Tag Archives: Lester Pearson

Canada opposed Iranian democracy

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To understand where you are, it is necessary to know where you have been. To understand current Canadian policy towards the 18th most populous country in the world, it is necessary to look at the history of Ottawa’s relations with Iran.

For the first 75 years after Confederation Canada’s foreign policy was largely shaped by the British Empire. For London during this period Persia was mostly a strategic geopolitical ally. Then came oil.

The first company to exploit Iranian oil resources was the Anglo Persian Oil Company. From that time on the Empire’s policy towards Iran was dominated by geopolitics (the new Soviet Union bordered Persia) and hydrocarbons.

In 1953 the US and Britain overthrew Iran’s first popularly elected prime minister, Mohammad Mossadegh and Ottawa played a small part in this destruction of Iranian democracy.

Mossadegh wanted Iran to benefit from its huge oil reserves. Following the British lead, Canada’s external minister criticized the Iranians move to nationalize its oil. In May 1951 external minister Lester Pearson told the House of Commons the “problem can be settled” only if the Iranians keep in mind the “legitimate interests of other people who have ministered to the well-being of Iran in administering the oil industry of that country which they have been instrumental in developing.” Later that year Pearson complained about the Iranians’ “emotional” response to the English. He added: “In their anxiety to gain full control of their affairs by the elimination of foreign influence, they are exposing themselves to the menace of communist penetration and absorption — absorption into the Soviet sphere.”

In response to the nationalization, the British organized an embargo of Iranian oil, which Ottawa followed. The embargo weakened Mossadegh’s government, enabling the CIA’s subsequent drive to topple the nationalist prime minister.

Thirteen months before the coup Canada’s ambassador in Washington cabled Ottawa: “The situation in Iran could hardly look worse than it does at present. Mossadegh has been returned to power with increased influence and prestige and will almost certainly prove even more unreasonable and intractable than in the past, so that a settlement of the oil dispute will be harder than ever to arrange.”

Pearson did not protest the overthrow of Iran’s first elected prime minister. Privately, External Affairs celebrated. Four months after the coup, Canada’s ambassador in Washington cabled Ottawa about “encouraging reports from their [US] embassy in Tehran on the growing strength of the present [coup] government.”

Establishing diplomatic relations with Iran in 1955, Canada followed the lead of the UK and US in doing business with the brutal dictatorship of Mohammad-Reza Shah Pahlavi, which ruled for 26 years.

Throughout the Shah’s reign Canadian politicians visited regularly. Ontario Premier William Davis, for instance, went to meet the Shah in September 1978.

During the 1970s the Canadian government’s Defence Programs Bureau had a representative in Tehran and Canada sold about $60 million ($250 million today) worth of arms to Iran during the decade. This was during a time when Amnesty International reported “no country in the world has a worse record in human rights than Iran.” The Shah’s brutal SAVAK intelligence forces killed tens of thousands, which prompted little condemnation from Ottawa. In fact, in the early 1970s, $250,000 ($1 million today) worth of Canadian aid went to the University of Montréal’s International Center for Comparative Criminology (ICCC) whose advisors in Iran (as well as the Ivory Coast and Brazil), according to ICCC director Dennis Szabo, “trained police forces in the use of the most modern methods to suppress protest demonstrations and the causes of criminality.”

Canada did significant business with the Shah’s Iran. In 1978 Canadian exports to Iran reached nearly $600 million ($2.4 billion today). An October 1978 Globe and Mail article headlined “Canadians in Iran” described a massive Export Development Canada (EDC)-financed forestry project along with numerous other Canadian ventures in that country: “Acres International Ltd. of Toronto has been hired for $100-million worth of engineering on an irrigation-power project. Ircan of Montréal has won a $37-million contract to supply mobile training centres and 800 hours of videotaped vocational teaching. Two Canadian drilling companies help Iran explore for oil. A four firm consortium is bidding for a $1.2-billion thermal power plant. Keith Sjogren, the Bank of Commerce’s man in Tehran, actually lends money to the Shah’s government companies.”

