World Peace Forum, Vancouver November 8, 9, 11, 2008

Don Currie, Chair, Canadians for Peace and Socialism
Associate Member: Canadian Peace Congress

November 5, 2008
Dear friends
I had hoped to be with you at your important Teach In but it was not to be. I offer these comments and you may do with them as you deem useful to your meeting.
The WPF Teach In on the lessons of WW1 is a worthy project for peace. It is part of the process that leads our movement from analysis to organization to unity and action, the latter, the overriding need and the only meaningful response to the instigators of war.
Some Lessons of the Past
As WPF participants discuss the factors leading to WW1, that killed 20 million human beings and the post-war path that led a mere 21 years later to the outbreak of WW2 that killed more than 50 million human beings, it is worthwhile to remind ourselves that these wars were not individual events, but culminating events preceded by intense inter-imperialist rivalries.

Opportunities arose that if seized upon, could have prevented these greatest of all human calamities from happening. Part of our discussion must include why such opportunities were ignored and why the instigators of war prevailed over the overwhelming desire of the people for peace. The answer to that question must be sought for in the systemic origins of war in our time.

WW1 marked the beginning of the modern era of imperialism, an era of intense inter-imperialist rivalry among finance capitalist monopolies, integrated with the state, vying for dominance over global markets, resources and labour. Imperialist rivalries become so heated that competitive military blocs and alliances are created and devastating wars and aggressions occur. That is why it is correct to say that movements for peace were and are in content, anti-imperialist movements.

Because imperialism is an anarchic, contradictory aggressively competitive system, composed of dominant and subordinate imperialist states, the very instability of the system means it is possible for individual or groups of countries to periodically break out of its orbit, defeat it, and abandon it for something better.
What that something better should be is another dimension to our discussion beyond the scope of this Teach In but I would argue it is imperative that it be discussed and in depth and I would recommend it be considered as the theme of the next WPF Teach In.

Some Lessons of the Present
The U.S. Presidential Elections
The people of the United States in electing Barak Obama President have opened up new opportunities for advancing the cause of peace and global disarmament. Those opportunities must be seized upon.
The relinquishing by U.S. imperialism of its global enterprise is far from over, but the people of the United States in voting for change have said to their elite and chauvinistic classes, that they will no longer support them uncritically in that project.
The people of the United States have voted in support of President elect Obama’s promise of reforming the economy, withdrawing from war, and forging a new multi-lateral relationship with other countries. That is an opening for the peace and disarmament movement of our country to give voice to what we believe that new relationship should be to advance the cause of peace.
The present US-Canadian government relationship based on military interoperability of Canadian and US armed forces via NATO, NORTHCOM and NORAD and subordination of Canadian foreign and trade policy to NAFTA and SPP agreements would have to be at the centre of such a re-evaluation and recasting of relations.
The Canadian Peace Congress at its recent Winnipeg Convention decided to campaign for Canadian withdrawal from NATO as the first step in shifting Canada away from support of US imperialist wars, to a foreign policy of peace and disarmament.
Peace and the Global Economic Crisis
The World Peace Forum Seminar on the 90th Anniversary of WW1 also takes place in the midst of a world wide economic crisis of the capitalist system that is condemning countless millions of working people and the poor to permanent unemployment and the depths of poverty and despair.
The crisis is the logical outcome of an entire era of neo-liberal global theft by leading imperialist states led by the U.S.A. of the work, resources, wealth, savings and property of the labouring and oppressed masses of the world. Nothing is being done by the leading capitalist governments including our own, to stop the thieves. Everything is being done by the G7 to sanctify and perpetuate their enterprise. The November 20th Meeting of the G20 will do likewise.
Government support for the banks and inaction on behalf of the victims of the economic crisis confronts the peace movement with the obligation to propose economic programs of peace at the centre of which must be the demand to cut arms budgets and to spend on job creating projects, maintenance of income programs and protection of our public health, education and pension programs.
Arms Budgets are the Ruination of Economies.
The enormous expenditure on war is a major contributing factor to the current global economic crisis. The present global economic crisis coincides with major U.S.-NATO wars of aggression in Iraq and Afghanistan that violate the sovereignty of the people, destroys their economies, imposes foreign occupation and condemns millions of civilians and combatants to misery and death with women and children its particular victims.
More imperialist instigated wars are erupting. War is underway in the Democratic Republic of the Congo with its root cause, the hidden hand of imperialist designs of EU and NATO states on the vast natural resource riches of that suffering country. A war has just concluded between Georgia and Russia in the Caucuses, the hand of US imperialism and its quest for strategic control of oil riches and routes of the Caucuses, the cause.

