Archive for August, 2008
In the coming days, the Conference of Defence Associations will announce the recipient of its Ross Munro Media Award for this year, including its $2,500 cash prize.
Should we just shrug it off when someone takes a cheque from a defence lobby group on Saturday night, and then calls their office for a quote on Monday morning?
Should Canadian journalists accept cash awards from DND-funded lobby groups like the Conference of Defence Associations?
We may roll our eyes at journalists in the U.S. sometimes, but lets give credit where it’s due: if you work for a major U.S. defence publication like the respected Defense News, and you accept any kind of gift from the defence lobby – you might be fired for a breach of ethics!
I asked Theresa Hitchens, former editor of Defense News, whether its reporters could accept an award like the CDA’s Ross Munro Media Award. Here is what she said:
When I was there, we had a STRICT policy against such activities – and I believe it would have been grounds for dismissal. We even had a policy that said if someone from industry takes you out to lunch, you have to reciprocate on [Defense News] dime.
Why don’t Canadian media outlets adhere to such high ethical standards? Should we just shrug it off when someone takes a cheque from a defence lobby group on Saturday night, and then calls their office for a quote on Monday morning?
Here’s my suggestion: Let the CDA give its award to a defence contractor or retiring officer (like Hillier). It’s just too unseemly for journalists.
Obviously alarmed by my letter in the National Post today in response to Dinosaur Jack’s insulting attack against Canadians who don’t agree with his hawkish views, the Conference of Defence Associations rushed out its own counterspin email to its list of hundreds of military and media contacts.
The CDA is worried because when its funding deal with the Department of National Defence was revealed by the Globe and Mail, people were shocked to see the hoops that the DND demands CDA jump through to receive its slice of the military’s budget. (In case you missed it, here is the (once secret) $500,000 funding agreement between the CDA and DND.)
In its email to military and media contacts today, the CDA said:
Jack Granatstein in the National Post (see link below) writes on the current Canadian ‘peace movement’. Steven Staples of the Rideau Institute responds in a letter to the editor (see link below). We remind our readers that the CDA and the CDA Institute together conduct an annual seminar, an annual graduate student symposium, regular roundtables, and publish a reputable quarterly magazine ‘On Track’ and annual ‘Vimy Papers’. Its substantial ‘access’ to public servants, military personnel and representatives of the media is based on presenting credible and balanced information, and we take pride in our work. Contrary to what Mr. Staples says, the CDA does not receive “millions of dollars from the military to write op-eds and be quoted in newspapers” – our funding is $100,000 a year, and we have to fulfill a number of Treasury Board-approved requirements, including running our events and publishing our periodicals.
But of course it undertakes all of these activities – it has to because the military makes it a condition of the CDA’s funding!
For instance, the CDA’s “On Track” magazine mentioned above is part of the funding deal. Here’s what the DND contract requires of the CDA:
“Publish at least 4 issues of “On Track” each year with a distribution of 800 copies per quarter, and at least 1 major study per year with a distribution of 1500 copies, in addition to electronic distribution of all publications to a minimum of 750 targeted recipients.”
The deal also requires the CDA to submit everything to the military. The deal says:
“The CDA must place the [Department of National Defence] Directorate of Public Policy on its distribution list for upcoming events, conferences, and receive this information at the same time as members.”
“The CDA (or the CDAI) will forward a minimum of one copy of all publications produced in the fiscal year being reviewed.”
And the military even ensures it can make “a snap inspection” of the CDA:
“The [Department of National Defence] Directorate of Public Policy reserves the right to attend events for assessment purposes and to visit the CDA throughout the funding cycle.”
Of course all of these activities are absolutely normal. The Rideau Institute holds seminars, publishes reports, and gets calls from the media every day. But we don’t report our work to the military and stand prepared for a visit from a representative of Defence Minister’s MacKay’s office, and this work is not a condition of government funding.
I have urged the Conference of Defence Associations to give up this funding from the military and become truly independent. Come on…is it really worth it?
