- It was on this day a year ago, Feb. 5, 2003, that Colin
Powell came before the United Nations to catalogue Saddam Hussein's alleged
weapons of horror.
- "My colleagues," said the U.S. Secretary of
State, "every statement I make today is backed by sources, solid sources.
These are not assertions. What we are giving you are facts and conclusions
based on solid intelligence."
- Shortly thereafter, when Mr. Hussein failed to turn over
the weapons he did not have, the United States invaded. Since the beginning
of the war, more than 500 Americans have perished. As for the overwhelmingly
outmatched Iraqis, an estimated 10,000 have been killed. For those who
believe the invasion was unjust, "murdered" is the preferred,
if excessive, word.
- Mr. Powell came close to saying the aggression was unjust
this week. If the administration had known there were no such weapons stocks,
he told the Washington Post, there might not have been an invasion. The
day his words were published, with consternation gripping the White House,
Mr. Powell was trotted out to deny them, and say the attack was the correct
- There were many who didn't believe the U.S. take on Iraqi
weapons. The Canadian government wanted more time for inspections, more
proof. United Nations chief inspector Hans Blix wanted more time. He was
ridiculed. Some journalists, the most notable being Eric Margolis of the
Sun chain, said from the first day that the U.S. line was a crock. In a
print medium that is now, in contrast to Canadians themselves, largely
conservative, he stood out.
- In the long run, the war may well have beneficial consequences.
Removing any brutal dictator usually does. But that does not take away
from the contemptible manner in which the carnage was undertaken. That
there were no weapons stocks is validation that the West's policy of containment
against Saddam was working well.
- Mr. Bush's credibility has suffered its biggest hit to
date with the publication of the weapons report by David Kay, a former
UN weapons inspector and CIA adviser who said no weapons now exist in Iraq.
Ottawa's foreign-policy makers, while largely vindicated, aren't boasting
about it. But the hope here is that Mr. Kay's repudiation will diminish
some of the sense of moral righteousness coming from the Bush White House.
- Though it wasn't publicized at the time, Prime Minister
Paul Martin got a sense of that sanctimony when he met with Mr. Bush in
early January in Mexico. Mr. Bush let the Prime Minister know that he believed
himself to be on the side of God and tending to God's mission.
- The Canadian side, while aware of the President's penchant
for religiosity, had been expecting to talk more about softwood lumber
than the Ten Commandments. The Canadians didn't expect the morality play.
Nor did they expect that, almost in the same breath, Mr. Bush would be
filling the air with the f-word and other saucy expletives of the type
that would surely leave the Lord perturbed. Nor did they anticipate a pointed
attack on French President "Jack Cheerack," as Mr. Bush called
him, for his views on the Middle East.
- Mr. Martin was somewhat taken aback by what he heard.
After the meeting, he was barely out the door before he was asking someone
in his entourage what was to be made of all the God stuff. In meetings
of presidents and prime ministers, religion has rarely been at the forefront.
Business is conducted on the basis of knowledge and logic. With the Bush
White House, the visitors must bear in mind that there is a third force.
- It was a Martin question on the President's world view
that sent Mr. Bush off on his sermon. It wasn't, Canadians officials say,
a gratuitous rant. Whether or not he was presenting himself as God's agent
depends on whose version of the meeting one listens to.
- But neither the Prime Minister nor Foreign Affairs Minister
Bill Graham let this aspect of the proceedings divert them from their purpose
of establishing a warm rapport with the President, which they achieved.
There was no attempt at challenging the views of Mr. Bush, who had a religious
conversion at age 39, after a weekend of talks with evangelist Billy Graham.
Within a year, he gave up drinking and joined a men's Bible-study group.
- With U.S. voters, he scores well for his religious views.
It gives him moral clarity. In Canada, it hasn't helped his image. As a
Maclean's poll reveals this week, this President is one of the most disliked
in history. His sense of sanctimony combined with the right-wing warrior
mentality is a potent non-seller. So much so that Paul Martin need not
worry about rushing back to see him any time soon. If the Prime Minister
wants to hear morality plays, there's a church just up the street from
his Sussex Drive home.
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