The Costs of Militarization: A Discussion

By Hania Federowicz, Dan Heap, Dorothy Goldin Rosenberg, Solanges Vincent | 1987-04-01 12:00:00

DAN HEAP: One aspect of militarization that isn't fully grasped is the massive secrecy. We're finding that, as Members of Parliament, we have no right even to know the name of a treaty that is signed in the name of Canada -- or to know that a treaty has been signed. That was made clear a year ago when Erik Nielsen lied to the Standing Committee about defence treaties with the States. Later, when Bill Arkin told them, "Here are the eight treaties he didn't tell you about," the press went back to Nielsen. He laughed and said, "You don't expect us to give aid and comfort to the enemy, do you?" And it's not a change in the Canadian constitution. We never had as much democracy in that respect as the United States.


ROSENBERG: People often use the Freedom of Information Act in the United States to get information they can't get here.

HEAP: Oh, yes! Our Access to Information law is very feeble. Ernie Regehr told me that information is much harder to get now, since we have the Access to Information Law. It's appalling that in Canada we just accept being told that we can't have an answer to our question because it's either a matter of national security, or it's a matter of private business. The Privacy Act considerably limited the Access to Information Act. The right of a private arms manufacturer to sell arms to whomever he wants takes precedence over the right of voters to know what's being done with their tax subsidies to that manufacturer.

ROSENBERG: Dan, I know you're very involved in opposing the Labrador base [at Goose Bay, where NATO may expand its training facility for low-flying planes].

HEAP: Yes. What is probably least known to most 6f the public about Goose Bay is the strategic meaning of the training there. We're used to training pilots for our European allies. But this program is to train pilots to fly low over the hills of Eastern Europe into the Soviet Union; it is regarded by many people as a provocation. This is related to the first-strike philosophy that is growing strong in the Pentagon and the White House -- the belief that the U.S. can win a nuclear war and survive. And to do that, they'll strike first. That's officially denied, but more and more people are pointing out that the way the weapons are being planned and deployed fits that explanation better than any others. Therefore, the Goose Bay training is very destabilizing because it threatens the Soviet Union. After all, if the Soviet Union feels threatened, it might do something we don't like. We're producing what we fear. Without understanding that, people may say, "So long as the planes don't fly too close to the Innu hunting camps, I guess it's okay." However, I've spoken in a number of cities against both the low-flying training at Goose Bay and the proposed NATO base, with good support. I've got 2000 names on petitions to present now in Parliament. And we're drawing fire from the Minister of Defence, who's putting Out blurbs to explain what they're doing there.

There's a debate going on within the NDP about how to approach it tactically. The Québec NDP has adopted a very blunt resolution opposing the enlargement of the base for NATO. There are resolutions on Goose Bay from 15 or 20 ridings. The best one, from Thunder Bay and Nipigon, covers the provocative nature of the training, and the need to use the money (now being spent to lure NATO) to provide alternative and peaceful employment.

VINCENT: Goose Bay is part of a much larger plan to militarize. Everything is arranged to fit -the Northern Warning system, the enlargement of the bases. Every month there is something new to add to the whole picture. And it has backfired; it has turned region against region, province against province. There are two provinces, Québec and Ontario, that have especially large amounts of military contracts. The role of Nova Scotia is changing: They have Pratt and Whitney, Litton, Thyssen...

ROSENBERG: I think they have succeeded in stopping Thyssen in Nova Scotia. It's such a contentious issue that they're not going to do it. They were going to make tanks for Saudi Arabia, and that offended too many people.

I had a letter from the Young Liberals. They introduced an anti-cruise testing resolution at the Liberal Convention which passed. But they voted for the Goose Bay base, so they don't have a clear grasp of militarization. They don't see how it links into cruise testing. We're dealing with a five year umbrella treaty, not just a couple of cruise tests.

HEAP: That weapon agreement, which was signed under McEachen, could cover -- with a small addition -- the training of U.S. pilots at Goose Bay.

ROSENBERG: That fits in with what Bill Arkin talks about -- peeling off the layers of the treaties, like an onion. Peel off one and you find more underneath.

FEDEROWICZ: As I understand it, all the white people living in Goose Bay were parachuted in to start up the base. The only form of development that they know is linked to the base. And now the federal government has given $140,000 to further that line of thinking.

