I'm Andrew McIlvaney. I write this stuff, but never mind that... How are you?
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Folks, I find myself at an impasse here. I’m rapidly approaching the period in early (pathetic, single) adulthood in which I have the time and resources to commit full tilt to a hobby or recreational activity at a previously unimaginable degree. Like, not just doing the hobby, but buying the gear and/or lifestyle with it and expressing my commitment to said hobby by purchasing a hard-to-get-off-without-scratching-the-paint bumper sticker that alludes to how much I’d rather be hobbyin’ it up than driving in front of your dumb car on the highway. Something where when I explain it to people I’m either met with quick looks of confusion or tight, forced smiles; the sort of regular activity that usurps this webmicroblog as the primary source of my social alienation. That kind of hobby.
I’ve got it down to two, I think.
The first is goats. Specifically: the raising and petting of. I find this a good potential hobby for a number of reasons: #1, their Kermit the Frog eyes are deeply unsettling to me, and any hobby that allows you to overcome a hangup seems a healthy one. #2, goats are the only animal you could keep as a pet that produce milk of any value, which from a utilitarian perspective arguably makes them the best pet. And, #3, the potential sidekick opportunities are just too great to ignore.
The other, manlier, potential hobby is using lumber to design custom beehives. There is, I don’t think, a more masculine 21st century pursuit (excepting, perhaps, the loading of armoured vehicles or the testing of baseball mitts) than bee-lumbering, and lord knows I could use something to counterbalance, uh, everything else in my life. Plus, if you have a swarm of anything in your possession I defy you to suggest that you’re not an inherently more interesting person as a result.
Of course, as the old proverb goes, with the designing of a custom beehive comes the moral question of indirect agency i.e. if I sell a custom beehive to a client who I suspect will be weaponizing said beehive to terrorize their neighbourhood, am I too responsible? My swarm of bees would be friends to children everywhere, but who knows about the creeps to whom I’d be selling?
I guess if I were to provide a historical analogy, it’d kind of be like the dynamic between Canada and the United States during the Vietnam War. Hear me out: In comparison to the United States’ handling of the Vietnam War, history has been far, far kinder to Canada. Canada, lacking the role of world superpower, did not feel the need to mobilize for war in Vietnam, and as a result gained the global reputation of a country characterized by its modest humanity – one much more in favour of peace than war.1 However, some recent articles have portrayed this perspective as overly simplistic2 and illusory3 due to Canada’s rarely discussed initial peacekeeping goals being far beyond what they actually achieved. Moreover, there has been some criticism since the 1980s that despite the country being characterized as morally against the United States’ violent tactics, Canada nevertheless profited from the conflict by selling war materials to the United States.4 While Canadian identity in many ways seems to stem from its refusal to become involved in violent conflicts — with Vietnam held up as perhaps the apotheosis as this disposition — in reality Canada did attempt to become actively involved as peacekeepers but perhaps wound up doing more damage than good, both to their reputation and by contributing to the war’s expansion.
Let me go back further: Much of Canada’s frustrations in this period can be gleaned from the writings of Prime Minister Lester Pearson. Pearson had been elected Prime Minister in 1963 partially on the strength of his peace brokering between Egypt and Britain, France, and Israel during the 1956 Suez Canal Crisis. For this he earned the first Nobel Peace Prize in Canadian history.5 With this unprecedented international success, there was the hope that in the post-World War II environment Canada could make a name for itself as a country that created peace in areas of conflict. However, it was also a country geographically and economically close to the United States — the new world superpower — and good relations with the leader of the free world were deemed essential in order for Canada to thrive, especially following the suspicion and tension that arose between the two following the Gouzenko Affair in 1953.6
Canada’s most notable early involvement with the Vietnam conflict was as one of three members, alongside India and Poland, in the International Commission for Control and Supervision (ICCS). Their role here illustrates the primary difference between Canada’s desires and how the United States viewed them: where Canada considered this an opportunity to further their goal of becoming world-renowned peace keepers who could mediate and solve national disputes, the United States expected Canada to act as their “pro-western”7 representatives. As the 1960s pressed on it became clear that whatever objections to the war the majority of Canada and its leaders had would have to be set aside in favour of maintaining economic and diplomatic relations with the United States. While Canada’s handling of the war is considered for many to be a source of Canadian pride and a testament to the country’s values, an examination of the details of the Vietnam War indicates a country whose actions were morally grey at best and complicit in the violence and destruction at worst.
