In the mid-1980s Canadians granted a landslide electoral victory to the oxymoronically-labeled Progressive Conservative (Tory) Party led by Brian Mulroney. Mulroney’s victory was, arguably, more attributable to disgust with the previous Liberal government than about any fondness for the Tory platform. Nevertheless, it signaled the start of a hard slide to the right. As Linda McQuaig details in her book, The Quick and the Dead: Brian Mulroney, Big Business and the Seduction of Canada, the Mulroney years saw a tax transfer from the general public to corporate Canada and the evisceration of Canada’s hitherto much vaunted social system.
Concomitant with his business-friendly government was the pursuit of friendly -- others would say obsequious -- ties with the US. Mulroney’s abject support for the US invasion of Panama exemplified his government’s acceptance of US imperialism, on which corporate Canada rode the coattails. The signing of a so-called free pact with the US was the cornerstone of Mulroney’s policy, which later was expanded to include Mexico. McQuaig described the Tories as so prepared to sell out Canada to US business interests that the US had to back off. In fact, wrote McQuaig, “Mulroney had become so useful to the U.S. government that it was trying to protect the Canadian Prime Minister from his own voters.” (1) Mulroney’s popularity plummeted and seeing the writing on the wall he stepped down to watch his party nearly wiped off the political map. The Tories have since been merged into the banner of a new right-wing party.
To his credit though, Mulroney did decline Canadian participation in the imperialistic Strategic Defense Initiative more commonly referred to as Star Wars.
After the Tory period ended, the Liberal party again assumed power with Jean Chrétien as prime minister. Chrétien recently stepped down and at a party convention he crowed pridefully at having withstood US pressure to join the so-called coalition in the aggression of Iraq. The partisan crowd exploded in applause. While Chrétien seizes upon the legacy of the Canadian non-participation in the bloody imperial oil grab, the truth is that Chrétien sat on the fence until the last minute and was forced by the weight of public opinion and pressure from within his own party caucus to adhere to Canadian foreign policy, which supports multilateralism. In a display of Machiavellian duplicity Chrétien proceeded to bend to US pressure by collaborating through the dispatch of Canadian troops to Afghanistan, thus freeing American resources up for Iraq. Canadian warships also cruised the Persian Gulf; Canadian troops on exchange stayed with their American units in Iraq; Canadian officers served at operations headquarters in Qatar. The Canadian government bent over backwards in so many other ways such as permitting over flights through Canadian air space and supplying the US war machine. The truth is Canada is deeply complicit in the illegal invasion of Iraq.
Serving as the fiscally conservative finance minister in the Chrétien cabinet was the man who is now Canada’s prime minister, Paul Martin. Martin is described by his biographer as being to the right of even Mulroney. (2)
Martin also claims to have been opposed to the war in Iraq. It is the politically sensible thing to say. Nonetheless, Martin seems to have curried favor with President Bush, providing Canadian corporations with the opportunity to cash in on some of the Iraqi reconstruction contracts.
Martin is so right of Mulroney that, unlike his rightist counterpart, it appears that he will lead Canada into collaboration on the Son of Star Wars, otherwise called the Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) project.
Like Mulroney before him, Martin is seeking a more conciliatory relationship with the US. Good binational relationships are, in principle, a good thing but not at the cost of a nation’s principles.
The Canada government was unwilling to publicly declare support for the Iraqi invasion and this irked Bush. It is suggested that Canadian participation in the BMD might be a move to ingratiate Canada back into the good graces of the superpower. Anticipating this McQuaig writes, “Of course, as a sovereign country, we don’t need to make amends for not joining America’s war.” (3)
Son of Star Wars
The Canadian government is entering into discussions on BMD.
BMD is a scaled down version of Star Wars, which unsuccessfully sought to establish a space-based defense -- an umbrella against incoming missiles. BMD is a mainly land-based version of defense whereby missiles will be launched to intercept missiles at a safe range. The Project for the New American Century has described the importance of BMD in maintaining a Pax Americana.
Just how defensive BMD is, is another question. Professor emeritus Edward Herman finds the alleged defensive role of BMD to be “a public relations deception as the [B]MD offers negligible protection against a remote rogue missile threat, whereas the utility of the [B]MD as an offensive threat to any U.S. rival would be real, as is acknowledged by military-industrial complex officials.” (4)
And why should Canada be overly concerned about defending itself against ballistic missiles? After all Canada is not threatening anyone and until now doesn’t seem to be a threatened by anyone. Since Bush launched his never-ending War on Terrorism the US has actually exacerbated the danger of another terrorist attack against it. By allying itself with the US, Canada is also making itself a potential target. That this is so can be deduced from a warning, purportedly from al Qaeda: "We tell the criminal Bush and his Arab and Western tails -- especially Britain, Italy, Australia and Japan -- that cars of death will not stop at Baghdad..." (5)
Former minister responsible for war John McCallum realizes this. He admits that while now the “ballistic missile threat to Canada is not considered to be high,” in the future “the threat to Canada and Canadian interests could also increase.” What kind of nonsense is this? Is Canada to commit itself to a controversial project based on something that “could” happen?
Who is the enemy that we are protecting ourselves from anyway?
Only a few states possess the ability to launch intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) capable of reaching the US or Canada and most of these states are allies. Russia is rebuilding and China has only a handful of ICBMs. North Korea is rumored to have an ICBM capable of hitting Alaska but why would it bother? It knows that this would mean instant annihilation.
Yet Martin is adamant. "We're talking about the defence of North America. Canada has to be at the table."
