Archive for the ‘War’ Category

The more we learn about the so-called humanitarian intervention in the skies above Libya, the less it looks like a war Canadians should support. Like the bogus humanitarian claims Tories and Liberals have used to support extending Canadian participation in the occupation of Afghanistan, the war against Libya has more to do with imperialism and any humanitarian benefit is simply “collateral.”

US Democratic Party Congressman Dennis Kucinich recently drew attention to the amazing similarity between the NATO invasion of Libya and a NATO war game entitled “Operation Southern Mistral 2011.”

“While war games are not uncommon, the similarities between ‘Southern Mistral’ and ‘Operation Odyssey Dawn’ highlight just how many unanswered questions remain regarding our own military planning for Libya.

The ‘Southern Mistral’ war games called for Great Britain-French air strikes against an unnamed dictator of a fictional country, “Southland.” The pretend attack was authorized by a pretend United Nations Security Council Resolution. The ‘Southern Mistral’ war games were set for March 21-25, 2011.

On March 19, 2011, the United States joined France and Great Britain in an air attack against Muammar Gaddafi’s Libya pursuant to UN Security Council Resolution 1973.

Scheduling a joint military exercise that ends up resembling real military action could be seen as remarkable planning by the French and British, but it also highlights questions  regarding the United States’ role in planning for the war. We don’t know how long the attack on Libya has been in preparation, but Congress must find out. We don’t know who the rebels really represent and how they became armed, but Congress must find out. (Denis Kucinich, Kucinich: President Had Time to Consult with International Community, Not Congress? | Congressman Dennis J. Kucinich, Press Release, March 29, 2011)

Professor Michel Chossudovsky, of Global Research, in an article entitled When war games go live: “Staging” a “humanitarian” war against “Southland,” shows that the similarity is no coincidence.

Rep. Kucinich does not appear to have a Canadian counterpart who is questioning why we are involved, much less speaking out against it. Harper’s decision to send jet fighters to bomb Libya was supported unanimously by Canada’s MPs, some of whom one would expect to do their homework before being caught up in media-hyped war hysteria.

Did any of them stop to consider why we are doing nothing to stop the governments of Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Jordan, Qatar and Oman from murdering their citizens in large numbers? Did none of them find it odd that the uprising in Libya was armed and violent from the beginning — in stark contrast to the peaceful mass movements Canada has refused to defend? Isn’t it strange that we will rush to war against Gaddafi who, arguably is no better or no worse than any number of despots but we will not do a thing to restrain the routine brutality of the Israeli state against Palestinians?

The war in Libya is the pink elephant on the campaign trail that none of our politicians want to acknowledge. We have to change this.

Advertisements

Joshua Key is an American Iraq War veteran who sought refuge in Canada because of his war experiences. Author of “The Deserter’s Tale,” Joshua told the story of his recruitment into the U.S. Army, the war crimes he witnessed in Iraq and his subsequent flight to Canada to an audience at McNally Robinson Booksellers in Winnipeg on Jan. 17, 2011.

Like so many young people, Joshua joined the army to escape a life of poverty and support his family. The Army promised he would remain in the US and learn to build bridges, but the ink on his contract was barely dry when he learned he would be deployed to Iraq to blow them up. Basic training turned him into a killing machine, but the brutalities of war transformed him into a deserter, a refugee and a peace activist.

Joshua speaks with authority, simplicity, warmth and honesty. He may have been traumatized by what he has seen and done, but he has not lost his courage or his humanity. He and the many others who have said “no” to the American war machine deserve our admiration and need our support.

Contact:

War Resisters Support Campaign

Keep Resisters in Canada Campaign Alberta-Saskatchewan-Manitoba

I’ve written about this before – the F-35 stealth fighter deal stinks to high heaven. Over priced and over sold, the stealthiest thing about this “defense contract” is the assault on Canadian taxpayers over the next several decades as we are robbed of $30 billion to bankroll the merchants of death.

This weapons system is designed for one thing only: fighting wars of aggression. We must send a clear message to Ottawa that we will no longer tolerate the use of our dollars to fuel the international war machine.

Above is a video I shot over the weekend in which Michael Bueckert of Project Peacemakers makes the case for tearing up Stephen Harper’s order for 65 of these death planes. Below is the text of his remarks, also published at the Peace Alliance Winnipeg News.

Call your MP today and tell him/her to shoot down this despicable deal without further delay.


