‘Liberty visits’ (II): Who will pay the bill?

The “visiting” warships of the US Navy need not be armed with strategic nuclear warheads, be firing their weapons or be waging war in a country to kill, maim or hurt a country’s population or otherwise negatively impact the civil, political, social, economic and cultural lives of the peoples. Commentary by TONY SEED

God damn them all!

I was told we’d cruise the seas for American gold

We’d fire no guns – shed no tears

Now I’m a broken man on a Halifax pier

The last of Barrett’s Privateers.

Stan Rogers

HALIFAX (22 June 2007) – ONE of the biggest hurdles for the world’s lone superpower, amid its debacle in Iraq and Afghanistan, is overcoming distrust of the Bush administration. Militarily, the United States must forge “partnerships” and work with smaller navies such as Canada’s without raising protests about aggression or subverting national sovereignty. Amid the protests over Iraq and Afghanistan, the Americans and the willing and eager Canadian media are learning subtlety in providing aid.

This is visible in the media barrage surrounding the arrival of the USS Wasp, a huge American amphibious assault ship with a 2000-member crew, in the harbour of Halifax, on a “liberty visit” lasting between June 20-24.

Following the “visit”, the USS Wasp was to join “the largest domestic (sic) security exercise that Canada has ever done” called Frontier Sentinel. It reportedly involves 3,000 U.S. and Canadian personnel.

That the USS Wasp was deployed off the coast of Iran as recently as February, 2007 with the USS Boxer and USS Bataan carrier forces training for “Operation Iranian Freedom” in the Persian Gulf is never mentioned. [1]

Such “visits” and war games are methods of annexation and integral to militarily sustaining the operational and logistic capability of the U.S. Navy.

The high level of the “visits” of U.S. warships to Canadian ports is part of converting them into semi-permanent, forward operating bases on two of the world’s major oceans.

In Canada, the “visit” lasts anywhere from a few days to a few weeks or more and includes rotational deployments of combat aircraft, naval surface combat ships and submarines, many of them armed with nuclear weapons. U.S. “liaison” staff officers are permanently stationed in the port, attached to Maritime Command.

Under the guise of training and “joint” exercises purportedly to enhance cooperation and inter-operability, transit, “rest and recreation” and “liberty visits”, the idea is for the Canadian people to embrace these as routine and necessary instruments for the “war on terror.”

Another aim originates from the new emphasis of the Pentagon, as spelled out by its Quadrennial Defense Review, specifying “increased focus on developing a global military force that relies not only on static fixed bases but also on mobile expeditionary and deployable forces.” The Quadrennial Defense Review 2001 calls on allied governments to “Provide (the U.S. Armed Forces – editor) temporary access to facilities in foreign countries that enable U.S. forces to conduct training and exercises in the absence of permanent ranges and bases.” [2]

The visits of such warships are not benign. Indeed, the “visiting” warships of the U.S. Navy need not be armed with strategic nuclear warheads, be firing their weapons or be waging war in a country to kill, maim or hurt a country’s population or otherwise negatively impact the civil, political, social, economic and cultural lives of the peoples.

In addition, the mere presence of the U.S. Armed Forces, whether in the form of U.S. bases or visiting marines or troops and warships, is enough to have disastrous social consequences to the people, particularly women and children. (See related article, “‘Liberty visits’ – return of the ‘Dial-a-sailor’ program,” this edition)

In the face of the “liberty visit” of the USS Wasp, the Halifax media – just finished from raising a hue and cry about the “violence” and “riot” of youth opposing the geopolitical Atlantica project, involving the integration of a major sea lane from South Asia via the Middle East and the Suez Canal with the U.S. and the Atlantic Gateway project for high-speed, inter-modal transportation from the Port of Halifax to the American heartland [3] – swiftly shifted gears.

The media went all out to deny the reality staring people square in the face and portray it as something beneficent. The media was clearly diverting public opinion so that people cannot deal with the issue right in front of their eyes.

In their zeal for diversion both daily newspapers headlined that the “USS Wasp has it all” (as with the Halifax Daily News, 21 June), published an online galley of 15 photographs depicting the “friendly visit”, and gushed about how the U.S. sailors arrived “with visions of maple syrup and floor hockey.” At any given time, 900 of them are to be granted shore leave for “rest and recreation.” [4]

Analyzing this propaganda, one finds several distinct themes and revelations.

First and foremost, it emerges from the press reports that the Canadian government, in violation of the well known international norms of sovereignty, now routinely allows such a foreign warship, which carries a large contingent of U.S. Marines, to freely carry out their own military “shore patrols” in Canadian harbours under the pretext of protecting the American troops.

To allow a foreign armed force extra-territorial powers on Canadian soil means that the sovereign powers of the Canadian state over “peace, order and good government” have been surrendered

Are these U.S. Navy “shore patrols” armed or unarmed? Do the U.S. Navy “shore patrols” have extra-territorial powers or not? If Halifax is such a safe haven for foreign troops how is it that they must be accompanied by armed or unarmed “shore patrols”? Is this not a clearcut violation of sovereignty or not? Are the U.S. Navy “shore patrols” aimed at facilitating safe access to prostitution? Or is it presupposed that the locals constitute a threat to the friendly “visitors” armed “with visions of maple syrup and floor hockey”? To allow a foreign armed force extra-territorial powers on Canadian soil means that the sovereign powers of the Canadian state over “peace, order and good government” have been surrendered. How come? The media was not even concerned to ask: the R & R “visits” of warships bring only lucrative “benefits” is its constant theme. The grave social, political and economic costs experienced by naval port cities throughout the world, including Canada, are not even mentioned.

