Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The Blood on Canada's Corporate Doorstep: War Profiteer L-3 Wescam

When Mass Murder Starts in Your Own Backyard:
Wescam, L-3 Communications Canada, and The Blood on Canada's Corporate Doorstep

It appears that Canadian technology built in Burlington, Ontario, contributed to another cowardly act of mass murder from the skies last month. Some 80 Pakistani school kids, most under the age of 15, were murdered October 30 when, according to numerous on-the-ground reports, an unmanned U.S. Predator drone, employing a targetting device designed and
manufactured at Burlington's L-3 Wescam, shot a Hellfire missile into the students' school.

The destructive power of a Hellfire hitting your local school is best illustrated by the fact that Hellfires are meant to slice through heavily armoured tanks. The rationale used for the attack was that a "bad guy," a "legitimate target," was in the area, and that if civilians don't
want to get hurt, they should just stay away from bad guys. It is no small irony that Wescam, which might be considered a legitimate military target or bad guy by any country at war with Canada, is located right next door to an elementary school.

The October 30 missile strike was another illegal act in the endless wars (the Hague Convention's Article 25 states: "The attack or bombardment of towns, villages, habitations or buildings which are not defended, is prohibited."). Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iraq, to name a
few, are simply, like Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, and so many others before them, testing labs for warfare, and all the new hi-tech gimmickry coming out of the "aerospace" market is being honed and refined "in theatre," as the generals like to say.


And what of those murdered kids? As then White House deputy counter-terrorism director Roger Cressey told UPI in 2001: "We are going to make mistakes. We are even going to kill the wrong people sometimes. That's the inherent risk of an aggressive counter-terrorism program."
This latest atrocity, a mere blip on the radar screen of the so-called "western" media, provides one more compelling reason for folks in Ontario to attend the November 20 rally, street theatre, and nonviolent civil disobedience at the entrance to L-3 Wescam. Like previous rallies
over the past four years, demonstrators wish to share evidence of what Wescam technology does when it's put to its intended use.

Burlington police recently told Homes not Bombs organizers that Wescam executives have been ordered by their corporate masters at L-3 Communications in New York to refuse our request for dialogue. A refusal to speak with us, however, will not deter us from trying to bring evidence of war crimes complicity to the front door of Burlington's biggest war manufacturer.

Evidence of the October 30 attack would not represent the first time that the blood of Afghanis or Iraqis could be laid at Wescam's doorstep. On February 4, 2002, a Predator drone fired a Hellfire missile at "three tall men" believed to be Al Qaeda members because they were wearing
long robes. Despite Pentagon insistence that the men were "suspected militants," they were in fact poor folks scavenging for metal. The Afghan Islamic Press identified the three dead men as Munir Ahmad, Jehangir Khan and Daraz Khan. "They were standing and chatting when hit by the missile," said village elders. Pentagon spokeswoman Victoria Clark, when confronted with that reality, stated: "We're convinced that it was an appropriate target...[although] we do not yet know exactly who it was."

According to Professor Marc Herold -- who has diligently documented the kinds of atrocities the Pentagon would just as soon forget -- on May 6, 2002, a Predator fired a Lockheed missile at a convoy of cars in Kunar province, seeking to assassinate an Afghan "warlord," but succeeded only in destroying a school and killing at least 10 nearby civilians.


Perhaps most famously, the U.S. carried out an extrajudicial execution using Wescam technology when six "suspected extremists" were blown to bits while driving in Yemen in November, 2002. There were no arrests, no charges, no trial, no appeal. Just silence, then death. U.S., officials have admitted that on other occasions the Predator has been used
to attack people mistakenly thought to be Osama bin Laden.

In an age when concepts like international law are viewed as an antiquated nuisance for those who would wage war, such incidents are becoming quite common.