The F-35 Stealth Fighter: A bad deal for Canada

By Michael Bueckert, Program Coordinator, Project Peacemakers

As you may know, this past July, the Conservative government announced what could be the single largest military procurement in Canada’s history when it declared its intention to buy 65 F-35 Lightning II aircraft (A.K.A. “Joint Strike Fighters”) to replace our aging fleet of CF-18s starting in 2016.

If you are familiar with this issue, then you are probably also aware of the narrow way in which the media has presented it.

On one side are the supportive arguments, provided by the Conservative government, military brass and the aerospace companies. When replacing our aging CF-18s, the F-35s are considered necessary for a number of reasons; namely, they provide interoperability with the U.S., they have the best, newest capabilities available, and the deal will create and support Canadian jobs. Additionally, by committing now we would secure the price at a low level.

And then there is the critical argument, provided by the main opposition parties: the deal is based on a sole-source contract, and without appropriate market competition we will inevitably be paying too much for the planes, and there may be better alternatives out there.

So the way it is framed, the debate is essentially one side saying that the F-35s are the best possible planes and this deal will support our army and industry, versus the other side saying that the deal is irresponsible and that we should have an open competition to get the best price.

This excludes the many important critiques being made by analysts in the peace community, primarily by the folks at Project Ploughshares, and by Steven Staples at the Rideau Institute. It is their work that I will draw from most in this presentation.

So let’s look at some of the main arguments put forward by proponents of the F-35 deal.

First of all, is the planes themselves. Proponents argue that these Fifth Generation fighter jets are top notch, with stealth and interoperability technology that makes them second to none.

As Defense Minister Peter McKay has said, “This aircraft is the best that we can provide our men and women in uniform, and this government is committed to giving them the very best.”

Without spending much time on this, what is it that the F-35 is designed to do?

Well, they are geared for aggressive military roles. According to the CBC, it is designed for tactical bombing and aerial warfare, equipped with a 25-millimeter gun, air-to-ground and air-to-air missiles, plus a variety of bombs. As Steven Staples puts it, the F-35 is “highly capable in air-to-air combat against other advanced fighters,” designed as “a first strike fighter-bomber intended for use in ‘shock and awe’ attacks.”

Well, I think that anyone who has read accounts of the American “shock-and-awe” bombing campaign of Iraq can appreciate how sickening it is just to imagine ourselves with that kind of capability.

But even without an appeal to moral sensibilities, even if we believe that in some cases the use of fighter planes is justifiable, and that national defence is a primary responsibility, we don’t have to look any further than the Government’s own 2008 “Canada First” defense strategy document to see that the purchase of these planes is inappropriate.

In that document, the government outlined the various threats that Canada could face in the future. According to Project Ploughshares, “you would be hard pressed to create a credible scenario from them where a stealth-enabled fighter jet is logically part of Canadian Forces’ response.”

This sentiment is reflected by Major General Leonard Johnson (retired), who argued in the Ottawa Citizen that apart from the incredulous prospect of war against an advanced enemy–Iran doesn’t count–it is “hard to see any useful military role” for the F-35.

And this argument–that there is no necessary role for the F-35 either domestically or internationally–is essentially accepted by F-35 proponents. Rather than point to how the planes could be used, they point to the unpredictable threats of an unknown future. We need the planes in order to keep our options open, and keep an aggressive militarism on the table.

The second main argument used by F-35 proponents is that by committing to these planes we are getting a good deal, and that it will provide and protect Canadian jobs. Conversely, rejecting the deal will waste taxpayers money and threaten billions of dollars in contracts for Canadian companies.

Well, to analyze these claims we need to look at the deal and the Joint Strike Fighter program in more detail.

Canada joined the Joint Strike Fighter program in 1997, under the Liberal government. The JSF program is a partnership of nine countries—the US, UK, Italy, Netherlands, Turkey, Norway, Denmark, Australia and Canada—to invest in the development, production and sustainment of three versions of a stealth, multi-role aircraft. Lockheed Martin won over Boeing in an early competition to develop the planes for the program. To date, Canada has invested 168 million U.S. dollars in the program, and is committed to spending an additional 551 million dollars between now and 2051 in production costs.

The planes are currently in the Production, Sustainment and Follow-on Development stage, and we are expected to start receiving them in 2016. What Canada did last summer is unusual, when it committed to buying 65 planes before they had even been completed, or tested.

The planes themselves, when we buy them, are said to total $9 Billion, with up to $7 Billion in maintenance costs over their lifespan. That would bring the total cost of the planes to $16 Billion, on top of the 711 million dollars in ongoing investment.

