Monthly Archives: October 2001

Operation Apollo: Words of peace – deeds of war

A Researcher in Halifax

HALIFAX (October 15, 2001) – THE FORCES coming into motion against the latest US-led aggression in Afghanistan are demonstrating daily in many cities. This is bringing urgently to the fore the need to find ways of sharpening the edge of opposition so as to strengthen its effectiveness. In this connection, the New Democratic Party is playing a disruptive role. This starts with efforts to deceive those coming forward in the present anti-war movement into accepting the authority of the NDP as, at least, a parliamentary political guide, if not an actual leading force, against what the Chretien government has already done and proposes yet to do in the Bush coalition. When it comes to playing games of political deception and to ultra-opportunist betrayal of the mass movement at crucial moments, the NDP is extremely experienced and can be said to have written the playbook.

The oldest trick in the book is simply to hijack public forms and expressions of the movement for sectarian purposes. In this, the NDP has the support of the longest-established bulwarks of reaction, especially in the most Establishment wing of the mass media. Thus: on Sunday October 7, in the NATO port of Halifax, mobilization of materiel and 1,200 (of a total 2,000) personnel for the present war began. Meanwhile on its front page, a province-wide large-circulation newspaper, The Sunday Herald, reported the peace rally of the previous day. This event in the centre of the provincial capital’s downtown was accurately reported in TML as one in which denunciations of the US as the organizing centre of state terrorism, particularly throughout the Middle East, along other anti-imperialist declarations, earned the loudest and longest applause. But The Sunday Chronicle Herald reported this rally under the headline: “McDonough praises PM for resisting war mentality”, as though this event was for, or even about, the local member of Parliament. The CBC’s coverage similarly focussed on the leader of the federal NDP.

In the Halifax waterfront casino, anchoring one end of Ms McDonough’s constituency, they have a saying: “if you want to play, you gotta pay.” On October 2, McDonough openly joined the rest of the Canadian media and political elites in denouncing (as “unhelpful… exaggerated … rhetoric”) the remarks of Sunera Thobani, a former chair of the National Action Council on the Status of Women (NAC). (She had described US foreign policy as “soaked in blood.”) Since that moment, the media have presented, and granted Ms McDonough the franchise to present, her party as the “lone” opponent of Canadian participation in this present war outside of humanitarian assistance roles or a role decided by “international bodies.”

The rich have turned Halifax into a harbour for war. On Thursday, October 11, a fundraiser on the “New Politics Initiative” (NPI) staged in Halifax demonstrated the readiness of the NDP, as an agency of the rich, to try to bully into submission any actual anti-war voices not in its pay or on its wavelength. Judy Rebick, national campaigner for the NPI was debating with Maureen MacDonald, a local NDP establishment figurehead. They were carrying on in the tried-and-true demobilizing style: trading veiled insults over whose bag of tricks will be better for fooling people into becoming NDP voting cattle during elections.

An audience member had the temerity to provide actual facts demonstrating the absence of any concrete example of NDP opposition to any specific act of the Chretien government committing Canadian forces for the present aggression. In nothing flat, those who had just been at daggers drawn immediately closed ranks. Each took the opportunity to issue fulsome praise for McDonough’s “courage” in “opposing war.” Rebick singled out McDonough’s statements as a “shining moment” on a par with the NDP’s vote in the House of Commons against the War Measures Act in 1970. (The NDP did vote against it, on the third reading, after voting for it on the first two readings to expedite its passage in the House of Commons.) Anything that might tarnish its brilliance was to be set aside. Speaking as a former NAC chair, Rebick called the “gang-up” on Sunera Thobani “unfair.” She “disagreed” with McDonough’s joining the chorus against her – but then hastened to detach the matter from any realities of the current war by declaring “that debate is for another time”!

These and other facts show how desperately concerned the NDP has become to cover actual deeds of war behind words about peace.

