Lessons from September 11

Debates of the Senate (Hansard)
1st Session, 37th Parliament,
Tuesday, February 5, 2002

On the Order:

Resuming debate on the inquiry of the Honourable Senator De Bané, P.C., calling the attention of the Senate to certain lessons to be drawn from the tragedy that occurred on September 11, 2001.-(Honourable Senator Roche).

Hon. Douglas Roche: Honourable senators, as the shock of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, recedes and the war on terrorism moves into a new stage, there is a precious but fleeting opportunity, indeed a requirement, to ensure that the international community's response and Canada's response is the right one. Senator De Bané is to be congratulated for asking the Senate to consider the lessons from this watershed moment.

The meaning of September 11 goes well beyond the events themselves and the response to it thus far. We must realize that the most fundamental of human rights is now at stake: our freedom to live without fear.

This basic right is under threat from an increasingly complex globalized system where poverty, environmental disaster and violence loom. Yet our overall response is still rooted in an outdated, militarist mentality with few long-range answers.

In this context, I should like to offer three important, but by no means exhaustive, lessons to be drawn. Canada must address the following: first, the dark side of globalization that fans the flames of violence and extremism; second, the imperative to work multilaterally through the United Nations system and the system of law it underpins; third, the need to revitalize disarmament efforts or risk a far more uncertain and potentially calamitous future.

There is, perhaps, no better way to see the challenge facing humanity than through the words of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan in his millennium report. He said:

The century just ended was disfigured, time and again, by ruthless conflict. Grinding poverty and striking inequality persist within and among countries even amidst unprecedented wealth. Diseases, old and new, threaten to undo painstaking progress. Nature's life-sustaining services, on which our species depends for its survival, are being seriously disrupted and degraded by our own everyday activities.

The accuracy of this characterization of our world is even more timely in the wake of September 11.

The first major lesson concerns our approach to globalism. More than the flow of money and commodities, globalization is the growing interdependence of the world's people through compressed space, time and vanishing borders. Unfortunately, we have approached this new reality using the old paradigms of economic and military power and dominance. Globalization has thus far benefited only a few in world terms, while producing many losers among and within nations. According to the UN Human Development Report of 1999, the result is a "grotesque and dangerous polarization" between the rich and the poor.

Terrorism feeds on the hatreds and resentments that have been built up in the rest of the world against Western society as it continues to reap much of the benefits from globalization. The statistics are all too familiar: half the world's population living in abject poverty and 80 per cent living on less than 20 per cent of global income. Too many people in too many countries lack the freedom to take advantage of the new opportunities of modern technology and are consequently left on the sidelines. In the global village, sooner or later, someone else's poverty becomes one's own problem.

Yesterday, at the World Economic Forum in New York, Secretary-General Annan drove this point home when he said:

Left alone in their poverty, these countries are all too likely to collapse, or relapse, into conflict and anarchy, a menace to their neighbours and potentially - as the events of September 11 so brutally reminded us - a threat to global security. Yet, taken together, their peoples represent a very large potential market - and many of their disadvantages could be offset if international business and donor governments adopted a common strategy aimed at making them more attractive to investment and ensuring that it reaches them.

I was glad to see Prime Minister Chrétien take a leadership role at the World Economic Forum in calling for more aid for Africa. The world must shift focus to the human agenda, not just the military or corporate ones. It means shifting our spending priorities away from the latest weaponry and toward the latest development projects, canceling the crushing debt burdens of developing countries and building the body of effective international law. These are the most basic prerequisites for social justice.

The second lesson from September 11 is that we must address globalization globally. This means working within the United Nations system and giving it the political and economic resources it needs for the challenges ahead. As important as the Security Council is, it alone cannot guarantee sustaining peace. Other parts of the UN, including the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the International Atomic Energy Agency and UNICEF, to name just three of many bodies, must be provided with the funding they need if we are to build a lasting foundation for peace. Instead of strengthening these vital instruments of human security, the world continues to prepare for war. War and the preparation for war are the greatest impediments to human progress, fostering a vicious cycle of arms buildups, violence and poverty.

Governments plead that they have little money for social programs, yet they are currently spending $800 billion a year on military expenditures, which is 80 times more than the $10 billion they spend on the entire United Nations system.

