OTTAWA Many angry Liberal backbenchers are making it personal, denouncing U.S. President George W. Bush with words such as petulant, arrogant, jingoistic and even hypocritical.
He's being characterized as a leader who dangerously mixes religion and politics and who seems to have something to prove.
The dam broke and a flood of anti-Bush sentiment flowed from the privacy of the Liberal government caucus room to the floor of the Commons after Prime Minister Jean Chrétien's announcement that Canada will not support a U.S. invasion of Iraq.
Even as Foreign Affairs Minister Bill Graham was trying to patch over policy differences with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell in a phone call late Monday night, backbenchers were lining up to lambaste Mr. Bush in an emergency Iraq crisis debate in the House.
"We are told that President Bush is a deeply religious man, and as we know, it is indeed a dangerous and volatile cocktail when religion and politics are mixed," Toronto-area MP Karen Kraft Sloan said.
"We must ask ourselves why a deeply religious man refuses to listen to the pleas from the world's religious leaders and the prayers of millions of protesters across the planet, including the prayers coming from the lips of American citizens," Ms. Sloan said.
Mr. Chrétien's support for United Nations arms inspections, Ms. Sloan said, is a "counterpoint to the jingoistic, petulant impatience displayed by Mr. Bush."
Quebec Liberal Yvon Charbonneau said Mr. Bush has taken it upon himself to "speak on behalf of the whole world. . . . How arrogant of him."
Mr. Charbonneau said that "President Bush is playing a very dangerous game by riding roughshod over the UN" and is acting in a "very dangerous and irresponsible manner."
Former cabinet minister Hedy Fry said she had watched Mr. Bush on TV deliver his 48-hour ultimatum to Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein and became convinced that the President was never committed to finding a diplomatic solution. "He had determined all along that we would go to war."
The back-bench doves were careful to train their sights on Mr. Bush and his administration to avoid the kind of collateral damage that resulted from Liberal MP Carolyn Parrish's carpet-bomb attack on "American bastards" last month.
Deputy Prime Minister John Manley said the personal attacks on Mr. Bush by Liberal MPs are counterproductive to the goal of maintaining a workable bilateral relationship.
"They're public figures and they have the right to opinions, but it's useful if they express them on the basis of principle and belief rather than to cast aspersions, particularly of a personal nature," he said.
"And it would be important to remain rather careful about those things."
But the depth of the anti-Bush sentiment raises questions about the type of reception the President will receive in May when he is scheduled to visit Ottawa and address Parliament.
"Our neighbors and friends are being led into a war by a leader who believes he has something to prove, to whom I am not certain," said MP Janko Peric from Cambridge, Ont.
Mr. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair, his closest ally in the Iraq crisis, are "the leaders of those two great democracies in the world (who) have decided to say to hell with the United Nations and international diplomacy," Mr. Peric continued.
Mr. Peric said the U.S. and British leaders have decided "they are above the law (and) God forbid that anyone should disagree with them."
Americans "are our friends" and Mr. Bush will have to "answer to his own citizens," Liberal Brent St. Denis said in a speech warning that the President's decision may have damaged the UN.
The administration is guilty of "hypocrisy" because it pushes the United Nations to support Iraqi disarmament but ignores other UN resolutions dealing with the rights of Palestinians, Scarborough Liberal MP John Cannis said.
The U.S. government has "failed miserably" to pay its bills to the UN and is now leading a "gang of war" that includes Britain, Spain and Portugal, Mr. Cannis said.
"We know that this war has nothing to do with terrorism and everything to do with vested interest, interest in oil for example," Mr. Cannis said.
Kitchener MP Karen Redman said the U.S.-led coalition will be violating international law if it attacks Iraq without UN approval.
The ends do not justify the means and "we cannot compromise the integrity or the credibility of the United Nations," Ms. Redman added.
Former defense minister Art Eggleton said Mr. Bush's mistaken agenda is not disarmament of Iraq but rather toppling Saddam Hussein from power.
But Mr. Eggleton also said Canadians "must recognize that we are the closest of friends" with Americans, neighbors who have "gone through a very traumatic experience" with the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.
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