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Ordinary Folk, 'not Rabble-Rousers,' Joining Anti-War Protests

Posted on Monday, January 27 at 07:49 by RoyalHighlander

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"You had families, you had kids, you had middle-aged people, you had well-heeled people," polling executive John Wright says of the Canadian rallies. "It wasn't the kind of crowd that we've seen in marches against the World Bank."
Protests traditionally draw social activists, labour groups and left-of-centre politicians. The "usual suspects," as Wright refers to them, were out in force on Saturday, but they were far from alone. "I think (the Edmonton rally) encompassed a wide variety of people who all have a genuine concern about what's going on over in Iraq," says Sgt. Chris Hayden, a spokesman for the city police.
U.S. war talk has got under Canadians' skin in a rare way.
John Lynch, 69, says he's never been to a protest in his life but was part of the local march. Lynch, co-ordinator of the social justice commission for the Catholic Archdiocese of Edmonton, says he had to go because of President George W. Bush's "very obvious attempt to go to war, no matter what happens," over control of Iraq's oil. "It is a shame to wage a war against one person by killing hundreds of thousands, so I don't see it as any kind of a resolution."
Lynch doesn't want Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to stay in power. "But I don't know how you are going to get him out of there. He has such a tight control over his people as a dictator, they have no way of fighting back."
Lynch says the best hope, even if only a hope, lies in heads of state and the United Nations pressuring Hussein to get out. "I like the idea of pressuring him to go into exile, but I doubt he has that much integrity."
Harry Ainlay high-school student Arsheen Devjee, 16, hasn't been around as long as Lynch, but she, too, felt impelled to join the protest. "I believe the United States has no right to go into Iraq and wage war," Devjee says.
She says Hussein should not be allowed to stay in power because he's "a freak, a tyrant and crazy." But she, like Lynch, thinks Bush's motivation is Iraq's oil.
"The U.S. has absolutely no proof that Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction," she says. "The United Nations has found nothing, so he must have nothing. So how are you going to disarm him?
"If I had a lot of power and money, I would give it to the Iraqi people and I would get them to rise up against Saddam, and then they themselves can elect one of their own to run their country," Devjee adds.
Glen McLean was an organizer for the Edmonton rally and has been involved in many rallies through the years. He says Saturday's was different.
"It goes beyond the boundaries of people being aligned with some group that expresses itself as a group," McLean says.
"Right across the board, people are not endorsing Saddam Hussein in any way," he says. But they find something wrong with attacking a small country, regardless who's running it.
"You're talking about killing thousands and thousands of people. That's repugnant."
Knight, a political science professor at the University of Alberta, says: "The issue here is the possibility that the United States could actually be pushing us into a very dangerous confrontation."
He says polling shows Canadians and people in other countries see the U.S. as more of a threat to world peace than Hussein is.
It's not far-fetched to see a major conflagration developing between the Middle East and the West, given that the two world wars started in small regions, Knight says.
"Even within the United States there's a fairly large segment of the population that would argue for going through the United Nations to get another Security Council resolution before any attack on Iraq is contemplated."
Polling company Ipsos-Reid took Canadians' pulse Jan. 14-16, finding that just 40 per cent approve of U.S. military action to oust Saddam.
The poll, for CTV and the Globe and Mail, revealed that 36 per cent believe the U.S. is the biggest threat to world peace, ahead of al-Qaeda, Iraq and North Korea. Only 39 per cent feel the U.S. administration is a "good force in the world."
Albertans are the most supportive of the U.S. and the only region in the country where most residents -- 56 per cent -- see the U.S. administration as a force for good.
"They are certainly George Bush's best supporters north of the border," says pollster Wright, Ipsos-Reid's senior public affairs vice-president, from Toronto.
The polling company says the survey of 1,005 adult Canadians is accurate within plus or minus 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, on the national sample. The Alberta numbers have a larger margin of error because of a smaller sample size.
Wright says the results show that most Canadians dislike the U.S. administration, although they like Americans. He says the U.S. has failed to show them why it should attack Iraq.
"When it came to 9/11 the evidence was as clear as your television set." He says that's why Canadians favoured sending troops to Afghanistan.
"This is not a country of peaceniks," Wright says. "We are a due-process country, though."
He says most Canadians have been suspicious of Bush's motives since his election, partly because they think he knows nothing about Canada.
Wright says Prime Minister Jean Chretien showed his political instincts earlier this month, before Ipsos-Reid released its results, when he criticized Defence Minister John McCallum for suggesting Canada could invade Iraq without UN approval. "(Chretien's) statement was completely in line with the Canadian public, where the defence minister was nowhere near where the Canadian public is at."
dthorne@thejournal.southam.ca
© Copyright 2003 Edmonton Journal



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