This sounds like a lot of money in itself, but even the $16 Billion is bound to be too low, for a number of reasons.

First, the program has been plagued by cost overruns, and estimates continue to grow. Project Ploughshares, using U.S.-based data, has estimated that the planes will come to a total cost of $30 Billion, which is about double what officials are saying. Further, because the planes are not completed and have not been tested, and there is simply no idea how much we will have to pay.

In testimony to the Canadian parliament, U.S. military critic Winslow Wheeler warned about the possibility of the planes being much more expensive than advertised. His testimony is worthy of being quoted at length:

“In this country, advocates cite various figures, all of them misleading. The gimmicks include excluding important parts of the airplane, such as the engine, excluding all development costs, using obsolete dollars that understate the contemporaneous cost, and – in your case – using American, not Canadian, dollars. There are other tricks that can be hard to unravel; I encourage you to thoroughly research any unit costs cited to you.

“Neither you nor I currently know, but it is certain that the costs being cited to you now are the ‘buy-in’ costs. Real costs, when your government negotiates an actual contract and as the program goes through its life cycle, are sure to be an unpleasant surprise to you.”

Moreover, the cost per plane is based on an estimated global market that is steadily decreasing. The more planes sold, the cheaper they will be, but many countries are starting to back down from their previous commitments. Project Ploughshares has reported on the fact that the sales projections quoted by proponents are now 10 years out of date; the 2001 projection was that 5,179 planes would be sold, and now it is more likely to be between 2 thousand and 3500. Using the old estimates are almost certainly intended to deceive, as they drastically reduce the expected price.

All this is to say that the 16 Billion dollar price tag is likely to be drastically inaccurate, and the supposedly good deal is not looking quite so good.

But what about the argument that this deal is good for supporting Canadian jobs? This is the most populist, and most common argument being put forward. (It should probably be noted that if the Government was committed to Keynesian economics, there are ways of supporting jobs that don’t involve manufacturing weapons. But let’s look at this anyway).

It is true that Canadian companies have benefited so far. Industry Canada notes that to date 350 million dollars in contracts have been awarded to 85 Canadian companies and research laboratories, which is more than Canadians have invested so far. Proponents say that up to $12 Billion is potentially available to Canadian companies in industrial benefits.

Some of those benefits are being realized right here in Winnipeg. A recent Winnipeg Free Press article highlighted Bristol Aerospace, noting its contracts to build horizontal tail components, and other parts for the F-35. According to the article, Bristol has committed about $100 million in capital spending to equip its Winnipeg plant, expects to ship 1 Billion dollars in parts, and had already shipped 35 million dollars worth of parts before we committed to purchasing the jets.

It is clear that Bristol, and the industry, have a lot of vested interest in this deal. Which is why its parent company, Magellan Aerospace Corporation, has come out with other companies to support the F-35 deal, citing outdated and exaggerated statistics.

However, while Canadian arms manufactures may have benefited so far, it is not at all certain that these privileges will continue. There are no guaranteed contracts built into the procurement deal. All we have is the opportunity to bid on them, and competition from industry in other countries is growing as they demand a fairer share in the distribution of contracts. Moreover, the figure of $12 Billion in potential industrial benefits is based on the outdated market projections I explained earlier, which assume an exaggerated number of planes will be manufactured.

Labour, for its part, has refused to passively accept these figures, but has refrained from speaking against the deal itself. Instead, the Canadian Auto Workers union has called for $16 Billion of guaranteed contracts to be included in the procurement deal, a demand that is certain to be ignored.

Now, what I have just done is to argue that the proposed financial benefits to Canada are not nearly as high as stated by officials and industry. The F-35s will cost much more than we think, and will give back fewer jobs than we expect. It is important to point out the misinformation that is provided on this issue, as proponents continue to sell the deal to Canadians. But the point is not simply that they are too expensive, as the Opposition parties claim. Yes, they are expensive, but we are not calling for cheaper fighter planes.

We should remember that the CF-18s, the planes which we are looking to replace, had been used to drop bombs on Iraq in 1991, and on Kosovo in 1999. Upgrading these planes–as suggested by Steven Staples–is not a peaceful alternative to the F-35s, although it would be cheaper. Similarly, buying unmanned drones to patrol the arctic–also suggested by Staples–does not get us much farther, because drones are easily incorporated into weapons systems.

