AMB. IVOR ROBERTS, BRITAIN’S AMBASSADOR TO ITALY, thought he was off the record when he uttered a controversial truth — and described George Bush as “the best recruiting sergeant ever for al-Qaida”.
One excerpt from the article in The Guardian:
According to one of those present, Sir Ivor had been taking part in a discussion on which candidate Europeans would back if they had a vote in the US election. The ambassador said they would vote for Mr Kerry but some people would want Mr Bush, not least al-Qaida.
“If anyone is ready to celebrate the eventual re-election of Bush, it’s al-Qaida. Whereas it is clear that the Palestinians hope that a Kerry victory will unblock the situation,” he said.
Sir Ivor has no doubt stirred up reactions that will feel like those killer bees making their way up from Mexico into Oklahoma and Texas.
But he is right. Much of the world has a dim view of Bush, and Al Qaeda is trying to appeal to this antipathy about American global power and culture. Acording to previous Pew polling of global attitudes, many of the world’s citizens pine for a return of Clinton-style globalization policies — a real reversal from attitudes during the convulsive Seattle WTO ministerial years ago.
Sir Ivor’s sentiments are nearly the same as those in this controversial ad that ran before the war and featured bin Laden in the style of Uncle Sam pointing to the reader and saying:
I WANT YOU TO INVADE IRAQ
Go ahead. Send me a new generation of recruits. Your bombs will fuel their hatred of America and their desire for revenge. Americans won’t be safe anywhere. Please, attack Iraq. Distract yourself from fighting Al Qaeda. Divide the international community. Go ahead. Destabilize the region. Maybe Pakistan will fall — we want its nuclear weapons. Give Saddam a reason to strike first. He might draw Israel into a fight. Perfect! So please — invade Iraq. Make my day. Osama says: ‘I Want You to Invade Iraq.’
On Sunday, I attended a reception for the new round of Marshall Scholars at the residence of the British Ambassador in Washington, Sir David Manning.
Manning seems like a smart, careful guy. Tom Friedman was there in his capacity as a Marshall Scholar alum. Jeffrey Gettleman, a New York Times correspondent — who has been reporting from Baghdad also attended the Sunday soiree. I didn’t speak to him — but did to Manning and Friedman and neither mentioned a word I could hear about the presidential election or the Iraq War.
But simmering beneath the surface of discussion among and between these 42 new Marshall scholars and special guests was a true concern about Bush, the War, and about how these Americans were going to be seen in the UK and elsewhere in the world. But many felt like it was talking ‘out of church’ to say anything.
So, this morning, I just wanted to point to Sir Ivor Roberts’ comments and applaud him for not being so cautious that truth and candid discussion about war, are not held hostage by the powerful and politically correct.
— Steve Clemons