One Way to Settle an Island War
Evidently, it’s considered bad form to fire a cannon shot across the bow of a heretofore ally’s flagship. Within nine short days, both the Americans and the Canadians had emptied their Naval graveyards, swept the mothballs out of half a dozen warships each, and set them steaming to GSI. The harbor suddenly looked like a living-history museum for WWII relics.
The commanders of both sides had asked Henry for permission to use the Town Hall as the site of their top-level negotiations. Henry agreed, provided he would be allowed to sit in and represent the people of GSI. He also insisted that the press be allowed to attend — and on this island, that basically meant Rex “The Codfather” Stone and me.
So early this morning, two parallel rows of tables were set up in the boring Town Hall meeting room. In the center of one row sat Captain Randall Bergman, representing the red-white-and-blue team. Heading the charge for the red-and-white team was the rotund captain who had grappled with Bergman earlier. His name, I discovered, is Captain Amos MacDowell, and he still looked upset at being tossed into the drink in front of his men. At the end of the Canadian table, looking somewhat small and out of place, sat Deputy Minister Lawrence Schoendorfen of the Canadian Ministry of Outport Management, Lower Maritimes. He seemed a bit sheepish, and I think he’s still wondering what happened during the Coffin Toast-a-Thon.
Bergman opened the discussion with a declaration that Grand Seal Island is part of the United States of America, and that the U.S. would not stand idly by while Canada usurped it in the name of some damn crown.
“I thought the War of 1812 pretty much settled things,” Bergman said coldly. “And I don’t get the impression that Canada has gained on the U.S. in military superiority since then.”
It was a snotty way to begin, but I think that Bergman wanted to grab the upper hand early.
“The United States has certainly has a lot of military practice, I’ll grant you that,” MacDowell retorted. “Korea, Vietnam, Grenada, Panama, the Gulf War, Bosnia, the Gulf War again — ”
“Well what about the Falkland Islands?” Bergman hollered. “What the hell was that?”
“That,” MacDowell replied coolly, “was England. Not Canada.”
Ooooo! First round goes to the Canadians. It definitely pays to brush up on your history before engaging in top-level international negotiations.
The back-and-forth continued, with each side holding firm to the bottom line. Both sides insisted that the microscopic bit of rock known as Grand Seal Island belonged to them. Finally, the Canadians honored their tradition and offered a compromise.
“Perhaps we could exchange something,” MacDowell suggested with a broad gesture of his beefy hands. “Perhaps you could give Canada some other island in exchange for GSI?”
“Exchange!” Bergman yelled, standing on tiptoes so he could bang on the table. “Why on earth would we want to trade for something that is already ours?”
And so it went. Points scored in both directions. Barbs were swapped. Digs were inflicted. And gradually, the emotional temperature in the room began to climb.
“These people,” Bergman gestured to Henry and Rex, “are American citizens, and you do NOT have the right to remove that citizenship from them!”
“These people,” responded MacDowell, “are happy Canadians, and they are going to stay that way!”
“Grand Seal Island has been an important part of the United States peacekeeping mission for the past two centuries!” bellowed Bergman. I wasn’t sure exactly how GSI figured into the U.S. strategic positioning, but I kept that to myself.
“Nonsense!” backhanded MacDowell. “GSI has been a peaceful Canadian fishing village since before the United States was born!”
“Peaceful Canadian fishing village! How the hell is that possible, when it has been in American hands from the beginning? The U.S. bought this island from the Passamicmac Indians in 1658!”
“I assume,” MacDowell interjected, standing up and looking down — way down — at Bergman, “that you mean the Passamaquoddy Indians, which most fully grown adults would not confuse with the Micmacs.”
The point went to the Canadians, but it was a Pyrrhic victory. Bergman stood up — all five-foot-nothing of him — and pointed at the bulbous mass of his rival. “I’ll show your fat ass what fully grown adults can do, you lard-bellied son of a — ”
“KNOCK IT OFF!” Henry bellowed. I’m sure children from Massachusetts to Nova Scotia all dropped what they were doing at that moment and shot guilty looks at their parents. Henry pulled himself up to full height and glared at the officers. The officers froze. They returned to their seats.
Henry continued in a calmer voice. “You gentlemen are forgetting one important factor in this little debate,” he said, glaring at the two captains. “You are forgetting the people of Grand Seal Island. We are not slaves. We are not puppets. We are free human beings who have a say in our own future.”
He pointed to each one of the red-faced and puffing men lining the table. “Each of you would fight to protect your freedom, and we feel the same about ours. As the legitimately elected top official of Grand Seal Island, I’m here to tell you that our fate is not in your hands. The decision about whether Grand Seal Island will be American or Canadian lies with us. I will hold a referendum within seven days, and then I’ll send someone to inform you two idiots of our decision.”
The officers stared at him, obviously trying to remember the International Law class they took back at the Academy. Henry glared back at them.
“Dismissed!” he barked, and the officers cleared the room.
— Donovan Graham, “The Shadowless Writer”
Comment — BenchPress999: That’s what toughness looks like, wimp. You could learn some things from this Henry guy.
Comment — FreedomFirst: There’s no way we’re going to let the Canadians get this island. I don’t care how the referendum works out. It’s ours and we’re keeping it.
Comment — MapleLeaf249: Bloody hell. The island is ours, and you can get stuffed!
Comment — PolSci206: In international disputes over property rights, the wishes of the people involved do carry a great deal of weight. The international community is not likely to consider any annexation legitimate if it goes against the wishes of the opposing nation and the people themselves.
Comment — PeaceNick: I think a referendum’s a GREAT idea!!! Skip the violence & put it 2 a vote!!!
Comment — Gemstone: I agree that a referendum is an excellent idea. Besides, you never know how such votes will turn out.
Read previous blog entries in the Island Wars story by clicking here.