I wanted to share with you this op-ed by Rideau Institute Program Director Anthony Salloum, which appears in today’s Toronto Star.
Countries like Canada must stand up to Bush and say this is a bad deal with dire consequences
Aug 21, 2008
This week a select group of countries, Canada among them, will vote on a proposed nuclear deal between the U.S. and India that could lead to the further spread of nuclear weapons. With limited attention paid to this issue at home, indications are that Canada may be on the verge of making a grave mistake by supporting this deal. But this doesn’t have to be the case.
If Canada were to courageously stand against this deal, it wouldn’t be alone. Austria, Ireland, Japan, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway and Switzerland all expressed concern last month.
Today and tomorrow, the 45 members of the Nuclear Suppliers Group – the alliance of countries that seeks to control trade in “dual-use” nuclear fuel, materials and technology – will be asked to consider the Bush administration’s proposal to exempt India from having to join the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) as a condition of receiving nuclear technology and fuel.
The NPT is signed by 189 countries and has three key pillars: non-proliferation, disarmament and peaceful uses of nuclear energy. To be implemented, the U.S.-India nuclear deal requires approval by the Indian parliament, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the Nuclear Suppliers Group and the U.S. Congress.
So far, India and the IAEA have approved it.
If the U.S. wins exemption for India, the deal would be a non-proliferation disaster. It would be a Bush legacy the world could do without. The deal will lead to greater nuclear proliferation.
Treaties like the NPT, meant to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons, have been unravelling. There are four nuclear weapons states that do not belong to the NPT: India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea – the first state to actually quit the NPT while announcing its intention to develop nuclear weapons. Negotiations are still ongoing on compensating North Korea for agreeing to relinquish its nuclear weapons program.
Supporters of the U.S.-India nuclear deal argue that this bilateral agreement will help thwart the spread of nuclear weapons because it places 14 of India’s 22 reactors under IAEA monitoring. However, this deal allows India to continue thumbing its nose at the only legal, multilateral non-proliferation treaty the globe has, since it will not require India to join the NPT.
Additionally, unlike 178 other countries, India has not signed the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty prohibiting the testing of nuclear weapons, and continues to produce reactor grade material and expand its nuclear arsenal via the remaining reactors not available to the IAEA for inspection. In fact, the deal guarantees India an uninterrupted supply of fuel without obligating it to sign the test ban treaty.
Organizations and experts, including the Rideau Institute, are raising the alarm. An Aug. 15 letter sent to all 45 foreign ministers of the Nuclear Suppliers Group, including David Emerson, by more than 150 NGOs and experts from 24 countries, noted that, “this deal, if approved, would give India rights and privileges of civil nuclear trade that have been reserved only for members in good standing under the NPT. It creates a dangerous distinction between `good’ proliferators and `bad’ proliferators and sends out misleading signals to the international community with regard to NPT norms.”
This special deal for India has not gone unnoticed by its rivals, Pakistan and China.
Adding fuel to the fire, Iran, which is a member of the NPT – unlike India – points to the deal as an example of the dangerous “good-bad” double standard. It is livid at the hypocrisy, pointing out that Israel is probably quietly lobbying for its own special deal. Iran has a right to have a civil nuclear program, but there are ample reasons to distrust its intentions. The U.S.-India nuclear deal does make a diplomatic solution even more difficult to achieve.
Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations in Vienna, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, cautioned that, “There is serious concern that the United States has taken this step with the intention to create a precedent and pave the way for Israel to continue its clandestine [nuclear] weapons activities.” In other words, the U.S.-India deal will embolden other countries to undermine the NPT as well. And with the 2010 review conference of the NPT looming, there is much at skate.
Canada has options. This week at the Nuclear Suppliers Group meeting, Canada could coalesce with Austria, Ireland, Japan, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway and Switzerland, and demand that India signs two treaties – the Fissile Materials Cut-off Treaty, which stipulates that India halt production of reactor grade material, and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty – as a precondition for their support of the U.S.-India deal. Who knows, other countries may also be emboldened to stand up and say this is a bad deal with awful consequences. No one country has to be alone in standing up to George Bush.