Prior to the ICCS, the seeds for both Canada’s disagreement and unwitting escalation of the Vietnam War were sewn during the Korean War when Lester Pearson led a minority government that opposed the United States and the South Koreans fighting in the north. Pearson felt that the United Nations would be able to solve the conflict more peacefully than the United States.8 Although Pearson was outvoted, he made it clear that he disagreed with the results and, as such, Canada became the preferred Western member of the United Nations by the Chinese when it came to elect a country to the supervisory commissions for Indochina in 1954.9 Perhaps sensing the complexity of the mission, Canada did not lobby for the position but ultimately accepted it in the interest of ending the war.10 On March 14 1955, Pearson made a statement that would come to characterize his relationship with the United States as Prime Minister when he said: “the neutrality of [Canada or the United States], if the other were engaged in a major war in which its very existence [was] at stake would be unthinkable.” It was a good-hearted sentiment that established the closeness the countries felt, but it also implied that Canada would first have to question the validity of such a war, and questioning a power’s authority is rarely the way to foster a closer connection.
The ICCS was not the international work Canada had hoped it would be, and Pearson only accepted it because he felt that collective security could only be fostered by international co-operation.11 Pearson preferred a more active approach than their partners in India and Poland. Canada had invested a great deal of their resources, manpower, and pride into the commission, and the Polish delegate wrote that he found Canada fair and cooperative12. Yet the commission never amounted to much more than a “debating society,”13 and Ottawa would later claim that it hampered their relations with India and Vietnam. The commission cut back14 on operations in 1968 due to lack of money and formally shut down in 197315, accomplishing nothing of note.16
Even with the inactivity of the ICCS as the war gained momentum, Canada did not give up the notion that they could play a key role in ending the conflict. In a meeting in New York on May 28, 1954 President Lyndon Johnson asked Pearson if he could use Canadian diplomat Blair Seaborn as an intermediary who could inform the North Vietnamese that the United States had “carrots” for the North if they behaved and “sticks” if they did not17 – an apt metaphor, as Johnson was in essence dangling a carrot in front of Pearson as well. Pearson was willing to comply but noted that “any drastic escalation would give great problems both in Canada and internationally… [it] would be one thing to attack a bridge or an oil tank, but quite another to shower bombs on a village full of women and children.”18 Johnson agreed, and although Pearson’s fears would come to fruition, the bombing campaign had not yet been planned.
Much of the Canadian populace were displeased with the role Washington had bestowed upon their diplomat, a matter exacerbated by the message stating that Hanoi “will be punished”19 if the aggression continued. The content of this message directly undermined the intermediary, peace-brokering role Ottawa had hoped they would be able to play. Such a message clearly reads as if Canada is on the United States’ side. Understandably, tensions with Vietnam were only increased. Seaborn, who was stationed in Saigon, travelled to Hanoi in a series of trips bundled under the codename The BACON Initiative (seriously).20 Through the fall of 1964, Ottawa continually sent requests to Washington to use Seaborn in negotiations with Hanoi, but no interest was expressed. This channel for negotiations was only used by Washington in March and June 1965 to repeat a virtually identical message, only this time it was heard by lower Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV) officials. With North Vietnam opting not to use the channel and Canada not taking an official stance, the BACON initiative was little more than a voice box for Johnson (although Minister of Foreign Affairs Paul Martin claims that “we decided what would go and there were no threats in what was passed on”21 which if true makes one question what message Seaborn delivered at all).
Pearson had hoped that Canada, whose positive relationship with China suggested a high level of respect in Eastern Asia, would be able to fill the role of the intermediary between the United States and Vietnam. Yet Canada was never given a great deal of information by the United States, likely owing to Canada’s lack of mobilized support, and were therefore not seen as much use to the United States. As Pearson points out in his memoirs, all he felt he could do in 1963 was “urge caution and moderation on the United States… [the] occasion to this arose more than once.”22 The information Pearson received kept him informed to the point that he would be potentially willing to help should the United States call his country for support, but not informed enough to flagrantly question the morals of the United States and the validity of the attacks. This is perhaps best demonstrated by the memorandum Pearson wrote on August 4, 1964 after receiving a phone call from Secretary of State Dean Rusk informing him “that North Vietnamese torpedo boats had again attacked US destroyers 65 miles off the Vietnam coast” and that the “US had decided to retaliate against this unprovoked attack but would ensure that the retaliation was ‘relevant’ to the provocation and to the attack.”23 Pearson expressed hope that the “retaliatory action taken would not be in excess of that which the circumstances required,” and Rusk reassured him that retaliation would not be inordinate. This, the Gulf of Tonkin incident, would later be revealed to be heavily exaggerated. Pearson, along with the American public, was being duped into believing that the attacks were large and aggressive. Pearson’s talks with John F. Kennedy already indicated a prime minister whose moral objections to the war were simmering just under the surface, and it is clear that Washington was trying to keep Pearson in the dark about the true nature of the attacks. Through misinformation such as this it is possible that Johnson hoped to prompt Pearson into committing troops to aid the United States’ cause.