On Tuesday, October 9, McDonough and the party’s defence critic Peter Stoffer (representing a neighbouring suburban Halifax constituency) issued a “joint statement” in which they “completely back the men and women in the Canadian military assigned to the US coalition.”

Stoffer commented: “While I would have preferred that the government act through the international body of the United Nations, I understand the decision made by the Prime Minister to deploy military personnel to the area and believe politics must be put aside and a united front must be presented in the House of Commons regarding this action.” (Brian Underhill, ‘New Democrats muster united front on war’, The Chronicle-Herald/Mail-Star, 10 October 2001)

This statement has two noteworthy features. Firstly, its signatories appear in their parliamentary capacities – as leader and defence critic. But what actually moved them to speak? Each has a large number of military personnel in their constituency, and the government has committed Halifax as its principal NATO port to be the staging area for its material commitment to this war effort.

Secondly, this “joint statement” was issued not by the NDP caucus as a whole, nor by the party’s internal governing body.

The NDP is evidently having as much difficulty obtaining unanimity within its own caucus as the US and Britain have within their coalition. Why is the NDP defence critic calling for a “united front” beyond the ranks of his own party? Could it be to paper over the deepening cracks in that caucus? Whatever the situation facing the rest of her caucus, McDonough herself blames the Prime Minister for placing her in an impossible position. On the one hand, she would like to continue to posture as anti-war in words (as federal leader of the New Democratic Party inside and outside Parliament). Now she also has to support this war, openly, in deeds (as the member from Halifax). On the day the bombing became public (Sunday, October 7), McDonough said

“she was deeply disturbed when she saw that Canada’s contribution went beyond what she had been told in private by Prime Minister Jean Chrétien. She said that she had understood that Canada would limit itself to support services, but that Canadian troops are heading straight into action for an unlimited term. ‘Canada has made a commitment beyond what I understood from the Prime Minister,’ she said. ‘I was shocked.’ ‘‘ (Daniel Leblanc, ‘How do the party leaders feel about Canada’s role?,’ The Globe and Mail, 9 Oct 2001).

Clearly, she is a witting participant. Was she really all that unwilling? By her own admission, she had earlier given the Prime Minister a blank cheque. The government wrote in the amount, the Americans cashed it, and now she objects!

These are acts of out-and-out political prostitution. In line with this activity, meanwhile, the NDP has also become acutely concerned that its words of peace be in no way associated with words or deeds of an anti-imperialist character. It is trying to conceal this pro-imperialist posture and delay its exposure as long as possible. Thus, as the bombing began, Chretien briefed the other Canadian political party leaders, including McDonough. Did she use this opportunity even to demand an early recall of Parliament for an emergency debate? On the contrary:

“McDonough said Mr Chretien told her in a telephone briefing Sunday that there is no need to bring Parliament back early from the week-long Thanksgiving break for an emergency debate because the Canadian ships and planes would take 10 days to get ready to sail.” (Jeff Sallot, ‘CANADIANS HEAD OFF TO WAR: Operation Apollo mobilizes ships, aircraft and commandos,’ The Globe and Mail, 9 October 2001).

Clearly, the NDP is very sensitive to suppress even the appearance of opposition to anything the Chretien government is actually doing at the moment regarding this particular campaign of aggression.

McDonough has lately become fond of uttering the phrases “international bodies” and “United Nations” like some kind of mantra. This seems designed to suggest that she and her party stand so utterly, so profoundly, so spiritually opposed to American unilateralism that there is no need actually to spell out anything so petty as mere details or evidence of how or where they have actually been opposing it. This trick is very old and very sordid indeed: to appear so serene and so fully understanding among the people, as a cover for facilitating the people’s worst enemies in perpetrating the worst crimes against their present and future. The NDP has remained silent as the grave about continuing Canadian involvement in NATO and NORAD. The NDP has said nothing about the Chretien government’s decision to join other members of NATO invoking the “collective defence” provisions of its charter in support of the United States. The NDP has said nothing about whether it accepts or rejects the US administration’s blatant twisting of the “self-defence” clause of Article 51 of the United Nations Charter to justify retaliatory acts of aggression. The NDP has not even asked the Chretien government where it stands on this central issue of international law.