The largest military increase is happening in the U.S. President Bush has recently requested $48 billion more for the defence budget, next year alone, bringing the U.S. up to $380 billion, and signalling the largest defence budget increase in 20 years. Not content with a military budget that is larger than the military spending of the next 15 countries combined, and which is even greater than the entire state budget of Russia, the president and his generals want even more money in the years ahead. This reckless drive to even more military dominance is alarming countries around the world, including many of our partners in NATO.

The United Nations, which won the Nobel Peace Price in 2001, is uniquely positioned to foster a globalized world of peace and justice. When the UN millennium summit of world leaders was held, a declaration was adopted establishing priorities for the UN to overcome poverty, to put an end to conflict, to meet the needs of Africa, to promote democracy and the rule of law, and to protect the environment. The UN must be enabled to implement this agenda.

The third lesson deals with reducing the threat of nuclear terrorism. We must strengthen the global norm against the use or proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and create a body of international law to ensure universality, verification and full implementation of key treaties. This is what Janantha Dhanapala, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs, with whom I had the pleasure of meeting yesterday, is calling for in saying that our current weapons-based approach to security is ineffective. What is missing, Mr. Dhanapala says, is "an emphasis on the need for deeper multilateral cooperation rooted in binding legal norms and implemented with the assistance of global international organizations."

It is through strengthening verifiable agreements such as the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, the Chemical and Biological Weapons Conventions and the non-proliferation treaty that we stand our best chance of preventing these weapons from falling into unscrupulous hands.

Though President Bush's recent announcement of a cut in the number of deployed nuclear weapons is welcome, the cuts are unilateral and voluntary, not codified, and most of the weapons will not in fact be destroyed. The Globe and Mail called this "smoke and mirrors."

Cuts in nuclear weapons outside the framework of international treaties lack transparency and verifiability, thus raising the possibility of reversion. It is not unilateral acts, however entrancing, that will secure international peace and security. Rather, it is negotiations to build a body of law that cannot be changed by political caprice that will ensure a safer future.

Finally, honourable senators, for Canada there is a special lesson in considering the lessons I have outlined above. We must do more. It is not enough to amend our immigration, refugee and anti-terrorist legislation, for we are living in a time that demands more of us. Where are the thoughtful and innovative solutions to the world's challenges that have been a hallmark of Canadian diplomacy? There is a perception that for Canada to maintain sovereignty over its own affairs it must substantially increase the amount of money it spends on its military. Militarism is not the answer. If Canada goes down this road and accepts militarism as the currency of sovereignty, we will be subscribing to the old, outdated and myopic attitude dominating the international agenda today. Canada must resist widening the war on terrorism to include Iraq, North Korea and Iran as President Bush forecast last week when he characterized these three countries as "the axis of evil."

If Canada is to maintain control over its own policies, it must step forward and voice its long held values on the prime issues of human rights and international law. It is said that Canada's hands are tied because of our economic dependence on the U.S. I ask: Does this relationship necessarily mean that our integrity and sense of compassion, equity and justice should be sacrificed? Canada is caught in a dilemma. Our fundamental values lie with the United Nations system that we recognize as the guarantor of international peace and security, but our perceived protection lies with the U.S.-led western military alliance now prosecuting a war on terrorism. Before September 11, there was a reasonable compatibility between the two systems, but the resurgence of a philosophy bent on militarism and the prospect of an enlarged war on terrorism is forcing Canada to choose with which entity it will align itself.

The U.S. has pulled out of the Kyoto accords on global warming; it, has voiced its disdain for the International Criminal Court; and it is studying the idea of resuming nuclear testing. It has rejected the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and given notice of its intention to pull out of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, which is widely considered a cornerstone of international arms control, and the Treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons in particular. It is pushing ahead with a national missile defence system, thus clearing a path for the weaponization of outer space. Why is Canada mute on these issues?

Canada has always considered a comprehensive test ban treaty to be essential to nuclear arms control and to the viability of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. Let Canada reaffirm this at the forthcoming NPT meeting at the UN in April.

Honourable senators, Senator De Bané is right: Canadians must be better informed on the real meaning of the tragic events of September 11, 2001. If we are worried about smoothing the rough edges of globalization, if we value international cooperation, if we desire a future free from the nuclear shadow, then let us act today to raise up our society and its political discourse and project out into the international community the values that make Canada especially equipped to offer a solution.