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October 07, 2006

Selling New Brunswick and Add on Armour

Selling New Brunswick and add on armour
Chris Arsenault spends an afternoon at an arms convention with some nice folks

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David Innis doesn't seem like a bad guy.

He's got a warm red face, a half decent tie and wants to bring investment and jobs to New Brunswick. I doubt he steals canned goods from the food bank or strangles puppies.

But, as chairman of the New Brunswick Aerospace Defense Association (NBADA), Innis is essentially an arms dealer.

His job is to lure more military -- excuse me-- 'aerospace and defense' investment to the province.

"New Brunswick has a pretty well established defense industry," Innis said, while working the NBADA booth at a military trade show last week in Halifax.

The New Brunswick Aerospace Defense Association, including some 60 companies, "was born five years ago to give the businesses and the companies themselves a forum or an opportunity to engage in this industry in a more co-operative manner and engage the world that exists out there," Innis said.

And what a world it is. Inside the convention center, government functionaries with receding hair lines and businessmen in grey suits brush shoulders with soldiers in military fatigues. Several hundred people interested in the business of war have gathered for this spectacle.

On the convention's second floor sits the main presentation room, where major arms makers like Boeing explain how smaller firms can win subcontracts on their projects. Boeing's rep reads from prepared notes, bragging how his firm produces one third of all satellites currently in orbit and had $54.8 billion in 2005 revenue from 145 countries. The power point presentation on the screen behind the rep shows white missiles sexually blasting into blue sky, with an American flag super-imposed in the background.

Boeing's power point presentation plays like a bad Nickelback video, complete with a hard-rock song entitled 'Anywhere, Anytime' that seems to have been written especially for the weapons firm.

With clients in 145 countries, the company is certainly ready to get paid by 'anyone at anytime', selling weapons to both sides in various wars.

"As everything is becoming more global, we really have to step forward and look at the industry in a larger context than we have in the past. It involved an awful lot more networking," David Innis said. The New Brunswick table is fairly small and not too impressive compared to major players like General Dynamics Canada, Raytheon and Boeing.

Many companies at the arms fair offer bowls of Werthers Original or Campino hard candy on their displays. Buying missiles, armoured personnel carriers and air-craft components should, after all, be a sweet affair.

Many New Brunswick weapons firms are small subcontractors making component parts for large war machines. One of the province's defense "success stories", according to a government press release, is DEW Engineering, who operate a 100,000 square-foot facility in Miramichi.

This firm produces, among other things, "addon armour for the world market". Vehicles, like Army Stryker, involved with the illegal and excessively violent occupation of Iraq, use this sort of add-on armour.

"New Brunswick has everything that it needs to fully participate in this industry," Innis said.

When people who sell weapons talk about their industry, concepts like: war, kill, maimed kids, vanquished infrastructure and greed, rarely fall into the lexicon. It's a 'defense industry'; not a 'weapons that kill people' industry.

In his 1961 farewell address, President Dwight D. Eisenhower, issued the American people, and by extension the rest of us, a serious warning.

"We must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial complex," said Eisenhower, who had actually been to war and worked in senior military positions, unlike George Bush or Stephen Harper, the so-called tough guys of our era.

Today, the influence of the military industrial complex is beyond unwarranted; it is all encompassing.

In 2005, the United States spent $455 billion on its military, more than the combined total of the 32 next most powerful nations, notes a report from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, an organization widely recognized for the reliability of its data.

In 2005, Canada was already the seventh largest military spender of the 26 countries in NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

During the last week of June 2006, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced $15 billion in new spending on military vehicles, including transport planes, heavy-lift helicopters, troop carrier ships and trucks to be spent over the next number of years. With these and our other commitments, there is money to be made selling war machines, but is this the best way to spend our tax dollars?

"For the price of one military helicopter, the government could build 1,000 homes to shelter Canada's homeless," notes a report from the Polaris Institute, a left-leaning think tank based in Ottawa.

It seems like David Innis, the New Brunswick Aerospace Defense Association and governments in Ottawa and Fredericton decided not to hear President Eisenhower's warning. Or, maybe for some, ignorance is just too profitable to resist.


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