Analysis of the agenda, emphasis, tactics and composition of the Halifax International Security Forum, 2009-2012
By TONY SEED
ESTABLISHED four years ago, the Halifax International Security Forum (HISF) is taking place November 16-18 at the Westin Hotel. Warmongers from as many as 50 countries are joining Peter MacKay and some 300 others at the Forum “to learn from each other, share opinions, generate new ideas, and put them into action.”
Once again this year, the organization No Harbour for War, joined by others, has come forward to say, “It is unacceptable that Halifax, or any Canadian city, be used as a venue to plan further crimes against the peace and the peoples of the world.”
On Saturday, November 17, these organizations are calling on Haligonians to “Bring your banners and placards, bring your music and statements, and most of all bring your friends to oppose this war conference.”
Participation in the rally is being fuelled by people’s justified anger and outrage against the brutal crimes of Israel against the Palestinians code-named “Operation Pillar of Defence” and the Harper and Obama government’s support for the assault on Gaza as “Israel’s right to defend itself.” All across Canada and around the world people are staging massive rallies this weekend in defence of the rights of the people of Palestine.
The Halifax rally is being held on the second day of the conference. Activists highlight that the “Halifax” International Security Forum (HISF) is based in the capital of the United States, Washington, D.C. In its own words, the HISF is “an invitation only weekend”: this means all participants are selected, vetted and issued formal invitations from the United States.
Although the HISF features live streaming on its website, three quarters of the sessions are classified as “off-the-record” and thus held in absolute secrecy. Of 34 sessions, 26 are classified as “off-the-record.”
The embedded media, consisting of invited senior correspondents and editors from leading mass media in the NATO bloc, any number of whom are enlisted as moderators, have never been allowed – nor expressed any desire – to report on the closed door discussions and conclusions, which have great ramifications for Canadians and all citizens of the world. The public is excluded. The main feature is that it is organized so that the Canadian people have no say. Despite such significant discussions, no representatives of workers’ organizations, or those with knowledge and legitimate concerns or the First Nations of either country are invited to speak about the questions of democracy, sovereignty and peace.
The opulent hotel is totally locked down, surrounded by HRM Police outside with a private security force inside, becoming an armed camp. Last year the Israeli secret service Mossad accompanied Gen Ehud Barak, head of the Israeli Defence Force to the podium where he conducted a 30-minute “public interview session.” Barak commanded the murderous invasion of Gaza in 2009 that killed over 3,000 Palestinians, including some 600 children. In 2010, he commanded the murderous assault on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla in international waters, resulting in the murder of none Turkish and one American protestors.
Meanwhile, following the lively rally in the Peace & Freedom Park, over one hundred participants surrounded the plush hotel, shouting over the heads of armed HRM police, “this is what democracy looks like” and “the real criminals are inside!” That said it all.
The first HISF took place in 2009 following the Strasbourg/Kiel NATO Summit during the 60th anniversary of NATO, and was inaugurated by then U.S. Defence Secretary Robert Gates. It was organized by the German Marshall Fund of the United States, based in Washington, and modelled on a series of similar conferences and forums the GMFUS had organized in Europe in conjunction with NATO summits, most notably in Kiev, Ukraine (Kiev Security Forum). The involvement of GMFUS and its access to millions of Canadian taxdollars – an estimated $3 million a year – funnelled to it by the Harper government through the Department of National Defence and the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) – remains murky to date.
That event and the next forum in 2010 featuring Condoleeza Rice, former U.S. Secretary of State in the Bush presidency, concentrated on elaborating the new “strategic doctrine” that was to be adopted by NATO at its 2010 Lisbon Summit, which followed the 2010 HISF. The espousal of “trans-Atlantic values” – by which is meant the union of Europe under the U.S. banner – was the order of the day. Generals, admirals, military ministers from NATO bloc countries, strategists and state academics dominated in the first two forums.
The warmongering meetings were also an occasion for the United States to form new military arrangements to integrate the Canadian Forces under its command as part of its annexationist program. In 2009, U.S. Secretary of State Robert Gates and Defence Minister Peter MacKay jointly announced that U.S. Marines would henceforth exercise in the strategic Arctic to “defend Canadian sovereignty.”
“Soft power” – a shift in emphasis and tactics
At the third HISF in 2011, there was a clear shift in emphasis and tactics.
