No Harbour for War: Exercise Royal Guard in Halifax harbour

Harbour will again be invaded – by US agents, some reportedly CIA-trained, posing as “customs officers” and assigned to interfere with cargo-handling in the port under the pretext of protecting the world from the danger of “nukes in a box.” | GARY ZATZMAN

(19 March 2002) – MORE AND MORE each day of the war against terrorism launched by US President George W. Bush, the Canadian bourgeoisie behaves like some crazed animal. It’s like watching one of those characters out of a Gothic novel who has just drunk someone else’s blood. This reached new heights of absurdity and depths of degradation on March 14, as the national media exulted over the news that Canadian troops in Afghanistan had at last “engaged the enemy” in “the first offensive action since the Korean War.”

Meanwhile in Halifax, the most militarised city in Canada and home to the Atlantic Ocean portion of the Canadian navy, Exercise Royal Guard was under way.[1] This “mock invasion” of Halifax started with the taking of a beachhead on the south side of Halifax Harbour. A force of about 700 troops was massed against a force of 180 reservists from throughout the Maritimes playing the “invaders.” This operation was part of a 12-day program that includes various actions on Department of National Defence land and installations throughout New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. It was also part of larger NATO exercises in Europe (see the companion article “NATO Exercises Threaten Northern and Eastern Europe”).

The list of equipment reportedly deployed included T-33 Silver Star fighter planes, Griffon helicopters, 56 armoured personnel carriers, seven Coyote tanks and 200 other support vehicles.

Some media themselves participated within the exercise.

For example, CBC Television in Halifax gave over its supper-time half-hour news programming on this day to glorify “The War Games,” taking out advertising in province-wide print media to promote the spectacle.

The army itself was urging the public to come and watch.[2]

Newspaper coverage during the exercise highlighted the Coyote tanks, which the US specifically requested Canada send to Afghanistan, as a “babe magnet” to popularise the major military recruitment campaign which has been underway among the youth since the new year.[3]

In addition to its predictable “soothing” role of informing the public that they were being occupied not by invaders or a counter-strike force but by troops on a practice exercise, the local media played a further signal role of not linking Royal Guard with another operation taking place simultaneously at every crossing point on the Canadian border from New Brunswick to British Columbia. Units of the United States National Guard were conducting random vehicle checks. Meanwhile, at the Rose Garden of the White House, the prime minister of Canada chatted amiably with the president of the United States in front of the cameras. National television media broadcast pictures of the National Guard without mentioning Royal Guard, Halifax media never mentioned the National Guard, and following that stroll down the White House garden path, all of them repeated that Canada-US relations have never been better.

In this manner, how to keep the public disinformed during a US seizure of control of key points was fully rehearsed.

On March 25, the harbour will again be invaded – by US agents, some reportedly CIA-trained, posing as “customs officers” and assigned to interfere with cargo-handling in the port under the pretext of protecting the world from the danger of “nukes in a box.”

Once again, the CBC has been busy preparing public opinion in Halifax, running a week-long radio news series about the deliberations at a Maritime Security Conference in Fort Lauderdale, Florida attended by ports executives from all major US trading partners.[4]

Contrary to the smooth reassurances from the media, however, the militarising of ports and economic lifelines is not an occasion in which to exult or feel secure. In the 1980s the forces fighting for genuine and lasting peace in Halifax raised the militant slogan: “No harbour for war!” During the demonstrations in Halifax last fall against the launching of US-led bombing of Afghanistan, this banner was raised once again, showing that it remains on the people’s agenda as a problem to be taken up for solution.


1. This is the first military exercise in Halifax Harbour proper since Operation Minex in 1982, when US, Canadian and other NATO forces rehearsed the deployment of underwater mines weeks before the mining of Nicaragua’s harbours by the CIA aimed at destabilising the Sandinista regime. In the early 1990s following the Gulf War, when the US was preparing a potential ground invasion of Iraq through the salt marshes of the Shatt-al-Arab around the strategically important oil port of Basra, Canadian and other NATO forces staged a rehearsal on similar terrain, viz., the tidal flats and salt marshes of Chezzetcook Bay, about 40 km east of Halifax.

2. Bill Spurr, “Public may get to watch exercise: Army set sights on upcoming mock invasion of Halifax,” The Chronicle-Herald / The Mail-Star (Halifax), Thu 28 Feb 02, p.A11

3. Bill Spurr, “‘These things are babe magnets’: Military to use high-priced high-tech Coyote in local exercise,” The Chronicle-Herald / The Mail-Star (Halifax), Thu 14 Mar 02, p.A4

4. At this conference, the US’s trading “partners” were pressured to develop security infrastructure on the same scale as the Port of Miami. Because of the thorough corrupting, with bribes and other inducements, of key personnel from its enormously bloated security contingents, Miami’s vaunted “anti-terrorist” measures have utterly failed to make significant headway in their original mission of stemming the flood of more than $100-billions-worth of illegal narcotics into the United States each year.

Source: TML Daily, March 19, 2002 – No. 52


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Filed under Canadian Forces, Media, Journalism & Disinformation, No Harbour for War (Halifax)

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