As governments of every stripe come and go, the quaintly named Department of National Defence (DND) continues to gain unquestioned approval for billions in unneeded weapons purchases. In the run-up to the October 21st election, for example, any mention of the ongoing effort to acquire jet fighter planes, including the infamous F-35, is couched in terms of Canadian jobs, and laced with patriotic language about our forces deserving “the best”.
The major parties squabble over “transparency” in the process. None of them ask the question: “For what purpose”? There are two news items here. First, the F-35 and other aircraft under consideration are not defensive weapons. They are first strike attack aircraft. Like the CF-18 they are to replace, their primary purpose is clearly to continue aiding U.S. military adventures that are killing civilians. Second, even if one could abide that purpose, the jobs are not coming.
The F-35 fiasco: bad ideas never die
The 22-year scandal over purchase of the F-35 stealth fighter, one of the most expensive military acquisitions in Canadian history, is a perfect example of the joint Tory/Liberal/NDP enthusiasm for buying expensive weapons, while leaving indigenous people to boil their water and teachers to buy school supplies from their own funds. To the extent that the question “for what purpose” is any part of this saga, it is answered only obliquely by reference to creation of Canadian jobs. There is no mention at all of the part those jobs play in killing civilians and contributing to resentment around the world. And even the jobs factor is fast disappearing.
The only reasonably arguable purpose is, of course, to do the foreign policy bidding of the U.S. – an increasingly dangerous enterprise.
The history of Canada’s pursuit of a plane that will not even fulfill its morally suspect purpose would be the stuff of late-night comedy parodies were it not for the seriousness of the matter. It all began modestly in 1997, when the Liberal government of Jean Chretien invested $10 million to get in the F-35 game. That was quickly followed by another $150 million. The total would become more than a half billion dollars. Chretien may not live to see the first plane roll off the assembly line, if indeed it ever does.
Unsurprisingly, in 2010, the Harper Conservatives were enthusiastic about replacing Canada’s CF-18 fighters with the F-35, and announced their intention to purchase it via an exclusive, no competition contract with Lockheed Martin. All the opposition parties could find to argue about was the absence of competition. Nobody asked “for what purpose?”
In 2011, when Tories won a majority, the F-35 was something of a campaign issue, but not much. Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff, a military hawk himself, could hardly be expected to raise the alarm. Harper promised a balanced budget without mentioning military spending. The massive F-35 purchase plan did not appear in the Tory’s 2015 campaign platform.
Throughout, DND continued unimpeded to call the procurement tune for all parties, and protect the F-35 plan even as the inevitable cost overruns appeared and early tests of prototypes failed to meet Canada’s requirements. DND even altered Wikipedia page entries to remove information critical of the F-35 or the Harper government plan to spend $18 billion on it.
The Liberals and NDP cried foul about that, but continued to voice no objection to the purchase plan itself, never asking “for what purpose?”
That question was addressed in part by Leonard Johnson, former commandant of the National Defence College: “It is hard to see any useful military role for the F-35.”
In a comically ironic response to this objection to the purchase of planes for U.S. foreign operations, the Assistant Chief of Air Staff insisted that the purchase was necessary to protect Canadian sovereignty!
Then defence minister Peter McKay also offered some thoughts about the purpose of buying F-35s. He said they would be a great recruiting lure for pilots, and be very important to the continued growth of the Canadian Forces.
Did anyone else miss the vote to continue growing the Canadian military, or the justification for it? (end of excerpt)
Click here for the full story, on the Common Ground website.