To his credit, Pearson did not budge on this issue, however, and the following year he would make the public statement that would encapsulate both his moral weariness towards the war and his desire to remain in the United States’ favour. Upon arriving in Philadelphia on April 2, 1965 to receive the Temple University World Peace Award, Pearson took the podium and began what he would later refer to as his “stop the bombing”24 speech. The speech opened with a positive affirmation of the United States’ intentions in the conflict, crediting the United States for intervening “to help South Vietnam defend itself against aggression” and suggesting that their “motives were honourable; neither mean nor imperialistic.”25 He continued by speaking out against North Vietnam’s tactics, and suggested that “the only alternative to a cease-fire and a mutually acceptable settlement is chaos and disaster, and that North Vietnam would be a primary and tragic victim.”26 Much to the chagrin of Johnson, Pearson did not entirely blame North Vietnam for their continued aggression because “the progressive application of military sanctions [against Hanoi] can encourage stubborn resistance, rather than a willingness to negotiate. Continued and stepped-up intensification of hostilities in Vietnam could lead to uncontrollable escalation.”27 Given Johnson’s rhetoric as well as the expediency and near unanimous support for the war he received in congress, Pearson’s proposition to halt the destruction could easily be seen as radical and contrary to the attitude held by much of the nation. Perhaps sensing this, Pearson continued to give cursory support to the United States’ cause, noting that he was not “proposing any compromise on points of principle.”28 Although it is not explicitly stated, this is likely intended to be an anti-communist stance, lest Pearson and Canada be labelled as communists. As if worrying that his point would be missed while still refraining from proclaiming that he was on the side of the North Vietnamese, Pearson reiterated his suggestion that “a measured and announced pause in one field of military action at the right time might facilitate the development of diplomatic resources which cannot easily be applied to the problem under the existing circumstances.”29 In short: a cease-fire followed by political negotiations.
As was later revealed in the Pentagon Papers, Johnson was at this time succumbing to pressure from his own aids to increase bombing raids30 and feared that Pearson had aligned with domestic enemies such as Senator Fullbright – an alliance that could provide the mounting anti-war protesters a voice in the political system. Yet many Canadians against the war felt the speech was too supportive of the United States’ policy and the proposition too mild.31 Indeed, Geoffrey Pearson, Lester’s son, would later state that his father “got conflicting advice and that’s why the speech sets out on a rather tough line and then suddenly in the middle abandons that and talks about the pause.”32 Over the next decade the bombings became more pronounced. While Pearson’s speech failed in this regard, his speech may have contributed to the notion that Canada was a bastion of peace during the war33 and gave an implicit go-ahead for the future 50,000 draft dodgers34 to find safety in Canada.
Following the speech Pearson was invited to Camp David by Johnson for lunch, although according to Pearson’s memoirs Johnson was on the phone almost the entire time.35 Pearson asked Johnson what he thought of the speech: “[He] replied quickly and decisively: ‘It was bad,’ and then for an hour he told my why it was bad, allowing me to get in only a word or two of explanation and justification.”36 Johnson’s chief complaint was that he was already receiving enough opposition. Pearson maintained that he was trying to make the “carefully guarded” suggestion that might help since the increased bombing of North Vietnam was not creating the desired result. His negotiation of a peace strategy with Johnson fruitless and one-sided, the following day Pearson wrote to him to explain that although “the great majority of the Canadian people” wanted to give support to U.S. in aiding the south from aggression, “[t]here is… a feeling of deep anxiety about developments which could lead to wider hostilities” and noted that this is “understandable enough, especially when it is not possible to know all the facts at the disposal of the Government of another country. We are… inevitably involved in every big decision made in Washington, so we are concerned about the decisions themselves.”37 Likely in response to the failure of the BACON Initiative, Pearson assessed that Canada seemed to be “giving the United States automatic and unquestioning support; tagging along as a satellite rather than acting as a self-respecting friend.” When reached for comment later that month, The Washington Post reported that Pearson was backing the United States’ policy and sidestepping on his earlier call to halt the bombing38, yet his comments in the article only state that “any ‘solution’ based on the capitulation to aggression would be neither honorable nor lasting” and that the “governments and people of Laos, Cambodia and South Vietnam should be permitted to pursue their goals in peace and security, free of the threat of aggression…by authorities outside their border.”39 Although it was not reported this way, one could interpret this final statement as being directed at the United States’ policy. Pearson’s vagueness hardly enacted the change he hoped to achieve, but he did seem to be in relative favour with those for the war40and against it, even if appeasing Johnson appeared to be a war in itself.
