Fredericton Residents ‘Shocked and Awed’ by Armed Forces Day. What’s behind a sunny day on the Green – the city’s new theme park. Plus a letter to the Daily Gleaner about unjustifiable propaganda.
News Commentary by TONY SEED
(August 1, 2003) – A GROWING NUMBER of Fredericton residents are voicing concern over the use of public space for the fourth annual Armed Forces Day in Fredericton. Fredericton residents plan to respond to what they refer to as “celebration of aggression and militarism” with an all-ages Picnic For Peace on the Green, according to a news release from F.R.E.E.D.O.M. (Fredericton Residents for Education on the Economically-Motivated Deployment Of the Military).
“The annual military occupation of Fredericton’s largest common space is unacceptable and must stop,” says Asaf Rashid, a PHD candidate with the department of Forestry and Environmental Management at the University of New Brunswick. “To present militarism as family entertainment is a gross educational failure to which we must respond as a community.”
During last year’s Armed Forces Day on the Green in Fredericton, children were encouraged to play with assault rifles, have their faces painted in camouflage, ride in tanks and military helicopters and walk through a make-believe mine field (pictured).
“Young people’s lives are saturated with glorified images of war, so to actually see young children playing with machine guns and laughing as they ride on an LAV is really chilling,” says Andrea Markey, who lives downtown. “The future of our planet depends on this generation understanding that war means death and pain for children all over the world — and not a sunny day in the park with lots of flags.”
The experience of Halifax with such spectacles bears attention.
Until the 1970s Armed Forces Day was the singular military, tri-service spectacle staged by the Department of National Defence (DND) each year.
But in 1979, DND created the Nova Scotia Tattoo aimed at promoting “military-civilian co-operation” and “Nova Scotia’s military heritage”, the U.S. Marine and NATO units amongst other themes. It was twinned with the International Gathering of the Clans, promoting a lowland Scottish culture, and inaugurated by the Queen Mother.
One after the other, dramatic new military spectacles – such as “freedom of the city” ceremonies for army regiments, the Shearwater Air Show for the Canadian and U.S. air forces, and “open house” ceremonies and “dial-a-sailor” programmes for visiting U.S. and British warships – were systematically invented and choreographed in Halifax throughout the 1980s.
Massive expenditures of tax-dollars and military man hours were devoted to these spectacles, with accompanying accolades by the media. Although a DND initiative, the NS Tattoo became the largest single recipient of cultural funds from the provincial government.
Inevitably they served to camouflage heightened physical preparations for war on the ground, in the strategic harbour and along the coasts. The “visits” of U.S. warships and Soviet para-military “scientific” and “oceanographic” vessels into the port of Halifax tripled during this period. The naval infrastructure of the port was modernized and expanded. U.S. tactical operations were carried out within Canadian waters and the harbour: the mining of Nicaraguan harbours was, in part, perfected by “Operation Minex” carried out in Halifax Harbour. They constituted a necessary pyschological preparation for war.
As such, they were vigorously and publicly opposed by the anti war, anti-imperialist forces of the city through innumerable pickets, demonstrations, sit-ins, mass petitions, teach-ins, leaflets and pamphlets, film and video, and such slogans as “No Harbour for War!”
In the same vein today, the creation of a military theme park in Fredericton through the device of the fourth annual Armed Forces celebrations is not an isolated affair.
The troops are being drawn from Canadian Forces Base Gagetown, halfway between Fredericton and the port of Saint John, whose vast expanses are being groomed as the largest military base in the Commonwealth. Motorized army regiments based there were requested by the Pentagon earlier this year to spearhead its invasion of Iraq. British and U.S. Special Forces also conduct specialized training at the base. The U.S. National Guard have conducted so many training operations at CFB Gagetown since the Sixties that it is difficult at times to distinguish it from a regular overseas U.S. military base. In fact, the Office of the Secretary of Defense considers an American military base as any installation “routinely used” by its military forces. (1) In other words, though the flag, the base commander and the soil may be Canadian, if American troops “routinely use” it, the United States considers the base theirs.
This becomes quite dangerous to New Brunswickans and Canadians, as shown by the fact that it was here at CFB Gagetown that the chemical warfare Agent Orange was secretly tested in the Sixties and then covered up by the Department of National Defence until 1983.
The United States is now in the process of expanding its base presence and staging areas in the Americas, all in the interests of expanding its political and economic hegemony.(2) This includes North as well as South America and the Caribbean, and the border spheres between the United States and Canada. CFB Gagetown is strategically located in this regard, lying very near to the U.S.-Canadian border, on terrain that is low in altitude compared to northwestern New Brunswick, and the Saint John River, rising near the border of northern Maine.