Only weeks ago US forces launched air attacks on the sovereign territory of Syria and Pakistan, killing civilians and deliberately widening the U.S.-NATO zone of aggression in the Middle East and Central Asia. U.S. and Israeli military planners have in place operational plans to attack Iran.
The expansion of NATO military installations to Poland and Hungary, former Warsaw Pact states bordering Russia, has heightened tensions in Europe. NATO interference in the internal affairs of Ukraine is destabilizing relations with Russia. Should Ukraine proceed from collaboration to full membership in NATO, it would greatly increase the danger of a nuclear war in Europe.
The United States and its EU partners are engaging in a deliberate policy to NATO-ize all of Europe. Predictably, the Russian Government has instructed the high command of its armed forces to review its military strategy that includes reactivating elements of cold war nuclear deterrence doctrines. China has been forced to do likewise. The result of NATO actions is a new international arms race with the threat of its extension to space.
The U.S. is fomenting tensions in South America. U.S. political hostility to left of centre and socialist trends throughout South America is accompanied with provocative U.S. military activity in that continent. The Bush Administration in 2002 attempted to overthrow the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela led by President Hugo Chavez. The US Government defies UN Resolutions demanding it lift the illegal embargo on Cuba. The U.S. government supports the right-wing Columbian Uribe regime and its tolerance for drug cartels and paramilitaries that assassinate trade unionists and patriots.

US strategy in South America includes the reactivating of the US 4th Fleet headquartered at the U.S. Naval Station Payport Florida. It is the U.S. Navy component of U.S. Southern Command.
The U.S. Southern Command (Southcom) unilaterally declares its “area of focus” to encompass more than 30 countries covering 15.6 million square miles. The region represents about one-sixth of the landmass of the world assigned to regional unified commands.
The United States Southern Command area of interest includes:
  • The land mass of Latin America south of Mexico
  • The waters adjacent to Central and South America
  • The Caribbean Sea, its 12 island nations and European territories
  • The Gulf of Mexico
  • A portion of the Atlantic Ocean
These are only some of the factors creating an atmosphere of international tension that threaten peace and can lead, if not checked and reversed to world war three.

The Task of the Peace Movement in the Global Struggle for Peace.

It is worthwhile to note that leading up to both WW1 and WW2, there were world wide peace movements actively opposing war, as well as warnings and diplomatic initiatives by some states, principally the Soviet Union which after 1917 based its foreign and diplomatic initiatives on the principles embodied in Vladimir Ilych Lenin’s famous decree on Peace and the thesis that evolved from that decree of peaceful coexistence among sovereign states with differing political and economic systems.
The emergence of the Soviet Union from the carnage of WW1 proclaiming its need for a long period of peace to build a socialist society aroused both world wide hope among working people and hatred of imperialist states. Everything was done by the imperialist states of the day including foreign military intervention, blockade, trade sanctions and denial of entry to the League of Nations and finally all out war by Hitler Germany, to prevent the idea that it was possible to create a political system that did not require war from becoming a universal reality. Twenty million Soviet people died to prevent the Nazis from extinguishing that noble idea.
The sacrifice of the Soviet people was not entirely in vain. Following WW2 more socialist states proclaiming foreign policies of peace emerged. One of the principal imperialist belligerents, Japan, was compelled by its people to adopt Article 9 of its constitution forbidding the country to engage in foreign wars.
The founding of the United Nations, following the anti-fascist alliance that defeated Hitler Germany, embodied in its Charter universal principles and mechanisms of enforcement intended to achieve collective international security. Those principles resonate today in spite of all efforts to destroy them.