Alternatively, these countries could ask for more time to study the proposed exemption. Such a delay would spell the end of the deal because the U.S. Congress cannot consider and vote on the deal until the Nuclear Suppliers Group approves it. If this agreement doesn’t land back in Washington by late September, it could not be approved during the remaining lifespan of Bush’s administration, effectively killing the deal.
However, if Canada were to support the U.S. on this deal, it would be abandoning its long-standing position as a strong supporter of nuclear non-proliferation, and instead, be supporting Bush’s legacy of undermining the most effective mechanism we have to avoid the spread of nuclear weapons in the world.
Here’s hoping this Bush legacy doesn’t come to fruition.
Anthony Salloum is the program director of the Rideau Institute, which serves as the global secretariat to Abolition 2000, a network of more than 2,000 organizations working for a global treaty to eliminate nuclear weapons.
I wanted to share with you this op-ed by former PetroCanada lead economist John Foster, published in today’s Toronto Star. I was very pleased to contribute the introduction to his recent report “A Pipeline Through A Troubled Land: Afghanistan, Canada, and the New Great Energy Game,” published by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.
TheStar.com – Opinion -
Secure routes needed to move Central Asia’s vast energy resources to international markets
August 20, 2008
The quest for control of energy resources has been dubbed the “new great game” – a rivalry for pipeline routes to access energy resources in Central Asia and the Caspian Sea.
It’s a geopolitical game that is openly analyzed in U.S. think-tanks, widely reported in the Asian press but rarely commented upon in Canada. It began after the Soviet Union broke up and the five “Stans” of Central Asia became independent.
Recent reports have linked the conflict in Georgia with pipelines that bring oil and gas to Europe but the pipeline rivalry extends far beyond Georgia to the vast oil and gas resources of the Caspian region and Central Asia.
When the countries of Central Asia were part of the Soviet Union, their oil and gas flowed only to the north through Soviet-controlled pipelines. After the Soviet breakup in 1991, however, competing world powers began to explore ways to tap these enormous reserves and move them in other directions.
Pipelines are important today in the same way that railway building was important in the 19th century. They connect trading partners and influence the regional balance of power.
Both Georgia and Afghanistan are seen as energy bridges – transit routes for the export of land-locked hydrocarbons.
Washington has long promoted a gas pipeline south from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan to Pakistan and India. It would pass through Kandahar.
Realistic or not, construction is planned to start in 2010, and Canadian Forces are committed until December 2011. Richard Boucher, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State, said last year: “One of our goals is to stabilize Afghanistan,” and to link South and Central Asia “so that energy can flow to the south.”
Unwittingly or willingly, Canadian forces are supporting American goals.
The BTC (Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan) oil pipeline and South Caucasus gas pipeline that pass through Georgia to Turkey originate in Azerbaijan. Recently built, they are the jewels in the crown of U.S. strategy to secure energy resources that bypass Russia and reduce European dependence on pipelines from Russia.
Two Central Asian countries are rich in hydrocarbons. According to the International Energy Agency, Turkmenistan has the world’s fourth largest reserves of natural gas, while Kazakhstan’s oil reserves are said to be three times those of the North Sea. Turkmenistan exports virtually all its gas to Russia. Last year, the presidents of Russia, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan agreed on a new gas line north to expand the export system.
Construction starts this summer.
China is tapping into Central Asia’s treasure, too. There is a new pipeline that brings oil from Kazakhstan to China. And a gas pipeline is being built from Turkmenistan through Kazakhstan to China.
The rivalry continues with plans for new gas lines to Central Europe. The Russians plan a line under the Black Sea to Bulgaria called South Stream, and the EU backs a project called Nabucco that would supply gas via Turkey.
As well, Washington is pushing for new pipelines under the Caspian Sea that would link Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan to Azerbaijan and the pipelines to Europe.
But Russia is blocking these plans. Boucher asserts that European energy security is important to the United States as well as to Europeans and that it “is based on having multiple sources.”