To end this war and Canada’s participation in it, what need or reason could there be for the present movement to detour into such a dark and desperate land of political prostitutes and bogus buddhas?

Source: TML Daily, October 15, 2001 – No. 185

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Attempts to Provide Imperialist Aggression and War with a Veneer of High Ideals

On the speech by Prime Minister Jean Chretien at the Halifax naval dockyards to Canadian forces and their families


ON OCTOBER 17, Prime Minister Jean Chretien delivered a speech in Halifax to Canadian troops and their families on the occasion of the departure of the HMCS Preserver, Iroquois and Charlottetown for “Operation Apollo” – Canada’s participation in the US aggression against Afghanistan and the “war on terrorism” launched by US President George W. Bush.

In his speech, Chretien says that Canadian Armed Forces are going to war to “pursue the merchants of death into the depths of the shadows” so as to “defend the values and principles of free and civilized people everywhere.”

Chretien is speaking on behalf of a ruling class which has long-since abandoned the high road of civilization and which upholds not ideals or values or principles but only the pursuit of its own self-interest. But it cannot openly proclaim this, so it presents its pursuit of self-interest as being in the best interests of the society, the world and of humankind itself.

Jean Chretien said, amongst other things:

Ever since September 11 we have known that this day might come. That the men and women of our Canadian Armed Forces may have to set out to foreign seas, join our allies and defend the values and principles of free and civilized people everywhere.

In the name of a perverse ideology, they [our adversaries] want to attack the foundations of our societies. By eroding our economies, disrupting our institutions. And by provoking hatred and confrontation between communities, between faiths and between citizens.

Such an assault on our society demands a response. A firm response. A just response. One that expresses our clear and categorical refusal to give in to blackmail and fear.

A response that you, the members of the Canadian Armed Forces, will deliver. By taking our place along side our allies. Pursuing the merchants of terror into the depths of the shadows. And holding them to account for their barbaric acts.

Many words have been written and spoken about this conflict. To define its meaning. Our purpose. And our resolve. but at the most basic level it is a struggle for freedom and justice.

What this shows is that the ruling class cannot fail to present itself as the defender of high ideals because the people would not support them otherwise. The necessity for the Prime Minister to put forward “values” as the basis of his justification is to present the cause of sending Canada to participate in a US imperialist aggressive war as “principled” and presenting the government as having the same aspirations as the Canadian people.

In this regard, all the policies the government is adopting are presented as if they are aimed at fulfilling the values and aspirations of the people for peace, security and prosperity. It is then just a step to present the struggles of the peoples against imperialism and its aggressions and war in the light of opposing those high ideals, values and aspirations.

In his speech at the Halifax naval yards to the Canadian Forces on the occasion of their departure to join “Operation Apollo,” Prime Minister Jean Chretien said, “…at the most basic level it is a struggle for freedom and justice.” He picked up on the language of Christian fundamentalism which is framing US President George W. Bush’s “war on terrorism” saying that the Canadian Forces will be “pursuing the merchants of terror into the depths of the shadows. And holding them to account for their barbaric acts.”

In this way, the participation in a war of aggression and the fact that the “North Atlantic” NATO bloc has been given license to operate in Asia is presented as the basis of preserving “peace” and “security.” According to this logic, those who are interested in peace and security should support the increased war preparations and the militarization of the economy. First the thesis is given that the September 11 attack on the United States is also an attack against Canada because “they [our adversaries] want to attack the foundations of our societies. By eroding our economies, disrupting our institutions. And by provoking hatred and confrontation between communities, between faiths and between citizens.” Then, the argument goes, because Canada is relatively small in comparison with the United States and has relatively small resources, it must rely on “collective security” – i.e. on the United States for security, and on NATO, and make its contribution towards this end. The source of the insecurity and the war danger – the US and the other big powers – are presented as those who will secure peace and security. In this way, by repeating phrases out of the lexicon of the “new war on terrorism,” the aim under the veneer of high ideals is to cover up the reactionary essence of the “war on terrorism” the US has launched and our country’s participation in it.

