Washington’s threat to the Grand Banks: By what right does the US lay claim to the sea and sky?


HALIFAX (12 April 2005) – The pressure exerted by Washington against allied countries goes so far as to directly exclude them from its master plans and to even directly threaten them, facing them with the alternative of either following a pro-American policy or resigning and withdrawing from state power. In the 1980s, these demands, as arrogant as they were unscrupulous, were experienced by the government of New Zealand, which opposed the presence of American nuclear ships in the ports of New Zealand. As then Prime Minister Lange stated, the Reagan White House tried to threaten the New Zealand government into not following an anti-nuclear or anti-American policy. The same language was used against Denmark and Holland, which had publicly refused to deploy US nuclear arms on their territories, especially Greenland. In opposition to all norms governing international relations threats were also addressed to Swedish Prime Minister Olaf Palme, who expressed opposition to the American policy of war and aggression in Central America. (His subsequent assassination was never solved.)

The recent decision of the US Air Force to drop a Titan IV rocket (described as the most powerful rocket on Earth) after launch from Cape Canerval, Fla. – well within the 200 mile limit of Canada off the Newfoundland coast on 13 April 2005 (now indefinitely delayed) – is significant in allowing Canadian public opinion to see once again what the methods and practices of the United States really are. Information is released as a surprise attack, a method employed to catch people off guard. The decision was arbitrarily made by the United States without even “consulting” the Canadian and Newfoundland governments, as pro-American as they come, or without regard to the consequences to the Canadian people and the environment. The first news announcement was released by the Canada Newfoundland Offshore Petroleum Board, an agency of the oil trusts only on 6 April, which advised operators of offshore oil rigs that debris might fall within 15 nautical miles of their platforms. According to the Telegram newspaper in St. John’s, NF, “Premier Danny Williams of Newfoundland said 6 April he had received none of this information directly, and had trouble receiving information during the day from federal government officials.”

CBC further quoted Premier Williams: “Quite frankly, I don’t think the Americans were aware or had thought it through, how close this was to Hibernia.

“That sounds like an astounding statement, but that has to be the case. Why would they drop a piece of space debris out of the sky?”

Why indeed?

The debris from the launch – including a 10-tonne solid rocket booster – is scheduled to land in an area on the Grand Banks which includes the huge Hibernia drilling platform, located about 350 kilometres east of St. John. Three hundred and forty five people work at a time at Hibernia. Partners in Hibernia include Petro-Canada, Exxon Mobil Corp, ChevronTexaco and Murphy Oil Corp. When the plan was revealed, the news prompted operators of the Hibernia (a gravity structure) and Terra Nova platforms to plan an evacuation of hundreds of employees, and to tow away the floating drill rig at the White Rose field. Eighty people work at the Terra Nova platform. The oil companies stated that they needed a minimum of 3-4 days to evacuate everyone.

Completely absent in the media reports and the government’s professions of concern is the fact that the Grand Banks is a rich fishing grounds on which no few boats would be fishing during this period. It is the oil monopolies alone who were informed by the United States and it is the oil monopolies alone that the Newfoundland government is worried about.

Hibernia contains a million barrels of oil in reserve at a time. A direct hit would trigger an ecological disaster, says Premier Williams, who wanted the rocket’s trajectory changed. In a 1998 mission, a Titan IV blew up after lifting off from Cape Canaveral. The Titan IV is an offensive military weapon, and has been used for numerous covert missions over the years, especially involving intelligence-gathering work. In October 2001, weeks after the 9/11 terror attacks, a Titan IV was launched to carry what is believed to have been a KH-11 intelligence-gathering satellite. According to the Telegram,

“Information about that payload is classified. It is being launched for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO).

“The NRO is staffed by personnel from the US Defense Department and the Central Intelligence Agency. Its director is also appointed by CIA.

“On its website, NRO describes itself as part of the intelligence community and said its primary role is ‘achieving information superiority for the US government and armed forces.’