On August 21, 1966 Pearson again met with Johnson. This time the atmosphere was described by the New York Times as one “of cordiality…in contrast with the meeting in April 1965.” Both sides were reported to have reaffirmed the positions they held the previous year, and no agreement was made. Yet the article also notes that Pearson was “under pressure from opposition elements at home to protest openly against intensified United States military efforts in Vietnam.”41 The press takes the view that his speech did not expressly speak out against the bombings, nor did he dissociate Canada from the United States effort. Despite Pearson holding to his moral beliefs in this meeting, the appeasement continued: the speech he prepared for that day originally contained the sentence “So I hope that all the guns of Vietnam and all the guns everywhere may soon cease to fire; that the bombs may cease to fall; that the discussion, negotiation and agreement… may soon replace fighting and killing.” However, when he read the speech he opted not to include the phrase “that the bombs may cease to fall,” suggesting his wariness of enraging President Johnson again by evoking the memory of his previous year’s speech. Official reports stated that “the Prime Minister did not want to be misunderstood as advocating a bombing pause” – precisely what he had advocated one year prior. Pearson was further backpedalling on his initial claim. Because the main purpose of this speech was to call for the continued close and friendly relations between the United States and Canada, it is clear that Pearson did not want to undermine this, whatever his moral obligations may have been.
Likely fed up by his lack of progress with Johnson, Pearson left the peace efforts to other Canadian politicians such as Minister of Foreign Affairs Paul Martin. Martin’s plan was to communicate directly with the North Vietnamese, only this time he would craft the message to them rather than speak on behalf of Washington. Martin dubbed the project “Smallbridge” and selected Chester Ronning who was equally notorious as a supporter of Chinese communists and as a critic of U.S. foreign policy.42 The project’s goal and public face seemed specifically designed to pull Canada out from the shadow of the United States. Although the memo to Pearson stated that Martin’s goal was to have Ronning “sound out attitudes in the two capitals with respect to a settlement of the present conflict,” Martin actually intended for Ronning to go to Beijing as well to speak with Chinese leaders in an attempt to get them to reveal their thoughts on negations and their relations with the DRV and the National Liberation Front (NLF). Ronning would also share Canada’s official stance directly to the East, away from the press’ misinterpretations and Johnson’s intimidating presence: “The Canadian Government sees the promotion of political stability and economic development in [Vietnam] as the primary objectives of its policy.”43
Particularly in the aftermath of Pearson’s “stop the bombing speech,” the Johnson administration was not excited by this proposal. Yet, given the mounting resentment towards the war, the United States allowed it to happen lest a cancelled peace initiative only further Johnson’s rising image as a war monger. Unofficially, the initiative had little support, with Secretary of State Dean Rusk informing the embassy in Saigon, if asked by South Vietnam about the trip, to inform them that “[Ronning] is on no mission for us… his visit should be considered along with such [failed] efforts as have been made… at Hanoi. Quite frankly, I attach no importance to his trip and expect nothing of it.”44 Due to Canada’s publicized support of U.S. policy in East and Southeast Asia, and perhaps owing to the Cultural Revolution simultaneously occurring as well, Ronning was barred from entering China.45 The attempt to broaden negotiations from a bilateral affair to a trilateral one was a failure. However, Ronning did receive his meeting with the DRV, and here Prime Minister Pham Von Dong allegedly stated that “We will come to the conference table to talk peace with the United States if the United States will stop bombing North Vietnam.”46 Ronning interpreted this as “too good to be true,” as it suggested that they were prepared for serious peace negotiations and that Pearson’s “stop the bombing” speech was right all along.
Although the reaction in Ottawa was exuberant and the New York Times expressed hope that the mission’s would wind down the war,47 Washington was unsure if halting military activity implied an acceptance of the DRV’s Four Points and if the phraseology of Dong’s statement “might have meant something very different to us and the North Vietnamese than it meant to Ronning.”48 The United States was only interested in Ronning’s thoughts on the physical and psychological damage the bombing was causing. Hopeful for recognition, Martin telephoned US National Security Advisor McGeorge Bundy to inform him that Canada had “attached [the] greatest importance to [the] channel which had been opened up by Ronning [and in] these circumstances it [is] most important that there should be some response to what Ronning had brought back from Hanoi.”49 Bundy responded that the offer was too vague for Washington to do anything meaningful about.