The veneer of high ideals promoted with the language of clerical obscurantism about the war against “forces of evil” is intended to cover up that the ruling circles define the security interests of the state according to their own predatory self-interest, seeking to justify this by claiming it is related to protecting the security of the entire world. In this way, the ruling class carries out its ideological offensive to suggest that opposition to the imperialist war preparations is appeasing the “forces of evil” and is detrimental to peace and security. By sleight of hand, the “terrorists” as “the forces of evil” who are endangering peace and security can be replaced by those who are opposing the imperialist war preparations as “the main factor” endangering peace and security.

* Sandra L. Smith is National Leader of the Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist)

Source: TML Daily, October 18, 2001 – No. 188

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Operation Apollo: Halifax Demonstration Blocks Entrance to Naval Dockyards


HALIFAX (October 13, 2001) – ON OCTOBER 13, Halifax activists held a sit-in blocking the main entrance to naval dockyards, forcing military traffic to use a back entrance. The sit-in followed a larger peace rally held in the city earlier in the afternoon.

Both the rally and the sit-in were organized to oppose the mobilization of the Canadian military in the US-led war against Afghanistan. The base has been loading supplies, munitions and equipment onto ships since October 8 when the government announced it was sending troops to join the US operation, news reports said.

“The Canadian government hasn’t democratically consulted the Canadian public on this decision (to mobilize),” said a participant. “People are feeling left out and feeling like their voices aren’t being heard.” Several demonstrations have taken place in Halifax since the US began threatening retaliation under the pretext of a war on terrorism.

In spite of statements by a navy spokesperson that the military did not plan to forcibly remove the demonstrators, military police broke up the sit-in between 1:00 and 1:30 am.

Protesters reported that they were given an ultimatum to either disperse or be subject to pepper spray and the use of “pain compliance holds.” They were given 30 minutes to disperse, which would be followed by 15 minutes when arrests would begin. Towards the end of the 30 minutes, the various military police SUVs, as well as a fire truck, drove about 15 feet from the sit-in which decided to withdraw, participants said.

Source: TML Daily, October 14, 2001 – No. 184

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Operation Apollo: Military participation in US-led aggression against Afghanistan

ON OCTOBER 8, Minister of National Defence Art Eggleton announced the deployment of the Canadian military to participate in US-led attacks on Afghanistan. The deployments total more than 2,000 men and women and “will become an integral part of the overall international campaign,” Eggleton said. According to the Department of National Defence (DND) website, the operation has been dubbed “Operation Apollo.” Continue reading

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On-going Demonstrations Against War – Halifax: No Harbour for War!


HALIFAX (October 10, 2001) – THE SPIRIT of the progressive and anti-imperialist forces can be seen providing the heartbeat and increasingly setting the tone in the peace movement in recent days.

This was evident October 6 and October 8, when more than 200 people in Halifax, a NATO port, rallied and marched against the unleashing of criminal aggression by the United States, Britain and the other NATO allies, including Canada, against Afghanistan. The rally, held the day before the US and Britain made their first bombing raid, took place outdoors in Victoria Park, in the heart of the downtown core, through the busiest part of the Saturday lunch-hour. It was witnessed by hundreds in addition to those attending.

Carol Woodhall of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers led off the speeches with a statement from CUPW president Dale Clark calling “upon the Canadian government to take a stand against military adventures at this crucial time.”

A spokesperson for the Muslim Students Association thanked people of Halifax for supporting and assisting Muslim families and for repudiating the racist scapegoating of Arab peoples promoted in the media since September 11.

