Tagged: Glenn Davidson

NS Wikileak: US Consul assesses anti-Iraq war sentiment in NS

On the evening of March 26, 2003, the US Consulate in Halifax sent two “sensitive but unclassified” cables to the State Department in Washington assessing “the view from Atlantic Canada” on the Iraq War begun by George W. Bush three days earlier. Then-Consul General Steve Kashkett also reported on a series of anti-war demonstrations in Halifax.

Following a week of discussions with then Lieutenant Governor Myra Freeman, various ministers in the John Hamm cabinet, local newspaper editors, a political pollster,  businesspeople, and “some of our key military contacts here,” Kashkett came away with “the impression of a profoundly conflicted public.”

KASHKETT-350C

Steve Kashett, now vice president of the American Foreign Services Association, welcomes Hillary Clinton to the State Department Headquarters in Washington on her first day as Secretary of State

“Canadians in the atlantic provinces, most of whom consider themselves to have a staunchly pro-U.S. world view on most issues, are deeply divided over the war in iraq,” he wrote.

One of two cables points out that although university groups had vocally opposed the war, demonstrations had drawn hundreds, not thousands or tens of thousands, of participants.

“Of course, Halifax is a medium-sized provincial town with a smaller population than Toronto or Montreal, but the lukewarm response to the anti-war movement reflects deeper emotions here,” Kashkett concluded.

The other cable, sent an hour earlier, reported on three demonstations at the consulate’s Purdy’s Wharf II offices, and on a reception the consulate was forced to cancel at his residence after police warned that student groups planned to disrupt it.

“As is usually  the case in the Maritimes, the protestors are conducting  themselves in a restrained, mostly non-violent manner,” wrote Kashkett, who appeared to have detailed information from various local police.

“We are coordinating closely with the RCMP, the Halifax Regional Police, and our own building security people to  minimize any risk,” he reported.  “No protesters have targeted the CG residence as of yet, but RCMP contacts have confirmed that the location of the residence is known to local anti-war activists.”

Most of the sources referred to in the cables are unnamed, but the first cable reported that Rear Admiral Glenn Davidson, Commander of Canadian Forces Atlantic, “confided to Consul General today that there is fairly strong support for the war within the military services,”  and “many of his navy officers and enlisted personnel feel that they should be part of the war effort.”  The cable says Davidson believed the Chretien Government’s refusal may harm Canadian-US military “interoperability,” a matter of “highest importance” to the Canadian military.

The text of the first cable follows:

