Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Canada's Military Industrial Complex

This is a short excerpt from Linda McQuaig's new book from Rabble.
The Harper government has injected new life into the complex. The relationship between the complex and the US military industrial complex is clear. Also, members of the complex lobby for our joing the US missile defence system.

Home-grown military-industrial complex
Linda McQuaig connects the dots between the people who take Canada to war

Holding the Bully's Coat Canada and the U.S. Empire, by Linda McQuaig (Doubleday Canada, 2007; $34.95)
THERE WAS A BUZZ of excitement in the packed hall of the Ottawa Congress Centre as Chief of Defence Staff Rick Hillier delivered his inaugural address to more than two thousand Canadian soldiers from National Defence headquarters in February 2005.

It had been a long time since members of the Canadian Forces, disheartened after years of budget cuts, had felt this kind of energy. And it had a lot to do with Hillier himself, a Newfoundlander whose presence that day seemed to fill the room. Hillier was a new kind of general – brash, straight-talking, not shy about branding enemies “scumbags,” exuding a kind of warrior bravado rarely seen in Canada. And his audience lapped it up.

“When Canadian troops go overseas,” declared the general, “they expect sex.” Within a split second, Hillier had corrected himself: “success.” It was a slip of the tongue, nothing more. But it also somehow seemed to fit the mood in the room. After years of feeling like an emasculated army of peacekeepers, the Canadian Forces now had a real fighting man at their helm. No more girlie-man peacekeeping, boys! We’re gonna make war!


The senior ranks of the Canadian Forces and the department of National Defence have long been frustrated by the Canadian public’s fondness for peacekeeping and the UN, and have pushed for bigger military budgets and closer military alignment with Washington.

That push has been aided by an influential Canadian defence lobby. The emergence of a Canadian lobby dates back to the signing of the 1958 U.S.-Canada Defence Production Sharing Agreement in 1958, which nurtured a Canadian arms industry by creating cross-border free trade in weapons and allowing Canadian companies — many of which were U.S. controlled anyway — to bid on lucrative Pentagon contracts. The agreement bolstered military spending on both sides of the border, and also helped integrate Canada’s military planning with Washington’s. Indeed, the U.S. Defense department noted in a 1960 directive that one of its reasons for supporting the agreement had been to foster “closely integrated military planning between Canada and the United States.”

A prominent array of military institutes, veterans associations and think tanks also became part of an effective Canadian defence lobby. The most important of these has been the Conference on Defence Associations (CDA), an umbrella group of military as well as business, academic and professional types.

While an independent organization, the CDA receives funding from the Defence department — as do a number of institutes and strategic studies programs connected with Canadian universities. As a result, virtually all academic defence analysts in Canada are employed in positions subsidized by the Defence department, notes Peter Langille, a political scientist at the University of Western Ontario. The views of these analysts almost always reflect those of the Defence department — possibly just a coincidence, but possibly part of a larger pattern in which funds from government defence budgets help shape public attitudes in favour of higher military spending and closer alignment with U.S. military strategies.

More important in influencing government policy have been the close personal connections that develop from players moving around between top jobs in government, industry and the military. Although no one has cut as striking a figure as U.S. vice-president Dick Cheney in his seamless moving around within the U.S. military-industrial-complex, Canada has seen its own share of nimble movement within our own little complex.

General Paul Manson, for instance, had a long career in the Canadian military, during which he headed up a massive procurement program of fighter aircraft and later became Canada’s top soldier during the Mulroney years, serving as Chief of Defence Staff from 1986 to 1989.

After his retirement, Manson moved into the executive suites of some of Canada’s top military contractors, including Unisys Systems, Paramax, Loral Canada and Lockheed Martin Canada, where his experience in military procurement no doubt came in handy. In 1992, while he was president of Paramax, Manson helped his company win a massive $5.8 billion contract for military helicopters — from the Mulroney government, whose officials Manson knew well from his years as the nation’s military leader.

But no Canadian has moved more dexterously at high levels within military, business and government circles than Derek H. Burney. After developing high-level government connections serving as Brian Mulroney’s chief of staff from 1987 to 1989, Burney went to Washington as Canada’s ambassador. Later, CAE Industries, Canada’s leading military contractor, hired Burney to head the company from 1999 to 2004. From his CAE post and also his role as a prominent member of the Business Council on National Issues, Burney was an outspoken lobbyist for higher military spending. A Pentagon agency promoting George W. Bush’s missile defence system showed it understood the usefulness of Burney’s Ottawa connections when it awarded CAE a contract from a special Pentagon fund that had been set up, according to Defense News, to “lure foreign firms with U.S. military dollars and hope the contractors sway their governments to get on board.”

Burney became a leading advocate of Canadian participation in the controversial missile defence scheme and, for a time at least, appeared to have won over the Liberal government. Burney’s ongoing influence is reflected in the fact that in 2006 he headed up the transition team for Stephen Harper’s new Conservative government, which selected retired general and defence industry lobbyist Gordon O’Connor as Defence minister.

The in-house military-industrial tradition continues. Rick Hillier served on the staff of Lt.-Gen. Patrick O’Donnell, before O’Donnell retired. O’Donnell went on to become a lobbyist for Lockheed Martin, a key competitor for a lucrative contract to provide aircraft to the Canadian military, now headed by Hillier.

All this suggests the rise of a mini Canadian military-industrial complex, in which the military, the weapons industry and pro-military institutes and think tanks form an influential lobby. Together, they create pressure not just for bigger military budgets and closer integration with the U.S. military, but also ultimately for taking the country to war.

Part of the message of the defence lobby — echoed by a generally co-operative Canadian media — has been the ominous nature of the enemies out there, whether Soviet or radical Islamic. If the public is constantly revved up about the threatening nature of these enemies, it becomes more willing to consider doing battle against them. With a public willing to go to war and powerful interests that benefit financially from the waging of war, the stage seems to be set for, well, war.—Linda McQuaig

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