“Edgar Vasquez, spokesman for the US State Department, said the launch window for the Titan IVB has been rescheduled for April 13.” (“Titan launch rescheduled,” Saturday, 9 April 2005)

The Telegram report also reveals that the Government of Canada was ignorant and had been left in the dark. Ottawa’s reponse? It tried to reduce the threat to one of technical security. Deputy Prime Minister Anne McLellan formed a committee of engineers to assess the risk to Newfoundland!

“Canadian federal officials were scrambling Friday to figure out what was going on. Alex Swann, a spokesman for McLellan (Public Security Minister), said senior government officials have been talking to the White House. ‘They are trying to get clarity on what their plans are and are expressing our concerns about the economic impact that this would have,’ Swann told the Canadian Press Friday.”

According to both Washington and Ottawa, the danger is merely a question of technicality, a single technical mistake. In this manner, the concern of Newfoundlanders and Canadians should be directed not towards opposing the imperialist policy, but towards the technical security and safety of the war preparations.

It is relevant to recall here that the United States has on repeated occasions secretly stationed 500 or more nuclear weapons on Canadian territory, as well as stocks of Agent Orange, especially in Newfoundland and Labrador (as well as in contiguous Greenland, part of Denmark), under the pretext of “North American defence.”[1] US B-52s “accidentally” dropped nuclear bombs near Thule, Greenland and in the St. Lawrence River. Through its control of the NORAD agreement, the Pentagon activated the Canadian Armed Forces in 1963 during the maritime blockade of Cuba and the 1973 October War in the Middle East as part of its “Defcon 3” world alert of the US armed forces. That the White House connived in bringing down the minority government of John Diefenbaker under the pretext of his refusing to live up to “defence commitments” is well documented.

Recently amid widespread vocal opposition from the Canadian people, the Martin government made a great display of a refusal “at this time” to join the Ballistic Missile Defense System planned by the US. The Canadian government’s active collaboration in unfolding “Exercise Triple Play” shows the speed with which matters are being brought to a head. Either one answers to the master’s voice or the government will be undermined from within and without.

One is justified to ask by what right the United States of America lays claim to use the sovereign air and sea space thousands of kilometres off the US coast? For the US there are no international laws or moral norms. Thus the US officials, echoed by the Canadian officials, have reduced the question to one of safety, as if a million-to-one possibility of a direct hit by the Titan IV rocket is assuring. They act according to the mentality and with the political means of a superpower for whom there are only instruments, not friends. When they are unable to achieve their aims, they resort to the law of the stronger, divide the regions of the world as if they were their estates, trampling underfoot international law and the independence of other countries. The Bush administration tries to justify such arbitrary acts with all sorts of theories and ideological concepts which, according to them, give them the right to trample underfoot the basic principles of international relations. They have invented and publicize the idea of “zones of vital interest to the United States,” “the backyard of the United States,” “common defence of North America,” “full-spectrum dominance” (“information dominance”), etc.

The activities of the United States over the North Atlantic and the vital sealanes into the heartland of North America follow this line, are the result of this strategy and policy. They stem from the preposterous claims of Washington since the Monroe Doctrine declaring the entire Americas as American, from the middle of the Atlantic to the middle of the Pacific, the North Pole to the South Pole. They proclaim the waters and airspace “special zones of security” and consider as theirs all the waters plied by their fleets and eventually the whole world ocean. This is nothing but a typical expression of imperialist arrogance with which the Canadian and Newfoundland officials are conciliating. They want to secure their zones of influence, raise their dictate to international law and impose a doctrine of limited sovereignty on other peoples and countries, leaving to them only the right to submit to their naked arbitrariness and Titanic debris.


1. Various sources, including “United States Secretly Deployed Nuclear Bombs In 27 Countries and Territories During Cold War,” 20 October 1999, National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 20, http://www.gwu.edu/%7Ensarchiv/news/19991020/index.html.

See also Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, 1999, http://www.bullatomsci.org/issues/nukenotes/nd99nukenote.html

Documents show that the Liberal cabinet of the day went to great lengths to keep the deal secret with a deliberate strategy of public deception if word leaked out.

