Mar. 24, 2003
Mulroney slams PM's position
Says he's being led by popularity polls Goodwill with U.S. being squandered


OTTAWA—Prime Minister Jean Chrétien's stand against joining the invasion of Iraq shows he's a follower, not a leader, says Brian Mulroney, warning that Liberal "anti-Americanism" has poisoned Canada-U.S. relations.

In a scathing assessment of the government's handling of the Iraq crisis, Mulroney, the former Tory prime minister, said Chrétien has abandoned long-standing allies such as the United States and Britain.

"At a crucial, seminal moment in our history, we have repudiated our allies and our coalition partners of the past," he said in an interview broadcast on Global Television yesterday.

"We have new partners: the Russians, the Chinese and the Germans," he said on the program Ottawa Inside Out. "This represents quite a change and I want to tell you I am one of many Canadians who ... regrets it profoundly."

Although a clear majority of 60 per cent say they object to the military move by U.S. President George W. Bush, 35 per cent of Canadians back him, support that rose during the week.

But most Canadians agree with Chrétien's decision not to take part in a campaign to oust Iraqi President Saddam Hussein without approval of the United Nations Security Council, a Star poll reported Saturday.

The poll, conducted for the Star and the Montreal newspaper La Presse by EKOS Research Associates, found a majority of respondents everywhere except Alberta backed Chrétien's decision; 71 per cent of those polled backed the decision by the Liberal government, with 27 per cent registering their disapproval.

EKOS found the greatest support for the Liberal position in Quebec, and found those most fervently opposed Chrétien's position lived in Alberta.

Mulroney argued that Chrétien's policies are being dictated by whatever will fly best in popularity polls.

"But just because something is popular doesn't mean it's right. This is a classic example of followership, not leadership," said the former prime minister, who acknowledged many of his own decisions were unpopular at the time.

He drew on the works of the 13th-century Italian poet Dante to condemn Chrétien's neutrality.

"Mr. Chrétien should remember that line from Dante that says the hottest place in hell is reserved for those who in times of great moral crisis strive to preserve neutrality," he said.

`This is a classic example of

followership, not leadership.'

Brian Mulroney, former PM

"We are not a neutral nation," he insisted. "We are a nation that believes in freedom and democracy and has defined it all of this time."

The Liberals once criticized Mulroney for having an overly cozy relationship with then-president Ronald Reagan. Now he's accusing Chrétien of doing just the opposite.

"The poison of anti-Americanism is more prevalent in the Liberal caucus today, or the Liberal government today, probably than at any time in our history."

He pointed to a number of recent incidents — the then-communications director to Chrétien who told a reporter that Bush is "a moron," a Liberal MP who called Americans "bastards," and a minister who said the president has failed to act like a statesman.

He also criticized Chrétien for not personally calling U.S. President George W. Bush to break the news that Canada would not be part of the U.S. led invasion of Iraq.

All of that will hamper Canadian efforts to resolve bilateral problems such as trade disputes and border issues, he said.

"We need the goodwill of the American Congress and the American president and we are doing everything, it seems to me, that ... we possibly can to squander the reservoir of goodwill that was built up over the years."

The situation is especially worrying given U.S. domination in world affairs, he said.

"In this unipolar world that has existed since the collapse of the Soviet Union, all roads lead to Washington ...

"If you want to live in Disney World, you can believe something else."

Mulroney's close ties with the U.S. presidency continue to this day. A few months ago he was invited to a meeting in the Oval Office, where he said he and the president and vice-president talked about terrorism and the situation in Iraq.

Chrétien's director of communications, Jim Munson, reacted cautiously to Mulroney's criticisms.

"The Prime Minister is not only reflecting public opinion, he's leading public opinion," he said, declining further comment.

Chrétien's stance on Iraq has received strong support from his Liberal caucus. All but two of his MPs — David Pratt, who chairs the Commons defence committee, and David Price — gave him a standing ovation when he announced Canada wouldn't join the U.S.-led campaign.

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