Canadian PM Links Sept 11 to 'Arrogant' West
By David Ljunggren
OTTAWA (Reuters - 12 Sept) - Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien has linked the Sept.
11 suicide attacks to the perceived arrogance and selfishness of the United States
and the West.
Chretien is the first leader of a western major nation to suggest that the suicide
hijackers might have been motivated by what he describes as the misguided policies
of a rich and powerful West that did not understand the need for restraint.
The veteran prime minister, who has been in power for nine years, told the CBC in
an interview aired late on Wednesday that there was "a lot of resentment" about the
way in which powerful nations treated the increasing number of poor and
dispossessed people in the world.
"You know, you cannot exercise your powers to the point of humiliation for others.
That is what the Western world -- not only the Americans, the Western world -- has
to realize. Because they (the have-nots) are human beings too. There are long-term
consequences if you don't look hard at the reality in 10 or 20 (or) 30 years from
now," he said.
Chretien continued: "And I do think the Western world is getting too rich in relation
to the poor world and necessarily, you know, we're looked upon as being arrogant,
self-satisfied greedy and with no limits. And Sept. 11 is an occasion for me to realize
it even more."
A total of 3,025 people -- including 23 Canadians -- died in the Sept. 11 attacks.
Chretien comes from the moderate left of Canada's ruling Liberal Party, which has
sometimes looked upon Republican administrations with suspicion.
Canadian Transport Minister David Collenette -- also on the left of the party -- went
further in an interview with the CBC that was broadcast in the same Sept. 11
package as the prime minister's. He likened some leading players in the United
States to bullies on an ice hockey rink.
Chretien's relations with President Bush have always been cool and his criticism of
Washington's increasingly unilateral foreign policy is unlikely to win him fresh friends
in the White House.
The leader of the right-wing Canadian Alliance party, which is generally more
favorably inclined toward the United States, quickly branded Chretien's musings as a
"(His) comments -- particularly coming on the anniversary of Sept. 11 -- blaming the
victim are shameful. What was behind the events of Sept. 11 are the forces of evil
and hatred," said Stephen Harper.
"These must be resisted by free and democratic societies and their leaders. His
comments are unacceptable, and he should apologize to the United States and to the
families of the Canadian victims."
The local CBC radio station in Ottawa was flooded with calls on Thursday morning
from listeners backing Chretien.
Bush met Chretien last week amid a concerted U.S. effort to persuade its allies of
the need to overthrow Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. Chretien stressed instead the
need to work through the United Nations to build a coalition.
Chretien's reflective comments were highly unusual for a man known as a
down-to-earth politician with little time for the deeper philosophy of governance.
The one skill the West and the United States seemed to lack was that of knowing
when to exercise some restraint, he said.
"It's always the problem when you read history -- (no one) knows when to stop.
There's a moment, you know, when you have to stop," he told the CBC, saying he
had made this point to a group of Wall Street executives unhappy that Canada had
full diplomatic relations with arch U.S. foe Cuba.
"And I said that day...'When you're (as) powerful (as) you are, you guys, it's the time
to be nice'."
Collenette himself showed little signs of restraint, telling the CBC that the collapse of
the Soviet Union had removed an important check on U.S. foreign policy.
"There will be people in the United States sort of emboldened by their new source of
unfettered power to -- in an (ice) hockey term -- get their elbows up," he said.
Foreign policy has never been high on Chretien's agenda, with the notable exception
of Africa. At this year's summit of the Group of Eight most powerful nations,
Chretien -- as host -- insisted his fellow leaders pay particular attention to a plan
designed to help combat endemic poverty in Africa.
"I think the western world is a bit too selfish and that there is a lot of resentment. I
felt it when I dealt with the African file for the G8 summit. You know, the poor get
relatively poorer all the time and the rich are getting richer all the time," he said.