Warm applause greeted the remarks of Dr. Ismail Zayid, a longtime activist for Palestinian rights and against Israeli military occupation, when he denounced the “selective” definition which the Bush administration has given of terrorism so as to exclude state terrorism. He and a spokesperson for CANESI, a group opposing the continuation of UN sanctions against Iraq, furnished many examples of the crimes of the US such as the destruction of civil infrastructure in Iraq during the Gulf War, where thousands of children are dying as a result.

Rev. Jack List, an Anglican priest, told the rally that, desperate as their current economic and political plight might be, impoverished peoples of the developing countries could no longer accept “US-led corporate capitalism” as an alternative, and he condemned this and terrorism as “equally right-wing.”

Prof. Isaac Saney of Dalhousie University denounced previous and current violations of international law, particularly the “self-defence” provisions of Article 51 of the United Nations Charter, by the United States. Putting forward the idea of establishing an anti-war government for Canada, he denounced the unilateral dictate being imposed by the US and NATO and their use of force as a means of sorting out problems between countries and peoples. He recalled that Haligonians had for the past 20 years have opposed the militarization of the city as part of the imperialist war preparations and raised the just stand, No Harbour for War. The government has announced that a total of 1,200 military personnel from Halifax alone are being sent to participate in the US-led aggression.

At the end of the program, the call was given to be ready to come out and demonstrate at noon on the day following open aggression by the US

On October 8, the day after the bombs and speeches from Bush and Blair and pledges of support from Prime Minister Jean Chretien, a march assembled as announced in front of the Purdy’s Wharf complex which now houses the US consulate in Halifax. CBC Television, CTV and the Halifax Daily News were all on hand. In the circumstances, they were compelled to interview mostly individuals who have been taking anti-imperialist positions, opposing the state terrorism of the US and other NATO member-states and opposing Canadian participation in the current criminal military adventure.

Placards were held high and slogans for peace and against war were shouted as the march wound its way through a waterfront area with many tourists, many from the United States. Moments later, as it proceeded onto Barrington Street, the demands “US Out of Afghanistan!” and “Canada Get Out Of NATO and NORAD!” echoed down the canyon of banks and other business office buildings.

Marches and rallies against this war are continuing daily in Halifax. Interest has also been expressed in a proposal to set up and operate a daily “teach-in” process, daily on campus radio and weekly events throughout the community, with the aim of seeking truth from facts of the events that are unfolding so as to serve the people. The youth and students are especially determined to sharpen their just stand against this war and make the struggle for lasting peace increasingly effective.

Source: TML Daily, October 10, 2001 – No. 181

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Halifax: Who is the Target of the Anthrax Hysteria?

A Researcher in Halifax

HALIFAX (October 7, 2001) – SINCE THE September 11 hijackings in the US, the rich have been unfolding a poisonous political struggle against the anti-war forces in Halifax, Canada’s premier NATO port.

This reached new heights, or depths, on Tuesday, October 16. The rich and their media, locked in their so-called war against terrorism, somehow found no time to note the 31st anniversary of the last peacetime imposition of the War Measures Act by the Trudeau government. This was one of the largest pieces of sustained state terrorism ever unleashed in Canada, and Chretien had a front seat as a member of the federal Cabinet.

Instead of stirring up any of these memories, with troops readying to leave Halifax in 24 hours and a visit by Prime Minister Chretien timed to coincide with the sendoff, a number of absurd and ugly local incidents echoing the “anthrax scares” in Washington, New York and Ottawa were all the media could talk about.

Police had swept the anti-war forces away from the entrance at the naval dockyard in the middle of the night early Sunday morning, to make sure the visit of the Governor-General on Monday to her troops in the dockyard would pass off without visible opposition.

But the peace forces announced they would return and in between they prepared the unveiling of an enormous 50-foot-long “Peace!” banner from the centre of the Angus L. MacDonald Bridge spanning Halifax Harbour.

The morning papers were full of a story about a bogus “white powder” scare which caused a shopping mall to shut down in the rural service centre of Bridgewater, 50 miles southwest of Halifax.

