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Banning art, blaming the victim and rewarding Canadian war exporters

Canadian Politics

Poster by Brazilian cartoonist Carlos Latuff: banned at University of Ottawa

Posters have been banned on two university campuses in Ottawa because they used a cartoon image depicting an Israeli AH-64 attack helicopter firing at a Palestinian child. The poster’s artwork, by Brazilian cartoonist Carlos Latuff, is based on reality. U.S.-made AH-64 gunships were among the major weapons used by Israel during its recent bombardment of Gaza. More than 1,380 people, including some 430 children, were killed in those attacks against densely populated civilian neighbourhoods.

This is a war crime.

But according to Carleton University’s administration, it is the artwork — not the Israeli attacks — that deserve condemnation. The posters, Carleton authorities say, may “incite others to infringe rights protected in the Ontario Human Rights code” and are “insensitive to the norms of civil discourse in a free and democratic society.”

So, when students put up artwork depicting AH-64s targeting a Palestinian child, Carleton President Roseanne Runte said the posters “were deemed … to incite hatred,” and university authorities threatened students with expulsion. But when 56 Carleton professors asked Runte to join them in condemning violations of human rights caused by Israel’s bombing of a Gazan university, she bluntly refused.

This is a double standard.

In a similar fashion, when Israel’s military aircraft launched indiscriminate attacks wounding 5,300 people (at least half of whom were women and children) and totally or partially destroyed 22,000 housing units, 92 mosques and 29 schools, the Canadian government responded by condemning Palestinians as the source of this violence.

On January 12, in the midst of this onslaught, Canada stood up at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva and voted against “urgent international action” to halt Israel’s “massive violations” of human rights. The sole dissenting vote came from Canada, whose spokesperson, Marius Grinius, said the UN statement “used unnecessary, unhelpful and inflammatory language” and “failed to clearly recognize that rocket fire on Israel had led to the current crisis.” Both the foreign affairs minister, Lawrence Cannon, and former newsman Peter Kent, now Canada’s minister of state for foreign affairs for the Americas, held Hamas responsible for the Gaza massacre. This is called blaming the victim.

Canada’s Military-Industrial Complex in Gaza

The plot thickens when we consider that at least fifty Canadian military industries manufacture key components embedded within AH-64 helicopters and two other major U.S. weapons exported to Israel, namely F-15 and F-16 warplanes. And Canadian workers are now forced, through the Canada Pension Plan (CPP), to invest in many of the world’s largest war industries. For example, the CPP’s portfolio includes $100 million in investments in Boeing and Lockheed Martin, which manufacture the AH-64s, F-15s and F-16s.

Our government also helps finance some of this country’s most profitable war-related companies through Industry Canada “investment” programs. A recent example of this largesse was announced the day after Canada’s shameful UN vote in Geneva. It was January 13, 2009. Israel’s military killed dozens of people in Gaza that day, including at least eleven children and three women. Tony Clement, Canada’s industry minister, and Christian Paradis, minister of public works and government services, were all smiles when they proudly unveiled a $52.3 million government “investment” in CMC Electronics.

This “investment” in “cutting-edge R&D” is part of Industry Canada’s Strategic Aerospace and Defence Initiative. It is designed to help CMC create cockpit components that are “easily customizable and adaptable to … varied aircraft platforms.” “Cutting-edge” is an apt metaphor. CMC supplies “weapon delivery” and “embedded combat training systems” for many of America’s most destructive war machines. But Canada’s supporting role in U.S. theatres of war was not one of our government’s talking points that day.

It never is.

Frontmen, like Paradis, prefer instead to speak glowingly of government “investments” to “ensure that Canada remains at the forefront of the aerospace and defence industry.”

This is called duplicity.

CMC has already supplied its so-called “defence” technologies for such “varied aircraft platforms” as the aforementioned AH-64s, F-15s and F-16s that made mincemeat of Gaza civilians and their already devastated infrastructure.

Other “cutting-edge” weapons equipped by CMC include the A-10 “Warthog,” AC-130 “Spectre,” AV-8B “Harrier II,” E-2 “Hawkeye,” EA-6B “Prowler,” F-14 “Tomcat,” F/A-18 “Hornet,” F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, HH-60 “Pave Hawk,” MC-130 “Combat Talon,” OH-58D “Kiowa Warrior,” UH-1 “Huey” and UH-60 “Black Hawk.” All these weapons have been used to great effect in Iraq, where war has claimed over one million lives since 2003.

But CMC is but one among many hundreds of Canadian military exporters that equip U.S. weapons systems used in Gaza, Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. Unbeknownst to most Canadians, war manufacturers are scattered right across this country like razor blades concealed in a loaf of bread. These industries provide an incredibly diverse range of products, largely for export, and mostly to the U.S. While many produce high-tech machined parts or sophisticated electronics and software that are shipped stateside for assembly into major weapons, others churn out rounds of ammunition, machine guns, armoured vehicles, or air-to-ground missiles that fire phosphorous and anti-personnel cluster bombs.

If only this were publicly known, it would be a scandal.

A recent on-line report by the Coalition to Oppose the Arms Trade (COAT) details fifty Canadian companies supplying parts for the three U.S. military aircraft exported to Israel. In addition, COAT’s report also names over 140 Canadian military companies that are exporting directly to Israel. Many of these are among 540 military companies represented in Ottawa by an organization called the Canadian Association of Defence and Security Industries (CADSI).

According to its website, CADSI’s “patriotic” mission “has its roots in the creation of the Canadian chapter of the American Defense Preparedness Association.” Between 2006 and 2008, CADSI received donations totalling $192,000 from Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade for “export marketing” and “international business development activities.”

This is called aiding and abetting war.

In 2004, CADSI organised a “mission” to “advance industrial partnerships between Canadian and Israeli companies.” Speakers included Canada’s minister of national defence, Israel’s ambassador to Canada and various high-level Israeli and Canadian government bureaucrats. CADSI then facilitated face-to-face “Company One-on-Ones” between Canadian and Israeli military companies.

CADSI’s main work is to organize Canada’s largest international arms bazaar, called CANSEC, so hundreds of this country’s military exporters can showcase their wares. Browsing the exhibition this May in Ottawa will be thousands of government buyers and military users from Canada, the U.S. and around the globe.

This is a call to action. Let’s do something.

This article appeared in the May/June 2009 issue of Canadian Dimension (Mayworks: A special issue celebrating and debating labour).

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