The UN became the arena of political struggle for concluding agreements limiting the testing, development, deployment and proliferation of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction. While the cold war era was the era of mutual assured destruction (MAD) it was also a period of real and tangible and measurable progress on nuclear disarmament that must be revisited to dispel the pessimism that peace and disarmament agreements are not possible in our time.

Prevent World War Three

Another problem confronting our movement is the invitation to embrace the idea that the danger of a new world war has been overtaken and even rendered redundant by a new and more terrible menace the threat of global warming and climate change.

I share the view of those who contend that the overarching threat to humankind today remains the threat of world nuclear war. Science has built up an impressive body of proven fact that global warming if not checked will threaten the life of the planet in time frames, depending on which body of work one accepts as more persuasive, ranging between 25 to 150 years. It is sobering to remember that the life of the planet as we know it can be destroyed in 25 to 150 minutes in an all out nuclear war.

WW3 without doubt would be fought with nuclear weapons, and its aftermath, unlike WW2 would offer no redeeming historical legacy of peace, either real or imagined, promising only mutual destruction of civilization as we know it.

While WW1 was ironically dubbed the “war to end all wars”, what happened at Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945 revealed to all thoughtful and peace loving human beings the destructive power of nuclear weapons. With modern technology available in the 21st Century capable of sending such weapons accurately anywhere on earth, it can truly be said these weapons have the potential to end all wars, since after their use there will be no need to fight wars, as there will be nothing left worth fighting over, including an environment capable of supporting human life.

That is why the WPF Teach In is so important, focusing on recalling events of the past to help us to put into context and draw the appropriate lessons for today to determine what must be done better in the 21st Century to avert another world war that in our era will without doubt will be fought with weapons of mass destruction.

Anything that can be done, to stop current wars, reduce international tensions, make headway with nuclear and conventional disarmament, compel governments to reduce arms spending and move foreign policy and diplomacy away from belligerence and towards international agreements that promote peaceful relations among states is what we in the peace movement are all about.

Foreign Military Bases – Outpost of Imperialist Aggression.

That is why the campaign to close and dismantle foreign military bases is to the fore as a major task of the peace movement.

When asked to lead a discussion on the topic of Foreign Military Bases I set to work to get up to speed on the subject. I learned that much has been done to research, inform and educate the public about the history, definition and purpose of FMB’s.

The definitive work by a Canadian researcher on the subject of foreign military bases has been done by Canadian Professor Jules Dufour, President of the United Nations Association of Canada (UNA-C) – Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean branch and Research Associate at the Center for Research on Globalization (CRG). He is Emeritus Professor of Geography at the University of Quebec, Chicoutimi.