What the government and the media cannot afford to acknowledge is that the marines on board such warships “visiting” Canadian ports are guaranteed virtual sanctuary under the Visiting Forces Act which provides broad immunity to foreign military and civilian personnel of countries designated by executive order of the “Governor in Council” (i.e., the cabinet, or the Minister of Defence), states ranging from the United States to Ethiopia. [5]

Secondly, the Chronicle-Herald advertised on its front pages the theme that “A massive American warship that sailed into Halifax on Wednesday is sure to spark envy among Canadian military brass,” as if the Canadian Forces are desperately in the need of such an expanded military-naval strategic capability. Canadian Forces and the media turned the “visit” of the USS Wasp into one huge profitable arms bazaar.

Such amphibious assault ships are something only of “use” for aggressive actions such as violent sea-land invasions of other people’s countries” in distant waters, usually under the pretext that they are “failed state” or “rogue nations.”

“The ship was basically built during the Cold War and it was made to put marines ashore where you needed them,” Lt.-Cmdr. Mike McCarthy told the Chronicle-Herald. [6]

The fact that the acquisition of such ships which range in cost from $1-25.5 billion each, at a time of the intensification of the anti-social, neo-liberal offensive by governments to slash spending on social programs, is even being “debated” indicates the dangerous course of Canadian foreign and military policy at the side of the U.S. empire.

“‘Amphibious capability is a great capability,’ Lt.-Col. Pat McAdam, a Canadian infantry officer, said Wednesday aboard the USS Wasp. ‘I think the question for the nation is can we afford it and when’.” [7]

“Canada borrowed the amphibious ship USS Gunston Hall last fall to practise putting large numbers of troops ashore in North Carolina. But this past spring, the idea of creating a rapid reaction force that could travel in an amphibious assault ship to intervene in failed or failing states around the world was shelved for at least three years.

“‘I’m very keen on it,’ said Lt.-Col. McAdam, who is among a cadre of officers who would like to see Canada acquire an amphibious vessel.” [8]

This theme was faithfully seconded by the Halifax Daily News. Freely quoting Capt. Bruce Belliveau, chief of staff operations for Joint Task Force Atlantic from its 21 June news conference, it reported: “‘It is one of our objectives to use Wasp, a ship like that, in this capacity to see how well it functions’.” Canadians want a similar ship, but it has been bumped down on the priority list, said Belliveau. [9]

The “visits” of U.S. warships and the war games such as “Frontier Sentinel” are deadly to the interests of the people, and a method in the hands of the powers-to-be to fool and disorient them. The carefully-organized disinformation surrounding the “visit” proceeds from the philosophy of pragmatism that underlies U.S. imperialism in securing its objectives by any and all means and at all costs. It is matched only by the absolute lack of shame of the government and the major media. It is nothing but the old gunboat policy of the big powers to dominate the oceans and continents of the world and must be vigorously opposed by the organization of the movement of the people who demand the abrogation of all military and security agreements and arrangements with the United States.

No Harbour For War!


[1] Dan Plesch, “Iran – Ready to attack,” New Statesman, 19 February 2007. http://www.newstatesman.com/200702190014

[2] Cited in Rep. Satur C. Ocampo, “United States War of Terror in Southeast Asia and the Pacific,” paper presented to the Conference on US Militarism and War on Terror in the Asia-Pacific , 9 December 2007, Cebu City, Philippines.http://www.aprnet.org/

[3] See Gary Zatzman and Tony Seed, “Geo-strategic significance of the Atlantica Project,” and Jerome Corsi, “The Bush push to militarize America,” Shunpiking Online, June 2007. Also: Online Dossier: No Harbour for War, http://www.shunpiking.com/nhfw/nhfwindex.htm

[4] Jennifer Taplin, “U.S. sailors arrive with visions of maple syrup and floor hockey,” The Daily News, 21 June 2007

[5] Visiting Forces Act (R.S., 1985, c. V-2). http://laws.justice.gc.ca/en/v-2/

In addition, under Bill C-55, the Public Safety Act 2002, 12 December 2002, the Canadian government went so far as to declare “controlled access military zones” that would be used for the “protection of Canadian Forces and visiting forces personnel and property.” Under this law three military harbours – Halifax, Nanoose (which includes a weapons testing range that is used extensively by the U.S. Navy) and Esquimault, BC – can be declared by the Defence Minister alone without parliamentary approval “controlled access military zones” in which “all the laws of the country and provisions of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms are suspended in these zones. And they do not even have to be pubicly announced.” Tony Seed, “No Harbour for War; No harbour for “military zones”, Shunpiking Online, 17 January 2003.


“In the schedule, “ship” means any of Her Majesty’s Canadian Ships as defined in subsection 2(1) of the National Defence Act or any ship under the control of a visiting force that is legally in Canada by virtue of the Visiting Forces Act or otherwise. … Additionally, landward of a line drawn between Chebucto Head and Hartlen Point, zones extending up to 200 metres around Canadian or foreign warships transiting in and out of Halifax Harbour, and extending up to 500 metres around a warship at anchor, may be enforced.”


[6] Chris Lambie, “Wasp has brass buzzing; Canadian military would like to have amphibious ship,” Chronicle-Herald, 22 June 2007

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Jennifer Taplin, “Military exercise aims to improve agencies’ emergency co-operation,” The Daily News, 22 June 2007. http://www.hfxnews.ca/index.cfm?sid=39085&sc=89

Source: Shunpiking Online Volume 4 Number 5



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

2 responses to “‘Liberty visits’ (II): Who will pay the bill?

  1. Pingback: No Harbour for ‘Military Zones’ | Tony Seed’s Weblog

  2. Pingback: British Royal Navy sailors arrested and charged for alleged gang rape in Halifax | Tony Seed's Weblog

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