Bordering on Aggression

The following is a summary of a lecture presented on January 28 as one of Science for Peace's Lectures in Peace Studies at the University College of the University of Toronto. The information for the lecture and for this summary comes from the book, Bordering on Aggression: Evidence of U.S. Military Preparations Against Canada, to be released in March, 1993, by Voyageur Publishers of Hull, Quebec

By Floyd Rudmin | 1993-03-01 12:00:00

For most Canadians and Americans, it is unbelievable, ridiculous, impossible to imagine, that the U.S. military would ever invade Canada. As we go about our daily lives, as our businesses and social institutions run their routines, there is just no place in that reality for U.S. soldiers occupying our streets. We reject the idea because nothing in our living memory, nothing in our understanding of history, allows such a turn of events. That is the difficulty with anticipating first-time events.

My intention in writing Bordering on Aggression is to persuade Canadian and American readers that U.S. military planning is still out of control, pursuing historical programs of preparations for the military management of Canada. The objective facts of the capability, the geography and the history of Fort Drum all argue that it is reasonable and prudent for citizens and politicians on both sides of the border to examine seriously what is going on at Fort Drum and within U.S. military planning generally.

The research in Bordering on Aggression was conducted, part-time, in publicly available libraries and archives. Almost 600 footnotes identify sources of information in U.S. military journals, U.S. and Canadian newspapers on microfilm, the Congressional Record, history texts, and personal letters. Les Aspin, now U.S. Secretary of Defense, read an early draft of this research and called it "a masterful piece of research," but nevertheless argued that Fort Drum does not threaten Canada because the U.S. could invade Canada with or without the assault troops located there.

In 1984, Fort Drum housed only an engineering battalion, but now it commands a rapid assault light division and a reserve armored division-for a total of 30,000 troops. The expansion of Fort Drum was the largest Army construction project ever undertaken by the Army Corps of Engineers. It was given unprecedented advanced budget authorization, even though the U.S. had surplus military bases at the time.

Most people considering the question of whether or not the U.S. military might make contingency plans for an invasion of Canada think first of motivations. Arguments come forward that we are friends and allies, that the U.S. can control Canada via economic means, that the U.S. only attacks people of color, that the U.S. would just not do that.

But motivations are not a reliable guide for judging military preparations.

Motivations can change, quickly. Insiders can co-opt or otherwise control a large military planning program. It is better to judge military preparations only by objective facts. And by such facts, the new expansion of Fort Drum should be of concern to Canadians and to Americans.

By their capability, the new forces at Fort Drum are a threat to Canada. They are assault troops designed to spearhead an attack. These are not defensive forces. They are surprise attack specialists, equipped with night-vision goggles for night combat. It is critical that they start the engagement because their capability diminishes if they face prepared defenses. They are not paratroopers or marines, and are not designed to attack defended borders. They specialize in urban warfare, house-to-house fighting. They are winter trained and equipped.

Capability, or rather incapability, also weighs against accepting the official line for these new forces. They do not have the sustained firepower to fight guerrilla warfare. They do not have an airfield capable of handling intercontinental transport planes and thus they cannot get the entire division overseas in four days, as Congress was told they could do. Even if there were an adequate airfield at Fort Drum, the Army Corps of Engineers has determined that the base's chronic had weather would hamper deployment. Thus rapid deployment to Third World insurgency seemed to be a no-go from the start, and the Army knew it.

However, the division's helicopters and light vehicles could easily bring the forces into eastern Ontario or southern Quebec. Furthermore, the 50th Armored Division is now headquartered at Fort Drum. Though a reserve unit, which would require a day or more to activate, the heavy equipment and the integrated command are ready and in place at Fort Drum. Although Fort Drum is overcrowded, there are plans to bring in a mechanized infantry brigade and to create a centre for urban warfare training.

This brings us to geography. Fort Drum has fierce winter weather that would make rapid deployment to Third World conflicts-the official mission-unrealistic if not impossible. The average snowfall there is 10 feet and a nearby village holds the New York State record of 40 feet. The Army Corps of Engineers classified the base as an Arctic weather training site. A 1978 environmental assessment of U.S. military bases by the Army Corps of Engineers concluded that Fort Drum has the worst weather in the eastern United States.

Storms are often local in origin and unpredicted by continental weather patterns. When a reporter from the Watertown Daily Times came to Kingston to interview me about Fort Drum in April 1990, he was late because he got caught in a blizzard. Here in Kingston, an hour's drive away, we had no storm Nevertheless, he ridiculed any suggestion that the Fort Drum troops were not destined for the tropics. And it is not just winter storms that are a problem. The first big military manoeuvres at what is now Fort Drum took place in 1908, 1910 and 1935. All of them were suspended because of bad weather.

Fort Drum is uniquely situated close to Ottawa and within operational proximity to Montreal and even Toronto. The seizure of the region from the Thousand Islands to Ottawa would Simultaneously cut east-west highway, railway and seaway connections in Canada, immobilize the federal government, disrupt Canadian military communications now centred in Kingston, split Canada at its major ethnic fissure; and separate our two major population centres.

The reason Canada is so vulnerable at the Thousand Islands region is that the Canadian Shield comes down and touches the border here. k fact, the Thousand Islands are outcroppings of Canadian Shield rock. Settlement and development have naturally avoided such rocky glaciated terrain, and Canada is squeezed down to a sliver along the St. Lawrence River.