By the time the Shah was overthrown in late 1979, there were 850 Canadians in Iran (along with thousands of Americans), most working for foreign owned oilrigs, power projects, etc. At the time of the revolution EDC had more than $100 million ($400 million today) in outstanding export insurance and Canadian banks held billions of dollars worth of loans to Iran’s Shah, which were put into doubt (the loans were eventually honoured). Not Long after the Shah’s departure, Canada closed its embassy in Tehran, which wouldn’t reopen for eight years.

Clearly, during the period from 1950-1985, Canadian policy towards Iran was motivated by the interests of British then American empire and profit-making opportunities for Canadian business. Equally as evident, Ottawa exhibited little concern for Iranian human rights or democracy.

As we shall see in part two, Canadian policy in recent years has sought to undermine Iran.

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Media can’t even tell the truth about foreign policy history

MacleansThumbnailMedia coverage of Canadian foreign policy is uniquely one-sided and biased. It’s so bad that few readers, listeners or viewers will have ever seen or heard an honest analysis of this country’s past, let alone current role around the world.

A recent Maclean’s story titled “The long history of ‘go back to where you came from’ in Canada” illustrates how uniquely bad foreign policy coverage is. The story demonstrates that it is permissible to detail the history of racist immigration policy, but can one imagine Maclean’s publishing a story headlined “the long history of Canada advancing Empire”? No major media outlet — or the National Observer, Tyee or Press Progress, for that matter — would highlight how every prime minister since Confederation has advanced violent, antidemocratic and pro-corporate international policies.

Don’t believe me? Here’s a brief summary:

  • John A McDonald helped recruit nearly four hundred Canadians to beat back anti-colonial resistance in the Sudan in 1884-85 and during his decades in power Canadians were trained to be officers in Britain’s conquest across Africa.
  • Wilfrid Laurier’s government oversaw the deployment of seven thousand Canadians to defend British imperial interests in what’s now South Africa.
  • Robert Borden dispatched 600,000 men to fight a war with no clear and compelling purpose other than rivalry between up-and-coming Germany and the lead imperial powers of the day, Britain and France. After World War I Borden sought to be compensated with Britain’s Caribbean colonies and publicly encouraged Canadian businessmen to buy up southern Mexico.
  • R. B. Bennett deployed two destroyers to assist a month-old military coup government’s brutal suppression of a peasant and Indigenous rebellion in El Salvador, which London thought might be a “danger to British banks, railways and other British lives and property” as well as a Canadian-owned utility. Bolstered by the Royal Canadian Navy’s presence, the military regime would commit “one of the worst massacres of civilians in the history of the Americas.”
  • William Lyon Mackenzie King was sympathetic to European fascism. His government criminalized Canadians who fought against Franco’s fascists in Spain while arming Japanese fascists. In September 1936 King wrote that Adolf Hitler “might come to be thought of as one of the saviours of the world.” After atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki Mackenzie King declared, “it gives me pleasure to announce that Canadian scientists played an important role, having been intimately connected, in an efficient manner, to this great scientific development.”
  • Louis St. Laurent’s government endorsed the Washington sponsored overthrow of popularly elected Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh and Guatemalan President Jacobo Arbenz. St. Laurent dispatched eight Canadian warships and 27,000 troops to fight in Korea. The US-led force massively expanded what was essentially a civil war, which ultimately left as many as four million dead.
  • John Diefenbaker blamed Fidel Castro for the CIA-backed Bay of Pigs invasion. His government also sent troops to undermine Congolese independence leader Patrice Lumumba who he labelled a “major threat to Western interests”.
  • Lester Pearson’s government played a part in the downfall of leading pan-Africanist Kwame Nkrumah and sent a vessel to support the US invasion of the Dominican Republic to stop a left-wing government from taking office. He staunchly defended the US war in Vietnam, which greatly benefited Canadian arms sellers. Pearson had Canadian International Control Commission officials deliver US bombing threats to the North Vietnamese leadership.
  • Pierre Trudeau was hostile to Salvador Allende’s elected government and did business with Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship in Chile. He embraced Indonesia’s occupation of East Timor and sympathized with South Africa’s apartheid regime not the black liberation movement or nascent Canadian solidarity groups.
  • Brian Mulroney “justified” the US invasion of Panama, which left 4,000 dead. He also backed US airstrikes on Libya that left 37 people dead and 93 wounded in a failed bid to kill Mohammed Gaddafi. His government deployed three naval vessels, 26 aircraft and 4,000 personnel to the Middle East in a war that killed 20,000 Iraqi troops and between 20,000 and 200,000 civilians.
  • Jean Chrétien deployed 18 fighter jets to NATO’s illegal 78-day bombing of Serbia, which left hundreds dead and hundreds of thousands displaced. He began Canada’s pointless war in Afghanistan and his government held a meeting to plan the overthrow of Haitian democracy.
  • Paul Martin ramped up the war in Afghanistan. He dispatched troops to overthrow president Jean Bertrand Aristide in Haiti and provided various forms of support to the post-coup regime responsible for thousands of deaths.
  • Stephen Harper supported Israel’s war on Lebanon and repeated onslaughts on Gaza. He had Canada head NATO’s bombing of Libya, which has led to eight years of civil war and greater instability in Africa’s Sahel region.
  • Justin Trudeau has armed Saudi Arabia, backed brutal mining companies, expanded NATO deployments, opposed Palestinian rights, refused to support nuclear weapons controls, deepened ties to repressive Middle East monarchies, supported Africa’s most ruthless dictator, propped up a corrupt, repressive and illegitimate Haitian president, tried to topple the Venezuelan government, etc.

