26 October 2013

The military-industrial complex comes to Canada

In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex.
Over half a century has passed since U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower, in his farewell address, warned his fellow Americans against the threat posed by the "meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense." They failed, unfortunately, to heed his warning. Today, the arms industry is entrenched so widely and deeply in the United States that hardly a Congressman exists who can demand a decrease in the military budget without risking jobs in his constituency. Furthermore, the U.S. is by far the world's biggest dealer in the armaments trade, with Russia a poor second.

But not satisfied with its giant share of the market, the U.S., in yet another disappointing move by President Obama, this month made the nation's largest deregulation in its history of arms exports, a move that led Amnesty International to comment, "We’re seriously concerned that the reforms will open a floodgate of weapons technology and equipment to governments that have bad human rights records. This could further facilitate the commission of human rights abuses around the world."

The Americans claim they sell only to responsible nations (a claim not to be taken too seriously—Saudi Arabia is a top customer) but other countries, Russia for instance, will only be too happy to take the hint and decontrol their sales. And who will Russia sell to? Syria, perhaps?

One country that has been quick to follow suit is our own. According to the Vancouver Sun, "The federal Conservative government has been quietly working to remove restrictions on the transfer of hundreds of Canadian-made, military-related goods as part of a plan to make Canada a global arms exporter." According to Public Works Minister Dianne Finley, "The amendments will also ensure that the list is always aligned with the U.S."

We, too, claim to be responsible in our sales, yet Canadian-made armoured vehicles sold to Saudi Arabia were used to suppress legitimate dissent in Bahrain. Similar vehicles have also been sold to Colombia, hardly a country known for respecting human rights.

The government's efforts are part of a policy to turn Canada into a major producer and exporter of arms. It has ordered the National Research Council to focus on the sector, established multimillion-dollar funds to support business-driven research and development, and turned the Canadian Commercial Corporation, a Crown corporation, into an arms salesman.

Nations are hypocrites in the realm of armaments. They talk peace while enthusiastically selling the instruments of war. I am saddened to see my country shamelessly participate in this hypocrisy. Yet another in an increasing number of black marks against our international reputation.

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