HEAP: I hear that the local baker in Goose Bay complains that the store on the base, subsidized by our taxes, is under-selling him. He's stopped supporting the base. The thousand jobs they were talking about are vanishing fast. People are saying, "Where are they going to be? We don't see them."

FEDEROWICZ: The good jobs won't go to local people, anyhow. There'll just be some service jobs.

ROSENBERG: Still, we hear that the base is going ahead, that the Turkey site was not suitable. The Greeks don't want it there and the costs they had predicted were not accurate. They're just holding back announcing it because of the studies that are supposed to be going on -- the health study and the caribou study, and so on. They have to appear to be waiting for the information, but the decision has been made. What are people doing across the country? HEAP: The groups I talk to across the country are not all working on the Goose Bay issue. In Vancouver, they're trying to keep nuclear powered or nuclear capable ships from entering harbors. In Halifax, they're working on how Nova Scotians can earn a living other than by making preparations for war.

ROSENBERG: An issue that concerns me is the PUNE Conference -the "United Nations International Conference for the Promotion of Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Technology for Economic and Social Benefits." This official U.N. conference comes out of the NPT -the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. Article Four says that nations that have nuclear technology should give it to the non-nuclear countries, provided they agree not to build weapons. Nuclear “have” countries are also supposed to pursue nuclear disarmament, which obviously they have not done. PUNE Conferences are handled in Canada through External Affairs Nuclear Division. It's a major marketing plan to export nuclear technology, primarily to the Third World. The market here's failing and they're looking for new overseas markets.

So this very low-key conference is about to take place in Geneva. There are NGOs [non-governmental organizations] who will meet beforehand to oppose it. They came together at the renewal of the NPT in Geneva and formed the International Coalition on Energy for Development. There's an awareness growing now that the export of nuclear technology could be a disaster in future years. There are about thirty countries that are just about able to make a bomb. We know of five countries, besides the five "have" nations, that probably do have it.

HEAP: Which ones? Israel, South Africa, Taiwan?

ROSENBERG: And Pakistan and Argentina could if they wanted to. Some countries gained the capability with Canadian technology; India certainly did. And with the export of nuclear technology, by the turn of the century we'll see a major escalation in nuclear transportation and weapons production. The export of nuclear materials is part of Canadian policy. They call it "development."

They tell Third World governments, "You may not need nuclear power right now, but you will by the turn of the century. So you should lay-in your infrastructure right now. It has been going on in businesses, under the umbrella of security and secrecy.

We at CCIC have been working on the issue of the export of inappropriate technologies. There will be a lot of follow-up activity after the PUNE Conference. The International Coalition on Energy for Development, the NGO group, has nine Canadian member groups on it. We at CCIC want to send four NGO representatives from Canada and four from the Third World, because this marketing plan is really directed at the Third World.

HEAP: I'm wondering how we can bring these things together in Ottawa. I am swamped with urgent material.

ROSENBERG: We hope to do it by re-establishing the Election Priorities Project. We're laying the foundation for that. There's been a debate about it within the Canadian Peace Alliance. They finally decided not to include our other issues because they want to focus on SDI -- the strictly nuclear issues, which is very disturbing.

HEAP: Yes, I think that's a bad tactical mistake.

FEDEROWICZ: It's focusing on what's happening in the U.S., not on how Canada's adding to the problem.

HEAP: That's right. I think they're in danger of leaving people feeling very irrelevant and powerless.

ROSENBERG: Yes, it's like the cruise issue. When you lose it, you get depressed and go away. That happened to a lot of activists, because they focused all their activities on one issue without looking at the broader implications of militarization and development. I make a connection all the time between development, disarmament, and the environment, because it is really one package. The unification of these concerns was consolidated by the Fate of the Earth Conference and the regional meetings that took place across the country, where NGOs discussed these topics together. Now this Elections Priorities Project will develop a set of good questions that everybody will take to their candidates. They can form riding committees and carry Out educational work in the local communities.

HEAP: I hope that this time, the project will start long before the election, perhaps even before all the candidates are identified. In a single public meeting, it is difficult to nail down a candidate. If it's done six months or a year ahead, local spokespeople for all parties can be asked to put up or shut up: "Let's see your letter to the Prime Minister telling him to promote a freeze at the U.N."