Richard Sanders, of the Coalition to Oppose the Arms Trade, is disturbed about how analysts focus primarily on the relative cost of the F-35s, as if cheaper fighter planes will be more peaceful fighter planes. I tend to agree; we need to challenge not just these planes, but all fighter planes, all military spending. But we can start by working to ensure that we do not purchase the F-35, which would be a monumental waste of money towards immoral ends.

This article is the text of Michael Bueckert’s presentation to the Feb. 20, 2011 annual meeting of Peace Alliance Winnipeg.

It’s Let Them Stay Week in Canada — a week of activities dedicated to keeping American war resisters in Canada. So I did what any red-blooded Canadian peacenik does at this time of the year – I stood around outside an MP’s office  in -25C temperatures with a similarly minded posse of peacenikles. This time it was the Steinbach, Manitoba office of Vic Toews – our Minister of Public Safety – a man who long ago abandoned the pacifist principles of his Mennonite faith while still managing to be twice re-elected in this mega-Mennonite town.

Here is my video report.

Video: Afghans for Peace

Posted: December 19, 2010 in Afghanistan, Peace, War
Tags:

afghans4peace | December 18, 2010

Afghans for Peace (AFP) is an alliance of Afghans from various ethnic, religious, socio-economic, cultural, and political backgrounds with a united vision for a democratic, all inclusive, just and peaceful Afghanistan. They demand an end to U.S. and NATO military operations within Afghanistan. More info: http://afghansforpeace.org

Go to the Playlist

Over the past 2 weeks, George Galloway spoke to packed halls from Halifax to Yellowknife. Winnipeg was no exception, with more than 400 people crowding into the Broadway Disciples United Church on Nov. 26 to hear Galloway’s passionate plea on behalf of Free Speech, Free Afghanistan and Free Palestine.

Galloway repeated his pledge to donate “every cent” of the compensation he expects to result from his defamation suit against the Canadian government to the Canadian anti-war movement. He also announced plans to launch a Canadian wing of Viva Palestina, in Calgary, next year. Viva Palestina is a registered UK charity that Galloway helped found that has raised millions of dollars in humanitarian aid for the people of Gaza.

Galloway is a frighteningly talented orator. It is easy to understand why Immigration Minister Jason Kenney would want to keep him out of the country. He spoke knowledgeably, passionately, with great warmth and biting wit, without notes for just over an hour. (My favourite example of his savage wit was a passing reference to Harper and Ignatieff as “Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum . . .two cheeks of the same backside” — but I digress.)

Here are only a few of the highlights.

On Kenney’s attempt to keep Galloway out of Canada

“As any bookseller could have told Mr. Kenney, any book that you try to ban usually ends up on the best-seller list.”
“Though the offence against me was considerable, the offence against you was much, much more serious, because what it established and what Justice Mosley’s 60-page caning of Kenney — across a 60-page judgement — what was established was that you have a government of liars and deceivers who are planning to take your rights away.”
On racism, Antisemitism and Zionism
“It is unconscionable to exercise freedom of speech to whip up racial or religious hatred – to whip up hatred of people because of what they are – not for what they’ve done, not for what they believe in, but because of who and what they are. That’s called racism.”
“That somehow I might be a hater of Jews, or in other words, a racist, is as absurd as it is insulting and offensive.”
“We are against the racist, apartheid ideology of Zionism and its practise in the apartheid state of Israel.”
“When people campaigned to end communism in Russia it didn’t mean they wanted to end the people of Russia. It didn’t mean they wanted to eliminate the country of Russia.They were against a political ideology which they believed was wrong and harmful. And that’s the spirit in which we say we are against Zionism. We’re not against the Jewish peiople who live in the land they call Israel and we call Palestine. We’re against the idea that there can be an apartheid state created there where the non-Jews are second class citizens and where the state illegally occupies and controls every aspect of the lives of three million Palestinian people living under occupation in the West Bank, in Gaza and in East Jerusalem.”
On Afghanistan
“Has anyone in Canada ever asked the question how come the Afghan army needs quite so much training? For ten years they’ve been trained by the occupation armies that invaded and occupied Afghanistan . . . The cost of training Hamid Karzai’s puppet regime, paid for by western taxpayers including every one of you,  is $1 billion per month . . . with no noticeable improvement in their performance. Nobody’s training the Taliban and they’re doing quite well.”
“Nobody has every successfully occupied Afghanistan. Even Alexander the Great did not succeed in occupying Afghanistan and Stephen Harper is not Alexander the Great.”
“The Afghans are quite good at fighting. They don’t need much training. And they will never accept the foreign occupation of their country. Full stop.”
“We have to get out of Afghanistan, not just because we can’t afford it, not just because our own young men are being killed, but because we’re achieving the opposite of what needs to be done. We’re deepening that swamp [of bitterness], rather than draining that swamp.”
“Bush and Blair and Harper and, I dare say Kenney, are willing to fight to the last drop of other people’s blood and that’s just immoral.”
On Democracy
“I’m not a supporter of Hamas. It doesn’t matter how many times these raving bloggers in Canada or these raving ministers in Ottawa contend it, the judge has already opined on this point and his decision is final.  I’m not a supporter of Hamas but I am a supporter of democracy. And the only people entitled to choose the leadership of the Palestinian people are the Palestinian people themselves. This is surely ABC. I mean how else could it be?
“I don’t like Stephen Harper. I wouldn’t have voted for him. But I can’t pretend that he’s not the Prime Minister of Canada. I can’t appoint somebody else as the Prime Minister of Canada though the vision of Michael Ignatieff just flitted across my mind. Talk about Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum. Two cheeks of the same backside. I can’t appoint Ignatieff or Layton of anyone else as the leader of Canada. I have to accept the outcome of the elections in Canada.
“Well, as we say we’re fighting for democracy every time we go to war, the Palestinians had democracy. They had an election. It was the only, only, free, democratic election ever held in any Arab country, ever, in all history. It was described by Jimmy Carter, no less, as pristine. Pristine. Chrystal clear. Transparent. Perfect. We just didn’t like the result. So what did we do? We immediately imposed a siege to starve the children of the votes, to punish them for how their parents had voted.
“How democratic is that? That’s hypocrisy, not democracy. But that’s exactly what we did and that siege has now lasted for four long years.”

