Canadian Pawns In America’s Great Game

How Canada needs to take an environmental stand apart from the United States.

By Judith Stapleton

In the next decade, as North America gives birth to the next generation, the continent’s environments will begin to buckle under unrelenting hothouse pressures produced by increasing CO2 from fossil fuels, methane from thawing tundra, loss of the Arctic air conditioner, Dustbowlification in the agricultural breadbasket, and looming freshwater wars, and Canada and the US will be spending more money than in their histories on “National Defence.”

This misplacement of priorities is clear evidence that the people in charge of the political pursestrings labour under the illusion that they live on a different planet— on some meta-plane above earth’s warming atmosphere where they don’t have worries about sea level rise, or disappearing fish stocks, super storms, or super bugs. And yet, since WW II, Canada has not been at war with anyone, nor has any country declared war against Canada. Canada has never had colonies, and most of her crimes against humanity have been committed right at home, against First Nations peoples. But Canada carries the foreign policy water for the US, and sacrifices young enlisted men and women in the name of American empire. It is in this echo chamber that Canada’s Foreign Minister, Chrystia Freeland, and Defense Minister, Harjit Singh Sajjan, recently announced the lie that an increase in military spending, from $18.9 billion last year, to $32.7 billion by 2026, will relieve the country from being a “client state” dependent for protection on its neighbour to the South.

Missing from this sales pitch is the long history of a linked foreign policy between the two countries—Canadian warships in the Baltic and in the Middle East alongside US naval vessels, Canadian support forces in Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Columbia, Haiti, and so on. Taking part in blockades—of Iraq or Russia—takes Canada to war without the critical outrage that might follow a formal declaration. Canada goes to war as a willing part of any US offence, whether the Canadian government and press admit it or not.

As a “client state” of the US, increasing military spending from 1.2% of GDP to 1.4% means that, rather than ceasing to be a client state, Canada is simply putting more chips in the game. Under the thin tissue of “reducing Canadian dependence on the US”, this fresh investment of tax dollars in the infrastructure and personnel of the American war machine means the next generation is already committed to a fate it would not choose.

Canada’s commitment of 1.4% is less than the 2% GDP Trump expects from NATO members and indeed, this increase in Defence spending pales in comparison to President Trump’s announcement of a $54 billion expenditure on America’s military. But that, it turns out, is not nearly enough. In a meeting negotiated by his son-in-law Jared Kushner with Lockheed Martin CEO Marilyn Hewson, and subsequently nailed down with Saudi King Salman bin Abdelaziz Al Saud, the US has struck an unprecedented $109 billion Defence deal for offensive precision-guided missiles. But that is not enough either. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson announced that this weapons deal with the Saudis is just a component of $350 billion in economic and defence investments between the two countries over the next 10 years. The Saudi regime will be using these weapons both in Syria and in the brutal war on Yemen, which has led to conditions the United Nations has repeatedly called the worst humanitarian crisis in the world.

This gargantuan increase in Defence spending must be seen in the context of peace in North America, because neither Canada nor the US has declared war on anybody. We are all simply de facto at war. This has been the Real World since President Obama’s Administration began building bases and sending in Special Ops troops to Syria, and explicitly since August 3, 2015, when his Administration announced that it would “allow airstrikes to defend Syrian rebels trained by the US.” The Trump decision to shoot down a Syrian plane in Syrian airspace—which posed no threat whatsoever to the US—made it official: The US is at war because the President and his Administration feel like it. No Congressional decision is necessary, it seems. Without Parliamentary due process, Canada is at war too. Executive war-making prerogatives have been normalized. So much for democracy!

The fossil fuel industry that floats this war boat has a unique status that exempts it from the emissions-cutting obligations of both the Kyoto protocol and the UN Paris climate deal. Neither Canada nor the US expect their military to be climate-controlled, in spite of the Pentagon’s declaration that climate warming, not ISIS, is the biggest threat to world security. The US Senators who passed the bill that authorizes tax dollars to fund the weapons and military technology industries have received considerable financial support from Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Huntington Ingalls Industries, Boeing and the Harris Corporation, according to OpenSecrets.org.

The US military is widely thought to be the world’s biggest institutional consumer of crude oil, but its emissions reporting exemptions mean it is hard to be sure. The military takes no responsibility for its emissions, in the air, in the water, or in the soil, and it is free of any obligations to report them.
The US Department of Defence’s own records from 2014 show that the army emitted 70m tons of CO2 per year in the US mainland and Hawaii, but there were no figures for its overseas bases, or for airforce and navy contributions to global warming.
Activities including intelligence work, law enforcement, emergency response, tactical fleets and areas classified as national security interests are also exempt from reporting.

The Iraq war was responsible for 141m tons of carbon release in its first four years, according to an Oil Change International report. On an annual basis, this was more than the emissions from 139 countries in this period, or about the same as putting an extra 25 million cars onto US roads for a year. The report found that projected US spending, on the Iraq war alone, could cover all global investments in renewable energy needed to halt global warming trends in the crucial period from now to 2030. For over a year, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have called for an immediate halt in the US sale of arms to Saudi Arabia, citing atrocities in Yemen. At the same time the United Nations has accused the US-Saudi coalition of committing what appear to be war crimes.

Without the financial and military support provided by both the US and the UK, Saudi Arabia would not have been able to wage this war. (Alternet, Greyzone Project, Ben Norton). Saudi attacks against Yemen use US planes, US weapons, US fuel, and US intelligence from US officials present in the command room with Saudi officials orchestrating this human tragedy.
But even bombing is not enough to eliminate these annoying Yemenis. The US has also joined the crippling Saudi blockade that prevents food and medical aid getting to the civilian population, fuelling mass starvation, exacerbating a cholera outbreak, and creating the worst food insecurity emergency on earth.

Where are the voices of outrage against this unspeakable cruelty and this unimagined plan to ruin the future conditions for life in the name of endless war? It is simply not conceivable that all the men and women in the Canadian and American legislatures believe in a militarily determined future! There has been a voice from Kentucky. Senator Rand Paul, known as a libertarian-leaning Republican, delivered a speech from the Senate floor, expressing outrage and indignation over his colleagues’ defence of the arms deal as “a job creating initiative.”

“I am embarrassed that people are out here talking about making some money and making a buck while seventeen million people live on a starvation diet and are threatened with famine, I am embarrassed,” Paul thundered. “I am embarrassed that people would bring up trying to feather the nest of corporations in order to sell these weapons.”

As the war machine kicks into higher gear, infusing the warming planet with catastrophic and unmeasurable levels of CO2, selecting victims with more and more strategic weapons, and catching everyone else in the net called “collateral damage,” the sign on the horizon is getting clearer as it gets closer: The future you want is not available any more.

Publisher’s Note: Judith Stapleton is a writer in the fields of science and medicine.