Of course, the dominant media is skewed towards the outlook of their wealthy owners, corporate advertisers and power more generally on all matters. How the bias plays out depends on the issue and time. In recent years, for instance, there has been a marked increase of space devoted to discussing Canada’s genocidal dispossession of First Nations. But, even as Canada’s most fundamental injustice begins to receive dominant media attention it is still largely forbidden to present an overarching critique of foreign policy history. It’s acceptable to write about “The long history of ‘go back to where you came from’ in Canada” but not that “foreign policy has long advanced corporate interests and empire.”

 

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Filed under A Propaganda System, Media

NATO propaganda promotes war, military spending

Third in a four-part series on the 70th anniversary of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

The first two installments of the series showed how NATO was set up to blunt the European left and to justify European/North American dominance across the globe. Recently, the alliance has intensified pressure on Canada to increase spending on the military and participate in more wars.

As its Cold War pretext fades further from view, NATO has become more belligerent. In 1999 Canadian fighter jets dropped 530 bombs in NATO’s illegal 78-day bombing of Serbia. During the 2000s tens of thousands of Canadian troops fought in a NATO war in Afghanistan. In 2011 a Canadian general led NATO’s attack on Libya in which seven CF-18 fighter jets and two Canadian naval vessels participated.

In a dangerous game of brinksmanship, NATO has massed troops and fighter jets on Russia’s border. Five hundred Canadian troops lead an alliance mission in Latvia while the US, Britain and Germany head missions in Poland, Lithuania and Estonia. Over the past decade Canadian naval vessels have almost constantly engaged in NATO patrols in the Mediterranean and Indian Ocean.

In addition to spurring deployments and war, militarists use the alliance to boost socially and ecologically damaging military spending. “Canada’s defence spending questioned at NATO parliamentary meeting”, noted a November CBC headline while a National Post editorial bemoaned “Canada’s continuing failure to honour our pledge to NATO allies to spend 2 per cent of GDP on defence.” In 2006 NATO countries adopted a pledge to put 2% of economic output into their military.

NATO has also been used to push weapons procurement. Calling for expanding the jet fleet, senior military officials told the Globe and Mail in 2017 that “Canada’s fighter fleet is not big enough to meet its NORAD and NATO obligations at the same time.” In a history of the first century of the navy Marc Milner describes a series of reports in the mid-1960s concluding that the Royal Canadian Navy was “too small to meet Canada’s NATO obligations” and should be expanded “to meet NATO and North American commitments.”