The United States expresses great concern about European dependence on oil and gas imports from Russia. But Europe has imported energy from Russia for 40 years. It imports from the Middle East and Africa, too.
Is Russia less reliable? Much is made of Russia’s temporary cuts in gas supplies to Ukraine and Belarus, but these countries were enjoying highly subsidized gas (a hangover from the Soviet era) and refusing to pay full European border prices. In similar circumstances, what would Canadian energy suppliers do?
Energy has become an issue of strategic discussions at NATO. At recent NATO summits the United States sought to commit NATO to energy security activities, calling for NATO to guard pipelines and sea lanes.
Last year, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said energy security required “unprecedented international co-operation, … protecting and maintaining the world’s energy supply system.”
NATO proposals could have enormous consequences for Canada. U.S. strategic thinking is to get other NATO countries involved in guarding the world’s oil and gas supplies. Canada is in danger of being drawn into long-term military commitments relating to energy.
Recently, Defence Minister Peter MacKay told a Halifax talk show that Canadian troops were not in Afghanistan “specifically” to guard a pipeline, but “if the Taliban are attacking certain projects, then yes we will play a role.”
Neither Afghanistan nor Georgia is a member of NATO, but both are transit countries in the new great game.
Energy geopolitics are worthy of public discussion. The rivalry for energy resources is a power game – and militarizing energy is a long-term recipe for disaster.
John Foster is an international energy economist and an expert on the world oil scene. He is the author of “A Pipeline Through A Troubled Land: Afghanistan, Canada, and the New Great Energy Game,” Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. http://www.policyalternatives.ca
This letter was published in today’s National Post.
I am happy to learn that military-historian Jack Granatstein has been paying attention to the peace movement and the Rideau Institute. But his article misstates two important facts.
The first is that the reason most Canadians want Canada to play a leading role for world peace is not rooted in anti-Americanism, but in the desire for us to play an independent role in the world. Granatstein still laments that Canada didn’t join the ill-fated war in Iraq, but today even most Americans agree that Canadians were right to not support the U.S.-led invasion. So by Granatstein’s own analysis, can millions of Americans be anti-American?
The second is that he argues, rather disingenuously, that Canada needs a stronger peace movement to keep the military in check. Yet he is part of the problem, not the solution. Defence lobby groups like the Conference of Defence Associations seek out and receive millions of dollars from the military to write op-eds and be quoted in newspapers, as was recently revealed when its government funding agreement was made public.
The money and access handed to these groups far outweighs what the Rideau Institute receives through donations from our hundreds of committed supporters and friends in the United States.
The truth is the defence lobby often pretends it wants a public debate, but it loathes and denigrates members of the public and even the journalists who quote them. The president of the Conference of Defence Associations Institute recently decried that reporters covering public opinion on defence issues “stick microphones under the noses of whatever slack-jawed gum-chewing vagrants they can find on the street.”
It may be frustrating for the military dinosaurs, but Canadians will not give up the idea of Canada as a peacekeeper.
Conference of Defence Associations president’s remarks an “ignorant and vitriolic attack,” says David Akin
David Akin, Canwest/Global’s National Affairs Correspondent, responded on Friday to the Conference of Defence Association’s attacks against the media for not sufficiently explaining (i.e. selling) the Afghan war to the public.
Akin called CDA Institute president John Scott Cowan’s recent speech, “one of the most ignorant and vitriolic attacks on my profession.”
Akin was blogging about the DND’s foot-dragging in responding to journalists’ inquiries, and noted that the CDA shouldn’t blame the media when the military itself takes months to answer simple questions about Afghanistan.
Still, if some associated with the military want to blame the media [John Scott Cowan, who holds a doctorate in something or other and is the current president of a defence lobby group funded by Department of National Defence, comes to mind for one of the most ignorant and vitriolic attacks on my profession, many of whom are, in fact, risking life and limb in the world's hot spots precisely to gain a better understanding of what our military men and women are facing every day.... but don't get me started] when incomplete stories appear in the press, perhaps they ought to ask military officials first what they’re doing about it.
