Index

Globalization Regurgitated


Globalization, conceived on Wall Street and delivered from Washington, has a couple of murderous back hooves and is not taking well to the harnesses imposed on it. We’ve known about the seemingly endless wars in the Near East including that of Alexander the Great, and of the Brits in the days of their greatest glory, and the graveyard where the Soviets came to their final grief. We have read our fill about the smuggling of Mexicans looking for work that globification has in large part deprived them of at home, and of walls going up that hardly talk of world brotherhood. Now however it has moved closer home for Canadians and for Americans on their northern border. It is as though the very planet were trying to shake off the arbitrary programming imposed on it.
Let us quote from The Globe and Mail (“We’ll be so safe, we won’t be able to stand it” by Ingred Peritz): “Stanstead, Quebec – With its broad lawns and barking dogs, Canusa Street could be anywhere in North America. But soon its residents will need passports just to cross the road. As its names suggests, Canusa straddles the Canada-US border, which used to be regarded as little more than a nuisance. Marie Vallières, a nurse who lives with her husband in Stanstead, Que., used to pop across for coffee with her neighbor in Vermont.

“Now, however, ‘no one would dare,’ she says. ‘We lost that freedom. Despite ourselves, everything has become more suspicious.’”

One Community in Two Lands

“The residents of Stanstead and Derby Line, VT, regard themselves one community that happens to be in two countries. It has been that way for generations, and rare is the family without relatives on the other side of the line. Locals have always crossed to shop, and to pray, to eat out, get a haircut or play hockey. The towns, which have about 3,800 residents between them, share their waterworks and help each other put out fires.

“But they are also on the front line in Washington’s efforts to reinforce border security, and the new travel rules that come into effect June 1 will require Canadian and American citizens to present a passport or equivalent document to enter the US – even if travelling a matter of feet.

“‘It’s one more thing that’s going to separate our communities,’ says Keith Beadie, a village trustee in Derby Line who retired in 2006 after three decades as a US immigration officer. ‘And I think it’s totally unnecessary, he adds, explaining that any terrorist trying to enter the US would probably have documents that looked ‘very professional.’

“The new reality has even penetrated the elegant Haskell Free Library and Opera House, which was built astride the border over a century ago as an embodiment of friendship. Patrons who park along the side of the building are in Canada.

“Those who park in front are in the US and the border is indicated by little more than a stone marker and a line painted on the street. Recently, Lynn Leimer, artistic director of the resident theater company, greeted patrons for a matinee performance (ironically, the play was entitled Southern Hospitality) by delivering a sober message: Anyone who had parked outside their home country had better report to customs on the way home. ‘Otherwise, it’s a $5,000 fine,’ she said to nervous giggles in the audience. ‘I kid you not – $5,000.’

“Ms. Leimer was speaking from Canada, the front of the theater, to an audience most seated across the border – illustrating the vision of cross-border co-operation that inspired Martha Stewart Haskell, the philanthropist who donated the building. ‘She had no idea it was going to turn into such a conundrum.’ Ms. Leimer says.

“The US Border Control has seen its strength increase sharply in recent years and is constantly making the rounds. Still, residents on both sides resisted when Canadian and US officials wanted to close three unmanned border crossings, saying the streets were conduits for smuggling and illegal immigration.

“Local authorities finally agreed to block two streets, but they insisted that Church Street, where the Haskell is located remain open and that emergency vehicles and some local businesses be issued electronic passes to open the other barriers if need be.

“People say they understand the US desire to protect itself after 9/11, but they want to make sure the added protection doesn’t come at the cost of their cross-border ties.

“‘In any way that’s important, we are one community,’ says Matthew Farfan, a writer in Stanstead who sits on the town council. ‘And people don’t want to be severed by the bureaucrats.’

“But the process has already begun.

“Louise Boisvert, 58, a grey-haired grandmother who has lived on Canusa for 28 years, crosses regularly to do yoga with her Canadian neighbor. One day, she brought her yoga mat, but not her identity papers, and on the way back she was grilled by a US border agent.

“‘It was awful. I felt like a criminal,’ she says. ‘I thought I might end up not coming home that night – it was really scary. I was uncertain until he told me I could go.’ ‘If I go to Canada, I can’t go home again,’ Mr. Boisvert, her husband, says dryly standing in his kitchen a few feet from the Canadian border. ‘We’ll be so safe we won’t be able to stand it.’”

The Trade Consequences of All This for Canada will be Serious

“The average American is not going to get a passport to make the odd trip to Canada.

“The Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, and the snarls it may cause, will be foremost on the agenda this week when Public Safety Minister Peter van Loan meets his American counterpart, Janet Napolitano, Secretary of Homeland Security.

“While the WHTI has been well publicized, it’s but one plank in a more discreet U.S, to build a wall of microchips and radio waves, fibre optics and old fashioned manpower.

“Last year, US Customs and Border protection, an agency under the Byzantine Department of Homeland Security, spent $2 billion on an assortment of high-and low-tech toys – everything from remote-controlled aircraft to horse patrols, dirty-bomb detectors to elite native-American trackers.

