Op Caribe: Canada’s stealth warship and aircraft

Op Caribe (Caribbe): “Building maritime domain awareness” – euphemism for Canadian military-naval intervention in the Caribbean

By TONY SEED

Second in a series of seven articles on the occasion of Harper’s visit to Latin America and the Caribbean

HALIFAX (13 August 2007) – IN THE FIRST WEEK of April, anti-war activists in Halifax and Victoria combined to carry out an inventory of the whereabouts of Canadian warships out of concern that the Canadian government might have surreptitiously joined the American strike force in the Persian Gulf at the time, aimed at Iran.

Their intuition was correct. But it was to the waters of the Caribbean Sea that Canada secretly deployed the HMCS Fredericton on 25 June – a different sea, but with a similar strategic aim and no less hidden agenda.

The military correspondent of the Chronicle Herald reported on 21 July 2007:

“A Halifax-based warship has spent the past few weeks carrying out a hush-hush drug surveillance operation in the Caribbean.

HMCS Fredericton’s presence in the region only came to light when Prime Minister Stephen Harper was photographed Thursday inspecting the frigate’s crew in Barbados.

“‘That really characterizes the Canadian approach to this type of thing. We’re pretty low-profile that way and as much as we’d like to blow our own horn and stuff like that, it’s pretty sensitive,’ said Maj. Sue Gray, a military spokeswoman….

“The frigate had been participating in surveillance operations with the U.S. Joint Interagency Task Force South, which conducts counter-drug operations, Maj. Gray said. …

“The Canadian military also provided a CP-140 Aurora aircraft for the mission, dubbed Op Caribe.

“‘We usually fly it from here or sometimes I would think it would park at Key West’,” Maj. Gray said.

“The United Kingdom, the Netherlands, France and Spain also play a role in the drug surveillance missions, which take place several times a year, she said.” [1]

The Globe and Mail, in a dispatch from Bridgetown on 19 July, reported:

“Lieutenant Matthew Low, who briefed reporters on the mission Thursday, said that aside from the stop in Trinidad, the Fredericton’s only other port of call was Key West, Fla., which was for ‘rest and recreation.’

“Op Caribbe is the first operation of its kind and it’s uncertain it will be repeated, according to Lieutenant Matthew Low. ‘We’re just monitoring,’ Lt. Low said. ‘We’re building maritime domain awareness.’

“But unlike patrol activities in the Persian Gulf and elsewhere in which the navy has been active, the Fredericton is not actively trying to stop drug smugglers if they come across any in the Caribbean. ‘We don’t interdict,” Lt. Low said. ‘We don’t board. … We’re building a picture of what’s going on here’.” [2]

In other words, the Canadian Navy is assessing the possibilities of participating and succeeding in a military aggression on a country in the region if called upon. It is preparing for imperialist intervention and war in the name of “building maritime domain awareness.”

According to the media blather, the HMCS Fredericton had been surreptitiously deployed for three weeks from north of the 49th parallel to make drug running in the Caribbean Sea difficult in a “hush hush” joint operation, exclusively with the US and under its command. Yet all the old European colonial and enslaving powers (Britain, the Netherlands, France and Spain), all members of the NATO military bloc, “also play a role”, and no one, not even the drug cartels or the media, were the wiser!

Voila! Harper, on his quick “historic” trip to four countries in South America and the Caribbean, arrives in Barbados – where he starts negotiations for a free trade agreement – to launch free trade negotiations with Caricom.

“Canada is committed to playing a bigger role in the Caribbean and the Americas,” he declared in his first speech in Bridgetown on July 19.

“Canada will have a sustained high-level presence in the region.”

Admiral Harper speaks onboard the Canadian frigate HMCS Fredericton in the Caribbean, July 19, 2007, while on a visit to Colombia, Chile, Barbados and Haiti. The Canadian frigate was deployed as part of “Op Caribe,” a war exercise aimed to build “maritime domain awareness.”

Next, the head of the “high-level” delegation turns up on board the “low profile” stealth warship for a second “high-level presence” speech; to salute the “drug busters” and benevolently announce an expansion in Canadian military “aid” and training to, in his words, “to help develop the defence and security capacity of Caricom countries.”

Harper then reveals another previously unreported fact; the good ship HMCS Fredericton was also involved in a “drug interdiction” mission in 2006 off the coast of West Africa.

