Monday, May 2, 2011

Lester B. Pearson's Nobel Peace

Lester B. Pearson won the Nobel Peace for organizing the United Nations Emergency Force to resolve the Suez Canal Crisis. He did many great things for Canada. His minority government introduced universal health care, student loans, the Canada Pension Plan, the Order of Canada, and the current Canadian flag. During his tenure, Prime Minister Pearson also convened the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism.

Nevertheless, I want to touch on the reason he won a Nobel Peace Prize. In 1956 Egypt wanted to Nationalize the canal so France, England and Israel invaded.

The Suez Canal was opened in 1869, after ten years of work financed by the French and Egyptian governments. In 1875, as a result of debt and financial crisis, the Egyptian ruler was forced to sell his shares in the canal operating company to the British government of Benjamin Disraeli. They were willing buyers and obtained a 44% share in the canal's operations for less than £4 million; this maintained the majority shareholdings of the mostly French private investors.

The canal instantly became strategically important; it provided the shortest ocean link between the Mediterranean and the Indian Ocean. The canal eased commerce for trading nations and particularly helped European colonial powers to gain and govern their colonies. England invaded Egypt in 1882 and took control of the country and canal.

Although the canal was a strategic military intersection during the first and second world war, in 1955 petroleum accounted for half of the canal's traffic, and, in turn, two thirds of Europe's oil passed through it. In 1953 England was involved with Operation Ajax in Iran trying to secure their control of Iran's oil.

26 July 1956 President of Egypt Gamel Abdel Nasser decided to nationalize the Suez Canal. He announced that the Nationalization Law had been published, that all assets of the Suez Canal Company had been frozen, and that stockholders would be paid the price of their shares according to the day's closing price on the Paris Stock Exchange.

Three months after Egypt's nationalization of the Suez Canal company, a secret meeting took place at Sèvres, outside Paris. Britain and France enlisted Israeli support for an alliance against Egypt. The parties agreed that Israel would invade the Sinai. Britain and France would then intervene, purportedly to separate the warring Israeli and Egyptian forces, instructing both to withdraw to a distance of 16 kilometres from either side of the canal. The British and French would then argue that Egypt's control of such an important route was too tenuous, and that it needed be placed under Anglo-French management. (Protocol of Sèvres)

Both the French and the British felt that Nasser should be removed from power. The French "held the Egyptian president responsible for assisting the anticolonial rebellion in Algeria." France was nervous about the growing influence that Nasser exerted on its North African colonies and protectorates. Both Britain and France were eager that the canal should remain open as an important conduit of oil. Israel wanted to reopen the Straits of Tiran leading to the Gulf of Eilat to Israeli shipping, and saw the opportunity to strengthen its southern border and to weaken what it saw as a dangerous and hostile state.

The Israelis were also deeply troubled by Egypt’s procurement of large amounts of Soviet weaponry that included 530 armored vehicles, of which 230 were tanks; 500 guns; 150 MiG 15 jet fighters; 50 Iluyshin-28 bombers; submarines and other naval craft. The influx of this advanced weaponry altered an already shaky balance of power.

Washington disagreed with Paris and London on whether to use force to resolve the crisis. The United States worked hard through diplomatic channels to resolve the crisis without resorting to conflict. Hence Lester B. Pearson's attempts to find a diplomatic solution to the invasion.

Unfortunately, now we see wars controlled not by governments but by large oil companies who continue to extort the public with over inflated gas prices at the pump while they continue to line their pockets with blood money at the taxpayers expense.

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