Sunday, August 14, 2005

Discussion With Canadian Journalists On Attitudes On The War

Written from Watson Lake, The Yukon--

Mark Hume, a Vancouver correspondent for the Toronto Globe and Mail, his wife, two grown daughters and a friend, a doctor and writer from Prince George, B.C., were staying in the same suite of rooms as mine in Telegraph Creek, B.C., last night and discussion passed to Canadian attitudes on the War on Terror. The Globe and Mail has been running quite a bit on this subject lately. Just last week, a Canadian court ordered Canadian intelligence agents to stop interrogating an al Queda suspect from Canada at the U.S. facility at Guantanamo Bay. The suspect had killed a U.S. soldier in Afghanistan and has been held three years. He is a confessed al Queda, and a Canadian citizen, but now Canada won't aid in his prosecution.

I expressed concern that Canada's attitude toward the War on Terror is reminiscent of the attitude of European neutrals in World War II before Hitler invaded their countries. They hoped by staying out of the fight, remaining neutral, they would not be the target of hostile action. But, ultimately, regardless of their attitude, such countries as Denmark, Norway, Holland, Belgium and Greece were invaded. It turned out to be their fight too.

Some of the correspondent's family and friends said they felt the U.S., in invading Iraq, had merely stirred things up. So the U.S. was responsible.

But the doctor said he blamed the U.S. for not finishing the job. After all, hadn't Rumsfeld promised to overwhelm the Iraqis? Why not fight the war with mass bombings, etc., he wanted to know. "Rumsfeld's plan was to awe the Iraqis with massive attack. But later, he gave up on that strategy."

Both the doctor and the journalist's wife, who is also a journalist, said they blame the U.S. for muddling things up with halfway measures. This journalist had just returned from Florida, where she covered the Space Shuttle for a Vancouver paper. She remarked that so many Americans she had met during the shuttle coverage had the jitters, were overconcerned about the prospects of the shuttle. And she felt it had been unnecessary for the L.A. Times to have had two correspondents present to cover what turned out to be a routine flight after all.

America has lost its appetite for taking the least risks, she said. She had talked to an Italian space scientist about European plans for space missions. "When we say we're going to go on a particular day, we're going to go," she quoted the Italian as saying.

I observed, Canada waits, while the suicide bombings increase in the world, while terrorists slip into Western countries and while bandits abroad keep raising gas prices. But in the long run Canada, like other countries, may not escape dire consequences, someone will drop an atomic bomb or commit a biological attack, and by then it will be mighty late snd more difficult for the whole world to fight.

That remains to be seen, the Canadians said. And, in any event, they don't want to fall behind an inept leader like George W. Bush. One and all, they didn't think much of him.

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