With this tawdry performance, Harper thinks to justify Canada’s rejoining the American military adventurism in Latin America under the banner of high ideals and the virtually non-existent “war on drugs.”

Mission Accomplished? Enter the NATO fleet

It is when one tracks the individual warship movements that we see the real extent of the “hush hush” operation and for whom the deception is aimed.

A photograph posted on the website of this same warship, the HMCS Frederiction, inadvertently gives away the lie.

The photo bears the caption, “Flight Ops. HMCS Fredericton conducts helicopter operations with a Lynx from RFA Wave Ruler, Credit: Cpl. R. Doucet.” [3]

The RFA Wave Ruler, a modern British warship, is part of the Standing NATO Maritime Group One (SNMG-1), the NATO Rapid Response Fleet; a large 30,000 ton fleet tanker ship of the British Royal Navy, the ship is able to transport 1,600 ton of fuel. Its website states:

“The fast fleet tankers are able to operate in support of amphibious forces, anti-surface and anti-submarine warfare operations and protection of vital sea areas and shipping.” [4]

One has to go to the website of the US Southern Command (Southcom) to find out the simple fact that the length of deployment was three weeks, and that the Fredericton also “visited” Trinidad and Tobago “to support Canadian diplomatic missions.” [5]

The “hush-hush drug surveillance operation” of the US and Canadian forces in the Caribbean was simultaneously carried out with the self-proclaimed “Partnership of the Americas 2007” U.S. exercise.

HMCS Fredericton in Key West “to assist Joint Interagency Task Force-South” – photo from US Southcom website

This operation was a huge, six-month naval mission of a special US task force throughout South America and the Caribbean. It began in April, together with the annual UNITAS naval maneouvres of the US navy around South America.

Hisstorically, UNITAS was initiated in 1959-60 by the United States in the year of the Cuban anti-imperialist revolution. It was precisely during UNITAS maneouvres off the coast of Chile in September 1973 that the US-organized coup d’etat of the Salvador Allende government  was staged. And – surprise! – Canada annually and very quietly sends a Halifax class destroyer and Aurora aircraft to UNITAS – an identical deployment as to this new bastard child named “Op Caribe.”

The pretexts fall fast and furious. One year, “drug interdiction”; another year, “regional stability” and “interoperability” of the South American navies “with their NATO counterparts”; another year, “building maritime domain awareness.”

Any port in a storm.

The “low profile” deployment of the stealth warship and Aurora plane, Harper’s secret diplomacy and his brazen declaration of “a sustained high-level presence in the region” marks an escalation in all-round Canadian involvement in the ceaseless US military aggression against the peoples of the Caribbean and Latin America, “partners” or not.

Canadians should rightly be on the alert. The United States is threatening the peace on the continent and follows a policy of intervention and annexation.

Endnotes

1. Chris Lambie, “Frigate takes part in secret drug operation,” Chronicle Herald, July 21, 2007. http://thechronicleherald.ca/Metro/848658.html

2. Alan Freeman, “Harper greets sailors in photo-op,” Globe and Mail, July 19, 2007.

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20070719.wharperfrigate0719/BNStory/Technology/?page=rss&id=..wharperfrigate0719

3. http://www.navy.dnd.ca/fredericton/gallery/ship_gallery_e.asp?x=1&page=3

4. The Commanding Officer of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary Wave Ruler, Captain Dale Worthington, states: “For much of the year the Royal Navy keeps a presence in this important region of the world and we are pleased to be of assistance to the Turks and Caicos Islands Police in their important role”.

http://www.royalnavy.mod.uk/server/show/ConWebDoc.6116

Such tankers support “general purpose task groups, and the Amphibious Task Group and may be deployed away from the United Kingdom for the complete period of its docking cycle, which at present is every 2.5 years. All the maintenance activities are being undertaken in theatre.” http://www.naval-technology.com/projects/wave/

5. Master Sgt. Steve Miller, Joint Interagency Task Force-South Public Affairs, “Canadian frigate briefly joins JIATF-South in counter drug mission, “ August 2 2007

http://www.southcom.mil/AppsSC/news.php?storyId=584

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Filed under Canada, Caribops – Militarization of the Caribbean and Latin America

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