I contributed to this report that appears in today’s Hill Times, an influential Ottawa newspaper. You can download the entire Aerospace supplement.
THE HILL TIMES, MONDAY, AUGUST 18, 2008
POLICY BRIEFING – AEROSPACE
Committee report should push for trade exemptions, more in-service contracts in Canada, say critics
‘I think Canada should be proud of its successes, but always vigilant because … without vision, without government leadership, and without the dollars … industry can quickly flounder,’ says Peggy Nash
By HARRIS MACLEOD
The report on science and technology now being worked on by the House Industry, Science and Technology Committee should call on the government to push the U.S. for better trade exemptions for Canada’s aerospace industry, award more in-service support contracts to Canadian aerospace companies, and call for a permanent head to be named to the Canadian Space Agency, say critics.
The Industry Committee came into the public spotlight earlier this year when it urged Industry Minister Jim Prentice (Calgary Centre-North, Alta.) to block the sale of MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates’ space assets to an American firm.
“I think the Industry Committee played an important role in focusing on the need for Canada to maintain the space industry, and to have the industry suit Canada’s needs, as opposed to almost letting it slip through our fingers and become militarized by being taken over by a U.S.
defence manufacturer.” said NDP MP Peggy Nash (Parkdale-High Park, Ont.) who is a member of the Industry Committee. “It would have been ironic, for example, with the melting of the polar ice cap, and the disputed arctic terrain, to have our satellite fall into the hands of the Americans, who are one of the key countries disputing our border in the Arctic.”
Liberal MP Scott Brison (Kings-Hants, N.S.), also a member of the committee, told HT that MDA wanted to sell its space division to American interests to gain access to the U.S. market, as well as access to the increased capital that comes along with it.
He said that U.S. protectionist rules under the International Traffic of Arms Regulations (ITAR) make it impossible for Canadian companies to win American space and defence contracts, and that the government should do more to negotiate exemptions for Canadian aerospace companies.
“The U.K. and Australian governments had negotiated extensions for their companies, but our government, Harper’s government, has done absolutely nothing to stand up for Canadian industry.
He’s cozying up to George Bush, he should be standing up to George Bush and saying, ‘It’s not fair to discriminate against Canadian companies,” he said.
“We’re a defence partner with the Americans, we’re a security partner with the Americans, we’re a trade partner with the Americans, we do not deserve to be treated as second-class partners when it comes to the aerospace industry.”
The Rideau Institute on International Affairs, an Ottawa-based think tank, recently published a report called “Flying High: A plan to rebuild Canada’s space capabilities,” which made many of the same recommendations that Mr. Brison hopes to see in the Industry Committee’s science and technology report.
“Our view is that the space sector in Canada is very important; it provides us with all kinds of capabilities that are necessary for us in areas such as environmental protection, national sovereignty, even national defence.
This technology plays an important role in ensuring the safety of our troops, and is a vital capability. It also creates a very good return on Canadian public investment in terms of leveraging other investments from the public sector and job creation,” said Steven Staples, president of the Rideau Institute.
Conservative MPs on the House committee were not available for interviews, but Stephanie Power, a spokesperson for Industry Canada, told The Hill Times in an email last week that the government has been “pressing hard for progress on the ITAR industry issue.” She didn’t say exactly what was being done on the ITAR file, but said, “The Government of Canada continues to seek solutions for industry which would be consistent with Canadian laws and values, and which would attempt to minimize, to the greatest extent possible, legal risks and costs for both industry and the Government of Canada.”
Liberal Ontario Senator Art Eggleton, who is the chair of the Senate Social Affairs, Science and Technology committee that released a report on science and technology last spring, said he knows from experience that obtaining exemptions from the ITAR rules is not easy.
“I was once minister of trade in the Chrétien government, and not only in trade but also defence, so I’ve had some experience in dealing with that, and it’s a rough road. It doesn’t matter what the colour of the government is in Ottawa, it’s a very tough challenge dealing with it,” he said.
