Thursday, January 10, 2008

Canadians Subsidize War and Empire

There was a notable event this past week in the sordid history of Canada's complicity in war and empire.

Unknown to most Canadians, RADARSAT-2 is a world class "synthetic aperture radar" satellite developed with huge subsidy from Canadian taxpayers. It was then handed over to a private corporation -- MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates (MDA) -- by friends of that company in the neoliberal Liberal Party when it was in power. The amount paid by private capital for this publically developed asset was never revealed, and an extreme sweetheart deal is the most likely scenario. Though mentions of this system in the dominant media tend to focus on things like taking pictures of melting icecaps, this is not some innocent communications satellite but rather has huge applications as a tool for U.S.-led Western military domination. The good folks over at Press for Conversion say in their latest update that RADARSAT-2 is "probably Canada's single greatest technological contribution to the US war machine."

And the big news from this week? This piece of technology, which was subsidized so heavily by you and me, has been sold to a giant of the U.S. war industry called ATK as part of MDA's sale of its space divisions. ATK bills itself as "an advanced weapon and space system company." I don't necessarily agree completley with the somewhat nationalist spin put on this news in the linked update -- it is bad enough that my money and yours went to create this instrument of death, whether it is formally controlled by the Canadian state, Canadian capital, or U.S. capital, though its lifecycle does tell us lots about the intimate relationships among those three categories that are usually treated as separate. However, the update has lots of important and disturbing detail.

And what will this satellite system do? It is, apparently, a key piece of evolving U.S. and NATO plans to be able to collect, integrate, and disseminate images and other data to people implementing war and imperialism on the ground in real time -- y'know, those same soldiers who are occupying Iraq and Afghanistan and who are enforcing U.S. and Western dominance in other ways in other places.

From the update:

Shhh! Don't tell anyone... Canada is a Warmonger

Will anyone notice? I mean any of us in Canada. As for the victims on the ground who at are the receiving end of the weapons systems that are targeted using RADARSAT-2 data, we can be sure that--during their final moments--they'll perhaps notice something, though we can be sure they won't know that they have Canada to thank for whatever hit them. Neither, presumably, will their friends, family and neighbours know that Canadians paid for the targeting system.

As Major-General Andrew Leslie, Canada's military commander in Afghanistan, once said: "Every time you kill an angry young man overseas, you're creating 15 more who will come after you."

By that logic, it's better if they don't know it was us who killed them.

So perhaps that's how we Canadians want it. Perhaps we want the world--and even ourselves--to remain blissfully ignorant of Canada's role in the militarization of space and the many ways in our country is deeply complicity in the global business of war.

It is a great resource to become less blissful but more informed, so head on over and check out the many background articles to which this update links.

[And on an unrelated note, sorry for the lack of original writing in the last little bit -- I tried to sit down and write something last night, but it just wasn't happening. This has been a busy and stressful week on multiple fronts. But I'm sure I will have something more than "hey lookee here" posts soon!]

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