Lester Pearson enjoys iconic status in Canada as a former prime minister, Nobel Peace Prize winner, and particular acclaim as the father of peacekeeping. The Nobel Prize site notes “his diplomatic sensitivity, his political acumen, and his personal popularity.”1 The myth of Pearson is so ingrained that most Canadians have bought into it.
Noam Chomsky, however, considers Pearson a “major criminal, really extreme.”2 Chomsky wrote the foreword to Yves Engler’s latest book: Lester Pearson’s Peacekeeping — The Truth May Hurt.
Engler presents Pearson’s words and record, but an image other than that of an altruistic world statesman emerges. He deconstructs the myth of Pearsonian peacekeeping. Engler holds, “There is, in fact, a strong case to be made that he should be posthumously charged with abetting war crimes.”
Pearsonian leadership saw Canada tied to great western powers, particularly the United States. He was a fervent anti-Communist, calling the USSR an “oppressor on a scale surpassing even Nazi Germany.”
Writes Engler, “To get a sense of Pearson’s hostility toward Russia, in 1938 he said he hoped the Nazis and Soviets would destroy each other.”
Pearson, “the peacekeeper,” supported the formation of NATO and not just as a defensive organization but one — according to Engler — justifying European/North American dominance across the globe.
Lester Pearson’s Peacekeeping details Pearson’s record of supporting western imperialism and colonialism throughout the world. Under Pearson, Canadian policy supported European countries, the US, and Zionists in their territorial grabs and occupations abroad.
International tribunals and organizations were rejected by Pearson when contrary to great power interests. For example, “… Pearson rejected the Arab countries push to have the International Court of Justice decide whether the UN was allowed to partition Palestine.”
Lester Pearson’s Peacekeeping notes that Pearson was so extreme in bias to Israel that some Zionists referred to him as “Lord Balfour” of Canada and “rabbi Pearson.” Pearson even received the Theodore Herzl award from the Zionist Organization of America for his “commitment to Jewish freedom and Israel.”
In Asia, Canada supported the Kuomintang in China. Canada’s famed peacekeeper pushed to send troops into the Korean imbroglio. Canada was even implicated in developing weapons of mass destruction, including biological warfare, that caused Pearson to perjure himself in parliament.
Such was his unstinting service to US dominance that Pearson claimed: “it is inconceivable to Canadians, it is inconceivable certainly to me, that the United States would ever initiate an aggressive war.” Pearson refused to acknowledge US involvement in the invasion of Guatemala, and he served US aims in Viet Nam.
Pearson backed CIA coups. Of the US-British overthrow of Iran’s first popularly elected Prime Minister, Mohammad Mossadegh, Pearson rationalized: “In their anxiety to gain full control of their [Iranian] affairs by the elimination of foreign influence, they are exposing themselves to the menace of communist penetration and absorption — absorption into the Soviet sphere.”
The Pearsonian logic is mind-numbing. In other words, by attempting to eliminate foreign influence, Iran was opening itself up to foreign influence; therefore, other foreigners were obliged to step in to impose their own influence.
It was not just in Asia that Pearson backed western colonialism but also Africa. Canada voted against a UN resolution calling for self-determination in the Portuguese territories thwarting independence aspirations in Angola, Mozambique, and Guinea Bissau. Engler describes Pearson’s policies as “sympathetic to South Africa’s apartheid regime…”
And how did the peacekeeper stand on nuclear proliferation? The so-called father of peacekeeping allowed US nuclear weapons to be stationed on Canadian soil, and he backed US nuclear weapon interests in international fora. Writes Engler, “Ottawa voted against a UN call to ban nuclear weapons and in December 1954 Pearson voted to allow NATO forces to accept tactical nuclear weapons …”
Pearson dismissed civil society groups demanding nuclear disarmament. When the Canadian Peace Congress called for the atomic bomb to be outlawed, he said “a victim is just as dead whether he is killed by a bayonet or atom bomb.”
In the western hemisphere, Canadian corporate interests influenced Pearson to support the Brazilian military coup and the Trujillo dictatorship in Dominican Republic.
An unmistakable global picture develops in Lester Pearson’s Peacekeeping. Around the world, Pearson backed western governmental and corporate interests, especially American interests — despite the warring carried out to achieve those aims.
Upon closer scrutiny, concludes Engler, “… Canada’s hero appears less a man of peace than a strident cold warrior.” Even former Canadian prime minister Pierre Trudeau is quoted as calling Pearson the “defrocked priest of peace.”
Engler asks, “What was Pearson’s motivation? And, what is it about his legacy that keeps his name alive in current Canadian foreign policy debates?”
Part of the answer is revealed by how Pearson landed a sinecure courtesy of “some of his wealthy friends…”
Engler concludes by asking readers “to think of themselves as members of a truth and reconciliation commission looking into Canada’s foreign policy past.”
“Honest Canadians need to confront the truth of what has been done in our name. Mythologizing this country’s foreign policy past does not help people in understanding our current reality. The truth may hurt, but it also sets you free.”
The monopoly media and a controlled establishment narrative have created an image of Lester Pearson that has endured over time to the present day. Engler examines the narrative and finds it apocryphal. The result is Lester Pearson’s Peacekeeping — a sweepingly persuasive book filled with background and references that makes it easy for readers to research and reach their own conclusions.
- “Lester Bowles Pearson – Biography,” Nobel Prize.org. [↩]
- See Kim Petersen, “Canada: The Honest Broker?” Dissident Voice, 7 August 2006. [↩]