ROSENBERG: Right. Jamie Scott, the former coordinator, has been saying: "Let's get going now."

HEAP: By now, many churches have taken an official position. What remains is to make sure the local parishes know what their national leaders said, make up their own minds about it, and decide how to approach the candidates. The national statements are very good, but are not known by the parishioners. There's such a need to make the connections between the economy and militarization.

ROSENBERG: The Development and Disarmament Conference is going to take place in New York on August 24 to September 11 at the United Nations. Official NGOs may send observers to sit' and they can make oral statements. The American government doesn't want anyone to talk about development and disarmament together. Nevertheless the conference will legitimize this connection. It'll be educational and will help people work in their own communities -- in our backyards.

VINCENT: And we need to show how the reduction of the military budget will have wider implications, both locally and globally. It's not only jobs, but all the other social activities that have been wrecked because their budgets have been robbed for military purposes. I'm interested in what's happening to women in the Third World as a result of militarization. The [military] bases around the world promote prostitution and the social ills such as sickness and orphans -- GI babies, who become street children. Militarization of the Third World is changing the agriculture, the economy, so that people are not producing for their own needs, but for export to get money to buy arms from the industrialized countries. The farmers have to leave their villages and gather in shanty-towns.

This type of economy in the Third World can coexist with very high levels of profits, as in Brazil. Brazil has become the fifth largest exporter of arms, but its whole "economic miracle" has reached only 3 percent of the population. Almost a quarter of its workforce are children from 10 to 14 years old. The model of development that is imposed on these countries is creating more poor people, and more demand for arms and for more military to repress the population. In Vietnam in '65 there were 400,000 people in Saigon. When the Americans left Saigon there were 4 million people in Saigon because they had taken the people from the countryside, and there were 400,000 prostitutes. It wasn't fun for them because they would keep them underground by day and then bring them by helicopters to the battle areas, where they would be used and abused by so many. And in the countryside they didn't need the prostitutes because it was rape all the way. Very public rape. It's all documented in studies. Because of the war in Vietnam, sexual tourism was started. They have all those installations in Thailand where officers went on holidays, with a whole infrastructure of bars, massage parlors, and so on. They started a network of them, and brought people from Japan, Germany and elsewhere for "sexual tourism." Now it's developing in many Third World countries. At times they can buy a little boy or girl, and dispose of them afterwards. Many of them are killed at the end of the trip. That's a consequence of the war. These social ills remain after a war, especially for women and children.

But militarization also has consequences for women in rich countries because of this. Jobs created for high-tech military production are mostly for men. And there are not so many, because at last count it cost $1 million to create a job in electronic warfare, as we have at Marconi. So the jobs we are losing are jobs for women, in education, in social services, in education, in health. The jobs that are created are nothing. The whole CF-18 hullabaloo was over nothing: 250 jobs. And they are recruiting for those outside of Canada. There was a big conflict between Manitoba and Québec over 250 jobs! So women are affected and also young people, because young people do not get their first job because not enough are created.

But it is not just a job problem. It's a suicide problem. It's been proven that as unemployment rises, so does alcoholism and family violence. My approach is to connect issues. Sometimes it seems far-fetched, for example, to connect sexual tourism in Thailand with what's happening here, but if you see the larger picture, it's linked.

ROSENBERG: There have been sixteen pregnancies because of flyers at the base in Labrador. They pick them up for a Saturday night, bring them to the base, party with them, sleep with them, and then throw them out. People see the young girls on a Sunday morning, hitching back to Sheshatshit.

You can already see that happening there. Then the kids have to be raised by the young girls themselves and their families.

VINCENT: And there are environmental effects... Cold Lake is being sprayed with herbicides.

ROSENBERG: It's happening at Goose Bay, too. They clear the trees away from the flight path.

VINCENT: Because they fly so low. At treetop level.

ROSENBERG: Yes. So we have to address all three concerns as a single problem. To attain disarmament, development, or the protection of the environment, we must handle them all.

Hania Federowicz is an Ottawa researcher. Dan Heap is the Member of Parliament for Spadina. Dorothy Rosenberg, a peace educator and organizer, works with the Canadian Council for Int rnational Cooperation in Ottawa. Solanges Vincent is a peace researcher based in Montréal.

Peace Magazine Apr-May 1987

Peace Magazine Apr-May 1987, page 21. Some rights reserved.

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