says 'no' to U.S. war on Iraq;
Canadians call U.S. international 'bully'
Edward M. Gomez
to Alternative Reader Index
"Mr. Bush has not made clear why a war against Iraq is necessary,"
Toronto's Globe and Mail asserted
this week, repeating a criticism that the United States has been hearing for
months from foes and allies alike around the world.
Washington cannot even expect its normally cooperative northern neighbor to
instantly fall into lockstep with its policies and plans, according to the
editorial; now, more than a year into George W. Bush's war on terrorism, "67
percent of Canadians think the United States is 'starting to act like a
bully with the rest of the world.'" (Maclean's)
At the same time, Ottawa appears officially ambivalent with regard to
Washington's proposed war against Iraq. In a year-end interview, Canadian Prime
Minister Jean Chretien, reflecting popular attitudes, said, "If the
United Nations says there shouldn't be war, we in Canada never went to war
without the authorization of the United Nations." (Montreal
More recently, though, Canadian Defense Minister John McCallum met with U.S.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld at the Pentagon. Afterward, McCallum said (as
reported in the Montreal Gazette),
"Some may say we're doing it only with a U.N. mandate. We're saying we
much prefer that, but we may do it otherwise."
If the Ottawa government's position sounds fuzzy and indecisive, it is. "And
so," the Globe and Mail concluded,
after Rumsfeld and McCallum's meeting, "Canada's position on Iraq is
spelled out a little more clearly, but with no more impact: We'll definitely
wage war if the United Nations deems it necessary, and maybe too if it doesn't.
We will, in other words, likely go with pretty much whatever the United States
sets out to achieve."
Maclean's echoed that
sense of resignation to geopolitical reality. "We need the U.S. far
more than they need us -- and policies are often easier to change than
perceptions," the newsmagazine's editor said.
Still, as editorials and newspaper chat boards across Canada continue to show,
Canadians remain dramatically divided in their allegiance to Bush's America and
its war-making aims. A Montreal Gazette
commentator put it plainly: "There are two issues for
Canada to consider: Is joining the Americans the right thing to do, and do we
have the means to do it?"
* * *
Le Monde, taking the
pulse of the continent in one of its most forceful editorials since the
terrorist events of September 2001, has emphatically stated, "Europeans
say, 'No.' No to a war against Iraq in the current state of
Noting that European opinion "perhaps will not weigh heavily in the
United States' decision" to go to war, the authoritative French daily
nevertheless insisted that the nearly 60 percent of Britons and more than 70
percent of French citizens, along with large numbers of other Europeans who
oppose a war, "cannot be ignored." The "European
street," Le Monde observed,
has chosen the path of peace-making recommended by Pope John Paul II.
This attitude is not an expression of anti-Americanism, the newspaper explained.
Instead, it reflects Europeans' strong belief that "the burden of
proof" that Saddam Hussein is hoarding an arsenal of weapons he would
use to attack the United States in particular or the West in general "rests
on George W. Bush." The tough editorial demanded that Bush show the
world whatever evidence he may have to support his claims.
"If Washington judges it possible to 'contain' Pyongyang by
means of diplomacy, isn't it conceivable to do the same with Baghdad?" Le
Monde asked. "If the United States justly stigmatizes a
regime as cruel as that of Saddam Hussein, why treat with velvet gloves the much
more criminal tyranny of [North Korean leader] Kim Jong-Il?"
* * *
is worse: visiting your son at a cemetery, or visiting your husband in
jail?" That's the
question Canada's National Post asked
as a pretrial hearing got under way this week at Barksdale Air Force Base in
The purpose of the proceedings: to determine whether the case of two U.S. Air
Force pilots who face criminal charges for dropping a laser-guided bomb on
Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan last April will advance to a full military
court-martial. American pilots Maj. Harry Schmidt and Maj. William Umbach's "friendly
fire" debacle killed four Canadian paratroopers who were conducting a
training exercise, and injured eight others.
Canadian news media called attention to the way Barksdale Air Force Base
officials had carefully separated the relatives and friends of the American
pilots who attended the pretrial hearing from those of the dead Canadians. They
put the two groups of visitors in separate rooms in which closed-circuit
televisions showed the proceedings.
"I'm angry at the events that transpired ... but I'm not really angry
at them per se," a Canadian solider who lost his hearing in the
April bombing accident told the Globe
and Mail. "It was just stupidity, and it should never
have happened, but it's not like they set out to do us harm." The
mother of a soldier who was killed said, "We're hoping to get some
answers -- I just want to ask why it happened."
Some remarks made by relatives of the American pilots have made it sound as
though the U.S. Air Force majors are -- or should be regarded as -- victims. Of
the prospect of her husband being found guilty of involuntary manslaughter,
Schmidt's wife, Lisa, said, "The tragedy would be that our sons would
not have their dad. I think of [our son] Tucker at a school event, and everybody
has their dad there, and a little friend says, 'Tucker, where's your dad?' And
he says, 'He's in jail for the rest of his life.'" (National
Lisa Schmidt also said, "I find it very difficult when people want to
compare our grief and sorrow and struggle with theirs, because it's so personal.
[The dead Canadian soldiers' families] have the ultimate grief and the ultimate
sorrow, and I totally acknowledge that, and I'm so sorry for it. But you also
cannot put a level on what we're going through."
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