Ms. Nash said that, although there is a need for greater support for Canada’s aerospace industry by the federal government, she still believes it is the “one bright light” of Canada’s manufacturing sector that is “still on the upturn.” She said the Conservative government should be commended for its support of Bombardier, because it invested $300-million, along with the Quebec and British governments, to help get the CSeries aircrafts off the ground.
“I think Canada should be proud of it successes, but always vigilant because, as we see in the space industry, without vision, without government leadership, and without the dollars to actually develop the technology, the industry can quickly flounder,” she said.
‘Every industrialized country with a defence or aerospace industry recognizes a need to validate its industry through its own procurement. That has always been the case in Canada, too.’ -Liberal MP Scott Brison
Mr. Staples said Canada’s space sector has had many important successes, however he said it is in decline and that without government support, the downturn will continue.
“It is an important Canadian capability that is waning; we are far below the average G8 spending on space, and slipping behind.
We’ve had a number of very high profile achievements recently such as the Canadarm2 that is on the International Space Station, we’ve had Dextre go up, we’ve had the Phoenix project that has a piece of Canadian technology on Mars right now,” Mr. Staples said. “But all of these are basically the grand finales of these programs; when you actually see it on TV going up into space it means the program is over essentially, but there’s nothing else coming through the pipe.”
One key recommendation in the Rideau Institute’s report is that the government immediately act to appoint a head to the CSA, which hasn’t had a permanent leader since former astronaut Marc Garneau resigned in 2005.
“I have written to [the minister] calling on him to act now and appoint a permanent head to the CSA, because we are lacking leadership at the CSA and we have been for three years,” said Ms. Nash.
Mr. Staples said the lack of leadership is symptomatic of an overall lack of coherent strategy for the space sector.
“There’s no single guiding policy, and the result of that is that a lot of people in government and in industry are standing around with their hands in heir pockets waiting for the government to decide in which direction we want to go, and they’re left to reading tea leaves to find out what is the priority of the Canadian government,” said Mr. Staples.
Mr. Staples said that as countries like China, India, Brazil, and Iran continue to advance their space programs there is the risk of space becoming militarized, and that Canada must be proactive to prevent that from happening. “The risk is that without very clear rules of the road and international cooperation, space will become another militarized frontier, that it will be a source of conflict rather than cooperation.
Right now the rules of the road are not clear, and we don’t want to have a survival of the fittest in space where the most powerful dominate.”
Mr. Brison said that historically one of the key ways Canada built its aerospace industry has been ensuring that the “lion’s share” of procurement and in-service contracts went to Canadian companies. In-service support refers to the maintenance and improvement of aircraft, particularly military planes.
“Canada is trusted in the U.S. as a trade, defence, and security partner, and is respected by the world as a multilateralist,” Mr. Brison said. “We should be in a really good position to compete globally, with both the EU countries and with the U.S. Every industrialized country with a defence or aerospace industry recognizes a need to validate its industry through its own procurement. That has always been the case in Canada, too.”
Mr. Brison said the Harper government, particularly under former Industry Minister Maxime Bernier (Beauce, Que.), have moved away from that model and have started “completely ignoring the industrial benefits side of defence and aerospace procurement.”
Maryse Harvey, vice president of public affairs for the Aerospace Industries Association of Canada, said that traditionally, if the Canadian government bought aircrafts from the U.S. or Europe, the contracts to maintain the planes- which are often worth more than the planes themselves because they can span 20 to 25 years-are awarded to Canadian firms.
The Conservative government, and in particular the Department of National Defence, decided that for accountability reasons, it only wanted to deal with one company, so it gave American firm Lockheed Martin the mandate of awarding MRO (maintenance repair and overhaul) contracts, with the stipulation that 75 per cent of the value of the contract would be invested in Canada, she said.
“They’re supposed to give 75 per cent of the value of the contract back to Canada, but so far we don’t know how much the in-service support is worth. How much is 70 per cent of zero? We don’t know what the absolute number is because we don’t know how much the maintenance is going to be worth over 20 years,” she said.
