We saw during the run up to the Iraq war the friction between George Bush and the leaders of France, Germany and Canada.
However, he was able to name at the time over forty countries who backed him enough to send troops to Iraq (although the 10 person contingent from the Czech Republic and the less than 1000 person contingent from all but four of our 'coalition partners' makes it clear that the US is still doing all the heavy lifting).
The list has since shrunk by almost half, as nation after nation realizes that the United States is stuck in a protracted guerilla war which they want no part of.
What makes the latest defection from the group unique, however, is how it came about.
Italy sets date to pull troops out of Iraq.
Recall that Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berluscone stood against overwhelmingly anti-war public opinion in his country and sent troops to Iraq. He continued to stand firm as a member of the coalition when eighteen Italian troops were killed on November 12, 2003 by a truck bomb in Nasiriyah in southern Iraq, despite enormous public pressure to get out. The kind of ally that President Bush would stand by, right?
Well, no actually. After leftist Italian journalist Giuliana Sgrena who had been held hostage by insurgents was freed, which was widely reported on as it was happening, the vehicle which was carrying her to the airport was fired upon by American soldiers at a checkpoint, wounding her and killing the agent who was escorting her back to the airport.
With this being reported on the internet and in a number of media outlets as it was occuring, the questions could be raised about whether American intelligence is so incompetent that our military knew less than online readers of il manifesto (Sgrena's publisher), or whether we have a weak link somewhere in the chain of command, or even whether Sgrena, who openly writes for a communist newspaper, was on the now disturbingly long list of journalists who have written negative things about how Mr. Bush's war is going, who have been 'caught in the crossfire' in Iraq (funny, but journalists from Faux News or others who only put a happy face on everything seem have a much better rate of survival, but I digress).
All of these questions were asked. In Italy. With Mr. Berluscone taking the heat. You'd think the least our President could do would be to provide him with a fig leaf worth of cover and acknowledge that clearly there was a mistake somewhere in the system.
But he didn't do that. In fact, official statements and press releases pretty much faulted the dead agent and the driver of the car for not slowing down fast enough as they approached the checkpoint (no mention of why they didn't know who it was).
So, George bailed on his friend when his friend was facing the toughest questions he ever had.
It seems like George's list of foreign heads of state he is willing to stand with is pretty much limited to Tony Blair, Ariel Sharon and maybe John Howard.