Since Jim has put up his post about passports on the Canadian border, I feel a little braver about this one. I wrote it at the beginning of September of this year, then talked myself into not posting it. I still wonder whether I’m being too easily spooked.
If I get any more froward with my paranoias, I’ll have to dig out that old unpublished post of mine speculating about whether Bush is planning to use nukes on Iran. —TNH
05 September 2006: For some time now I’ve been twitchy about news stories that suggest the possibility that the U.S. government might try to limit the ability of its citizens to travel out of the country.
The latest one is a report from the London (Ontario) Free Press saying that U.S. Coast Guard ships operating in the Great Lakes have been equipped with machine guns that can fire 600 rounds a minute, and that they now want to test-fire them in 34 “safety zones”:
No one’s going to invade the United States through the St. Lawrence Seaway and the Great Lakes. If they did, our primary line of defense wouldn’t be Coast Guard cutters with machine guns. And if terrorists were trying to slip into the U.S. from Canada, they wouldn’t do it in ways that warranted a 600-rounds-per-minute response from routine patrol boats.
Now that it has armed its boats with machine guns, the U.S. Coast Guard wants to test-fire them on the Great Lakes.
While the Coast Guard prefers to call the 34 test-fire areas “safety zones,” a spokesperson concedes they’re designed to provide “operational readiness” for national security, defence and maritime law enforcement. He also conceded there’s no plan to alert Canadian boaters or harbourmasters to the tests.
One of the test-firing areas is barely 20 kilometres north of Sarnia and the move has so upset Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley, he’s appealing to Prime Minister Stephen Harper to stop it.
“The world’s longest undefended border no longer exists,” Bradley said, adding he’s “stunned” at the development that follows an agreement to allow arming Coast Guard cutters.
All this firepower is going to be limited to the American side of the lakes. I can only think of one thing an armed Great Lakes Coast Guard would actually be good for: stopping boats leaving the American side for Canada.