Category Archives: Nobel Peace Prize

“Canada’s Dershowitz”, Apologist for Israeli War Crimes, nominated for Peace Prize

Hypocrisy, lying, disdain for the victims of ‘our’ policies and other forms of rot run deep in Canadian political culture.

The latest example is former prime minister Paul Martin nominating Irwin Cotler for the Nobel Peace Prize, which has been applauded by the likes of Bernie Farber, Michael Levitt and Anthony Housefather.

This supposed promoter of peace and former Liberal justice minister has devoted much of his life to defending Israeli violence and has recently promoted war on Iran and regime change in Venezuela.

In a story titled “Irwin Cotler’s daughter running with Ya’alon, Gantz” the Jerusalem Post recently reported that Michal Cotler-Wunsh was part of the Israel Resilience and Telem joint election list. The story revealed that Irwin Cotler has been an unofficial adviser to Moshe Ya’alon for years. Former Chief of Staff of the Israeli military and defence minister between 2013 and 2016, Ya’alon recently boasted about his role in setting up the West Bank colony of Leshem and said Israel “has a right to every part of the Land of Israel.” In 2002 Ya’alon told Haaretz, “the Palestinian threat harbors cancer-like attributes that have to be severed. There are all kinds of solutions to cancer. Some say it’s necessary to amputate organs but at the moment I am applying chemotherapy.”

Ya’alon’s Telem party is in a formal electoral alliance with Israel Resilience, which is led by Benny Gantz, a former Israeli army chief. To launch his party’s campaign, Gantz released a video boasting about his role in the killing of 2,200 Palestinians in Gaza in the summer of 2014. It actually notes that “parts of Gaza were sent back to the Stone Age.” Gantz faces a war crimes case in the Netherlands for his role in the deaths of civilians in Gaza.

Cotler has described illegal Israeli colonies in the West Bank as “disputed territories” and the Canadian lawyer justified Israel’s 2006 war on Lebanon that left 1,200 dead. He savagely attacked Richard Goldstone after the South African judge led a UN investigation of Israeli war crimes during operation Cast Lead, which left 1,400 dead in Gaza in 2008–09. Cotler called for the removal of Richard Falk as UN special rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories and William Schabas from his position on the UN Human Rights Council’s International Commission of Inquiry into the killings in Gaza in 2014. Alongside attacking these three (Jewish) lawyers tasked with investigating human rights violations, Cotler promotes the notion of the “new anti-Semitism” to attack critics of Israeli policy.

In an indication of the unquestioning depths of his support for Israeli crimes, Cotler has repeatedly criticized his own party and government’s (mild) expressions of support for Palestinian rights. In May Cotler tweeted his “regret [of a] Canadian Government statement” criticizing Israeli snipers for shooting thousands of peaceful protesters, including Canadian doctor Tarek Loubani, in Gaza. In 2000 Cotler complained when the government he was a part of voted for a UN Security Council resolution calling on Israel to respect the rights of Palestinian protesters. “This kind  of resolution, which singled out Israel for discriminatory and differential treatment and appeared to exonerate the Palestinians for their violence,” Cotler said, “would tend to encourage those who violently oppose the peace process as well as those who still seek the destruction of Israel.”

In 2002 a half dozen activists in Montréal occupied Cotler’s office to protest the self-described ‘human rights lawyer’s’ hostility to Palestinians. Cotler’s wife, Ariela Zeevi, was a “close confidant” of Likud founder Menachem Begin when the arch anti-Palestinian party was established to counter Labour’s dominance of Israeli politics.

‘Canada’s Alan Dershowitz’ has also attacked Iran incessantly. He supported the Stephen Harper government’s move to break off diplomatic relations with Tehran in 2012 and pushed to remove the MEK, which is responsible for thousands of Iranian deaths, from Canada’s terrorist list. As a member of the advisory board of “United Against Nuclear Iran”, Cotler opposed the P5+1 Iran Nuclear Agreement. Recently, he called for Canada to invoke the Magnitsky Act to “impose sanctions in the form of travel bans and asset freezes” on Iranian officials.