On January 31, 2006, Amnesty International wrote a letter of protest to George W. Bush "to express its concern that between 13 and 18 people were killed on 13 January 2006," when Hellfire missiles were fired into three houses in Damadola in Bajaur Agency from an unmanned Predator drone probably operated by the CIA. As per usual, the excuse for the terrorist bombing was that a high-ranking Al-Qaeda official was "in the area." In the related press release, Amnesty International said it was concerned that a pattern of killings carried out with these weapons appeared "to reflect a US government policy condoning extrajudicial
executions. Amnesty International reiterated to the US President that extrajudicial executions are strictly prohibited under international human rights law. Anyone accused of an offence, however serious, has the right to be presumed innocent unless proven guilty and to have their guilt or innocence established in a regular court of law in a fair trial." Amnesty also pointed out that "the fact that air surveillance, witnessed by local people, took place for several days before the attack indicates that those ordering the attack on the basis of this information were very likely to have been aware of the presence of women and children and others unconnected with political violence in the area of the attack."


While hundreds upon hundreds of Canadian companies are reaping huge profits by enabling the murder of human beings in these testing grounds for war (supplying everything from the bullets, machine guns, and grenade launchers to the base material for depleted uranium bullets and light-armoured vehicles), L-3 Communications Canada (Wescam's parent) was
recently named the #1 military firm by the Canadian Defence Review.

L-3, which has grown into one of the largest weapons firms in the world, plays a major role in all parts of the so-called war on terror: interdiction of refugees seeking safety, supply of interrogation teams implicated in torture of Iraqi detainees, provision of the tools ofrepression utilized by police to smash demonstrations, and key components for major weapons systems.

Here in Canada, two of those major systems rely on L-3 Canada technology: the unmanned aerial vehicle Predator, and the Stryker Light Armoured Vehicle.

According to the U.S. Air Force's strategic vision planning document, the future of warfare is the use of unmanned aerial vehicles, naming the Predator as a system that "evolved into a formidable combat support and was involved in every major military operation" between 1996
and 2004. Armed with Hellfire missiles, the Predator is described as "one of the military's most requested systems, assisting in the execution of the global war on terror by finding, fixing, tracking, targeting, engaging, and assessing suspected terrorist locations." The UAV is viewed as "a major component of the Army Future Combat System," especially since unmanned vehicles mean increased air time, hovering time, and an ability to operate in "environments contaminated by chemical, biological, or radioactive agents." The Pentagon admits that
politically, using UAV's piloted with video screens based on the US cuts the domestic cost created by bodies coming home.

"Arming the RQ-1 Predator with Hellfire missiles can be compared to the mounting of guns on biplanes early in the last century," gushes the Air Force document.


L-3 Canada has also taken over the old Rexdale, Ontario, Litton plant, infamous for 1980s cruise missile production. Now called L-3 Electronic Systems, the division is currently manufacturing for General Dynamics Land Systems multiple assemblies for the Stryker Brigade Combat Team (BCT)."

General Dynamics describes the Stryker as "the Army's highest-priority production combat vehicle program and the centerpiece of the ongoing Army Transformation.... Stryker is an eight-wheel armored vehicle that is changing the way warfare is conducted on the battlefield....Stryker is an essential element of the Army's effort to transform itself into a
more agile, deployable, survivable and lethal force....Stryker fulfills an immediate requirement to equip a strategically deployable and operationally deployable brigade capable of rapid movement anywhere on the globe in a combat-ready configuration."

So while a majority of Canadians oppose the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, there is little doubt that they will continue until we confront the economic engine that is driving these wars, the corporations that make a living from killing (along with the many other tentacles of the war
complex, from recruiting in schools to the investment of public pension funds in war profiteers).
The workers at these factories need not lose their jobs. War must become as socially unacceptable as smoking. Both are profitable, and both kill. But now that smoking has been recognized for the grave health hazard it poses (along with huge health care bills), governments now subsidize farmers who used to grow tobacco to plant something else. And so it can be
in the hi-tech sector --instead of pumping billions into bombs, why not provide funding to transform their operations, so that the warlords of the world, from General Hillier on down, are forced to disarm and seek nonviolent means of conflict resolution? One step in that process is continued pressure on corporations like L-3. Please consider joining us for the demonstration November 20. If you cannot make it, drop a line to Wescam President John Dehne, urging that he meet with Homes not Bombs representatives to transform his business. His fax is (905) 633-4100, or send an email from the following site:
(report from Matthew Behrens of Homes not Bombs)

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