U.S. quick to minimize supposed snub
By JOHN IBBITSON
With reports from Shawn McCarthy, Jeff Sallot; and Campbell Clark in Ottawa
Saturday, September 22, 2001
WASHINGTON -- The U.S. government expects Canada to offer military support in its campaign against suspected terrorist Osama bin Laden, Secretary of State Colin Powell said yesterday.
The request came as U.S. officials hastened to smooth ruffled Canadian feathers after President George W. Bush failed to mention Canada among 13 nations he lauded for their support and solidarity in the wake of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
"Canada was one of the first on the scene, with all kinds of help for us at this time of crisis," Mr. Powell told reporters after a meeting with Foreign Minister John Manley.
"Every imaginable offer we received from our Canadian brothers and sisters, and we will be forever grateful."
A senior White House official insisted yesterday that speechwriters had never intended to snub Canada by omitting it from Mr. Bush's speech before Congress on Thursday night. Mr. Bush mentioned Britain, France, Germany, Korea, Egypt, Australia, Pakistan, Israel, India, El Salvador, Iran, Mexico, and Japan.
Each country, the official said, was included to help buttress international support for the U.S. campaign against terrorism, or because the country had lost a large number of its citizens in the attacks.
Egypt, for example, was included because its backing is crucial as the Bush administration seeks to create a coalition similar to that forged by the President's father, George Bush, in the Persian Gulf war.
Pakistan was named because Washington needs its full co-operation for intelligence and possible military operations against Afghanistan.
Mexico was mentioned, the official said, because of the many Mexicans who died when the World Trade Center towers collapsed. But the Mexican consulate in New York put the number of estimated dead yesterday at 16. Between 35 and 50 Canadians lost their lives.
Australia made it on to the list, the official said, because it pledged military support. But when asked whether Canada was excluded because it had not offered such support, the official replied that Canada had not been asked.
However, Mr. Powell appeared to take that step yesterday as the United States moves against Mr. bin Laden, his terrorist organization al-Qaeda, and other terrorists and those who support them.
"It's a campaign against terrorism that will have an intelligence component, a law-enforcement component, it may have a military component [and] a financial component, as we go at all the tentacles of terrorist organizations, beginning with al-Qaeda," Mr. Powell said.
"And I am sure Canada will offer their support in all of these areas, but I do not have specific items that I would like to go down on a list this afternoon. But I am confident that we will continue to get support."
Prime Minister Jean Chrétien said yesterday he was not concerned by the President's failure to mention Canada, suggesting it was caused by overworked American officials coping with a crisis.
The situation in Washington is "stressful," he told reporters. "We are working together and there is no problem with that."
Mr. Chrétien will meet Mr. Bush on Monday in Washington for discussions about the antiterror coalition and for a private lunch.
White House spokesman Ari Fleischer rejected suggestions that Mr. Bush had slighted Canada, noting that the President called Mr. Chrétien on Sept. 12, the day after the hijackings, to express American gratitude. "The President would hope nobody would take it in that manner. . . . I think Americans' support for Canada is so strong that it speaks for itself. Canada has been stalwart and always is."
Still, the perceived snub drew protests from opposition politicians in Ottawa yesterday.
"I was surprised," Bloc Québécois Leader Gilles Duceppe said. "A few weeks ago, he [Mr. Bush] said Mexico was his best friend, yesterday it was Great Britain. He named quite a few countries yesterday, except Canada.
"I hope Mr. Chrétien will . . . remind him that we're there."
British Prime Minister Tony Blair was singled out for praise by Mr. Bush, not only because he was in the chamber during the President's speech, but because of Britain's offer of military support and Mr. Blair's assiduous efforts to convince other nations to join in the U.S. campaign.
New Democrat MP Svend Robinson said: "I certainly understand completely the sense that many Canadians have of disappointment . . . given the extraordinary outpouring of support. We opened our homes, we opened our hearts, we donated blood, provided rescuers. . . ."