Along with the global expansion of NATO especially in the Pacific Ocean, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta declared in his keynote speech the need for “forms of engagement” other than exclusively military, saying “we must also constantly assess the forms of engagement that are most appropriate in light of the capabilities of our allies and the threats that we face.” (Emphasis added)
Towards this end, the 2011 forum highlighted the participation of leading liberal imperialist representatives of such agencies of the U.S. state as the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and two of its core agencies, the National Democratic Institute and the International Republican Institute, together with Freedom House and Human Rights Watch. Its agenda was synchronized with the program of subversion of these agencies known to specialize in other forms of engagement – the “soft power” techniques of intervention, political destabilization and regime change under the pretext of “people power,” “democracy,” “open society,” “non-violence” and “human rights.”
At the same time, more attention was given in 2011 to the Middle East and Africa, especially Syria and Iran. At the 2011 Halifax International Security Forum, warmongering U.S. Senator John McCain became the first U.S. official to issue a public call (on Nov. 19) for formal recognition by the United States of the Syrian National Council (SNC) and its proxy army of mercenaries and jihadists, the “Free Syrian Army” (FSA), as the official U.S.-NATO instrument for destabilizing Syria, regime change and imperialist intervention.
The SNC had been formed just three months before in Turkey by émigrés resident in NATO capitals. For the first time, “dissidents” were introduced into the Halifax conference camouflaged as “human rights” experts, all from Syria and Iran, all resident in the U.S. and Canada, and all connected with the U.S. and Canadian state. Two such touts were members of the SNC, though their actual affiliation was not listed on the program. Peter MacKay orchestrated the war psychosis by announcing that a Canadian warship had been deployed to the region to assist in the evacuation of Canadian nationals from Syria if necessary.
Overall, a euphoria reigned about the “success” of the criminal aggression against Libya; the 2011 conference celebrated the U.S.-NATO conquest of a sovereign African country and its slaughter of the Libyans. However, no-one from the “liberated” country attended, which was discussed clinically only from the military standpoint; Gen. Charles Bouchard, the Canadian appointed NATO commander of the air war that destroyed Libya, openly discussed the application of air power and whether or not it represented the “Libyan template” applied to the reality of Syria.
In fact, not a single representative attended the racist conference from Africa, including from the much-discussed “Arab Spring” countries of Tunisia and Egypt.
Further, specialists in manipulation and subversion of “colour revolutions” in Eastern Europe, Lebanon and the “Arab Spring” were recruited from the National Democratic Institute, Freedom House and the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) to the newly-created board of directors formed in 2011 to operate the HISF.
These included its president David Van Praagh (NDI, NED), vice-president Joseph Hall (NDI); secretary David J Kramer (president, Freedom House); and Joseph Tepperman, managing editor of Foreign Affairs, the CFR’s specialized journal. (See below)
This year, the agenda for HISF continues to focus on the role of the U.S. and NATO in the promotion of so-called democracy while maintaining dominance of Western countries in global affairs, especially with respect to China.
Focus on the “Arab Spring” has now shifted to a specific focus on interference in Syria and Iran in particular, with the sub-text justifying Israel’s related and indefensible assault on Gaza.
Organizing intervention and war against the Syrian Arab Republic
In statements issued just before the 2012 Conference, Peter MacKay, John Baird and Stephen Harper joined the Zionists’ disinformation, trying to construe Israel’s aggression and war crimes as self-defence. Israel sent eight representatives to Halifax – from Benjamin Netanyahu’s Office of the Prime Minister on down to two newspaper correspondents – as part of its campaign for a more perfect marriage with NATO as a full member.
The Syrian panel is a pertinent example of how the format and agenda of the War Conference is specifically designed and used to incite war – in the form of further Western “humanitarian intervention” in that country and the region, which has hit a brick wall in Syria, Iran and Lebanon. It is one of only six sessions that are classified as open and televised through CPAC and live streaming on the HISF website.
One of the main speakers is Washington-based Radwan Ziadeh of the widely discredited U.S.-sponsored Syrian National Council (SNC), which has been folded into the “unified opposition” just formed in Qatar by the U.S. and the Gulf feudal regimes to, as Obama falsely claimed in his press conference of November 13, 2012, “represent the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people.” Only Britain has recognized this latest basket of crabs as a government-in-exile.