According to the revelations of Dr. Floyd Rudmin, then of Queens University, who conducted an extensive historical study of American military operations along this border, such bases, troop deployments and exercises on both sides of the New England/Canadian border were considered vital as spheres or spearheads for the “War Plan Red” — officially authorized by the US cabinet and drafted by the U.S. Army War College — for a motorized invasion of Canada as recently as 1935. (3) Rudmin pointed out:
“Canada is a fragile country, despite its size and apparent wealth. Like the Dutch relentlessly repairing their dikes, Canadians must relentlessly repair their national political structure. Canada is not robust. When Canadians refuse to examine evidence of U.S. hostile actions, then they needlessly imperil the nation. That is a difference that weighs against hand-me-down history and quick dismissals of facts. That is a difference that favours doubt and favours a history that is conscious of its cognitive faults.”
In this regard, related plans for a new billion-dollar, four-lane, limited access turnpike (called the East-West Highway) to bisect Maine (4), running from St. Stephen to New Hampshire and then connecting with Quebec are as fortuitous as the first military roads over the Green Mountains built between 1776-79. (5)
As a consequence, increased attention is being made to divert and hoodwink opinion and stage sunny military spectacles in nearby urban population areas such as Fredericton.
And, in the same spirit as the 1980s, people are increasingly activating themselves to oppose such nefarious spectacles.
Concerned Fredericton residents plan to present a petition to Mayor Les Hull requesting that Armed Forces Day be staged on Canadian Forces Base Gagetown, in Oromocto, rather than in downtown Fredericton.
Fredericton residents protested at City Hall at 1pm on August 4th. A teach-in “Militarism, War and Resistance” also took place at Wilmot United Church on August 3rd. Hiroshima Day will be commemorated in Fredericton on August 6 from 11:30am-2pm at the Christ Church Cathedral on Brunswick Street. For information about Hiroshima Day events, contact the Fredericton chapter of Project Ploughshares.
1 James R. Blaker, United States Overseas Basing (New York: Praeger, 1990), 9, 37
2 “The Bases of Empire”, Monthly Review, Vol 53, No. 10, April 2002
3 “Supplement No. 3 To Report Of Committee No. 8, Subject: Critical Areas Of Canada And Approaches Thereto” Prepared by: Subcommittee No. 3 / Major Charles H. Jones, Infantry, Chairman. Lt. Col. H.W. Crawford, Engineers. Reproduced on the Internet at http://www.glasnost.de/hist/usa/1935invasion.html
4 See http://www.east-westhighway.com
5 See http://www.uvm.edu/~vhnet/hertour/hthome05.html
Source: SHunpiking Online, Volume 1, Number 1, http://www.shunpiking.com/ol0101/sponline0101.html
A Letter to The Daily Gleaner
As published on page A6 on August 7, 2002
Uncomfortable with talk of young tanker
Dear Editor: On a Monday morning, Aug. 5, I was walking along the St. John River. As I crossed under the Westmorland Street Bridge and headed towards railway footbridge I saw a lot of military personnel, tanks and other military items.
I wondered why they have landed on the beaches of the St. John River. Then I realized it was just some kind of military exhibition. As I weaved through tanks and other vehicles, I saw a group of three or four people listening to this young military gentleman.
First, to look at this gentleman one would think that he couldn’t hurt a fly.
But here he was elatedly explaining the capability of a tank, which I assumed he operated.
He was saying how the tank could kill people by the dozens if he was protecting the Sheraton, for example.
He was talking about killing people as if he was in a bowling alley and knocking down bowling pins. Yes, I have respect for the military. These young men and women sacrifice their lives so that others can be safe.
Yet I wish that there was a way that these sacrifices can be avoided altogether through peace. I know it is not easy. I also wish that I would win $1 million in the lottery some day. However, for the lottery one can only wish, but for peace one can work towards it and reduce the chances of conflicts.
I should not be misunderstood. I am not a total peacenik. I used to get into brawls all the time when I was growing up. I provoked quite a few of them myself.
I got mostly beaten up and other times I barely escaped. I learned my lesson the hard way. I also believe that one must fight injustice until one can overcome it no matter how big the hurdles are.
However, I do not believe fighting with weapons, but using other means, including raising awareness about the injustice, exposing the perpetrator, arranging and participating in peaceful demonstrations and writing letters to the editor.
Back to the military exhibition, as I moved further away from it I saw these posters “Tank you, but no tank you.” I said to myself: “Thank you whoever you are who put these posters up.”
No, I did not get a chance to join the actual peace demonstration but I am glad someone was arranging it.
Source: Shunpiking Online, http://www.shunpiking.com/ol0101/sponline0101.html