Ms. Harvey said the other important issue involved with awarding MRO contracts is that it often in involves the transfer of intellectual property, and that the U.S. is “very reticent” to part with research and development capital.
“We don’t only want to change the screws on the airplane or change a little thing, we also want to find solutions to make it fly longer and better. It involves brain, it involves knowledge, it involves research and development, and it involves engineers; it’s much more than just bolts and screws,” Ms . Harvey said. “When a company develops those solutions, then you can export that knowledge and you can do the same work on the fleets of another country, for example, so that’s where your industry gets wind beneath its wings.”
Mr. Brison said he would support the idea of an all-party committee that could more closely examine at the different aspects of Canada’s aerospace industry.
The Hill Times
Findings from the Rideau Institute’s 2008 report ‘Flying
High: A Plan to Rebuild Canada’s Space Capabilities’
• The Canadian space sector requires $1.53-billion in new funding
over five years to rebuild Canada’s space capabilities
• Canada’s funding of its space sector is the second lowest
amongst G8 countries as a percentage of GDP and is less than
half of the G8 average
• The Canadian Space Agency budget has remained virtually
unchanged since 2001, at approximately $300-million per year,
while shortfalls and delays have resulted in “phantom” budget
growth and risk eroding existing programs
• The Canadian Space Agency needs leadership after having three
presidents in only three years
The DND-funded Conference of Defence Associations is still looking for nominations for its annual Ross Munro Media Award.
As I noted earlier, a lot of journalists are not so sure they even want an award from a group so close to the government, and whose president recently let fly a bitter attack on journalists for not “explaining” the Afghan mission to the Canadian public – i.e. helping to build support for the war.
But no doubt the defence lobby will find someone in a Canadian newsroom to take the statue – and the $2500 in cash.
Rumour has it that the CDA’s Ross Munro Media Award recipient this year will be Rosie DiManno of the Toronto Star. She certainly shares the CDA’s war-boosting and anti-public view. Here is what she wrote last year:
It would be so easy for Prime Minister Stephen Harper to cave in to opinion polls, bring the troops home earlier rather than later. Such a decision might even give this Conservative government the majority it covets.
I have no partisan politics. But Harper is to be commended for continuing to do what’s morally right rather than politically expedient, amidst the sophistry that passes for informed criticism, particularly among those who conflate Afghanistan with Iraq.
I have to point out that even the new Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Walter Natynczyk, recently conflated Afghanistan with Iraq, but I am sure that she will be able to square that circle.
Since my op-ed about the conflict between the defence lobby’s awards to Canada’s media and the Parliamentary Press Gallery’s journalistic integrity appeared in the Hill Times, I have heard from a few more journalists about the CDA’s attacks on the media and the public.
One reporter asked Defence Minister MacKay about CDA Institute President John Scott Cowan’s characterization of the public as a bunch of “slack-jawed gum-chewing vagrants” (which Cowan repeated himself in the Hill Times this week).
[I] repeated John Scott Cowan’s remarks [and Peter MacKay] said: “that’s a little much.” Mackay said he would never describe a fellow citizen giving an opinion as “slack jawed or uneducated.”
Another reporter who covers the defence beat, after reading my op-ed, told me,
It doesn’t surprise me that this [anti-public, anti-media] attitude is popping up. You seem to see it more and more every day.
Of course the greatest irony is that though the defence lobby feels hard done by, it is winning practically every time. Military spending has soared past the Cold War levels, defence companies are running away will multi-billion dollar non-competitive contracts, the Liberals flip-flopped and voted with the Conservatives to extend the war by nearly three years to 2011…
It reminds me of Jean Chretien’s quote in 2003 about the defence lobby:
But it’s never enough. I have never seen an army anywhere in the world who returned a government money — anywhere. They all need more and they all have plans for more.
It’s sad, but so true…
I contributed to this report in today’s Toronto Star. – Steve
Aug 09, 2008 04:30 AM
National Affairs Columnist
More shakeups in the Afghan war. The New York Times reports that the U.S. has decided to merge American and NATO troops under one command. Technically, NATO would run the combined mission. But a U.S. general is already in charge of NATO forces; according, to the Times, that command structure will continue indefinitely once the two operations are merged.
