The conversation to come on Canada’s new warplanes and racism
It has been noted by David Swanson, the Executive Director of World Beyond War, that the United States has dropped bombs on people in over 30 countries since 1945, and by Jeff Faux, a Distinguished Fellow at the Economic Policy Institute, that the US has invaded, occupied or bombed 14 Muslim countries since 1980.
As the Canadian government prepares to award a $19 billion contract in 2022 to one of three transnational corporations now bidding to build 88 new fighter jets to meet its NATO and NORAD commitments, the top procurement official at the Department of National Defence has acknowledged that the United States will play a role in the “ultimate certification” of Canada’s selection of a warplane.
A US Embassy official in Ottawa has also stated: “We continue to believe in the importance of NATO and NORAD interoperability [the ability of weapons systems to work together] as a crucial component of Canada’s acquisition of defence assets.”
What should we make of this? What do NORAD and NATO do? Can one apply the lens of racial justice to military alliances and related spending?
To begin with, the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) is a military alliance formed between Canada and the US at the time of the Cold War with the Soviet Union to “maintain the sovereignty of North American airspace.”
And the North American Treaty Organization (NATO) is a military alliance that includes the US, Canada and twenty-eight other countries.
A former US Ambassador to NATO recently noted: “The US has been the acknowledged leader of NATO since its founding in Washington DC in 1949.” Given the size of the US military, it also very likely leads NORAD as well.
Canada’s fighter jets have engaged in NATO bombing missions in Kosovo in 1999 and in Libya in 2011. Beyond these NATO missions, they have also participated in US-led bombing missions in the Gulf War in 1991, as well as in Iraq and Syria from 2014 to 2016.
Racism and military interventions
In this article for the Transnational Institute, Phyllis Bennis, a Program Director at the Institute for Policy Studies, observed: “In the history of our movements for peace and for justice, the most strategic activists, analysts, and cultural workers were always those who understood the centrality of racism at the core of US wars.”
Bennis further highlights: “They grasped the ways in which US militarism relied on racism at home to recruit its cannon-fodder and to build public support for wars against ‘the other’ – be they Vietnamese, Cambodians, Nicaraguans, Iraqis, Syrians, Libyans, Somalis, Yemenis, Afghans, or anyone else.”
Professor Walden Bello has also commented: “The American Way of War is marked by the marriage of advanced technology and racism that is intended to limit the expenditure of lives on one’s side while inflicting massive devastation on the other side — under the guiding assumption that white lives are precious and colored lives are cheap.”
And Bianca Mugyenyi of the Canadian Foreign Policy Institute has written: “Each and every time we consider Canadian support for … military interventions, we must take into account the standpoint of the largely Black and brown countries that make up most of the world.” She has also noted the need to address anti-Black racism in Canadian foreign policy.
The conversation to come
CODEPINK: Women for Peace co-founder Medea Benjamin has noted: “As we chant Black Lives Matter, we should include the lives of black and brown people being blown up by US bombs in Yemen and Afghanistan.”
Given the concerns noted above about racism (racialized militarism) in decisions about war-making, and the growing awareness about the various forms of state violence (including the militarization of local police forces), this is a crucial time to find ways to engage in intersectional conversations about how #BlackLivesMatter, #BIPOCLivesMatter, #DefundThePolice and #NoNewFighterJets can connect and support each other on the path to peace.
To send an email to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and key decision-makers to express opposition to Canada buying new warplanes, please click here.
Photo: F-18 fighter jet.