Thus, Martin sent Ronning on a mission to clarify what Dong had meant. The mission only seemed to confirm Washington’s suspicions, as the DRV stated that “if the USA Government really desires a peaceful settlement it must recognize the Four-Point stand of the DRVN Government, [and] prove this by actual deeds.”50 Pearson and Ronning would later suggest that these missions were only approved by the United States so they could escalate their attacks under the guise that North Vietnam would not back down from their cause – essentially, an instrument for US propaganda. This was exacerbated by the United States publicizing their view in the New York Times before the talks put place, putting the public’s expectations on Hanoi to either rise to the occasion or appear inflexible if they did not. The BACON and Smallbridge initiatives were abject failures, crushed by the steadfastness of the United States and North Vietnam. “Canadian influence” was by this point a misnomer. From here on Canada ceased proactive attempts to bring forward a peaceful resolution.
This was not the end of Canada’s war contributions, however, as the country found a new means to face the war. From 1964 to 1973 Canada sold $2.5 billion of ammunition and over $10 billion from selling supplies ranging from resources to build arms and B-52 bombers (the very technique Pearson had publicly opposed) to the green berets worn by soldiers to the United States Military.51 Perhaps the most morally dubious arms-deal was Canada’s role in the United States’ use of the Agent Orange – a defoliant that been used in the 1950s by the Department of National Defence as a cheap, quick way to clear an area of its ecology or brush.52 It was most prominently used by Canadians in 1960 as a defoliant to clear out an area to use for military training in Gagetown, New Brunswick. In May 1961, realizing that those fighting for North Vietnam were growing stronger, teams of scientists from Fort Detrick’s plant-science labs travelled to Vietnam to conduct experiments on how plant-life responded to various defoliants.53 The scientists settled on using Agent Purple, a chemical more toxic than Agent Orange – perhaps too toxic for the U.S. military to handle. The first known correspondence between the United States and Canada regarding Agent Orange occurred a year later, although the memos from this period between the Department of National Defence in Ottawa and the United States officials remain heavily censored.54 A meeting between Canadian Military heads and Colonel C.S. Casto, the commanding officer of Fort Detrick’s labs, led to an offer (according to the U.S. government documents) by the Canadian Military of Defence in March 1965 for the United States to experiment with Canadian chemicals on the forested land in Gagetown.55 On May 30, 1966 – the US now fully committed to using their own troops in the Vietnam War and Canada’s peace initiatives failed – U.S. and Canadian officials (including herbicide officials from both countries) met at Ottawa’s Confederation Building and had their highest level meeting yet to discuss the use of these chemicals in forest spraying programs. Two weeks later the United States began experimenting with releasing Agent Orange from a helicopter on the Canadian Military training base in Gagetown56 due its terrain being deemed the most similar to Vietnam.57 U.S. officials returned one year later for an additional round of testing and training. Wayne Cardinal, a Canadian solider helping the U.S. military in Gagetown at the time, woke up one morning at the base to discover a yellow, sticky substance all over the window of his truck and was instructed to clean it off, The Canadian soldiers later realizing that their own government had sprayed them with Agent Orange.
Few details are available about these tests. It is unclear what sort of compensation Canada received for this, although one could surmise there were lofty economic factors at play. What is clear is that by 1967 the United States’ use of toxic sprayings in Vietnam was at its peak with an estimated 1.5 million acres of foliage and 221,000 acres of crop lands hit.58 Indeed, the secrecy of this program and reluctance for either side to talk about it is best indicated in a document from the Department of the Army in 1968 titled “Defoliation Tests in 1966 at Base Gagetown” that ends with the ominous instructions to “destroy this publication when it is no longer needed.”59 The troops who were present now suffer from wide-ranging health problems. Cardinal, a life-long military man who lied about his age to join the forces, now surmises that it was “political corruption that was inspiring the war… The oil companies and drug companies are the one who start wars… it’s about power and money.”60 Indeed, Canada’s failed attempts to bring peace had only supported their ability to profit off of it.
