I write (early December of the fateful year 1BY2K) as thousands protest in Seattle against the WTO and its agenda of corporate globalization. The second millennium is ending, and the third beginning, better than we might have hoped. Is it possible, minimally, that globalization – the bad variety, that is – has plateaued? Our members who have been active on these issues – I think particularly of John Valleau and Jean Smith in their work on our behalf in PAMAI – are entitled to pause and partake of a smidgen of satisfaction as they gird for the next battle.
As you read this, you will know – already or shortly – whether Y2K came without a glitch. Like the accidental launch of nuclear weapons, about which Alan Phillips constantly warned those who would listen. We can only hope that our willingness to take such risks will be seen in the future as the sign of the primitive and the barbaric.
The War in the Balkans is over, though whether wars are ever “over” in terms of the dark shadow they cast indefinitely forward is a moot point. We have seen what some are hailing as the first of the new just wars that pass under the name of “humanitarian intervention,” or what the German intellectual Ulbrich Beck and the American intellectual Noam Chomsky call. the better to capture the vileness of the contradiction, “the new military humanism” I hope that Science for Peace will be able, sometime in the new year, to host an event, a teach-in perhaps – we shall do our best to get Chomsky himself to come on this disturbing phenomenon.
We tried to make our own modest contribution to the struggle of the East Timorese for independence and against the genocidal policies of the Indonesian government which were too long supported – twenty-four years no less! – by our government and others’. Some of us went to the daily vigil at the Indonesian consulate in Toronto to protest the final madness of the Indonesian military after the referendum for the independence of East Timor had gone against their wishes. We were pleased to host a seminar where David Wurfel, a Research Associate of the Joint Committee on Asia Pacific Studies at the University of Toronto and an observer in East Timor (for the International Federation for East Timor) during the August 1999 referendum, initiated a discussion on the situation in East Timor.
It would appear in retrospect that a key factor in forcing the Indonesian government and military finally to cease and desist was the threat of withdrawal by the IMF for Indonesia’s weak currency. Which begs the questions: Why did it take 24 years for this power to be used? Why is this power not presently being used against Russia, unlike Indonesia – and Yugoslavia – has The Bomb? What kind of message is that sending the world’s tin pot dictators?
Meanwhile, the U.S. Congress has refused to endorse the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and India and Pakistan continue to play fast and loose in Kashmir with nuclear bombs in their back pockets. We were happy to co-host, with Physicians for Global Survival, the Toronto meeting of Doctors Shambhu Shivastwa of India and Tipu Sultan of Pakistan on the Prognosis for Peace and Stability in South Asia. These two eminent physicians are endeavouring, by their personal example, to help the Second Millennium end on a positive note.
We did our bit to help in other matters. We co sponsored with Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (Toronto) a presentation by Linda Morgan and Irene MacInnes, based on their visit to Iraq with Physicians for Social Responsibility, on Sanctions and Genocide in Iraq. We also co-sponsored with Canadians Concerned about Violence in entertainment (C-CAVE) a cross-border meeting of legal advocates on Lawsuits as a Strategy for Curbing the Culture of Violence in North America.
In September we sponsored a Science for Peace Public Lecture by Professor Colin Soskolne of the Department of Public Health Sciences of the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Alberta on Global Ecological Integrity [Health of the Planet and Sustainable Development – Cornerstones of Public Health.
Len Johnson, who is active in Pugwash Canada, spoke under our auspices on Canada and NATO. We (meaning the ever helpful Carolyn Langdon) also assisted in organizing the John and Lois Dove Memorial Lecture which was given by Professor Tad Homer-Dixon, director of Peace and Conflict Studies, University of Toronto on the Ingenuity Gap: Are we smart enough to meet the challenges of the twenty-first century?”
Frankly, I think Science for Peace is – though we are very much in need of more members, particularly those who would bring down the average age while maintaining the (high) average level of wisdom. After all, we want to make sure we survive the next millennium too.