“The goal is what Ms. Napolitano has termed ‘a real border’ to keep terrorists, drug runners and illegal immigrants at bay. But there’s more to it. Border experts contend that the build-up is a consequence of the Canadian government’s refusal to hand over key intelligence to the Americans.

“So what will this ‘real border’ look like? Is it necessary? And is worth it? Our commerce is being pinched as much as our amity is being tested. If the new measures prove anything beyond a hassle, the hurt will be felt far beyond Sarnia.

“The most impressive manifestation of the new American posture along its northern flank sits on three small tires in a spotless hangar outside Grand Forks, ND. The Predator unmanned aerial vehicle is bigger than you might expect of what is essentially a remote-controlled airplane. Its wing-span is 20 metres, as wide as nine fender-to-fender Humvees, and the V-shaped rear stabilizers top out at 3.6 meters. A turret the size of a medicine ball bulges out near the plane’s snubbed nose, home to an infrared camera and radar system capable of picking up a border-hopper’s footprint at 26,000 feet. Common on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan, this is the first of several $10 million planes that eventually will prowl lonely stretches of northern border.

“‘We need to know who is in our backyard,’ says John Pridy, the US Border Patrol’s deputy director of air operations at the Grand Fork Air Force Base, running his hand over the plane’s carbon-fiber exterior. ‘The border patrol can’t have a guy on every fencepost.’

“But the Predator is much bigger than its physical dimensions. All along the highway leading to the base, billboards depicting the plane proclaim that ‘the future is here.’

“Hefty commemorative coins have been cast in its honour. The Predator is the poster-boy technology for a larger-scale fortification effort that will adopt many of martial tactics long used far to the south.

“In a recent speech Ms. Napolitano declared that, ‘If things are being done on the Mexican border, they should also be done on the Canadian border.” And Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stated this week that her country must ‘harden’ its ‘porous’ border with Canada.

“An hour’s drive north of the Predator hangar, much more tangible evidence of this on full display last weekend. Teams of border guards left no trunk unpopped and watched for the slightest sign of a shady character, shifty eyes, constant looks to the left, a throbbing carotid artery. Each guard wore a person-radiation detector so sensitive that it would beep in the presence of anyone who had recently undergone a CT scan.

“‘We’ll see that on a daily basis,’ says Christopher Misson, a supervisor at the crossing. ‘With our primary goal being anti-terrorism here, we need to maintain a high level of vigilance.’

“Before 9/11, a total of 340 agents protected the entire northern border. That number has jumped to more than 15,000, and they have an array of new gadgets at their disposition, including night-vision goggles and massive gamma-ray scanners that can scrutinize am entire transport truck in seconds. In addition, more than 240 truck-sized radiation monitors have been set up to detect the makings of dirty bombs.

“The high-tech measures extend to the border’s vast barren stretches as well. About 1,400 ground sensors have been installed, picking up seismic activity from the lightest footstep. Also, a multibillion-dollar virtual fence called the Secure Border Initiative linking dozens of surveillance towers, motion-sensitive cameras and acoustic sensors by fibre-optic cable will eventually encircle the entire US.

“Some new schemes take a simpler approach. Homeland Security is looking at establishing an elite group of native American trackers n the Chippewa Bay Mills Indian Reservation near Sault Ste. Marie, Mich. And it uses wild horses to patrol a 500-kilometer mountainous section of Washington and Montana.
“Not to be outdone, the Canadian government is shovelling money into its border posts as well, although the scale is somewhat skewed. In 2006 border officers received their first handguns, 9mm Berettas. The Canadian Border Services Agency also has hired 400 new officers and purchased its own gamma-ray equipment.

“The goal on both sides of the border is to ease the US fears that suddenly appeared with 9/11, when the northern border became ‘just about our biggest worry,’ says Stewart Banker, Homeland Security policy chief under George W. Bush. “Our perception was that the enemy was pretty sophisticated about getting into the country.

“The path of least resistance, he adds, was through a program that allows in some foreign tourists without obtaining a visa or by crossing the Canadian border. “There have been plenty of attacks launched by both routes that got no publicity, and were, luckily unsuccessful.”

A Deeper Way of Looking at This

“On a dark afternoon in Neche, ND, the air blows cold across rich prairie soils still saturated with Red River floodwater. Thunderhead clouds drape the endless fields in a sinister shade. Border Patrol agent Eric Kuhn lifts his sunglasses atop his head as he pilots his Chevy 4x4 across a greasy farm road. The ‘line watch’ is a staple of Border Protection operations, but it’s a solitary business.

“‘If you stand on a milk crate, you can see all the way to Montana from here,’ jokes Mr. Kuhn, who keeps a coffee, a Coca-Cola and an M4 assault rifle at his side.
“‘Yeah, it can get a little lonely out here, but I’ve got my radio, my music. You get a lot of thinking done.’