And a few moments after the Peace banner was general news throughout the community, the media announced the evacuation of Purdy’s Wharf. Somewhere in this twin-towered skyscraper on Halifax harbour, which looks north to the bridge and which houses the U.S. Consulate, there was reportedly some mysterious substance, immmediately suspected of being anthrax.

The rich and their political prizefighters have been run off their feet looking for ways to divert the movement and mystify the obvious. Incapable of justifying imperialist aggression in or through open debate, they have resorted to using the mass media to terrorize the public into submission. Unleashing this mass hysteria through such means, however, presupposed the ability of the authorities to cow the media themselves into submission first. The response of the main television networks to President Bush’s phone calls asking they preview and/or censor communications from Ossama Bin Laden prior to going to air answered this decisively.

Even in a NATO port city, however, there is no monolithic public opinion ready to give Bush, Chretien or any of the other imperialists a blank cheque this time.

Even in a NATO port city, however, there is no monolithic public opinion ready to give Bush, Chretien or any of the other imperialists a blank cheque this time. Within days of President Bush threatening the massive retaliation against “the perpetrators” of the hijackings, there was a small demonstration outside the main downtown branch of the Halifax public library on Spring Garden Road demanding peace, just as there were demonstrations in many other cities.

A week later, September 22, the ranks of area youth, some of whom had participated in storming the barricades at the Quebec City Summit of the Americas last spring, were demonstrating in the dozens on the same site.

The atmosphere had shifted from demanding peace on one’s knees to opposing the actual sources of the war danger. In the ranks of this movement, the link between the latest danger of war against “terrorism” and the expanded militarization of the economy accompanying economic globalization is increasingly conscious and clear.

There followed two more weekends of public outdoor rallies, marches and the start of seminars and extended discussions of the various issues involved – including the unresolved and increasingly chaotic situation unleashed by the Israeli armed forces against the Palestinian people.

With the imperialists’ move to open warfare since October 6, the anti-war forces have been demonstrating and carrying out other public manifestations on a daily basis. The targets have included the US consulate and the very military base facilities from which the Chretien government is sending contingents. Scores participate in the daily actions and these numbers swell to between 150 and 200 people on the weekends.

The real target of this anthrax hysteria is this fact, and these acts, of resistance from the forces opposed to this war. That is the purpose which is becoming ever clearer on a daily basis.

Germ Warfare Scare – A Reader in Halifax

Years ago I read something about the germ-warfare scare which spread through the British public in the middle of the First World War (mostly in 1916, with the unfolding of the utterly senseless slaughter known to history as the Battle of the Somme), right at the moment that the ranks of the pacifists and conscientious objectors were joined by prominent sons of the ruling classes like Bertrand Russell, philosopher and mathematician, and Siegfried Sassoon, poet and scion of a wealthy and powerful banking dynasty. The British authorities were obsessed with discrediting all opposition and sanctioning the very act of opposition; the press lords like Rothermere and his brother Northcliffe were deeply involved in this.

The latest war is another Anglo-American project. It should come as no surprise that not all the tactics come from Washington. The American imperialists have developed the “rogue nations” part of this position, however. They are itching to deploy it in the present situation. But they need a credible candidate to play the role of rogue state in this melodrama.

For the last two weeks there had been a concerted effort to justify bombing Baghdad again. Until the anthrax scares this week, however, the only justification was to say that Iraq is a silent-partner supporter of Al-Qaida. Here lurk a number of other problems for the imperialist spin-doctors because the Saudi government, a major US ally, also figures prominently as a financial source for some parts of Al-Qaida.

Ashcroft, the US attorney-general, had signalled last week that something deliberate was being concocted by mentioning on the one-month anniversary of the hijackings that the FBI had “evidence” of an upcoming possible “second wave” of terrorist attacks on American civil society.

Source: TML Daily, October 17, 2001 – No. 187

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