Monday, September 11, 2006

Amazing how subsequent events have colored their view of history...

OTTAWA -- Half of Canadians blame American foreign policy for the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, showing a hardening of opinions since the one-year anniversary of the disaster, when people in this country were less inclined to attribute the bombings to U.S. meddling in certain parts of the world.

A poll conducted for Canwest News Service indicates that 53 per cent of Canadians believe the attacks were "a very specific violent reaction to foreign policies of the U.S. government."

Only 36 per cent reported that the terrorist bombings signalled an attack against "all western-style, affluent democracies because they hate their ideas and values, symbolized most by the United States."

The telephone survey of 887 adults, conducted by the polling firm Ipsos-Reid on Sept. 6 and 7, is considered accurate within 3.5 percentage points, 19 times in 20.

The results show that Canadians are more firm in their blame since the first anniversary of Sept. 11, in 2002, when only 15 per cent said that U.S. foreign policy was responsible for the attacks and another 69 per cent suspected it was somewhat responsible, said John Wright, Ipsos-Reid's senior vice-president.

"People have defined their views. They've looked at not just 9/11, but what's happened since then. They're looking at Iraq. And they're saying the foreign policy of the United States has become -- or is, or was -- the root cause of this issue," Wright said.

Young Canadians under 35 were most likely to blame U.S. foreign policy (58 per cent).

The five-year anniversary poll indicates that a significant number of Canadians continue to be affected by the attacks.

More than one in four people -- 28 per cent -- reported that in comparison to everything else that has taken place in their lives, the attacks were "life-altering" and they've "never been the same since."

One in four are afraid to fly outside Canada because of fears of terrorism. One in three say they are "personally more suspicious of people who are from the Middle East or Southeast Asia."

Almost one in five people -- 17 per cent -- said they can't watch television or movie recounts of the event because "the recall has a traumatizing effect on me."

Despite the lasting effect on many, the survey also reveals that 77 per cent of Canadians have moved on since the attacks, reporting that while they were affected at the time, their "outlook and activities are now almost exactly the way they were before the attacks took place."

In a bizarre finding, the polling firm reported that 22 per cent of Canadians believe in a conspiracy theory in which the terrorist attacks were orchestrated by a "group of highly influential Americans and others" rather than by supporters of Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda terrorist network.

The theory that the U.S. pulled off an inside job to ultimately justify going to war for Iraqi oil persists in Canada and in the United States, fuelled by a few books and a compelling Internet documentary called Loose Change, created by two young Americans, which has been viewed by millions and is particularly popular on university campuses and in Internet chat rooms. One of its assertions is that the Pentagon was hit by a cruise missile fired by the military as an excuse to go to war.

"It does have resonance," said Wright. "I call them neighbourhood rumours. There are a good number of people who believe it could have been perpetrated by people in the United States."

The poll shows young adults aged 18 to 34 are most likely to believe in the conspiracy theory (26 per cent).

Another key finding was that only 18 per cent of those polled believe that the Canadian government and police have gone too far in fighting terrorism at the expense of civil liberties. Another 43 per cent believe that a proper balance has been struck, while 33 per cent believe police and government should give themselves more powers.

All questions in the poll, with the exception of the one dealing with U.S. blame, were asked of 1,000 adults on Aug. 29 to 31. The results have a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

© Times Colonist (Victoria) 2006

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