Today is the day the Canadian Peace Alliance has asked Canadians who oppose extending the stay of Canadian troops in Afghanistan to phone, fax, write, email their MPs, party leads, the PM, etc. If you haven’t, please get to it. More details at http://www.acp-cpa.ca/en/VirtualMarch.html.

Stuck for ideas? Just tell them how you feel. Here’s mine:

Prime Minister Stephen Harper <pm@pm.gc.ca>

Gilles Duceppe <Duceppe.G@parl.gc.ca>

Michael Ignatieff <Ignatieff.M@parl.gc.ca>

Jack Layton <Layton.J@parl.gc.ca>

Gentlemen,

I am one of the overwhelming majority of Canadians who are opposed to any continuation of our military involvement in Afghanistan. This includes providing military training of any kind.

I am deeply disturbed at the appalling waste of human life (Canadian, NATO, Afghans on all sides). I feel morally compromised that my tax dollars are helping to pay for this carnage.

In my view, Canada’s involvement was wrong from the beginning. Despite the tiny fig leaf of legality afforded by the UN after the invasion, the invasion was a “crime of aggression” under international law; the ongoing occupation is a crime against humanity, committed to further the imperial designs of the United States and multinational corporate interests who have reaped the huge benefits of multi-billion dollar war spending. History will not look kindly on the Liberal and Conservative Party leaders who have brought us to this point.

Make no mistake, continuing to support this war and the hideously corrupt regime of Hamid Karzai under the guise of “training” fools no one.

Mr. Harper: you lied to the people about ending Canada’s military participation in 2011 and you lied when you said any extension would be subject to a debate in  the House of Commons. You have developed a habit of hiding from Parliament when it suits your purpose and you will pay a huge price in the coming election.

Mr. Ignatieff: your complicity in defying the will of the Canadian people can only lead to the growing cynicism that Canadians feel when faced with politicians who will not listen to the people on important issues. It is astounding that you continue to squander opportunities to do the right thing and to lead Canada onto a principled, peaceful path. And you expect to become Prime Minister?

Mr. Duceppe: opposition to this war is stronger in Quebec than anywhere else in Canada. I hope you will act accordingly and oppose any further support for this madness.

Mr. Layton: I appreciate your opposition to the extension of this so-called “mission.” Remain strong and steadfast and be confident that the majority of Canadians support you when you call for the return of all Canadian troops. You may be the only national political leader who understands the need for peace, but, in this, you have millions of followers.

In summary, I insist that you bring ALL of our troops home from Afghanistan by July 2011, if not sooner.

Sincerely,

Paul S. Graham
Winnipeg, Manitoba