The United States has long planned war on Canada and those plans have long identified the Upper St. Lawrence River-Kingston to Cornwall-as the most strategic point of attack on Canada. For example, Prescott was identified in 1888 as a key point of invasion. The 1893 plan of attack recommended a sudden winter offensive and a crossing of the St. Lawrence to capture the Rideau Canal and Ottawa. In 1896, U.S. Secretary of the Navy ordered Commodore Gridly (of "damn the torpedoes and full-steam ahead" fame) to spy out Canadian defenses and prepare a plan of invasion. He recommended that the attack start below Ogdensburg, near the present site of Fort Drum. This was to have been a surprise attack, even before a declaration of war, just as the Japanese did at Pearl Harbor.

President Teddy Roosevelt, who had threatened military action against Canada during the 1895 Venezuela crisis and the 1897 Alaska border dispute, first established Fort Drum. A search for a New York State manoeuvres site rejected Fort Drum, but manoeuvres were called there in 1908 anyway. The war game scenario was a U.S. force mustering at Ogdensburg for an invasion of Canada being outflanked by a force from Kingston crossing at the Thousand Islands. The U.S. side wins when reinforcements arrive. Even though the field officers opposed the base as a training site and the formal panel of Army officers convened to judge the site opposed it, the land was purchased because it would be a good place to mobilize 50,000 troops.

Invasion plans for 1909, by an officer trained at the Fort Drum site, emphasized a rapid attack across the St. Lawrence. The 1910 war games at the base were headlined in a New York city newspaper as "Canadian Army Crushed." The U.S. Army and Navy Journal said that was just a joke. In 1911, speaking about the Taft-Laurier free trade agreement, President Taft said that "talk of annexation is bosh," a "joke." The 1912 invasion plan identified Kingston as Canada's most strategic city, but recommended a crossing at Cornwall, where there was a bridge. In 1913 detailed operational plans called for an invasion force to muster at Moira, New York. The 1914 plans emphasized again the importance of the Kingston region.

World War I and the status of military allies seemed not to slow U.S. planning against Canada. For example, the 1916 plan showed the 4th Division mustering at Madison Barracks, near Fort Drum, crossing the St. Lawrence and capturing Kingston. The 1921 plan called for an invasion of Canada to begin with a crossing of the St. Lawrence to cut east-west transportation routes.

In 1923, U.S. President Harding visited Vancouver and said, "The great bugaboo of the United States scheming to annex Canada disappeared from all of our minds years and years ago." The next year Army Strategic Plan Red detailed the conquest of Canada by four armies and concluded that the province and territories would be prepared for statehood and the Dominion government abolished.

This plan was expanded, refined and finally accepted by the U.S. Secretary of the Navy and Secretary of War on May 10,1930. The plan was declassified in 1974 and is available for $25 from the U.S. National Archives. Curiously, that 1930 plan mentions James Bay hydroelectric development. This secret U.S. war plan was once among the most closely held papers on earth."

This war plan presumed that U.S. interference with British Commonwealth trade would result in war. The U.S. Army's only theater of operations was Canada. The objective was to seize key cities and the St. Lawrence-Lake Ontario waterways. Mobilization planning began in 1931. In November 1934, the plan was amended to authorize the first-use of nerve gas against Canadians.

In 1935, a bill was put to Congress for funding for 10 new airbases, one of which was to be built on the Canadian border in the Great Lakes region for preemptive strikes on Canadian airfields. It was to be camouflaged as a civilian airport used by military planes for refueling stops. Secret testimony to Congress on all of this got printed by mistake and appeared on the front pages of the New York Times on May 1. The Globe and Mail called it a "yarn." The Montreal Gazette wrote that Canadians "did not take the episode seriously and were inclined rather to laugh heartily at the absurdity of the whole affair."

In 1935, the U.S. prepared a "critical atlas" showing the disposition of all Canadian forces. In 1935, the largest peacetime maneuvers in U.S. history were held, with 36,000 troops mobilizing at the Fort Drum site and another 15,000 troops held in strategic reserve in Pennsylvania. The war game scenario called for a Blue (U.S.) motorized attack across a feigned international border, with Red (Britain and Canada) defensive forces pushing them back but eventually losing when Blue reinforcements arrive. After these games were "washed out in a sea of mud," the size of the base was doubled.

Again, close alliance seems to count for little. The 1939 plan for war on Canada focused on the capture of Halifax. Although no plans for the invasion of Canada have been declassified since 1940, there is evidence that the U.S. military has made such preparations. For example, in the 1960s the U.S. Army's Special Operations and Research Office studied Quebec, along with Latin American countries, to understand how to suppress social revolutions. In October 1970, the U.S. brought troops and armored forces to the border and threatened to occupy Ottawa and Montreal. At least that is what Canada's director of RCMP counter-intelligence said in 1973 to the Toronto Star. An unnamed Canadian military officer confirmed the story. There have even been rumors that the U.S. put army and naval forces on alert for the 1980 sovereignty-association referendum in Quebec.

In conclusion. the military activities at Fort Drum are consistent with the capability, the geography and the history of hostility towards Canada. Even if the Canadian military were not tightly integrated into U.S. command, no defensive military response on Canada's part could offset or resist a U.S military threat. A Canadian military response would only serve to legitimate, sanctify, and thus enhance U.S. militarism. An alternative would be a program of nonviolent civilian defence. But that is an unrealistic option, given the pro-U.S. stance of Canada's government and military commanders. The only viable option is to expose U.S. military preparations and to encourage U.S. citizens and U.S. politicians to begin to regain control of military planning. That is why I have written Bordering on Aggression.

Floyd Rudmin is a social psychologist teaching property theory in the Faculty of Law at Queen's University.

Peace Magazine Mar-Apr 1993

Peace Magazine Mar-Apr 1993, page 20. Some rights reserved.

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