As well as promoting US/Israel propaganda about Iran, Cotler criticized Hugo Chavez’s government since at least 2009 when Venezuela broke off diplomatic relations with Israel in response to killings in Gaza. In recent weeks Cotler has disparaged Venezuela’s government in a number of articles, including a National Post story headlined “Canadian unions helped fund delegation that gave glowing review of Venezuela election widely seen as illegitimate.” Cotler was quoted saying, “the notion that free and fair elections could possibly be taking place when you not only criminalize those who are on the opposition … but when you don’t have any allowance for expressions of freedom of speech, assembly, association and the like, simply is a non-sequitur.” But, as Dave Parnas wrote in response, “for two weeks we have been seeing pictures of streets filled with people who assembled, associated and spoke freely against President Nicolás Maduro.”

Cotler pushed for Canada to request the International Criminal Court investigate Venezuela’s government. Cotler was one of three “international experts” responsible for a 400-page Canadian-backed Organization of American States (OAS) report on rights violations in Venezuela that recommended referring Venezuela to the ICC. At a press conference in May to release the report, Cotler said Venezuela’s “government itself was responsible for the worst ever humanitarian crisis in the region.” As this author wrote at the time: Worse than the extermination of the Taíno and Arawak by the Spanish? Or the enslavement of five million Africans in Brazil? Or the 200,000 Mayans killed in Guatemala? Or the thousands of state-murdered “subversives” in Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil?

For four years Cotler has been working with Juan Guaidó’s “ultra right wing” Voluntad Popular party to oust Nicolas Maduro’s government. In May 2017 Cotler helped bring Lilian Tintori, wife of Voluntad Popular leader Leopoldo López, to meet the Prime Minister and opposition leaders. The Guardian recently reported on Tintori’s role in building international support for the slow-motion coup attempt currently underway in Venezuela. Tintori acted as an emissary for Lopez who couldn’t travel to Ottawa because he was convicted of inciting violence during the deadly “guarimbas” protests in 2014. A series of news outlets have reported that Lopez is the key Venezuelan organizer in the plan to anoint Guaidó interim president.

Cotler joined Lopez’s legal team in early 2015. At that time the Venezuelan and international media repeated the widely promulgated description of Cotler as Nelson Mandela’s former lawyer (a Reuters headline noted, “Former Mandela lawyer to join defence of Venezuela’s jailed activist”). In response, South Africa’s Ambassador to Venezuela, Pandit Thaninga Shope-Linney, said, “Irwin Cotler was not Nelson Mandela’s lawyer.” For his part, Nelson Mandela mentions a number of lawyers (he was one) in his biography but Cotler’s name seems absent.

Cotler’s human rights credentials are a sham. He is a vicious anti-Palestinian who aggressively criticizes enemy states such as Venezuela, China, Russia and Iran while largely ignoring rights violations committed by Canada and the US.

For those appalled by the idea of Cotler receiving the Nobel Peace Prize Iranian-Canadian activist Mehdi Samadian has created a petition titled “Irwin Cotler does not deserve nomination for Nobel Peace Prize”.

Attention, War Criminals: Prizes Still Available

In the long, confounding history of inappropriate or unwarranted awards and prizes, U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger being named the joint winner of the 1973 Nobel Peace Prize has to rank at the top of any such list.

Clearly, it ranks higher than Roberto Benigni beating out Ian McKellen for the Best Actor Oscar, in 1998, and way higher than the Chevrolet Vega being named Motor Trend magazine’s 1971 “Car of the Year.”

Kissinger’s fellow co-winner in 1973 was the Vietnamese revolutionary and politician Le Duc Tho.  So the almost saintly Mahatma Gandhi gets nominated for the Peace Prize five times but never wins?  And yet the Teutonic Supercock wins it on his very first try?  Irony doesn’t come in any more bizarre a package.

The Nobel Committee, presumably to prove that, God forbid, they weren’t “taking sides,” chose to honor both men simultaneously.  They honored the man who (along with his accomplice, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara) was responsible for deliberately bombing and killing countless civilians, and the man representing the country whose civilians were being bombed and killed.

