Canada’s Nu­clear Hypocrisy

The Victoria Standard - - Commentary - MOR­GAN DUCHESNEY

As Re­mem­brance Day 2017 re­cedes from mem­ory, it is worth not­ing that Canada’s mil­i­tary dif­fers from al­lied forces only in size and, in some cases, nu­clear weapons ca­pa­bil­ity. Canada’s for­mer role as re­spected peace­keeper is mere nos­tal­gia as the na­tion ex­pands its haz­ardous sup­port of U.S. for­eign pol­icy goals. You didn’t hear that in the Prime Min­is­ter’s Nov. 11 re­marks.

When the U.N. Gen­eral Assem­bly passed The Treaty on the Pro­hi­bi­tion of Nu­clear Weapons on July 7, 2017, Canada’s Lib­eral gov­ern­ment ex­pressed its sup­port for nu­clear weapons pro­lif­er­a­tion by ab­stain­ing from the vote. While some time has passed since this event, it is nev­er­the­less highly rel­e­vant to the cur­rent state of in­ter­na­tional af­fairs. Trump’s nu­clear blus­ter and the atomic pos­tur­ing of North Korea have greatly in­creased global anx­i­ety and placed the en­tire world in mor­tal peril.

Canada’s of­fi­cial jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for re­ject­ing the U.N. nu­clear arms treaty will be fa­mil­iar to any­one who re­mem­bers Stephen Harper’s hos­til­ity to the Ky­oto Pro­to­col. Through the ab­sten­tion, Trudeau de­clared nu­clear dis­ar­ma­ment im­pos­si­ble with­out the ac­tive par­tic­i­pa­tion of nu­clear-armed states. This sort of cir­cu­lar rea­son­ing seems to hinge on the terms of the U.N. treaty, which are too demo­cratic for the world’s dom­i­nant pow­ers.

As Canada’s mil­i­tary com­mit­ment to NATO grad­u­ally de­clined af­ter 1960, the na­tion be­came in­creas­ingly de­pen­dent on U.S. power for Cold War se­cu­rity. At the high­est lev­els of Canada’s po­lit­i­cal/busi­ness es­tab­lish­ment, where bor­ders are less im­por­tant than cap­i­tal mo­bil­ity, sur­ren­der­ing the na­tion’s de­fence to the U.S. su­per­power seemed eco­nom­i­cally wise, and even prof­itable. These sen­ti­ments helped cre­ate Canada’s “branch plant” arms econ­omy and ju­nior part­ner role in mil­i­tary and tech­no­log­i­cal mat­ters.

Although Canada has never pos­sessed or used nu­clear weapons of its own, we sup­plied the Man­hat­tan project with ura­nium and plu­to­nium for the world’s first atomic bombs. By 1965, Canada stopped ex­port­ing ura­nium to NATO states for weapons use, but con­tin­ued to sell nu­clear fuel and tech­nol­ogy for non-mil­i­tary uses like en­ergy and med­i­cal re­search. Un­for­tu­nately, Canada con­tin­ues to man­u­fac­ture and ex­port com­po­nents for U.S. nu­clear de­liv­ery sys­tems like the F15 fighter and B2 bomber.

While the last U.S. nu­clear weapon was of­fi­cially re­moved from Cana­dian soil in 1984, the gov­ern­ment tol­er­ates the fre­quent presence of nu­clear-armed U.S. war­ships and sub­marines in Canada’s At­lantic and Pa­cific naval bases. Not sur­pris­ingly, the U.S. Navy re­fuses to con­firm or deny the dan­ger­ous presence of nu­clear weapons on its ves­sels when they visit Vic­to­ria or Hal­i­fax.

Worse than the risk of a ra­di­a­tion leak in Cana­dian wa­ters is the fact that the U.S. Navy pos­sesses a huge ar­se­nal of so-called tac­ti­cal nukes, the smaller bombs that fig­ure promi­nently in the U.S. nu­clear first strike pol­icy. Dis­turbingly, U.S. mil­i­tary plan­ners con­sider the lim­ited use of low-yield nu­clear weapons against non-nu­clear op­po­nents to be a nat­u­ral pro­gres­sion of mod­ern war­fare. It is in­for­ma­tive to jux­ta­pose this lu­nacy against the tor­rent of nu­clear ac­cu­sa­tions hurled against North Korea and Iran - two na­tions con­cerned more with re­gional sta­tus than global dom­i­na­tion.

Un­for­tu­nately, for over 700 hun­dred Cana­dian sol­diers, Canada’s lack of nu­clear weapons did not shield them from nu­clear harm. The post-war gov­ern­ment of­fered Cana­dian sol­diers as test sub­jects for Bri­tish and U.S. nu­clear test­ing from 1946 to 1963. These ex­per­i­ments in­cluded a num­ber of 1957 un­der­ground tests in Ari­zona where troops were or­dered to occupy trenches only 1000 me­tres from ground zero. The un­der­ground test­ing cre­ated lin­ger­ing ra­dioac­tive dust clouds that coated the troops af­ter they were sub­se­quently or­dered to ad­vance and in­spect the bomb craters.

It took over fifty years for the Cana­dian gov­ern­ment to ac­knowl­edge this test­ing and of­fer pal­try com­pen­sa­tion to the sur­viv­ing vet­er­ans, many of whom suf­fer from the sort of can­cers di­rectly linked to se­vere ra­di­a­tion poi­son­ing. The U.S. mil­i­tary had de­ter­mined this re­la­tion­ship af­ter ex­ten­sive re­search on Hiroshima and Na­gasaki sur­vivors who were cyn­i­cally scru­ti­nized, but never treated.

Some Cana­di­ans, like as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor Stephan Dol­gert of Brock Univer­sity, are en­thu­si­as­tic ad­vo­cates for a nu­clear-armed Canada. Dol­gert, an Amer­i­can by birth, cites the rise of Don­ald Trump and ten­sions be­tween the U.S. and Rus­sia as rea­sons for Canada to adopt the nu­clear stance of smaller pow­ers like Is­raeli, In­dia and Pak­istan, who em­ploy nukes to el­e­vate the risk to any po­ten­tial at­tacker.

Although pre­sented as deter­rence, this nu­clear in­tim­i­da­tion tac­tic is not unique to smaller states. The United States and its mil­i­tary/eco­nomic al­lies will al­ways re­quire of­fi­cial en­e­mies like Iran and North Korea to jus­tify pub­lic spend­ing on the next gen­er­a­tion of con­ven­tional and nu­clear weapons. Only the names change in this time­less script. Scared peo­ple will al­ways be eas­ier to ma­nip­u­late than well-in­formed cit­i­zens who care­fully weigh of­fi­cial ac­tions against rhetoric.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.