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 HALIFAX 0091 SIPDIS SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED DEPT FOR WHA/CAN E.O. 12958: N/A TAGS: PREL PGOV ASEC KPAO CA US SUBJECT: CANADIAN PUBLIC OPINION ON THE IRAQ WAR: THE VIEW FROM ATLANTIC CANADA REF: HALIFAX 0086 1. SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED - ENTIRE TEXT. 2. (SBU) CANADIANS IN THE ATLANTIC PROVINCES, MOST OF WHOM CONSIDER THEMSELVES TO HAVE A STAUNCHLY PRO-U.S. WORLD VIEW ON MOST ISSUES, ARE DEEPLY DIVIDED OVER THE WAR IN IRAQ. IN DISCUSSIONS DURING THE PAST WEEK WITH A WIDE RANGE OF PEOPLE INCLUDING THE LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR, PROVINCIAL GOVERNMENT MINISTERS, LOCAL NEWSPAPER EDITORS, A POLITICAL POLLSTER, BUSINESSPEOPLE, AND SOME OF OUR KEY MILITARY CONTACTS HERE, CG HAS GOTTEN THE IMPRESSION OF A PROFOUNDLY CONFLICTED PUBLIC. HALIFAX AND OTHER KEY ATLANTIC CITIES HAVE FAIRLY VOCAL STUDENT GROUPS AT THE MAJOR UNIVERSITIES WHICH HAVE BEEN OUTSPOKEN IN CRITICIZING THE WAR, AND WHICH HAVE ORGANIZED A NUMBER OF ANTI- WAR DEMONSTRATIONS (REFTEL) SINCE THE MILITARY CAMPAIGN STARTED. BUT THESE DEMONSTRATIONS HAVE ONLY DRAWN PROTESTERS IN THE HUNDREDS, NOT THE THOUSANDS OR EVEN TENS OF THOUSANDS THAT HAVE MARCHED ACROSS OTHER, LARGER CANADIAN CITIES. OF COURSE, HALIFAX IS A MEDIUM-SIZED PROVINCIAL TOWN WITH A SMALLER POPULATION THAN TORONTO OR MONTREAL, BUT THE LUKEWARM RESPONSE TO THE ANTI-WAR MOVEMENT REFLECTS DEEPER EMOTIONS HERE. 3. (SBU) OUR CONTACTS SAY THAT MOST ATLANTIC CANADIANS HAVE SERIOUS RESERVATIONS ABOUT ANY POLICY POSITION DICTATED FROM OTTAWA THAT PUTS CANADA AT ODDS WITH THE UNITED STATES. THIS PART OF CANADA IS PROUD OF THE FACT THAT IT HAS CLOSE TIES OF HISTORY, FAMILY, TRADE, AND CULTURE TO THE NORTHEASTERN UNITED STATES. ALTHOUGH MANY PEOPLE SHARE THE ANTI-WAR ACTIVISTQSQ CONCERNS OVER THE UTILITY AND TIMING OF THIS MILITARY CAMPAIGN AND OVER THE PERCEPTION THAT THE U.S. GOVERNMENT IS ACTING UNILATERALLY WITHOUT U.N. SANCTION, A STRONG CURRENT WITHIN LOCAL OPINION MAINTAINS THAT, NOW THAT THE WAR HAS BEGUN, FOR BETTER OR WORSE, IT IS IMPORTANT FOR CANADA TO STAND BESIDE ITS U.S. ALLY. MANY ATLANTIC CANADIANS BELIEVE THAT THE DISAGREEMENT BETWEEN OUR TWO COUNTRIES OVER WHETHER TO INITIATE MILITARY ACTION WAS ESSENTIALLY A DISPUTE OVER TACTICS, NOT OVER THE ULTIMATE GOAL OF ENDING THE INTERNATIONAL THREAT POSED BY AN OUTLAW REGIME IN BAGHDAD. TACTICAL DIFFERENCES, THEY ARGUE, SHOULD NOT BE THE CAUSE A SERIOUS RIFT BETWEEN TWO LONGSTANDING PARTNERS. 4. (SBU) AMBASSADOR CELLUCCIQS PUBLIC REMARKS YESTERDAY TO THE EFFECT THAT AMERICANS ARE DISAPPOINTED WITH CANADAQS FAILURE TO SUPPORT THE WAR HAVE GIVEN MANY ATLANTIC CANADIANS A JOLT. ALTHOUGH SOME DO APPEAR TO FEEL INSULTED AT SUCH CRITICISM, MANY OF OUR CONTACTS HAVE QUIETLY TOLD US THAT THEY BELIEVE THE AMBASSADOR WAS RIGHT TO EXPRESS HIS CONCERNS AND TO WARN OF THE POSSIBILITY THAT THERE MIGHT BE LONG-TERM CONSEQUENCES IN THE BILATERAL RELATIONSHIP. WHILE PEOPLE HERE ARE WORRIED ABOUT THE RAMIFICATIONS OF U.S. ACTIONS, THERE IS ALSO A PALPABLE DISCONTENTMENT WITH THE ACTIONS AND STATEMENTS OF PM CHRETIEN AND HIS GOVERNMENT. ATLANTIC CANADIANS BELIEVE THAT CROSS- BORDER COMMERCE AND TOURISM ARE VITAL TO THIS REGION, AND MANY FEAR THAT THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT IS ADOPTING POSITIONS THAT COULD JEOPARDIZE THESE ESSENTIAL BILATERAL RELATIONS. 5. (SBU) PUBLIC OPINION IN THE ATLANTIC PROVINCES TENDS TO BE MORE CONSERVATIVE THAN ELSEWHERE IN CANADA, PARTLY BECAUSE HALIFAX IS HOME TO THE CANADIAN NAVYQS ATLANTIC FLEET AND TO MANY MILITARY FAMILIES WHICH HOLD THE U.S. MILITARY FORCES IN HIGH REGARD. REAR ADMIRAL GLENN DAVIDSON, COMMANDER OF CANADIAN NAVAL FORCES HERE, CONFIDED TO CG TODAY THAT THERE IS FAIRLY STRONG SUPPORT FOR THE WAR WITHIN THE MILITARY SERVICES. MANY OF HIS NAVY OFFICERS AND ENLISTED PERSONNEL FEEL THAT THEY SHOULD BE PART OF THE WAR EFFORT. ACCORDING TO RADM DAVIDSON, THE CANADIAN MILITARY ATTACHES THE HIGHEST IMPORTANCE TO DEVELOPING ITS "INTEROPERABILITY" AND COOPERATION WITH THE U.S. MILITARY SERVICES, AND MANY MILITARY PEOPLE HERE FEAR THAT CANADAQS REFUSAL TO PARTICIPATE IN IRAQ WILL DAMAGE THAT CLOSE BILATERAL RELATIONSHIP IN THE FUTURE. 6. (SBU) THE HEAD OF A WELL-ESTABLISHED PUBLIC OPINION POLLING ORGANIZATION IN NOVA SCOTIA TOLD CG THAT A MAJORITY OF CANADIANS IN THIS PART OF THE COUNTRY ARE PREPARED TO SET ASIDE THEIR QUALMS ABOUT THE U.S. DECISION AND ARE LEANING TOWARDS SUPPORT FOR THE U.S. WAR EFFORT, NOW THAT HOSTILITIES HAVE BEGUN. IN HIS VIEW, OTTAWA COULD EASILY MOVE PUBLIC OPINION IN THIS DIRECTION IF IT CHOSE TO DO SO. HE COMMENTED THAT THERE MAY BE MORE PRO-U.S. SENTIMENT IN OTHER PARTS OF CANADA THAN CURRENTLY APPEARS TO BE CASE, BUT IT IS DIFFICULT TO TELL BECAUSE THOSE OPPOSED TO THE WAR TEND TO SPEAK THE LOUDEST AND GET THE MOST MEDIA ATTENTION. KASHKET

The text of the second cable follows after the jump:

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