Although it was never adequately explained, this particular Peace Prize had to be the product of some twisted international calculus—some preposterous tit for tat—where a powerful, highly mechanized country that was committing the murders, and the largely peasant country whose women and children were being murdered, were elevated to equal status.

To his credit, Le Duc Tho refused to accept the award.  He rightly believed that until there was legitimate peace in Vietnam—which included, obviously, a cessation to the killing and foreign occupation—sharing the honor with Kissinger would be a sham.  Meanwhile, Kissinger had no problem accepting his trophy and placing it on his mantle, doubtless regarding it as evidence of his humanitarianism.

All of this reminds us of one of Mort Sahl’s political quips.  He said that if Richard Nixon saw a man drowning in a lake, fifteen feet from shore, he would throw him a ten-foot rope.  And then Henry Kissinger would go on national TV and solemnly announce that “the president had met him more than halfway.”

Which brings us to the present day.  Not that he’s a “war criminal,” but given the Nobel Committee’s obvious capacity for self-delusion and squirrellyness, would it be totally out of the question for them to give the Peace Prize to Donald Trump?  Award it to him in recognition of his having reached out to the heretofore “unreachable” Kim Jong-Un of North Korea?

After all, even though nothing substantive or remarkable was achieved as a result of the meeting (other than Trump appearing even more Mussolini-like, and Kim Jung-Un appearing even weirder and more inscrutable), the Committee could view this as being the all-important “first step” in normalizing relations.

According to Gore Vidal, there is an astounding amount of shameless lobbying, arm-twisting, and self-promotion accompanying the Nobel Prizes.  Chemists do it; physicists do it; novelists do it.  Everybody wants to be considered for a Nobel Prize, and then, after making the short list, everybody wants to win.

Given Trump’s shallow narcissism and his insistence on being praised and made to look “presidential” at every turn, the thought of this man being awarded something as prestigious as the Nobel Prize is almost too gruesome to contemplate.  We think his tweets are insufferably self-serving now, just wait until he becomes a Nobel Laureate.  He could fly to the moon on the gas it would create.

And let’s not kid ourselves.  Because the precedent has already been firmly established, Donald Trump winning the damn thing is not that farfetched.  President Barack (“Have drone, will travel”) Obama won the Peace Prize in 2009.  Anything is possible.

Nuclear Weapons, ICAN and the Nobel Prize

There are no right hands for the wrong weapons.

— Beatrice Fihn, ICAN Executive Director, October 6, 2017

Few times in history show the remarkable gulf between international civic action and international political constipation.  The will of approaching a world without nuclear weapons has been matched every step of the way with the desire and wish to acquire or keep them.

The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons hardly sounds like the paragon of coherence, even if its purpose is crystal and unmistakable. It flies in the face of the Machiavellian world order; it speaks of an aspiration that seems, in a world of 15,000 nuclear weapons, charmingly foolish yet paramount.

ICAN’s purpose has certainly been bolstered by various international documents that take strong issue with the continued existence of nuclear weapons.  The final document of the 2010 Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference referenced those “catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons” while affirming the need “for all States at all times to comply with applicable international law, including international humanitarian law.”

The Noble Prize Committee was likeminded, feeling that ICAN deserved the award “for its work to draw attention to the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons and for its ground-breaking efforts to achieve a treaty-based prohibition of such weapons.”

In the words of Nobel committee chairwoman Berit Reiss-Andersen, ICAN “has been a driving force in prevailing upon the world’s nations to pledge to cooperate… in efforts to stigmatise, prohibit an eliminate nuclear weapons.”

Those punting on the usual surprises from the committee would have been left disappointed, though it did surprise ICAN’s executive director Beatrice Fihn, who was left reeling in the wake of the announcement.  “This.  Is.  Surreal.”  There was no scandal to be found, no war criminal turned noble to identify.  (The resume of the Noble Peace Prize winner can be a bloody one.)  The winner, in short, was not one customarily tarnished.

