Last Updated:Friday - 09/24/2010
October 18, 2004
Peace, not missiles works
Almost incomprehensibly, the Canadian government is on the verge of signing up to be part of the U.S. ballistic missile defence system (BMD). To do so would be a major unwelcome shift in policy for Canada, a nation that has often stood for peace when others were going to war.
Canada's record, to be sure, has been far from pure. Our support for nuclear disarmament has, over the years, been, at best, equivocal. But we have distinguished ourselves by support for numerous UN peacekeeping forces, by spearheading the treaty to do away with landmines and by regularly opposing weapons in space.
Participation and support for ballistic missile defence would contradict Canada's opposition to the weaponization of space. The U.S. Missile Defence Agency wants to begin research next year on developing space-based weapons to become part of the BMD system as early as 2012.
As former senator Douglas Roche has argued, "Ballistic missile defence is like a house. Ground- and sea-based interceptors are the first and second storeys. Space-based missile interceptors are the roof."
Further, many defence analysts are skeptical that the BMD system will work. And if missiles based in North America do prove capable of "defending" against small numbers of missiles fired by rogue states, such as North Korea or Iran, no one believes they will be capable of warding off a major attack from Russia or China.
China is already expanding its nuclear arsenal capable of hitting the United States so that it has enough missiles to counter BMD. And so what this "defence" program is leading to is an increase in the number of nuclear weapons.
The end of the Cold War less than 15 years ago led to a decrease in the number of nuclear weapons and talk of a peace dividend - an increase in the amount of money to fight poverty and disease, since so much of the world's resources did not "have to be" put into the arms race.
The peace dividend proved to be a false hope. Too many vested interests are tied up with preparing for war to allow that to happen. New enemies have to be created and fear has to be nurtured so that the war machine can continue to cash in.
Ballistic missile defence means cashing in big time. Already $90 billion has been spent and costs for this questionable venture may well reach over $1 trillion. For what? Does anyone seriously believe that shooting down nuclear weapons over the ocean will mean anything other than disaster for the world? "Success" would turn the world into one big Chernobyl.
Why can't our political leaders realize there is a better way? The way of negotiation and disarmament. Global nuclear disarmament is the only way to protect humanity from a planned or accidental nuclear catastrophe. It is the only way to ensure that terrorists do not get their hands on nuclear weapons and threaten a disaster that makes the current spate of beheadings in the Middle East look like child's play.
The world does not need Canada to sign on to BMD. It needs us to take a stand for making the elimination of hunger and disease, and the enhancement of education and economic development the top priorities in the world. It needs Canada to take up the torch for nuclear disarmament. It needs Canada to say there is a crying need for a reallocation of power and resources in the global community.
Is it too much to ask that Canada become a leading voice for peace, disarmament and development? Can we not use our special relationship with the United States to speak out for a way that is different than that of the arms manufacturers? Does being a good neighbour mean simply supporting the latest fantasies for waging war? Does it not, rather, mean delivering the message that our friend may not want to hear, but surely must hear, if humanity is to have a future?
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