NATO has also been invoked to justify arming the US war machine. In 1967 the Prime Minister responded to calls by opponents of the war in Vietnam to end the Defence Production Sharing Agreement, the arrangement under which Canada sold the US weapons, with the claim that to do so would imperil NATO. Lester Pearson claimed this “would be  interpreted as a notice of withdrawal on our part from continental defense and even from the collective defence arrangements of the Atlantic alliance.”

In 2017 the Justin Trudeau government “hid behind Canada’s NATO membership”, according to NDP foreign critic Hélène Laverdière, when it opposed international efforts to ban nuclear weapons. At a time when he made a big display about “suffocating” the (nuclear) arms race Pierre Trudeau justified nuclear tipped cruise missiles testing in Canada. In 1983 the Prime Minister said, “having declared our support for the two track strategy, Canada should bear its fair share of the burden which that policy imposes on the NATO alliance.”

NATO is a nuclear weapons club. These monstrous bombs have been “a fundamental component” of the alliance’s military planning. Through NATO Canada has effectively committed to fighting a nuclear war if any country breached its boundaries. Additionally, the alliance does not restrict  its members from using nuclear weapons first.

NATO supports various militarist organizations in this country and operates a public diplomacy division. Founded in 1966 the NATO Association of Canada, formerly Atlantic Council of Canada, promotes the alliance. With an office in Toronto its staff and interns organize public events and publish different materials. A decade older than the NATO Association of Canada, the Canadian NATO Parliamentary Association seeks “to increase knowledge of the concerns of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly among parliamentarians.”

A number of Canadian organizations receive NATO’s largess. Conference of Defense Associations conferences in Ottawa have received support from NATO while the Canadian Global Affairs Institute has held numerous joint symposiums with NATO. The annual Halifax International Security Forum, which brings together hundreds of academics and policymakers, is sponsored by NATO. In the late 1980s the Canadian Institute for Strategic Studies had “agreements with NATO’s Information Service to conduct a national/regional speakers tour.”

In other words NATO spends money (which ultimately come from our taxes) to convince Canadians that wars and military spending are good for us.

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Filed under Black Book of Canadian Foreign Policy, NATO

On NATO’s 70th anniversary important to remember its anti-democratic roots

Canada played a prominent role in NATO’s founding meeting in 1949.

The power  of the communists, wherever that power flourishes, depends upon their ability to suppress and destroy the free institutions that stand against them. They pick them off one by one: the political parties, the trade unions, the churches, the schools, the universities, the trade associations, even the sporting clubs and the kindergartens. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization is meant to be a declaration to the world that this kind of conquest from within will not in the future take place amongst us.”

March 28, 1949, Lester Pearson, External Affairs Minister, House of Commons

First in a four-part series on the 70th anniversary of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

 With NATO turning 70 next week it’s a good occasion to revisit the creation of a military alliance operating under the stated principle that an “attack  against one ally is considered as an attack against all allies.” Now encompassing 29 member states, the north Atlantic alliance was instigated by US, British and Canadian officials.

Formally, NATO was the West’s response to an aggressive Soviet Union, but the notion that the US, or even Western Europe, was threatened by the Soviet Union after World War II is laughable. Twenty-five million people in the Soviet Union lost their lives in the war while the US came out of WWII much stronger than when they entered it. After the destruction of WWII, the Soviets were not interested in fighting the US and its allies, which Canadian and US officials admitted privately. In April 1945 Canada’s ambassador to Russia, Dana Wilgress, concluded that “the interests  of the Soviet privileged class are bound up with the maintenance of a long period of peace.” The Soviet elite, the ambassador continued in an internal memo, was “fearful of the possibility of attack from abroad” and “obsessed with problems of security.” Wilgress believed the Soviets wanted a post-war alliance with the UK to guarantee peace in Europe (with a Soviet sphere in the East and a UK-led West.) Internally, US officials came to similar conclusions.