Perhaps the ICAN would not have won the Nobel Peace Prize for 2017 had it not been for the potential danse macabre between the petulant US President Donald J. Trump and North Korea’s defiant Kim Jong-un.  The times, in other words, demand it.

The organisation is one of Australia’s better humanitarian exports.  In 2007, it assumed a tangible presence in its official launch in Vienna, becoming a poster child of international mobilisation, engaging some 468 non-governmental organisations across 101 countries involving peace, environmental, development and rights groups. It is as much an entity as a sentiment.

This sentiment sometimes assumes the power of objective force.  ICAN members tend to take it as a given that the nuclear scourge is a form of existentially threatening criminality, the use of which would be nothing less than the gravest of international crimes. “Nuclear weapons,” states Fihn emphatically, “is illegal.  Having nuclear weapons, possessing nuclear weapons, developing nuclear weapons, is illegal, and they need to stop.”

Nuclear-armed states, however, continue to act on a presumptive basis that nuclear weapons are needed, that their role remains, within a certain space of international conduct, desirable.  To remove them would be to hobble sovereignty.

Possession in, and of, itself, is a matter of political necessity, not black letter legality.  Even the problematic 1996 advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice suggested that “an obligation to pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament” did not constitute a prohibition. The central premise can be found in the NPT process itself, which is described, tiringly, as the “grand bargain” between nuclear powers (the haves) and those yet, or never, to acquire them.

The treaty privileged five official nuclear powers as of January 1, 1967, while promising states not in possession of such weapons under Article VI to “pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures” towards nuclear disarmament.  Article IV also enclosed an undertaking to facilitate the development of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes for those who had missed out on this particular military lottery.

The very fact that this gulf grew, closing only with the next state’s acquisition of nuclear weapons, suggests the built-in contradiction of the nuclear dilemma in international relations.  Even former British Prime Minister Tony Blair would insist that the NPT “makes absolutely clear” that a country such as the United Kingdom “has the right to possess nuclear weapons.”  Hardly a ringing endorsement for illegality.

Left with prime ministers, premiers and presidents with fingers on the nuclear trigger and secret key codes to world annihilating arsenals, ICAN is left to muster the frontal assault on apathy and indifference that has become the norm in the world of nuclear speak. More to the point, the NGO movement has been left to nurture a consciousness that finds such weapons revolting, and those who entertain their use dangerous and ill.

Its greatest effort, arguably, is encouraging the UN General Assembly to consider a treaty that prohibits nuclear weapons altogether, a legal instrument that effectively takes a stab at the acquiescent and the unclear regarding nuclear weapons. States with nuclear weapons who join the treaty can undertake a process by which they can eliminate nuclear weapons in a verified, irreversible manner.

When sessions on concluding such a treaty ended in June 2017, 122 states were found to be in favour.  69 were not, including, unsurprisingly, the nuclear weapons states.  The Netherlands, while not supporting it for its lack of toothier provisions, explained that it “placed nuclear disarmament in the limelight and created a broad momentum for disarmament.”

The gap between the abolitionist movement, and states wishing to partake in the abolition program, is best illustrated by Australia itself.  The country that produced the budding inspiration of ICAN has shown a profound unwillingness to ratify the fruits of ICAN’s efforts. As one of Washington’s client states and a commodities power, the temptation to keep the door open to matters nuclear is never far away, despite official opposition.  The legal gap, and with it, the dangers of acceptability and use, remain.

Nobel’s Peace Prize to ICAN: Thank you to the Nobel Committee!

Our thanks to the Nobel Peace Prize Committee for awarding its 2017 Prize to ICAN – the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons.

Undoubtedly nuclear disarmament and, ultimately, nuclear abolition is a major – if not the major – goal of humankind. There can be no lasting peace with these weapons and there exists no goal, the achievement of which would legitimate the use of this type of weapons.

Even when not used, nuclear weapons cause problems, distrust, risks and pretext for wars – think Russia-NATO, Iraq, the nuclear deal (JCPOA) with Iran, US-North Korea, Israel, India-Pakistan – and documented technical malfunctions, human failures, and accidents with nuclear weapons.

