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On Wednesday August 8 Liberal Party President Iona Carnpagnola broke ranks with official Liberal policy by calling for a freeze on the nuclear arms race and a full parliamentary debate on the issue following the election. Despite both the overwhe1ming public support for a freeze, and the publicly stated positions of Iona Campagnolo, Jean Chretien and Lloyd Axworthy, on Wednesday August 15 Prime Minister John Turner carne out against the freeze, and indicated that his stand is “based on conviction and on the harsh realities of a complex international situation.”
The Conservatives do not support a freeze, while the New Democratic Party has advocated a freeze for several years.
(Note: Much of the following is either taken directly or paraphrased from an excellent article prepared by the Canadian Council for International Cooperation (CCIC) for the Election Priorities Project.
A bilateral nuclear freeze would call for “an immediate U.S. – Soviet hfilt in the production, and further deployment of nuclear weapons, missiles and delivery systems in a way that can be verified.” Despite widespread public support and growing political support in this country, Canada was one of just 12 nations who voted against a United Nations freeze resolution in December of 1983.
The CCIC offers two reasons why a nuclear freeze would be an important first step in the disarmament process: a) by stopping the emerging threat of firststrike weaponry; and b) by breaking the impasse that prevents major reductions in current stockpiles of nuclear weapons. A superpower freeze would stop the emergence of a new generation of ‘usable’ nuclear weapons which, if produced and deployed, would increase the threat of escalation from conventional war to nuclear war. A bilateral freeze would also save approximately $500 billion over the next decade which could be put back into meeting desperate human needs around the globe. Such prosperity would contribute greatly to world peace and justice.
Of those people who reject the concept of a freeze, many cite assumed Soviet superiority in nuclear weapons as a reason. Conscious of this concern, U.S. Senator Charles Percy asked Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger. if he would rather have at his disposal the U.S. nuclear arsenal or the Soviet nuclear arsenal. Weinberger replied, “I would not for a moment exchange anything because we have an immense edge in technology.”
Paul Warnke, the former chief U.S. arms control negotiator believes they would: “There is no reason to doubt that they are willing to agree to arms reduction, if we can negotiate something that’s clearly in the interest of both of us. And I think that’s clearly a matter of political will.”
The Soviets have in fact supported the freeze at the United Nations.
Successful disarmament agreements with the U.S.S.R. do not have to rely on the honesty of the Soviets. For, as former C.I.A. directors Herbert Scolville and William Colby have acknowledged, American intelligence could effectively monitor the Russians under such a comprehensive agreement. The freeze can be monitored by satellites, radar, and other means which both sides now possess and are now using to police the various arms agreements that have been adopted in the past.
This month’s suggestion is to write three letters. The first should go to lona Campagnolo, supporting her position on the freeze and urging her to follow through on her proposal for a full parliamentary debate. In addition ask that she work not only for a debate but also a free vote on the issue. (Copies of this letter can be sent to Chretien, Axworthy, Turner and Broadbent.) Secondly, write to Brian Mulroney urging the Conservatives to change their party policy and come out in favour of a freeze. Finally, write to your local mayor asking that a resolution be passed by city council asking the federal government to come out in support’ ofa freeze. (Kitchener City Council recently passed such a resolution by a vote of 8-2.)
The combination of hundreds of letters to the above people (in conjunction with the work of Operation Dismantle in lobbying for a freeze) could well result in one of the first major breakthroughs for the Canadian peace movement. Letters to Members of Parliament require no postage and can be addressed to: House of Commons, Ottawa, ON, KIA OA6. The address for your local mayor can be found in your telephone book.
If your group is interested in becoming part of the NLWC, please write and let me know that your group endorses the concept and is willing to encourage peace activists in your area to write letters. Also, please send suggestions of individuals you would like to see targetted for letters.
Happy letter writing!
c/o Doug Mohr
301-103 Church St. Kitchener, ON N2G 2S3