Rather than a defence against possible Russian attack, NATO was partly conceived as a reaction to growing socialist sentiment in Western Europe. During WWII self-described communists opposed Mussolini in Italy, fought the fascists in Greece and resisted the Nazi occupation of France. As a result, they had a great deal of prestige after the war, unlike the wealth-holders and church officials who backed the fascists. If not for US/British interference, communists, without Moscow’s support, would probably have taken power in Greece and won the 1948 election in Italy. In France the Communist Party won 30 percent of the first post-war vote, filling a number of ministries in a coalition government.

At the time of Italy’s first post-war election, prominent Canadian diplomat Escott Reid, explained that “the whole  game of the Russians is obviously to conquer without armed attack.” For his part, Pearson decried an “attempt  at a complete Russian conquest of Italy by constitutional or extra-constitutional means” and described class struggle by workers as a “new and sinister kind of danger, indirect aggression.”

US officials were equally concerned. George Kennan, the top US government policy planner at the time of NATO’s formation, considered “the communist  danger in its most threatening form as an internal problem that is of western society.” For his part NATO commander Dwight D. Eisenhower explained: “One  of the great and immediate uses of the [NATO] military forces we are developing is to convey a feeling of confidence to exposed populations, a confidence which will make them sturdier, politically, in their opposition to Communist inroads.”

NATO planners feared a weakening of self-confidence among Western Europe’s elite and the widely held belief that communism was the wave of the future. Tens of thousands of North American troops were stationed in Western Europe to strengthen the Western European elite’s confidence to face growing left-wing parties and movements. Apparently, “Secret anti-Communist NATO protocols” committed alliance countries’ intelligence agencies to preventing communist parties from gaining power. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, information surfaced regarding groups the CIA and MI6 organized to “stay-behind” in case of a Soviet invasion of Western Europe. No invasion took place, of course. Instead, NATO’s Secret Armies notes: “The real and present danger in the eyes of the secret war strategists in Washington and London were the at-times numerically strong Communist parties in the democracies of Western Europe. Hence the network in the total absence of a Soviet invasion took up arms in numerous countries and fought a secret war against the political forces of the left. The secret armies… were involved in a whole series of terrorist operations and human rights violations that they wrongly blamed on the Communists in order to discredit the left at the polls.”

Informally known as “Operation Gladio”, these right- wing “stay behind” groups were overseen by NATO’s Office of Security. A Spanish paper reported, in November 1990, “The Supreme  Headquarters Allied Powers, Europe (SHAPE), directing organ of NATO’s military apparatus, coordinated the actions of Gladio, according to the revelations of Gladio Secretary General Manfred Wörner during a reunion with the NATO ambassadors of the 16 allied nations.” At the time the European Parliament condemned Operation Gladio and requested an investigation, which hasn’t been undertaken.

Canada was one of two NATO countries omitted from Daniele Ganser’s NATO’s Secret Armies (Iceland was the other). No researcher has tied the two together, but the year after NATO was established the RCMP began a highly secretive espionage operation and internment plan known as PROFUNC (PROminent FUNCtionaries of the Communist Party). In October 2010 CBC’s Fifth Estate and Radio-Canada’s Enquête aired shows on “this secret  contingency plan, called PROFUNC, [which] allowed police to round up and indefinitely detain Canadians believed to be Communist sympathizers.” In case of a “national security” threat up to 16,000 suspected communists and 50,000 sympathizers were to be apprehended and interned in one of eight camps across the country. Initiated by RCMP Commissioner Stuart Taylor Wood in 1950, the plan continued until 1983.

Blunting the European Left was an important part of the establishment of NATO. As odes to the organization ring across the dominant media during this week’s 70thcelebrations, it’s important to remember that NATO was birthed with an elitist, anti-democratic intent. Its reason for creation was to manage “democracy” so that existing elites maintained their status.

 

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