“If droves of terrorists, illegal aliens and drug runner are pouring over the 49th parallel, they weren’t showing their heads to Mr. Kuhn, who roams over 100 miles of agricultural borderland. There is a significant drug trade in the area, and he has had to raise his M4 on a few occasions, but the job is more about deterrence and gathering intelligence from local farmers than hunting down bad guys.

“Last year, the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) estimated that Border Protection exercised impervious control over just 31 miles of Canadian border. Much of the rest is as remote and open as the landscape beyond Mr. Kuhn’s windshield. It raises the question: What’s the point of trying to barricade such an isolated expanse?

“The immediate answers have become cliché. America must seal itself from the terror, segregate itself from evildoers. It doesn’t matter that none of the 9/11 high-jackers came from Canada. The few public examples of fanatics infiltrating the northern flank are used to justify the expense.

“The most worn-out of those is Ahmed Ressam, the Millennium Bomber, who might have been able to blow up Los Angeles International Airport with a trunk-load of explosives had it not been for a hawk-eyed border agent in Washington State.

“In the past three years, border guards have caught asylum-seekers from as far away as Colombia and South Korea trying to walk across the line. In addition, notes a recent Homeland Security report, ‘there is an undisputed presence in Canada of known terrorist affiliate and extremist groups, including Hezbollah, Hamas and the Armed Islamic Group of Algeria.’

“And the GAO continually exposes how easy it is to slip into the country. During 42 undercover investigations, its staff crossed from Canada with a 93% success rate. In 2000, they also demonstrated the ease with which they could bring the makings of a dirty bomb across the line.

“‘Some of what the GAO found was certainly troubling,’ says Mr. Baker, who drafted Homeland Security policy based on the findings ‘But some looks like it was designed for headlines and ‘Gotcha reports.’

“Mr. Baker is now a lawyer in private practice and freer to speak his mind. ‘Look,’ he says, after working through the usual explanations for tighter borders, ‘there is a deeper way of looking at this, if you want to know. There is a lot Canada can do in terms of information-sharing that it hasn’t done. We here have better information-sharing with Jamaica than we do with Canada. There’s is a lot of tension there.’

“Canadian officials play down the charge that a stiffer US border stems from our refusal to share.

“‘I have heard no concern at an intelligence level about the level of information sharing with the American side,’ says Mr. van Loan, the public safety minister. ‘We have a very close level of cooperation.’

“But Mr. Baker insists that this lack of co-operation forms the crux of the border issue. ‘We don’t have good insight as to who is coming into Canada,’ he says ‘We should know who’s flying into Montreal – it is only 75 minutes to the border. Just as Canadians should know who is flying into Detroit.’

“The two countries were ready for such co-operation immediately after 9/11. John Manley, then foreign affairs minister, acted quickly to draft the Smart Border Declaration with the US which avoided an impending crackdown with promises of free and open information sharing. The creation of wide-open checkpoints similar to those between many European countries was discussed. Instead of M4s and robot planes, safety would rely on unfettered intelligence sharing.

“But plans for this North American security perimeter faced Canadian trepidations, especially after overzealous intelligence cooperation led to the torture of Canadian telecommunications engineer Maher Arar in Syria.

“‘The problem the Canadian government has is that there’s some concern about privacy and what Canadian law will allow in terms of information-sharing,’ says Christopher Sands, a border scholar at the Hudson Institute, a right-wing US think-tank.

“It’s an incongruous thought that yielding to hard-line US security demands might create a relaxed European form of security. The political toll could be great. At their meeting next week, Mr. van Loan will have to decide how to tackle Ms. Napolitano’s entreaties on the issue – whether the political and privacy sacrifices are worth the value of an open border.

“‘There are obviously concerns that relate to the kinds of situation we saw with Maher Arar,’ he says. ‘We share a lot of information, but we have to ensure there are appropriate caveats to how it is used.’”

Border City — Border Country

“Back in Sarnia, Mayor Bradley is preparing for the worst, come June 1. The new rules stopping anyone without a passport, microchip-equipped driver’s license or frequent-crosser card apply to Americans as well as to Canadians, a requirement he expects will impede the flow of US traffic into his city.
“‘It will be devastating,’ he says. Not just for Sarnia, but for the whole country. The average American is not going to get a passport to make the odd trip to Canada.’

“Given that cross-border trade runs to half-a-trillion dollars a year, Mr. Bradley’s concerns are warranted. ‘There is a definite cost to increased security and it is a disruption of commercial relationships,’ says Dr. Steve Globerman who teaches business at Western Washington in Bellingham, Washington. ‘Longer lineups, a substantial increase in paper work, the special permits and permissions are a burden on business in Canada.’

“Mr. Bradley, like the many concerned people along the Manitoba-North Dakota border, doesn’t buy the reassurances of Mr. Van Loan that we’re in an era where we can facilitate trade and security at the same time. Mr. Bradley has little of that optimism.

“‘Just wait a while,’ he says. ‘Pretty soon every Canadian city will feel like a border city.’”


The Editor


– from Economic Reform, June 2009
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