What is the HISF, why you shouldn’t like it, and how you can protest it

By MILES HOWE

HALIFAX (November 4, 2010) – WITH the number of ghouls, goblins and ghastlies descending upon Halifax this weekend, you might be excused if you thought Halloween was a weekend late. But unlike All Hallows eve, those aren’t masks, the blood is real, and there is no candy. Only really nasty tricks. That’s right folks, lace up your boots, and get your placards and peace chants ready, because the 2nd Annual Halifax International Security Forum is coming to town!

Being new to this fair city, I didn’t know much about the HISF. I had browsed the website, taken note of a few key war criminals (Condaleeza Rice, GEn. Ehud Barak, Amos Gilad, et al.) slated to speak, and had perused the posters circulating around town advertising resistance activities. Thankfully I had the opportunity to speak with Gary Zatzman, media contact for the anti-HISF demonstrations that will be taking place over the course of the forum. Part historian, part activist, and all trouble for the war machine, Zatzman and I chatted over coffee and bienenstiches at the Gingerbread Haus bakery on Queen street. The first question on my mind was who will be attending this shindig.

“The Halifax International Security Forum,” explains Zatzman, “is attended by representatives of the 28 NATO-member countries, as well as by representatives of the 25 countries with which NATO has working relations. The majority of those in attendance will be military personnel and academics, although there will be a small media component.”

Fair enough, I thought to myself. So it’s basically a feel-good session for war mongers. Not being a war monger myself, and having had little previous access into the minds of any high-ranking war mongers, I wondered aloud what they might talk about when they all got together under the roof of the Westin Hotel this weekend.

“This forum will focus on the public and semi-public positions that governments should take to justify NATO interventions. Basically how to make NATO interventions look good. Of course, these actions are dressed up as NATO-run initiatives, but they are all scripted by the Pentagon.”

Ah. So the get-together this weekend will be all about NATO-led countries and their close friends, Israel included, figuring out how they can make it look like the American global agenda, and its interventions (read: invasions) are a united-front kind of thing. When everyone agrees, it looks like its justified.

“Right.” Says Zatzman: “The very wording is conducive to this. Interventions are made under the banner of protecting ‘Civilized Western Values.’ The phrase ‘Responsibility to Protect’ is basically the doctrine by which intervention is justified.”

“But we also must be aware that NATO is not as united as you might think. Right now there are two camps, the France-German Entente, which comprises much of the EU, and the US pool of countries, which includes Canada and many of the new EU countries from Eastern Europe. The EU is becoming more leery of a US global force, and is increasingly suspicious of Canada’s alliance with the US. The big reason for this festival is to paper over this division.”

So there’s dissension amongst the ranks. I next asked Zatzman why the Halifax International Security Forum had chosen Canada, and specifically Halifax, to play host to this charade.

“Canada has been deeply involved in NATO since its inception. Lester Pearson called it ‘Peacekeeping in the name of civilization.’ Canada’s relationship with Israel is also a big part of this. In 2005 the Israeli Air Force came to Cold Lake and practiced bombing runs in preparation for its Lebanon invasion. Once the invasion happened, the Harper government even went so far as to initially refuse assistance to Lebanese Canadians who were trying to get out of Lebanon. And Halifax is Canada’s premier military city. It’s a huge natural port, and the nearest port of its size to Europe. From its inception, this town was founded to attack the French.”

Fair enough. A forum on how to make making war go down smoothly with the general populace, held in a complicit country, in that complicit country’s most war-friendly town. Sounds like something I don’t like. I finally asked Zatzman what the anti-HISF had planned for the weekend. Here’s where you, the reader, need to get out your daily planners.

“On Friday, November 5th at 3pm we’re going to be picketing the opening of the HISF. Everyone is encouraged to bring placards against NATO and meet at Peace and Freedom Park, formerly known as Cornwallis Park, outside the Westin Hotel at the corner of Hollis and South Streets. On Saturday at 1pm we’ll be holding an Anti-War Rally, and we’re asking everyone to attend this, despite the call for rain. It will also start at Peace and Freedom Park, and it is a family friendly event.”

“Also, at 7pm on Friday evening, Kevin Neish will be giving an eyewitness account of the Israeli massacre on board the illegally boarded and seized Mavi Marmara. That will be taking place in Room 170 of the Loyola Complex at SMU. This event will be a fundraiser for the Canadian Boat to Gaza, sailing with the next Free Gaza Flotilla in the spring of 2011. This event ties into protests related to the HISF, as NATO and Israel have had an long history of complicity.”

So come on Halifax, we need to be out in force to show the HISF that not everyone in town rolls out the red carpet for war. When I stopped by the Westin Hotel earlier today, a work crew was literally rolling out a red carpet. For war. A little rain never hurt anyone, and who knows? If my sources are correct, Condi Rice will actually melt when hit with rain drops. That’s worth showing up for.

Also, it was ridiculously easy to get press credentials for the HISF. It appears that the site has now closed its pre-registration for the press, but fear not. If all goes well, I’ll be taking a tour of the belly of the beast this weekend, notebook in hand.

Halifax Media Co-op, http://halifax.mediacoop.ca/blog/miles/5053

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Filed under No Harbour for War (Halifax)

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