PM links attacks to 'arrogant' West
Date: Friday, September 13 2002
Topic: International News
PM links attacks to 'arrogant' West
'You cannot exercise your power to the point of humiliation of others': Chrétien
Sheldon Alberts, Deputy Ottawa Bureau Chief
Thursday, September 12, 2002
OTTAWA - Jean Chrétien has linked the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks to perceived Western greed and arrogance and said the United States should not use its position as the world's only superpower to humiliate people in poorer nations.
In an interview that aired last night on CBC-TV, the Prime Minister for the first time suggested the strikes against New York and Washington stemmed from a growing international anger at the way the United States flexes its muscle around the globe.
"You cannot exercise your powers to the point of humiliation for the others. That is what the Western world -- not only the Americans, the Western world -- has to realize. Because they are human beings too. There are long-term consequences," Chrétien said in the pre-taped interview.
"And I do think that the Western world is getting too rich in relation to the poor world and necessarily will be looked upon as being arrogant and self-satisfied, greedy and with no limits. The 11th of September is an occasion for me to realize it even more."
The Prime Minister's remarks were part of a documentary about Canada's response to the Sept. 11 attacks that included revelations that, at one point that day, Chrétien gave tentative authorization for fighter pilots to shoot down a Korean Airlines 747 that military commanders feared had been hijacked over the Yukon.
Senior officials also revealed that dozens of jumbo jets were ordered to land in Gander, Nfld., and other remote East Coast airports because the government did not want to risk crashes or hijackings near major central Canadian cities such as Toronto and Montreal.
But Chrétien's remarks about the causes of anti-U.S. sentiment are likely to generate the most controversy. Leftist intellectuals from Susan Sontag to Canada's Naomi Klein have suggested U.S. foreign policy is one of the "root causes" of the attacks, while others say that argument amounts to blaming the victim.
The Prime Minister suggested Western nations -- and the United States in particular -- have alienated the rest of the world by trying to impose their values around the globe. Americans, he said, need to be nicer in how they operate on the international stage.
"It is always the problem when you read history -- everybody don't know when to stop. There is a moment, you know, when you have to stop," Chrétien said.
"There is a moment when you are very powerful. I said that in New York one day. It was on Wall Street. It was a crowd of capitalists, of course, and they were complaining because [Canada] had normal relations with Cuba, and this and that, and we cannot do everything we want. And I said that day -- if I recall, I used probably these words -- when you are powerful like you are, you guys, it is the time to be nice."
David Collenette, the Transport Minister, went further, comparing the United States to a hockey bully that may feel free to dominate world affairs because it no longer has such superpower enemies as the Soviet Union to keep it in check.
"There will be people in the U.S. emboldened by their new source of unfettered power to, in a hockey term, get their elbows up," Collenette said.
Chrétien also said he likes to maintain a detached relationship with U.S. presidents because "Canadians don't want to be looked upon as the 51st state."
"I have very good relations with President [George W.] Bush. I had very good relations with president Clinton. But I keep my distances," he said.
The CBC documentary was aired as part of the network's coverage of the one-year anniversary of Sept. 11. During the program, Chrétien revealed that he gave orders to commanders at NORAD's Canadian headquarters in Winnipeg for fighter jets to be prepared to shoot down a Korean Airlines 747 that the U.S. military feared was part of the terrorist plot.
The plane, flying over the Yukon, was being tailed by two U.S. F-16 fighters after giving off a signal that indicated it had been hijacked. A Canadian NORAD commander sought orders from Chrétien to fire on the plane if pilots believed it was headed to a heavily populated city such as Vancouver.
Chrétien said he agonized over the decision.
"He said, 'We might have to shoot them down.' So I said yes, if you think they are terrorists. I said you call me again, but be ready to shoot them down. So I authorized it in principle, yes," he said.
"It is kind of scary. You know this plane that has hundreds of people and you have to call a decision like that.... You have to be ready for that. You have to be calm and in control yourself and say what I'll risk. And if they tell you, there is a plane that can go and land in Toronto and kill thousands of people, you have no choice."
The plane eventually landed safely and the feared hijacking was a false alarm.
There were also new details about why Canadian authorities directed dozens of airline jets to such East Coast airports as Gander International on Sept. 11 after the United States closed its airspace.
Collenette and Margaret Bloodworth, the deputy minister of transport, said there were fears that other planes could be hijacked and Transport Canada did not want to risk attacks on major population centres in Central Canada, so the majority of the jets were sent to the East Coast.
"If there were people of similar intent on those planes and they felt they were going to lose their target in the U.S., we didn't know they wouldn't pick a target of a large building in another city," Bloodworth said.
Said Collenette: "In talking with her, she said we don't know what has happened but we have got to keep these planes away from Montreal or Toronto. I said absolutely."
In all, 250 aircraft with 44,000 people were diverted to 15 Canadian airports. More than 6,500 passengers landed in Gander.
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