Secondly, this year’s award honours the UN Charter, Article 1 of which states the essentially important norm that peace shall be brought about by peaceful means.

It is also in clear support — as was emphasized by the Committee’s chairwoman, Berit Reiss-Andersen, herself a lawyer — of the NPT of 1970, the Non-Proliferation Treaty. The NPT states the long term goal of general and complete disarmament, that the countries who possess nuclear weapons shall, in good faith, negotiate them away as a quid pro quo for others who may want to acquire nuclear weapons abstain from doing so. That is, possession is as important to abolish and a key to secure non-proliferation. Regrettably, all those who possess nuclear weapons have done the opposite of negotiating them away.

Thus, this year’s prize is a very important support for international law and the UN – our basic common normative system and foundations of international law that has been ignored (also by the media) and violated time and again during the last 20-30 years.

Third, it is of tremendous importance that this year’s award goes to a civil society organisation and not to a government representative. World peace is a massive citizens’ desire anywhere, whereas governments (with few exceptions) conduct such policies that trample upon this desire.

Fourth – and no less important than the above, this year’s Award honours the essential criteria of Alfred Nobel’s will. Importantly, this was emphasized by Reiss-Andersen. Given some of the recent awardees non/anti-peace work, there is a reason to congratulate not only ICAN but also the Committee for getting it absolutely right this year.

May it be the beginning of a new drive on the road toward peace with no more accidents in the ditch.

Those of us who, since 2007, have been engaged in a public information campaign about the Committee’s non-adherence, in a number of cases, to Alfred Nobel’s will, feel good today.

The Nobel Committee calls it “the world’s most prestigious prize” and it is essential that it be awarded only to people whose work falls clearly within the criteria of the will. It is neither a human rights, humanitarian, women’s or general do-good prize. It’s for everything that has to do with reducing warfare, risks of it, militarism. It is for disarmament, reduction of forces, negotiated solutions to conflicts, peace conferences and international sister- and brotherhood.

Most media do not seem to know that – also not that lots of nominations this year too were totally irrelevant no matter their other, non-peace qualities.

Finally, it is hardly unreasonable to view this year’s choice is a mild kick to the countries who have worked against the BAN Treaty that ICAN’s work has helped so efficiently to bring about – NATO in particular.

All NATO countries have ignored the BAN Treaty (as has the other nuclear countries Russia, China, India, Pakistan, North Korea and Israel). This only goes to show how important the BAN Treaty is.

But the US is known to have put pressure on NATO members and others such as Sweden with direct threats to them should they sign the BAN Treaty (NATO countries’ mainstream media haven’t told you much about that whereas they fill you with so far non-documented rumours of Russian interference in other countries).

It’s high time to encourage, as the Nobel Committee chair emphasized, all those who possess (or store) nuclear weapons to change their policies and join humanity. They have no right and have never been given a mandate to possess these weapons and thereby threaten, potentially, the survival of humanity.

It’s all a matter of political will and moral courage. None of them base their possession of nuclear weapons on laws. The NATO Treaty doesn’t mention them at all.

The nomination of ICAN can be seen on the Nobel Peace Prize Watch here.

Aung San Suu Kyi, Nobel Prizes and the Rohingyas

Scratch the skin of a saint, claimed George Orwell, and you are bound to find a sinner with an extensive resume.  Such resumes are evaluated in these modern times by accolades, awards, and summits.  The Noble Peace Prize tends to be crowning affirmation that somewhere along the line, you sufficiently fouled up to merit it.

The calls, some even shrill, to have the Nobel Prize taken off Aung San Suu Kyi, are distressed lamentations of misplaced loyalties, even love.  The de facto leader of Myanmar is showing what others have in the past: partiality, a harsh streak, and a cold blooded instinct. The saint, in other words, has been scratched, and the unquestioning followers are startled.

When asked to respond to the arrival in Bangladesh of almost 150,000 stateless Muslim Rohingyas since August, the result of violence in Myanmar’s northern Rakhine state, the leader sternly rebuked suggestions that there was a problem. After all, the initial violence had been perpetrated by assaults on an army base and police posts by Rohingya insurgents since October.

