Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was in Ottawa recently promoting a pre-emptive military attack upon Iran. He visited with his friend and close ally Stephen Harper prior to going to Washington in an attempt to pressure President Obama into supporting his doomsday scenario. Contenders for the Republican nomination were only too happy to beat the same war drum. In Canada, Mr. Harper earlier had obligingly gone out of his way to tell journalists that Iran was the largest single threat to the world’s future and security. Mr. Harper said he had “watched and listened to what the leadership in the Iran regime says, and it frightens me.” Our bold warrior would do well to heed the words and actions of Douglas Roche, Murray Thomson and Ernie Regehr. I’ll get back to their plan in a minute. They are wiser by far than our intemperate leaders.
Netanyahu, along with his Conservative and Republican cheerleaders, wants to attack Iran because they say it is developing a capacity to build nuclear weapons. There have already been several assassinations carried out on Iranian scientists working in the nuclear program. The obvious perpetrator is Israel and that country has not even bothered to categorically deny its involvement – preferring to warn of more to come. Think, for a moment, of what the response would be if Israeli, American or Canadian scientists were assassinated on their home soil.
Is Iran developing nuclear weapons as is claimed by the Israelis and Mr. Harper? It may be, and if so that is, indeed, cause for alarm. But we should by now be wary of false claims. George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld claimed to have proof that Iraq was developing nuclear weapons as well and they used that information to launch a ruinous war in 2003. Hans Blix and other inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency were on the ground in Iraq, where they found nothing. They begged for more time to carry out their inspections but were ridiculed by the Bush administration.
The claims made by Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld turned out to be bald-faced lies. In an international system based on justice rather than on the power that accrues to victors, one or all of these gentlemen might today be in The Hague facing accusations of being war criminals.
Let us assume that Iran is on a path toward producing a nuclear weapon. If so, that should be opposed – and is – through diplomatic pressure and an economic boycott that is reportedly biting deeply. But let’s provide some context here. The Federation of American Scientists says there are almost 20,000 nuclear weapons in the world. Scott Taylor a former Canadian soldier who writes knowledgeably on military affairs, says, “In an international context, the nuclear-armed community, led by the U.S., has a collective arsenal capable of wiping out the entire planet several times over.”
There are nine countries that possess nuclear weapons, including Israel, which has an estimated 200 nuclear warheads and the missile systems with which to deliver them. Mr. Netanyahu never talks about that and refuses to even discuss it. Surely a nuclear Israel must frighten its neighbours in the Middle East and destabilize the region.
A world divided
Debbie Grisdale of Ottawa, who serves on the board for the ecumenical peace group Project Ploughshares, says, “Currently the world is divided into countries that can have nuclear weapons — and think that it is their right to possess them — and those countries that cannot have them. Why is it okay for some countries to have them and others not? The complete elimination of nuclear weapons, at the very least a treaty banning them – would mean that is not okay for any country to have nuclear weapons. The world has a treaty banning chemical and one banning biological weapons – why not nuclear weapons?”
Sling shot vs machine guns
Let us again assume that Iran is on the path to developing a weapon. what does that mean in perspective? Here is Scott Taylor’s analysis: “Should Iran someday soon produce enough enriched uranium to create one nuclear warhead, and someday soon acquire a missile delivery system with intercontinental capability, it would then possess a single threat to international targets, including North America.
“It is like a showdown between a solitary gunman holding a single-shot pistol against a heavily armed gang toting machine guns. In such a case, it would be suicidal for Iran to initiate hostilities.”
Taylor says that when this scenario was pointed out to Prime Minister Harper it did nothing to change his analysis. “I’m not sure that would dissuade them,” Harper reportedly said. “We’re dealing with a fanatical and dangerous regime.”
In other words, we are the good guys. They are the fanatics. Or at John Baird, the foreign affairs minister, said in his recent visit to Israel – they are the black hats and we are the white hats.
Thankfully, President Obama is not accepting these simplistic truisms as analysis. At a news conference during Netanyahu’s visit to Washington, Obama warned against the “loose talk of war” and talked of the need to give diplomacy a chance. But it is an election year, and he is being derided as a wimp and prodded into action by Republican warmongers and the pro-Israel lobby.
I spoke above of three wise elders. They are Murray Thomson of Ottawa, Ernie Regehr of Waterloo and Douglas Roche of Edmonton. All three are eminent citizens and recipients of the Order of Canada, our most distinguished award for public service. They have convinced 552 recipients of the Order to sign a letter calling on the Canadian government to take the lead in urging international negotiations to achieve a Nuclear Weapons Convention – a verifiable treaty on the prohibition and elimination of those weapons. Some of their fellow Order of Canada recipients supporting this call include Margaret Atwood, Roméo Dallaire, Stephen Lewis, David Suzuki and Jean Vanier.
These are dangerous times. While our Prime Minister and Israel’s talk about attacking Iran, Thomson, Roche and Regehr are on another track – they say get rid of nuclear weapons altogether. They are the “white hats” as far as I am concerned.
Contact a member
You can check the list of those members of the Order of Canada who have signed on to the proposal by clicking HERE. If you know any OC members who have not yet signed, please urge them to do so.