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Wednesday, March 26, 2003

Official Warning: The next person who tells me a Polish joke gets punched.

According to this story, Poles are dogged supporters of their troops, the United States and the war to overthrow Saddam.

Poland recently sent 200 soldiers to Iraq, including highly trained special GROM forces, the equivalent of the British SAS and SBS. So far they have been active around Umm Qasr and are working to prevent war saboteurs from blowing up oil installations on the coast. I know this because the exploits of GROM are being followed obsessively by the local media. There was practically a national celebration when Donald Rumsfeld singled Poland out at a news briefing, saying the United States was "especially grateful for the involvement of the armed forces of Great Britain, Australia and Poland." When Major-General Victor Renuart announced Monday that the GROM forces in the Gulf had been "very active and excellent," it too made national headlines. As of this evening both statements are being repeated hourly on the news, and run without pause on Polish rolling news bars. The pride is palpable.

* * *

The support for the boys in GROM is reflected in the general coverage of the war. Polish news is unwavering in its support of the progress of the troops. Local commentators constantly emphasize that the United States is making a conscious decision to run a humanitarian campaign to avoid both Iraqi civilian casualties and casualties among their own troops. There is respect for the way the Americans are fighting, a sense that they are doing a difficult job while trying to cause the least "collateral damage" possible.

There's even an envious swat at Canada:

Yesterday at Warsaw University I asked a local student why Poland was so supportive of the United States. "Which other country is going to spend US$340-billion on defence every year -- Europe? France? Never!" he said. "Every time something serious happens in the world the United States is expected to sort it out." As ever, I was mistaken for an American, but when I told him I was, in fact, Canadian his tone changed. "Your country can afford to be anti-war -- you are right next to the U.S." he said. "I really don't understand Canada," he continued. "I wish we could cut Poland off the map and put it where you live. Canadians are spoilt. It is the luckiest country in the world."

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