Federal Liberal Leader Stephane Dion says Brian Mulroney was wrong to question the moral fibre of Pierre Trudeau -- and that the former Conservative prime minister should show respect for the man and what he did for Canada.

Dion was reacting to comments Mulroney made as part of an interview that ran Wednesday night on CTV News.

As part of an exclusive CTV documentary, "Triumph and Treachery," that will air Sunday night, Mulroney lashed out at Trudeau for his views on the Second World War and for his role in torpedoing the Meech Lake Accord.

Mulroney said Trudeau lacked the moral fibre to lead the country because of his refusal to serve in the war and for his antiwar activism as a student.

"This is a man who questioned the Allies when the Jews were being sacrificed and when the great extermination program was on, he was marching around Outremont (Montreal) on the other side of the issue," Mulroney told CTV.

Mulroney acknowledged Trudeau's anti-war views were in line with what many Quebecers believed at the time. But he said a million young Canadians chose to fight, knowing that the Nazis wanted to exterminate the Jews.

"Pierre Trudeau was not among them. That's a decision he made. He's entitled to make that kind of decision. But it doesn't qualify him for any position of moral leadership in our society," said Mulroney.

Dion told reporters he wasn't about to argue about something that happened in the 1940s. But he said Mulroney shouldn't be picking a fight with someone who's no longer around to defend himself.

"If Mr. Mulroney wanted to fight Mr. Trudeau when he was alive, that's something. But Mr. Trudeau is not there anymore," Dion told reporters in Ottawa. "And Mr. Mulroney should respect the man and respect what he did for the country and for the world."

Dion noted that when his predecessor passed away in 2000, Mulroney called him an "exceptional individual" who served his country well.

He said it's "regrettable" Mulroney would now seem to be at such odds with his own views.

Dion wasn't the only Liberal on Thursday to strike back at Mulroney and come to Trudeau's defence.

"You know, (Trudeau) hadn't even turned 20 when the Second World War started," Liberal Sen. David Smith told CTV News.

"And he wasn't prime minister until almost 30 years later. I just think it's below the belt. I'm disappointed that (Mulroney) would do that."

The late prime minister's son, Justin Trudeau, told CTV's Ottawa bureau chief Robert Fife: "This is not something that needs comment. People will see it for what it is."

Lingering anger

Some historians, meanwhile, suggest Mulroney's lingering anger at Trudeau is about one of the former Conservative prime minister's biggest frustrations while in office.

"Mr. Mulroney is bitter about the campaign that Trudeau carried on against Meech Lake," Ramsay Cook, award-winning historian and general editor of the Dictionary of Canadian Biography, told CTV Newsnet on Thursday.

"He doesn't seem to be able to understand that Mr. Trudeau's opposition in the Meech Lake case was perfectly consistent with the positions that he'd taken in all the time he was prime minister."

The Meech Lake Accord was a set of failed Constitutional amendments hammered out by Mulroney and the 10 premiers in 1987. The Accord was designed to persuade Quebec to endorse the Canada Act.

Mulroney had hoped to upstage Trudeau, who had failed to persuade Quebec to sign onto the 1981 Constitution after months of debate with the premiers. And it was clear in the interview that the failure of the Accord still troubled Mulroney deeply after 14 years out of office.

Mulroney accused Trudeau of being jealous of his success in bringing Quebec onside, which is why he said Trudeau and his political followers torpedoed the Accord.

He said this view is even supported by one of Trudeau's inner circle:  "One of his cabinet ministers, Francis Fox, said 'Look, the only reason for this, is that Pierre Trudeau doesn't want Brian Mulroney to succeed where he has failed'," Mulroney said.

Cook said Mulroney should be "admired" for trying to hammer out a resolution with Quebec.

"But personally, I believe the Meech Lake Accord was a bad resolution and that's what Mr. Trudeau believed. And he campaigned against it, undermining Mr. Mulroney's attempt to be -- to use the term he used in the paper this morning -- 'Captain Canada'."

"He turned out to be just a lieutenant."

The two-hour special, Triumph & Treachery: The Brian Mulroney Story, will make its television premiere Sunday, Sept. 9, 2007 at 7 p.m. (check local listings) on CTV.