For countries like Germany that place explicit restrictions on how their troops are used, the change may not mean much. But for Canada, which has no so-called caveats on combat operations, the reorganization is a different matter. U.S. officials cited in the Times say the change is designed to allow British, Canadian, Dutch and U.S. soldiers to engage in a wider range of combat operations and support one another in a more seamless fashion.
With this decision, the U.S. will have effectively gone full circle on its Afghan war. Immediately after the 9/11 terror attacks, Washington was adamant that it run the invasion of Afghanistan. Other countries, including Canada, were invited to take part in what the Americans called Operation Enduring Freedom. But there was no question as to who was calling the shots.
By 2004, however, as America found itself drawn into the quagmire of Iraq, Washington lost interest in Afghanistan. Its aim then was to hand off that war to NATO allies like Canada.
In response, the Liberal government of former prime minister Paul Martin decided in 2005 to send roughly 2,500 Canadian combat troops to Afghanistan’s volatile Kandahar province.
Now, the Americans have switched gears again. Taliban insurgents have not been quashed by NATO or by the roughly 15,000 U.S. troops still fighting under separate command in Afghanistan as part of Operation Enduring Freedom. Indeed, the rebels are getting bolder. NATO and American casualties are rising. In the U.S., both Democrats and Republicans are calling on their administration to prosecute the Afghan war more vigorously.
Which is why Washington dispatched about 3,200 more troops there this year. Which is why, even before yesterday, it quietly assigned 19,000 of its troops to NATO (albeit under American overall command). Which is why U.S. Defence Secretary Robert Gates opted for the latest reorganization.
From a strictly military view, the new scheme makes sense. As University of British Columbia political scientist Michael Byers notes, co-ordination in war is generally a good thing. If nothing else, it minimizes the chance of allied troops firing on one another.
But for Canada, the decision to integrate U.S. and NATO fighting forces comes at an awkward time politically. The Afghan war is not popular in Canada, a fact even the ruling Conservatives recognize. Indeed, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has managed to set a 2010 end date to Canada’s combat mission – a decision he hopes will prevent Afghanistan from becoming a major issue in a federal election campaign that could come this fall.
Canadians forces inside Kandahar are already pulling back on combat missions and concentrating on training Afghan troops. If Harper is lucky, this will keep the Canadian death toll (currently 88 plus one diplomat) to less than the symbolically important number of 100 by the time the election is held.
But Gates’ reorganization could sabotage that political strategy. A merged NATO-U.S. effort would make it easier for American troops to help Canadians when they are in trouble. But it would also require Canada to reciprocate.
“There’s significantly less room for Canada to follow its own strategy,” says Steven Staples, head of the Ottawa-based Rideau Institute, a defence and foreign policy think tank. “We already differ with the Americans on certain matters, such as how to deal with opium production. This will give us no room at all to differ from Washington.”
Byers, who hopes to run for the New Democrats in the next federal election, says the reorganization may also pose legal problems for Canadian troops. Canada has signed international treaties that limit the amount of so-called collateral damage its troops may inflict on civilians in wartime. The U.S. has not. In particular, says Byers, Washington takes a looser view of aerial bombardment.
Staples notes Canada might balk at destroying a compound of Afghan villagers just to kill a handful of Taliban militants. But Washington is more tolerant
Canada also has a policy of not handing captured Taliban suspects to the U.S., which refuses to abide by the Geneva Conventions on prisoners of war.
But that too might change under the reorganization.
“When you’re engaged in a common operation, there is a tendency to follow the rules used by the more powerful actor,” Byers said in an interview from England yesterday. “In this case, that’s the U.S.”
I contributed to this CTV news report today on the government’s acquisition of helicopters for Afghanistan. When our report on Canadian casualties was released in 2006, many people felt that helicopters would save lives. But as I did then, today I pointed out that helicopters are vulnerable too, and many coalition troops have been killed in previous helicopters downings in Afghanistan.