The last official spray of Agent Orange occurred in Vietnam in 1971, with Nixon thereafter moving towards explosive drops in favour of defoliants. Over 45 million litres were sprayed, with Vietnamese damage estimates suggesting that the spray eventually killed or injured 400,000 people and contributed to birth defects in 500,000 children.61 Somewhat poetically, Agent Orange was only 1/3 as deadly as the Agent Purple originally used by the United States, suggesting that if Canada was going to be amorally aggressive in the war it was at least going to be a more mild form of aggression compared to the United States’. Whatever the amount Canada earned for their participation, in 2007 a class action lawsuit was formed by those affected by the Gagetown sprayings. The government responded by offering $20,000 to those who had at least one of twelve disorders associated with exposure to Agent Orange.62 While this does amount to an admission of wrong-doing on the part of Canada, some estimate that the labour costs for proper experimentation with the chemical would be upwards of a few million dollars63 and that Canada still saved money due to their use of cheap, uninformed, military labour – not to mention ignoring the damage caused in Vietnam. Canada may have opposed the war, but being able to profit from it while staying on the good side of the United States was too tempting to ignore.
Although the lack of direct infantry involvement in the Vietnam War tends to get Canada labelled as a non-participant, their willingness to sell weapons to the United States for use in Vietnam, and their all-too easy allowance of the United States to test Agent Orange on Canadian soil despite being fully aware of the damage it wreaks makes Canada complicit in the war. Yet a two-faced morality arose in the way Lester Pearson and Paul Martin reacted to the war, genuinely trying to make a name for Canada through peacekeeping initiatives and encouraging President Johnson to cease bombing (albeit gently), and turning the other way to allow over 50,000 draft dodgers to seek solace in the country. Steadfast in their wars and ideologies, North Vietnam and the United States either had no use for Canada’s negotiation channels, nor did Canada have the power to make negotiations between the two happen. The result is a morally grey nation, with Pearson as a figurehead being able to present a moral indignation against the war yet economically benefit from it in the process. The United States could neither claim that Canada was undermining the war effort nor flagrantly supporting them. This underhanded manner is certainly not akin to the national identity Canada tries to portray itself as having. Indeed, the myth that Canada had no involvement in the war whatsoever is easily perpetrated by Canadian sources – including Pearson’s memoirs – either not mentioning the peace initiatives due to their failure or, in the case of Agent Orange, because much of the evidence is seemingly destroyed. Thus, Canada’s role in the Vietnam War, initially as a nation who attempted to solidify their role as international peace keepers following their success with the Suez Canal crisis but, failing this, settling to be an arms dealer instead, is often overlooked. Given the identity the nation tries to present, the government likely believes that this is for the best.
Which, when you think about it like that, really just makes me want to pet some goats.
1. Chris Cobb, “Canada is Coasting on Pearson’s Prize,” Postmedia News, Dec 9, 2007. ↩
2. Peter Stursberg, Lester Pearson and the American Dilemma (Toronto: Doubleday Canada, 1980). ↩
3. Ben Smillie, “History Proves Pearson Mystique Entirely Unjustified,” Star - Phoenix, Jul 16, 1998. ↩
4. Jason Ziedenberg, ‘Canada’s Vietnam Legacy,’ Canadian Dimension 29.5 (Oct. 1995). ↩
5. John Melady, Pearson’s Prize: Canada and the Suez Crisis, (Toronto: Dundrun, 2006), 18. ↩
6. Murray Marder, “U. S.-Canadian Rift …: There’s More to it Than Gouzenko” The Washington Post, Nov 23, 1953. ↩
7. “The Pentagon Papers Part III: The Geneva Accords,” The National Archives, 131. ↩