Both Ziadeh and another SNC representative, Mohammad al-Abdallah based in New York, work with U.S.-financed agencies, i.e., they represent the U.S. state, not the Syrian people. Ziadeh has publicly called for “Kosovo-stye military intervention” and is involved with the U.S. Institute for Peace of the U.S. state on formulating a “transition plan,” i.e., regime change of the Iraqi Chalabi type. Politically, the SNC calls for a rapprochement with Israel and a reversal of Syria’s long-standing fraternal relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran. The “Syrian Free Army,” which is allegedly Sunni, has attacked with arms Palestinian refugee camps, inhabited by Sunni Muslims, inside Syria. They are joined on this panel by a representative of the Al Hayat newspaper, based in London and funded by Saudia Arabia, one of the regional organizers of the armed gangs smuggled into Syria. Another panelist is a Kurdistan member of the Iraqi government sponsored by the U.S. and Turkey.
The HISF has suspiciously kept the SNC affiliation off its published list of invitees, as it did in 2011, presenting this fifth column as academics, “dissidents” and independent champions of “human rights.” The HISF aims to give them legitimacy and respectability within NATO, other participating countries and the media – together with an international TV platform to consolidate elite opinion and disinform public opinion on the aims of the warmongers as a necessary part of inciting new levels of intervention.
Strategy for energy
The implications that the events in the Middle East will have on “energy security” and oil supplies to the U.S. empire are also being brought to the table of the Halifax Conference.
The “on-the-record” panel on energy is headlined by Alberta Conservative premier Alison Redford and Wyoming Republican Senator Ron Barrasso, champions of the monopoly right of the oil and gas cartel, and of the Keystone XL and Energy East pipelines in particular.
Barrasso has voted in favour of big oil companies on 100 per cent of important oil related bills, according to Oil Change International. These bills include Iraq War funding, climate change studies, clean energy, and oil import reductions. Barrasso is a multi-millionaire who has received $136,400 in oil contributions during the 110th congress. $110,500 of those dollars were from industry PACS. These numbers make Barrasso one of the top recipients of oil and coal money in the Senate (Center for Responsive Politics).
Their attendance is linked with MEG Energy Ltd. of Calgary, now a “partner” in the Halifax conference, with close connections to the Conservative Party in Alberta; former premier Peter Lougheed was a member of its board. MEG is seeking to make the big score from the plunder of the Alberta oilsands, including the Northern Gateway pipeline to export oil to China and the Keystone XL pipeline to carry raw bitumen south to the U.S. empire. MEG is 25 per cent owned by Warburg Pincus LLP, a U.S.-based investment firm which manages over $30-billion in private-equity assets globally, and which has invested roughly $1-billion in the Alberta oil sands to date.
Their participation represents the first time a premier other than Nova Scotia’s Darrell Dexter and a U.S. senator other than Republican Sen John McCain (Arizona) and Democrat Sen Mark Udall (Colorado) have attended the war conference.
Concern is also expressed about Afghanistan and Pakistan and how to neutralize the peoples of the region.
Latin America and the Caribbean are noticeable by the near-complete absence of representation with the exception of the Jamaican military (where Canada is establishing one of six new overseas military bases), the Columbia minister of defence, and Mexico and Brazil.
What’s behind the media attention?
Another significant feature is that for the first time the Canadian media is heavily publicizing the U.S.-NATO war conference (1) before the event; (2) as a so-called Canadian initiative; and (3) as a “debate” on alternative views of security.
To this end, the CBC TV’s Peter Mansbridge was deployed to Halifax for a one-hour special, including a one-on-one interview with Defence Minister Peter MacKay – as if it is MacKay’s conference. Warmongers were prettified by Mansbridge as “world leaders” and “heavy hitters in the security world.”
A 100 per cent U.S. conference – lock, stock and barrel
This facade flies in the face of additional facts. It is a telling comment on MacKay and the big media’s concept of sovereignty that the HISF is a 100 per cent U.S. conference lock, stock and barrel. MacKay’s role is of the annexed mercenary and cheerleader: he hands out cash and tartan gifts to the 300 participants, and leads a Sunday morning jog. Last year, Halifax anti-war activists once again exposed that the Department of National Defence and the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) were handing over guaranteed annual funding – to the tune of over $7.5 million in Canadian taxdollars (unsourced, unaudited) – to the U.S. organizers based in the capital of the United States to finance the 2011, 2012 and 2013 conferences. As well, the Harper government is providing military personnel, RCMP, and CSIS to the conference.
Four of the five directors of the HISF’s board are resident in New York and Washington, where its offices are based.
The headquarters are located in Suite 610, 1717 Rhode Island Avenue NW, Washington, D.C. There is no Canadian telephone. On its website, American spelling is used; the word “defence” is spelt “defense.”
