The West as Arrogant, Greedy and Self-Absorbed
Canadian Premier Jean Chretien’s Interview on 9/11 Causes Controversy
By Dirk Eckert
[This article originally published in the cyber journal Telepolis is translated from the German on the World Wide Web, http://www.telepolis.de/deutsch/inhalt/co/13261/1.html.]
Is the West responsible for being regarded as “arrogant, self-absorbed, greedy and boundless”? The Canadian premier Jean Chretien made this statement in an interview with CBC, the Canadian Broadcasting Corp [http://media.cbc.ca.8080/ramgen/newsworld/clips/rm-/o/mansbridge_chretien020911.rm.]. The interview was conducted in July and broadcast by CBC on September 11, the first anniversary of the terrorist attacks. Now a controversy rages in Canada whether Chretien mocked the victims of the terrorist attacks.
Chretien, member of the Liberal party in Canada, was flown to the commemorations in the US on September 11. In the evening, the premier was seen on Canadian television in the documentary Untold Story [http://www.cbc.ca/clips/ram-newsworld/untold_stories020911.ram].
“I believe the West is too rich in relation to the poor world. We are inevitably regarded as arrogant, self-absorbed, greedy and boundless. For me, September 11 was a chance to realize this more strongly.”
Chretien also told about his visit to Wall Street in New York where some bankers complained about Canada’s economic relations to Cuba. “When one is as powerful as you are, it is time to be nice”, he replied to the bankers. The premier warned of the temptations of power and urged its restriction:
“One can not exercise one’s power to the point of humiliation of others. The West, the western world and not only the Americans, must recognize this.”
The statements of Chretien aroused a furious debate. “US Policy Responsible in Terrorist Attacks”, the Times summarized the words of the premier in a headline on September 13. The newspaper suspected that Chretien was personally embittered. The Canadian head of state attempted in vain this year to move the West to a relief fund in the billions for Africa to combat poverty, hunger and sicknesses.
The right-wing opposition in Canada interpreted the statements of the head of government less kindly. This opposition reproached the premier of accusing the victims of terror. The terrorist attacks were the work of irrational fanatics and had nothing to do with legitimate embitterment. Stephen Harper of the conservative right-wing Canadian Alliance urged Chretien to apologize to the United States and the families of the victims of the attacks. John Reynolds of the Canadian Alliance criticized the premier for endangering relations between the US and Canada.
According to the Financial Times, diplomats in Ottawa questioned the timing and intonation of the statements. “Timing and skill were never the strengths of Chretien”. The “Financial Times” sees a sign in the statements that the premier in his remaining time in government up to 2004 wants to set a more nationalist tone and emphasize Canada’s independence. “Canada will not be the 51st state of the US”, he said recently.
Chretien defended himself against the reproaches of the right-wing opposition. The newspaper “Globe and Mail” pointed out that 84 percent of Canadians are convinced that the United States had a certain personal responsibility in the attacks according to the latest polls [http://www.ctv.ca/special/sept11/hubs/Canadian.mccarthy01.html].
World Bank president James Wolfenson explained the terrorist attacks as follows:
“The face of Bin Ladin, the terrorism of Al-Qaida, the debris of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon are only symptoms. The sickness is the discontent that simmers in Islam and more generally in the world of the poor” [http://www.worldbank.org/html/extdr/extme/jdwint120701b.htm}.