President Aleksander Kwasniewski, a key Washington ally, said Thursday he may withdraw troops early from Iraq and that Poland was 'misled' about the threat of Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction.
His remarks to a small group of European reporters were his first hint of criticism about war in Iraq, where Poland currently has 2,400 troops and with the United States and Britain commands one of three sectors of the U.S.-led occupation.
'Naturally, one may protest the reasons for the war action in Iraq. I personally think that today, Iraq without Saddam Hussein is a truly better Iraq than with Saddam Hussein,' Kwasniewski told the European reporters.
'But naturally I also feel uncomfortable due to the fact that we were misled with the information on weapons of mass destruction,' he said, according to a transcript released by the presidential press office.
Earlier in the day, Kwasniewski said Poland may start withdrawing its troops from Iraq early next year, months earlier than the previously stated date of mid-2005.
'Everything suggests that pullout from Iraq may be possible after the stabilization mission is crowned with success and, in my assessment soon, it may be the start of 2005,' Kwasniewski told RMF-FM radio.
We do not yet know if the Spanish election is a one-off or the beginning of a trend. This statement tend to support the idea that we are seeing a trend. What we are certainly seeing is that the Rumsfeld distinction between old and new Europe seems not to have a lot of meaning for Europeans.
According to the Christian Science Monitor:
In Warsaw, the supposed capital of new Europe, there are signs of opposition to the policy. Opinion polls at the outbreak of hostilities in Iraq showed two-thirds of Poles opposed the war, and even after the fall of Baghdad that figure remains at more than 55 percent.
Le Nouvel Observateur reports that similar doubts are being expressed in Ukraine and Azerbaijan. They mention l'Homme d'Acier as well.
The Polish people were also less supportive of the Iraq enterprise than their government. It looks like coalition governments are beginning to look over their shoulders. This does not mean abandoning the fight against terror. It may mean adopting better ways of fighting it. The European interior and security ministers meet on Friday and that should produce some interesting news. Certainly you'd have to agree that if Iraq is in fact the central front of the war on terror, it is doing little to prevent terrorist attacks in coalition countries or elsewhere.
That was the intelligence before the war. It is proving true.