The problem she sought to address was that others were faking the record to advance the interests of terrorists, supplying the world with “a huge iceberg of misinformation”. (How delightful is Trumpland, with its tentacles so global and extensive they have found themselves in the speeches and opinions of a secularly ordained saint.)

Faking the fleeing of tens of thousands of persecuted souls would surely be a challenge.  The response from Suu Kyi is a salutary reminder that genocides, atrocities and historical cruelties can be often denied with untroubled ease. Her statement in response to the crisis was one of conscious omission: the Rohingyas barely warranted a mention, except as a security challenge.

The statement issued from her office on Facebook claimed that the government had “already started defending all the people in Rakhine in the best way possible.” The misinformation campaign, she insisted, was coming from such individuals as the Turkish deputy prime minister, who deleted images of killings on Twitter after discovering they were not, in fact, from Myanmar.

The approach to misinformation taken by the government has been one of silence and containment.  National security advisor Thaung Tun has made it clear that China and Russia will be wooed in efforts to frustrate any resolution that might make its way to the UN Security Council.  “China is our friend and we have a similar relationship with Russia, so it will not be possible for that issue to go forward.”

As for calls of terrorists sowing discord, Suu Kyi may well get her wish.  Protests organised in Muslim regional powers are already pressing for the cutting of ties with Myanmar.  Turkey is pressing for answers.  The Islamist tide, should it duly affect the Rohingyas, will itself become a retaliatory reality.

This sting of crisis and realpolitik was all too much for certain members of the Suu Kyi fan club. It certainly was for veteran Guardian columnist George Monbiot. He, along with others, had looked to her when jailed (house arrest or otherwise) as pristine, the model prisoner, the ideal pro-democracy figure.  When held captive, the purity was unquestioned.

Hopes were entrusted, and not counterfeit ones. “To mention her was to invoke patience and resilience in the face of suffering, courage and determination in the unyielding struggle for freedom.  She was an inspiration to us all.”

Not so now. Crimes documented by the UN human rights report of February have been ignored.  The deliberate destruction of crops, avoided.  Humanitarian aid has been obstructed.  The military, praised.  When violence has been acknowledged, it has only been to blame insurgents who represent, in any case, an interloping people who are denied their ethnicity by the 1982 Citizenship Law.

“I believe,” writes Monbiot, “the Nobel Committee should retain responsibility for the prizes it awards, and withdraw them if its laureates later violate the principles for which they were recognised.”

How often has history shown that the prison is merely the prelude to a recurring nastiness, political calculation, and revenge?  Far from enlightening the mind and restoring faith, it destroys optimism and vests the inmate with those survival skills that, when resorted to, can result in carnage and misery.  Suu Kyi, in other words, is behaving politically, fearing the loss of her position, aware that behind her is a military that needs to be kept, at least partly, in clover.

Other Nobel Laureates have also added their voices to the roll call of concern, less of condemnation than encouragement. One is Professor Muhammed Yunus.  “These are her own people.  She says ‘these are not my people, someone else’s people’, I would say she has completely departed from her original role which brought her the Nobel Prize.”

Yunus, however, is more optimistic that the selfish, distancing leader will return to her peaceful credentials.  From a dark sleep, she will rise. “I still think she is the same Aung San Suu Kyi that won the Nobel Peace Prize; she will wake up to that person.”

Another is Desmond Tutu, who took the route of an open letter: “My dear sister: If the political price of your ascension to the highest office in Myanmar is your silence, the price is surely too steep… We pray for you to speak out for justice, human rights and the unity of our people.  We pray for you to intervene.”

The Nobel Institute, obviously moved by a sufficient number of calls to comment on the status of the award for the 1991 recipient, deemed the decision immutable.  “Neither Alfred Nobel’s will nor the statutes of the Nobel Foundation,” confirmed its head Olav Njølstad, “provide the possibility that a Nobel Prize – whether for physics, chemistry, medicine, literature or peace – can be revoked.”