In 2007, Professor Dufour became Chevalier de l'Ordre national du Québec, a distinction conferred by the Quebec government, for his contributions to World peace and human rights, his numerous scholarly writings and the work he accomplished in the context of national and international commissions on issues pertaining to regional development, human rights and the protection of the environment. His work on Foreign Military bases is available at . Professor Dufour cites many sources of what has become a great and growing body of work on the subject.
In addition to this body of informative work by many eminent researchers is the role played by many peace and disarmament organizations in mobilizing international campaigns of opposition to the spread of foreign military bases and demanding their dismantling and closure. The World Peace Council, the World Peace Forum and many other international organizations of peace have been involved in this work.
The organization that has emerged mandated to work to unite the movements of peace and disarmament around the issue of FMB’s is the No Bases Network. The no bases network is an international network for the abolition of foreign military bases resulting from an international conference attended by over 1,000 activists and experts from 30 countries that took place in Quito Ecuador March 5th 2007. The No Bases Network coordinates action strategies against the more than 1,000 military bases worldwide.
In reviewing the evolution of this movement and the extensive work that has been done to date, it is useful for our conference to attempt to summarize why the movement to halt the development of foreign military bases, close them and dismantle them is vital to the cause of peace and the prevention of world nuclear war.
Having participated in the Conference on Foreign Military Bases in Havana Cuba November 2005 and the World Peace Forum Workshop on Foreign Military Bases at the World Peace Forum in Vancouver June 2006 and the World Peace Council Assembly and Conference in Caracas Venezuela in April 8-13, 2008 and the recently concluded renewal convention of the Canadian Peace Congress in Winnipeg Manitoba October 24-25, 2008, I offer the following summary of what I believe are the cogent questions posed at all of these important meetings on the subject of FMB’s.
FMB’s and the Cause of Peace Summarized
  • Foreign military bases are outposts of imperialist aggression. The imperialist state that has the largest number of foreign military bases is the USA. Other states possessing FMB’s include Russian and Italy. The Canadian Government’s participation in the US-NATO war in Afghanistan has led Canada to establish a foreign base at Kandahar on the sovereign territory of Afghanistan.
  • FMB’s are by definition outside the territory but under the possession, command and control of the patron, sponsoring state or alliances of states. FMB’s are permanent, active, strategically located, operational locations, well staffed and highly armed, sometimes with nuclear weapons. FMB’s are equipped with modern communications, regularly re-supplied by air, land and sea corridors.
  • FMB’s are forward bases providing to individual states or alliances of states, strategic military advantage both defensively and offensively often with rapid deployment capability. Such bases are integrated with the overall strategic planning and military doctrines of the states that control them, including first strike and pre-emptive warfare mandates and plans to deploy weapons of mass destruction to space. As such FMB’s are remote but integral extensions of the military forces of the countries that possess them.
  • FMB’s are assigned a variety of roles by the high commands that control them including direct and indirect participation in prevailing wars. FMB’s are used for storing supplies, refueling and staging grounds for the shipping war materiel and transporting troops to battlefield situations. Under the rules of war their locations and supply lines can be considered legitimate targets of opposing forces.
  • FMB’s can enmesh non-belligerent host states in conflicts that they are not involved with as belligerents and which they may even oppose. FMB’s violate the neutral status of such states and contravene statutes and laws prohibiting the host state from actively participating in military interventions, occupations and wars.
  • FMB’s are established by treaty, under long term agreements between sponsoring and host countries. Some agreements are lease, rental and sometimes the result of defeated states being compelled by the terms of surrender to host a base often on terms that violate the sovereignty of the people of the host state and often long after the primary conflict is over. The agreements may include provisions for non-renewal or in the case of Guantanamo be relics of the past that violate new international norms and relations and are nothing more than a pretext to perpetuate the illegal occupation of another states sovereign territory.
  • Invariably FMB’s are costly to the people of the host state, imposing on them maintenance costs, tax concessions and infringements of laws protecting the safety, health and well being of populations residing in the vicinity of FMB’s. The expansion and re-construction of FMB’s harms the environment and in the case of Okinawa destroys rare flora and seashore.
  • FMB’s are also established as part of wars of aggression and occupation such as the current US-NATO-EU wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, where several permanent bases have been established on occupied territory not only for the purpose of command and control of illegal military operations but as permanent bases with strategic regional importance directed at third party non-belligerent states not involved in the immediate conflict. Such bases are planned to remain in the possession and control of the sponsoring state long after the termination of hostilities.
  • It is common that foreign military bases are subject to the laws of the patron, sponsoring state and either fully or partially exempt from the laws, constitution and governmental authority of the host state. Laws administered on foreign military bases are the laws of the sponsoring state. Even when the territory of the foreign military base is leased it is viewed in practice by the sponsoring state as sovereign territory. The personnel of the foreign military base are shielded from prosecution by the host state even when base personnel venture on to the territory of the host state and commit crimes. The sponsoring state considers its personnel to be exempt from the laws of the host state and not subject to prosecution under the laws of the host state.
For all of these and other reasons, foreign military bases are, politically contentious, destabilizing and function primarily as outposts of imperialist aggression in defined regions of the globe. Their closure would be a major contribution to the lessening of international tensions and the danger of war.
Yours in Peace and Solidarity
Don Currie, Slocan BC