The debate on whether Canada should join the new U.S. National Missile Defence weapons system is off to a dumb-ass start. Canadian General George H. MacDonald of NORAD echoed the American justification about protection against "rogue nations" with missiles. Canadian Alliance MP Art Hanger echoed him, saying "the proposed NMD system . . . would protect North America from attacks by rogue states." The rogue states he names are North Korea, Iran and Iraq. I think he missed one: the United States. I don't say this to be provocative or controversial. I hate that provocative-controversial stuff. I hate rant journalism. Just listen to the evidence.
Last year, the United States used NATO rather than the United Nations to back its war against Yugoslavia, though the UN Charter says only the UN can take international military action. The United States also refuses to pay its huge debt to the UN. It failed to ratify the new International Criminal Court alongside states such as Libya, Iraq, China and Israel. Same thing with the anti-land-mines convention. It didn't ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. It did sign the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, but never implemented its provisions. The NMD itself is a kind of rogue action since, as even the United States admits, recent disarmament treaties will have to be suspended or cancelled if it goes ahead. It's also failed to ratify a host of other conventions, such as the Law of the Sea and women's rights. Along with Somalia, it hasn't signed the Convention on the Rights of the Child because it doesn't like the provision keeping kids out of the military. Sometimes, pundits say, Oh this is just the United States following its isolationist traditions. But it isn't. Isolationists don't send planes out to bomb all over the world.
As in 1986, when the United States bombed Libya over an unproved claim that Libyans had been responsible for a bomb set in a Berlin nightclub that killed a U.S. soldier. Or last year's bombing of a Sudanese factory over an unproved claim that it made explosives used against U.S. embassies. You can exempt the bombing of Iraq in the Persian Gulf war if you want, since it had a UN cover; but not subsequent attacks, for which the United States says it no longer needs UN resolutions. The United States has backed coups in Iran, Guatemala, Chile and Brazil, among others. It was behind assassinations or attempts against leaders of China, the Dominican Republic, the Congo and Fidel Castro -- "five or six" of which the head of the CIA acknowledged, though far more are known. All this can be documented, mostly from government sources. It defied World Court rulings on its war against Nicaragua and has invaded the Dominican Republic, Grenada, Panama and Haiti. The United States has also used chemical weapons such as Agent Orange in Vietnam and radioactive shell casings in the gulf war. For that matter, it tested nuclear weapon fallout on its own military and civilians, without telling them, in the 1950s. It is the only country to ever use nuclear weapons in war.
Not only does it act like a rogue state; it has the psyche to back it up. I'm thinking of the hysteria over the Cuban child, Elian Rodriguez. The United States assumes that, as a nation, it has the right to decide whether this boy will return to his father in Cuba, and Americans are debating it -- en masse! It dominates their presidential politics and their news. Anything else barely exists in the public sphere. It's demented. (I grant this paragraph verges on rant. It's the best I can manage.)
The United States is one of a few countries left, the only one in the developed world, that practises the death penalty. In 1998, it ranked third in executions, behind China and Congo but ahead of Iran and Saudi Arabia. Or think of guns. I saw a thoughtful, anti-violence New York teen saying on TV that there's nothing wrong with "dad shooting cans in the back yard," though there is a danger his kids will mimic it. Still, she said, "violence and handguns will always be with us." Handguns are part of human nature?
It's touching to see Canadians such as former disarmament ambassador Doug Roche or Project Ploughshares head Ernie Regehr argue in The Globe and Mail or National Post against joining the NMD with sober reasons about undermining treaties or the futile science of anti-missile umbrellas or how the real danger lies in toting a nuclear bomb into the United States in a knapsack. It's as if you have a psycho in your neighbourhood who bullies everybody because he's paranoid and grandiose, then he starts placing cannons around his house and you earnestly argue about whether to help him or try to dissuade him, when all along you're simply terrified of the guy. What we have here is a world in denial.
Now imagine if you were one of the designated rogue states such as North Korea or Iraq and this meshuggeneh mother of all rogue states started calling you that name. You'd be shitting your pants.
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