As for the prize itself, it is long axiomatic that persons who tend to get it have blood on their hands.  The terrorist, reborn, is feted by the Nobel Prize Committee. Before ploughshares came swords.  Before peace, there was the shedding of blood.  But, in some cases, it may well be the reverse: from the ploughshares come the swords, and the Rohingyas are tasting that awful fact.

Rename the Lester B. Pearson Airport

Many monuments, memorials and names of institutions across Canada celebrate our colonial and racist past. Calls for renaming buildings or pulling down statues are symbolic ways of reinterpreting that history, acknowledging mistakes and small steps towards reconciling with the victims of this country’s policies.

At its heart this process is about searching for the truth, a guiding principle that should be shared by both journalists and historians.

In an article headlined “Everything is offensive: Here are Canada’s other politically incorrect place names” Tristin Hopper concludes that “Lester Pearson’s record still holds up pretty well” unlike a dozen other historical figures he cites who have streets, institutions and statues named in their honour. Notwithstanding the National Post reporter’s portrayal, there are compelling historical arguments for renaming the airport, school board, road, college, peace-park, civic centre, housing project, schools and foreign affairs headquarters celebrating the long-time diplomat.

As I outline in Lester Pearson’s Peacekeeping: the truth may hurt, the former Nobel Peace Prize winner was an aggressive militarist and imperialist. There is even a case to be made that the former external minister and prime minister could be posthumously tried for war crimes.

In the foreword to my book Noam Chomsky argues that Pearson abetted war crimes by having Canadian International Control Commission (ICC) officials deliver US bombing threats to the North Vietnamese leadership in 1964. As prime minister, Pearson also had ICC officials spy on North Vietnam for Washington, approved chemical weapon (Agent Orange, Purple and Blue) testing in Canada, ramped up weapons sales to the US and provided various other forms of support to Washington’s violence in Indochina.

A decade and a half earlier Pearson aggressively promoted Canadian participation in another conflict that left millions dead. He threatened to quit as external minister if Canada failed to deploy ground troops to Korea. Ultimately, 27,000 Canadian troops fought in the 1950–53 UN “police action” that left up to four million dead. At one point the US-led forces only stopped bombing the north of the country when they determined no building over one story was still standing.

Pearson had a hand in many other unjust policies. During the 1947 UN negotiations over the British Mandate of Palestine Pearson disregarded the interests of the indigenous Palestinian population. He also played an important role in the creation of NATO, describing its 1949 formation as the “most important thing I participated in.” In the 1950s he backed CIA coups in Iran and Guatemala as well as the violent suppression of independence struggles in Algeria, Kenya and elsewhere. As Prime Minister in the mid 1960s, Pearson brought nuclear tipped Bomarc missiles to Canada, supported the US invasion of the Dominican Republic and military coup against Ghana’s president Kwame Nkrumah.

Expect liberals (of both the big and small l variety) to react emotionally to any effort to remove Pearson’s name from public entities. As part of the promotion for my Black Book of Canadian Foreign Policy I put together a press release titled The Top 10 Things You Don’t Know About Canadian Foreign Policy. Number 1 was “Many commentators, including the world’s leading intellectual, Noam Chomsky, consider Lester Pearson a war criminal.” I sent the list and offered a review copy to a reporter at Embassy, Canada’s leading foreign policy newsletter at the time. He responded with outrage: “Frankly, I’m not that interested in Chomsky’s opinions, especially when they smear great Canadians like Mike Pearson. I know you’re a radical, but have some pride in Canada!”

Chomsky describes a similar experience with former CBC radio host Peter Gzowski. Happy to have him criticize US foreign policy, the long-time Morningside host became furious when Chomsky said, “I landed at war criminal airport”. Gzowski questioned: “What do you mean?” to which Chomsky responded, “the Lester B. Pearson Airport”, detailing Pearson’s contribution to the US war in Vietnam. In response, writes Chomsky, Gzowski “went into a tantrum, haranguing me for a number of minutes”, which prompted an outpouring of listener complaints.

The reality is many people are emotionally tied to the self-serving myths created to justify the actions of important historical figures. But the job of historians and journalists is to seek the truth, not to simply repeat propaganda.