8. Geoffrey A.H. Pearson, Seize the Day: Lester B. Pearson and Crisis Diplomacy (Ottawa: Carleton University Press, 1993), 112-115. ↩
9. John W. Holmes and Adam Chapnick, “The Unquiet Diplomat-Lester B. Pearson,” International Journal 62.2 (2007): 291-309. ↩
10. Robert Bothwell, ‘The Further Shore: Canada and Vietnam’, International Journal 56.1 (Winter 2000/01): 94. ↩
11. John English, The Worldly Years - The Life of Lester Pearson Volume II: 1949-1972 (Toronto: Alfred A. Knopf Canada, 1992), 358-9. ↩
12. Bothwell, “The Further Shore: Canada and Vietnam,” 101. ↩
13. Bothwell, “The Further Shore: Canada and Vietnam,” 112. ↩
14. “Control Commission Announces Cutback,” The Washington Post, Times Herald, Mar 31, 1968. The article in question is four sentences long, illustrating with just how little of note this commission was viewed. ↩
15. “Canada to Quit ICCS If War Erupts Again,” The Washington Post, Times Herald, March 22, 1973. ↩
16. Bothwell, “The Further Shore: Canada and Vietnam,” 114. ↩
17. English, The Worldly Years, 358. ↩
18. Ibid., 358-9 ↩
19. Lloyd C. Gardner and Ted Gittinger, The Search for Peace in Vietnam, 1964-1968 (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2004): 8. ↩
20. Gardner and Gittinger, The Search for Peace in Vietnam, 129. ↩
21. Stursberg, Lester Pearson and the American Dilemma, 259. ↩
22. Pearson, Lester B., Mike: The Memoirs of the Right Honourable Lester B. Pearson (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1975): 137. ↩
23. Ibid., 137-8. ↩
24. Ibid., 138. ↩
25. Ibid., 138. ↩
26. Ibid. ↩
27. Ibid., 139. ↩
28. Ibid. ↩
29. Ibid. ↩
30. Holmes and Chapnick, “The Unquiet Diplomat-Lester B. Pearson,” International Journal 62.2 (2007): 298. ↩
31. Ibid., 304. <↩
32. Stursberg, Lester Pearson and the American Dilemma, 217. ↩
33. Cobb, “Canada is Coasting on Pearson’s Prize.” ↩
34. Ziedenberg,‘Canada’s Vietnam Legacy.’ ↩
35. Pearson, Mike, 139. ↩
36. Ibid. <↩
37. Pearson, Mike, 141. ↩
38. “Pearson Sidesteps on Earlier Call for U.S. to Halt Raids.” The Washington Post, Times Herald (1959-1973), Apr 21, 1965. ↩
39. “Pearson Sidesteps on Earlier Call for U.S. to Halt Raids,” The Washington Post, Times Herald, Apr 21, 1965. ↩
40. Pearson’s memoirs, written four years after Johnson left office, show a greater frustration with Johnson and the war than is seen in Pearson’s public statements. Pearson notes the “disturbing in terms of the hard realities of the situation” way in which Johnson would “think of every proposal in terms of how many of ‘our boys’ would be killed or saved by it.” In a summary of this meeting Pearson referred to Johnson as an “irascible enigma” and noted that “The President won’t stop bombing but he wants it to be a humane bombing!” ↩
41. Robert B. Semple, “Johnson Meets Pearson; Topics Include Vietnam,” New York Times, Aug 22, 1966. ↩
42. Gardner and Gittinger, The Search for Peace in Vietnam, 130. ↩
43. Ibid. ↩
44. Ibid., 131 ↩
45. Ibid. ↩
46. Stursberg, Lester Pearson and the American Dilemma, 275-6. ↩
47. “Pearson Envoy, After Vietnam Trip, Wary on Peace,” New York Times, Mar 17, 1966. ↩
48. Stursberg, Lester Pearson and the American Dilemma, 277. ↩
49. Gardner and Gittinger, The Search for Peace in Vietnam , 134. ↩
50. Ibid., 135. ↩
51. Ziedenberg,‘Canada’s Vietnam Legacy.’ ↩
52. Arsenault, Chris Arsenault, Blowback: A Canadian History of Agent Orange and the War at Home (Halifax: Fernwood Publishing, 2009): 4-5. ↩
53. Ibid., 54. ↩
54. Ibid., 55. ↩
55. Ibid., 56. ↩
56. Ibid. ↩
57. Ibid., 9. ↩
58. Ibid., 56. ↩
59. Ibid., 58. ↩
60. Ibid., 59. ↩
61. Ibid., 60. ↩
62. The Canadian Press,“People angry with Agent Orange package turn to class-action lawsuit,” Cumberland News, Sept. 14, 2007. ↩
63. Arsenault, Blowback, 60. ↩
Tornado ploughed right through the county last week, messed things up somethin’ awful. Ripped off a buncha roofs. Spooked the cows so bad they been sprayin’ milk all over for goin’ on five days now. Blew a buncha hornet nests into the school and riled ‘em all up. Principal’s office is full of larvae and the gymnasium is pretty much a warzone between colonies. Not a lotta folks stayin’ there too long.