“The storage of airborne nuclear weapons should remain classified “SECRET” and that, while there should be no public announcement, an appropriate contingency statement should be agreed between the two countries to meet possible leaks [to the press].”

The press statement, the documents show, would present the secret nuclear-arms deal simply as a transfer “of a commitment” from one US military base to another.

“The risks of [press] leaks are real as the existence of the nuclear facilities are likely to become known to civilians working on the base or living nearby,” the documents state. (“Where they were,” Robert S Norris, William M Arkin and William Burr, The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, November/December, 1999, pp 26-35; “Nuclear weapons secretly stored in Nfld.: Pearson’s cold-war government signed deal with US to store weapons of mass destruction, finally made public,” Gary Dimmock, The Telegraph Journal, 15 April 1998.)

* (www.shunpiking.com, April 12, 2005)

  1. First published in Shunpiking Online, Vol. 2, No. 6, April 2005 and in TML Daily, April 19, 2005 – No. 63, with the title “US Titan IV Rocket: No to US Violations of Canadian Sovereignty!”

US Titan IV Rocket: No to US Violations of Canadian Sovereignty!

TML Daily, April 19, 2005 – No. 63

TML vigorously denounces the cover-up by the Government of Canada regarding the violation of Canadian sovereignty by the US

On April 7, Defence Minister Bill Graham stated that the US Department of Defence had only agreed to delay the launch of a Titan IV rocket, which is set to drop a 10-tonne booster in a 25 square kilometer “hazard area” located 315 km southeast of St. John’s, Newfoundland. The government gives the impression that everything is under control and nothing will be done to violate Canadian sovereignty or endanger the safety of Canadians. Coming at the same time as the Liberal government’s “we-will-not-be- handmaiden-to-anyone” foreign policy, it is appropriate to recall that the US not only violates the airspace of other coutnries but also places nuclear weapons on their sovereign territory and uses their harbours for ships armed with nuclear weapons – usually refusing to even inform these countries.

The US military’s original plan was to launch the rocket – carrying a satellite for the Pentagon – from Cape Canaveral, Florida on April 11. It is reported that the launch was pushed back following public concerns raised by Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Danny Williams about the need to ensure the safety of oil platforms and continued oil extraction in the area of the “hazard zone.” Williams decried the fact that the US made its plans without fully informing and consulting Canada and the province. “If Canada is going to represent us on interests like this which are international, then I expect a good stream of information, solid, consistent information to come to me as the head of a province,” Williams said.

The premier initially announced the evacuation of three offshore oil rigs before the launch unless the trajectory of the rocket was changed. Following a meeting between oil industry executives, military officials and federal bureaucrats from both countries, Williams stated: “When they have the information and don’t provide it and exclude half of the people invited for the primary meeting, I have some very serious concerns.” “We have to turn up the heat quite simply to get answers,” he added

On April 14, the province abandoned the evacuation plan. “The premier said he received a letter from Deputy Prime Minister Anne McLellan stating the US Air Force Space Command was prepared to blow up the rocket if it left its intended course,” CP reports. He said the previous decision to evacuate the rigs had been the right thing to do, even though the launch will proceed with no change to the rocket’s trajectory. “It sort of woke up the Americans to basically say, ‘Look, we’re here, we’re concerned, you can’t do things without explaining them to us,’” he told NTV in St. John’s.

US Air Force Space Command spokesperson Masao Doi attempted to cover up the US violation of Canadian airspace and sovereignty by making the issue merely one of safety. He stated that “safety is a top priority for us and we do a thorough safety check on all of our boosters when we plot trajectories over international waters.” Far from guaranteeing safety, the delay in the launch is in fact due to technical diffculties. All this is conducted in secret behind the backs of not only the Canadian people but also the government. It shows the kind of dangers Canadians face. This scenario will only get worse as the US steps up its war preparations with the help of Canada’s special ministry on “homeland security.”

No to US Violations of Canadian Sovereignty!

No to US Imperialist War Preparations!

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Filed under Canada, No Harbour for War (Halifax), United States

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