McCallum considers “the protection of Canadians, and the defence of Canadian Forces personnel on operations.” He declares, “The ultimate decision regarding Canada's involvement in BMD will be based on our own national interest and on an evaluation of what is best for Canada and Canadians.”
Sounds reasonable depending on how the Canadian national interest is defined.
Nevertheless, so the government logic goes, since the US is going there with or without us, then the government “has a responsibility to protect Canada's sovereignty and to ensure that we have a say in decisions affecting the defence of our people
What kind of sovereignty protection is it when the decision has already been made regardless of the Canadian government’s participation or not? It sounds more like a surrender of sovereignty.
Does it even work?
McCallum admits that test results for BMD are “mixed.”
In defense (no pun intended), he states, “No defensive system is 100 percent effective, but the United States is committed to making BMD work.”
Well those “mixed” results are that of the 17 missile interceptor tests from 1983 to 1999 only three were successful. This doesn’t augur well for the BMD. The Patriot missile interceptor was 17 for 17 in testing but a bust in the field.
Missile defense analysts George Lewis, Theodore Postol, and John Pike argued that even if the BMD functioned perfectly it could be easily overcome by a mass missile attack or through a variety of simple countermeasures.
The scientists argue logically, “Moreover, if [the BMD] is to be effective in countering weapons of mass destruction, the U.S. system must work the first time it is used. The proposed system does not even appear even close to capable of meeting these goals.” (6)
BMD and Compatability with Canadian Arms Control Policy
Canada, an arms exporter, has always hypocritically supported arms control; yet, the US abrogated the Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty to pursue BMD.
Also if one method to overcome the BMD is through sheer number of missiles then logically the BMD fillips missile proliferation.
On the likelihood of space-based weapons, McCallum articulates, “Throughout the Government's discussions with the United States, we will re-affirm Canada's long-standing policy of opposing the weaponization of space.”
What good is that supposed to be? It is already acknowledged that the US will proceed with or without Canada.
The US doesn’t share the same concerns as Canada. The plank of US Space Command outlines the aim of “dominating the space dimension of military operations to protect US interests and investment. Integrating Space forces into warfighting capabilities across the full spectrum of conflict.” It is no wonder that the US consistently votes against any UN resolutions prohibiting weaponization of space. US General Howell Estes maintains, “As stewards of military space, we must be prepared to exploit the advantages of the space medium.” (7)
BMD runs counter to the Canadian reason proffered for avoiding the conflict in Iraq, namely, that it negates multilateralism. The Canadian government would be damning its own foreign policy cornerstone.
The Canadian National Interest
Noted McCallum, “Missile defence is one of the largest research and development programs in the US, with an annual budget of approximately $8 billion (US). A number of countries are currently exploring industrial cooperation with the US.”
Revealed here is the Canadian national interest. One need not be an astute political analyst to know that the term national interest refers to corporate interests. There is much money to be made for certain industries in the pursuit of military contracts.
What is the price Canada must pay? Martin indicated on CBC TV on Tuesday (23 December) that Canada could help with post-war efforts in Iraq -- in essence collaborating with occupation. The form of this collaboration wasn’t elucidated.
With sympathy for the US occupation, Martin said, "This is not something that one country can do on its own, by itself. And it is [in] that degree of multilateralism where I think that Canada can play a very, very important role." Sheesh, Canadian multilateralism now encompasses a multilateral occupation.
Time to Mobilize against the BMD
On January 12 and 13 of the New Year Prime Minister Martin will meet with President Bush at the Summit of the Americas in Monterrey, Mexico. BMD is expected to be discussed.
A media release from Network to Oppose War and Racism - Pacte contre l'Agression, l'Intolérance et la Xénophobie (NOWAR-PAIX) warns of the urgency to rally opposition to the BMD. It seems that Canadian government negotiations with the US are underway.
"Every dollar spent on this system, either here or in the US, means less funding for the programs Canadians really want and need," says Jessica Squires, a NOWAR-PAIX member. "We call on Paul Martin and his new cabinet to properly represent the desires of Canadians for peace and justice."
William Blum spoke to the shock of other nationalities upon becoming cognizant of American violence: “Such innocence, it must be said, is virtually a form of insanity.”
Martin needs to explain why Canada should be complicit in the psychotic bloodletting of empire?
Canadian Predation in Africa
(1) Linda McQuaig, The Quick and the Dead: Brian Mulroney, Big Business and the Seduction of Canada (Viking, 1991).
(2) Murray Dobbin, “Canadian Idol of the Right,” Globe and Mail, 19 September 2003: http://www.globeandmail.com/servlet/ArticleNews/TPStory/LAC/20030919/CODOBBIN19/TPComment/TopStories
(3) Linda McQuaig, “Star Wars? Just Say No, Ottawa,” Comox Valley Peace Coalition, 5 May 2003: http://members.shaw.ca/cvpeace/justsayno.html
(4) Edward S. Herman, Bush's America, or Big Brother lives and thrives, Autodafe, Spring 2003: http://www.autodafe.org/autodafe/autodafe_03/art_05.htm
(5) Quoted in Eric Silver, “Al-Qa'ida says it ordered attacks on synagogues,” Independent, 17 September 2003:
(6) George N. Lewis, Theodore A. Postel, and John Pike, “Why National Missile Defense Won’t Work,” Scientific American, August 1999. Available on the Halifax Peace Coalition Website: http://hfxpeace.chebucto.org/Reference/BMD/ScientificAmericanOnMissileDefense.pdf
(7) United States Space Command, “Vision for 2020,” Federation of American Scientists, http://www.fas.org/spp/military/docops/usspac/visbook.pdf