Me and pa are doin’ okay, ‘cept for the Target that landed on our farm. Tornado ripped it right out of town, carried it twenty miles or so, and plunked it out back where we used to keep the hens. Man from the city came to check it out, said because it took most of the ground with it wherever it lands is Target property, ain’t nothin’ we can do about it. Mr. Emerson who runs the place says it beats the old location anyway and business never been better. Folks drivin’ from all over, mostly parkin’ by what’s left of the barn. Couple-a people come just to take pictures. Gramps has been going into atonic seizures every hour or so since they landed and pa thinks it’s ‘cause the transmitter that locks the shoppin’ cart wheels is messin’ with the plate in gramps’ head. Says if we keep real quiet about it maybe Mr. Emerson’ll let me work there next summer if we can’t get enough hens by then.
If there was a compilation of every time I’ve interacted with a cashier it would be the single best evidence that I have no idea how to be a human. The only basic human failure for me that comes close is my continued inability to gracefully end a phone call. So many “Byes” hung up on mid-syllable, their endings never heard, lost to the winds forever…
2014: The year I finally crack this “hu-man” thing, in all its infinite particulars.
Somewhere in the back of my throat that taste still lurks. It has triumphed over all leading brands of oral care products. It’s the lone relic from that crazy summer when 30% of my peer group transitioned from one-piece swimsuits to two, when we had the time to devote four hours to setting up a ten minute water fight, when we all started describing reasonably banal happenings as “crazy”. We were red-shouldered, sandaled, shirts stained with fruit or processed fruit substitutes, and soaking in our freedom by really not doing much of anything. It was nuts.
That was the first time I can remember that the suitcase mom kept by the front door, packed and ready to go should she need “some vacation time”, actually got used. In her indefinite absence, dad’s inability to cook anything beyond noodle stew or pancake toast quickly went from endearing to annoying (a family specialty!), so most of the better meals I ate came from my brother and me crashing church youth group gatherings at the park and bolting into the woods the moment any Jesus-y talk began.
But dad did try. And I think, in an attempt to give my brother and I a reason to stick around the house, built us a swimming pool in the backyard using the only resources he had: a hose, a borrowed back hoe from the neighbouring construction yard, and a borrowed six-pack from the construction site that bordered the other side of our house. This was his gift to us.
There was no concrete lining to speak of unless you count the cinderblocks that fell into the deep end (which was roughly located in the middle of the pool — backhoes are tricky). During the dig dad must have hit some pipes or something because that water — opaque already — had a thick layer of auburn sludge coating its surface. It took a special hose attachment they only sell in Russia just to get it off you, and even that couldn’t take care of the smell. Climbing out required rope, calloused feet, and what we began to describe as “perfect courage”.
Because of course we jumped in there. How could we not? It is amazing what the mind can consider normal.
The pool quickly became a neighbourhood sensation among preteens who were seeking a thrill or merely stupid. Everyone came to check it out. There was an element of danger to swimming there that the community pool — which was technically a flooded tennis court in the park — lacked. Many a good pool toy was lost beneath the water, never to resurface. Such were the risks.
At times it felt like the coiled, nidorous haze that emanated from it on particularly hot days intoxicated us, pushing us to confront dangers and share secrets we had kept for half of our childhoods. Other times we’d sit poolside and make really long paperclip chains, shoot the shit, maybe just swap edgy nursery rhymes or what have you. There were long, digressive discussions about someday making t-shirts with our gang name (“The Poo’ Crew”) emblazoned on the back in capital letters. Parent supervision was minimal, so for that summer it was mostly just us: a veritable who’s who of neighbourhood kids, visiting cousins who always seemed more attractive than whoever they were related to, and the feral pool monster dad created when he tried to add chlorine during a lightning storm.
One memory in particular sticks out: Late night. A splash. I wake up and peak through my blinds and see my pal Joey with Larissa’s cousin (I want to say Heather?) standing by the south dirt pile, chucking lumber, lit only by the moon and the other-worldly glow of the pool in the evening. Heather(?) goes in for a kiss and Joey, unsure of what to do with his hands while making out, just kind of splits the difference and wraps them around her head without actually making physical contact.
A week before summer’s end mom made an unexpected return. Her bewildered yet measurably nonchalant reaction to the pool was even more surprising. The next morning the four of us filled the pit back up, burying all that the summer had entailed. We knew its existence was short. The Poo’ Crew largely disbanded by the end of the year, social pressures taking most of its members in different directions. The Feral Pool Monster is, I believe, still at large.
Despite no argument ever occurring among the family over what the merits of the pool were or were not, one has the sense that the topic carries the sort of baggage with it that’s not worth re-opening. But you know, sometimes when I’m on the bus or stuck in a meeting and I want a reprieve, I just find that tract of mouth where that rancid dirt-pool taste lies and I’m back, back where I belong.