This in itself is another telling comment on the Harper-MacKay-Obama concept of sovereignty and governance. The question legitimately arises as to whether the HISF is in point of fact a covert arm of the U.S. state. The composition of the HISF and its methods used to set the agenda resemble U.S. intelligence operations of the Cold War, including the use of political and cultural front groups as “pass through” conduits to exercise and consolidate influence and elite opinion in targeted countries. The significance of this aspect is not discussed and is not some minor matter.
Importantly, the ”Halifax” International Security Forum has no organic connection with Halifax – a small, heavily militarized city with a strategic, ice-free NATO port on the Atlantic coast of Canada and the headquarters of Maritime Command – except to cynically appropriate its name and use its locale as an out-of-the-way venue for the U.S. war conference.
The HISF now openly includes as official “partners”:
- the NATO military bloc (sending its top commanders from Europe);
- General Dynamic and Irving Shipbuilding (two giant monopolies involved in military production and the arms trade, of which Canada’s Dept. of National Defence, funder of the conference, is also a principal client); and
- the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), the most powerful think tank of the U.S. elite, known as the imperial brain trust.
Its journal, Foreign Affairs, has been a “media partner” since September 2011. Three of the five members of the board of the HISF are members of the CFR, whose membership is openly only to American citizens. Jonathan Tepperman, vice chairman, has been managing editor since January 2011. Jonathan Weisstub, chairman, is a member of the New York State Bar Association and the Pacific Council on International Policy based in Los Angeles, the western partner of the Council on Foreign Relations. Gideon Rose, editor of Foreign Affairs and formerly with the U.S. State Dept., is a moderator of a forum panel in 2012, as he was in 2011.
Since May 2005 the CFR has openly demanded the annexation of Canada and Mexico in a United States of North American monopolies. Its Foreign Affairs journal and website are a lead manufacturer of the psychosis of the inevitability of war against the sovereign govenment of Iran. It has done this by orchestrating a “debate” between seemingly different views on the viability of a pre-emptive strikes, diplomacy or invasion of Iran, and then framing this as the sole policy options. The HISF has incorporated this well-known, neo-liberal method in its form.
Characteristically, details of the content of their “partnership” with the HISF are not disclosed, but the basic relationship is anti-social, neo-liberal and anti-national – as the content and form of the HISF reveal.
Security is based on securing the rights of all
At the heart of the “debate” on all sides at the HISF is that the only way to stave off eventual decline is by striving for domination of the Middle East and strengthening the U.S. empire and the NATO bloc. Such a debate can only be used to justify U.S. and NATO attacks against Syria and Iran and the Israeli attacks against the steadfast Palestinian people that the U.S. imperialists deem necessary to destroy those countries and peoples so as to secure their domination over Asia.
Importantly, the HISF is advancing its racist and imperialist agenda wrapped in its new high profile Canadian flag – facilitated by the monopoly media – amid a heated debate within the U.S. ruling circles around the re-election of Barack Obama; the setbacks of its proxy forces from Syria and Iran and on the diplomatic front in defence of their sovereignty; the decline of U.S. preponderance and its hegemonic position in the imperialist system of states; the deepening fight over oil and gas; and the growing resistance within Canada itself. This resistance blocks the agenda of big capital and the politicians and generals in their service just as the resistance of Iran and Syria and of the Palestinian, Lebanese and Egyptian peoples are blocking the expansion of NATO and the U.S. in the Middle East.
The agenda items for the fourth Halifax NATO war conference, stresses TML Daily, are replete with chauvinism against the peoples of the world. They underscore that this conference is based on an imperialist definition of “values” and “security,” which is itself based on U.S. hegemony, the dominance of “western civilization,” “might makes right,” “responsibility to protect,” and white man’s burden.
Canadians reject the self-serving definitions of democracy, security and self-defence promoted by the HISF. Canadians reject the “values” embraced of white man’s burden. Canadians and the peoples of world do not need condescending saviours to undermine their aspirations for a bright future. The peace- and justice-loving peoples of the world have defined security as fighting for the rights of all. They are fighting to uphold the sovereignty of all nations, big and small, and oppose the use of force as a means to resolve conflicts between nations and peoples.
No Harbour for War!
Not In Our Name!
All Out to Oppose the Halifax NATO War Conference!
– With files from TML Daily
Fourth Annual Halifax International Security Forum
Halifax Peace & Freedom Park (formerly Cornwallis Park), Hollis & South Sts.
Organized by: No Harbour for War
Endorsed by: Halifax Peace Coalition, CUPW, NSPIRG, Food Not Bombs, St Mary’s Activist Group, Canadians, Arabs & Jews for a Just Peace, Independent Jewish Voices, and others
For information: firstname.lastname@example.org