize that.

  7. Gabby in QC says:

    In a discussion with Michael Coren, Mr. Akin mentioned that the person asking those questions had been identified by the Liberal staffers as a Conservative staffer and that pictures were taken of her. Thus, Mr. Leslie must also have been aware of who she was. The conversation ends with him congratulating her on her open-ended questions: “You have a knack for asking really complicated questions, but that’s good.” If Mr. Leslie took those questions in stride and was apparently not bothered by them, why should Justin Trudeau’s retinue (i.e. most media)?

  8. Mike says:

    I’m impressed with Andrew Leslie. Hopefully he gets elected. Balanced and well thought out answers.

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