Tuesday, August 8, 2017

UPDATED: On Cheap Talk And Photo-Ops

In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defence of the indefensible.
-George Orwell

Regarding the misuse by the Saudis of armoured vehicles Canada sold them, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland says all the right words. She says
... she’s “deeply concerned” about recent videos that appear to show Canadian-made armoured vehicles being used by Saudi Arabia in a crackdown against its own citizens.

.... she has instructed her officials to “urgently” investigate the matter

She said the investigation must be done energetically but also “very carefully”.
And, for good measure, Freeland reassures us that she and her government
are absolutely committed to the defence of human rights and we condemn all violations of human rights,”.
All fine words, to be sure, but talk is cheap, and, as Orwell was fond of pointing out, can be used to defend the indefensible.

Notably absent in the Foreign Affairs Minster's rhetoric is what Canada plans to do about the situation, once it is verified, beyond this rather anodyne statement:
“[W]e will respond accordingly.”
Now, some may take me to task for intimating that except for some expressions of outrage, her Trudeau government will do nothing once the abuse has been verified. The reason I rush to judgement is that the Harper government that brokered the deal, and the Trudeau government that gave its stamp of approval to it, knew the deal with the devil they were getting into.

A piece recently written by Shannon Gormely sets such facts out in stark relief:
Representatives of not one but two Canadian governments – a previous Conservative government that in its steadfast avarice struck a $15-billion arms deal with the devil, and a current Liberal government that in its flippant cynicism signed off on it – are, with great conviction, taking turns promising and demanding the most rigorous of investigations into the alleged war criminal they have each aided and abetted.

They speak of Saudi Arabia, which apparently paused its targeting of schools, hospitals, marketplaces and weddings in Yemen to reload with some made-in-Canada ammo in its own Eastern Province. If video footage is to be believed, Canada, through yet another weapons deal (beyond that $15-billion one), has facilitated a multiple homicide by handing the murder weapons to a killer.
Gormley suggests that with full knowledge of the Saudi proclivity for using weapons against their own people, both the Conservative and Liberal governments should have followed one ironclad and very moral rule:
Don’t sell weapons to murderers.

It doesn’t matter if the murderer offers you a lot of money – lives are worth more than money. It doesn’t matter if the murderer could perhaps find another willing seller – better not, overall, to race to the bottom when the bottom is a mass grave. It doesn’t even matter if the murderer may, in theory, decide to use a weapon to defend your friends after using it to murder innocent people, or if they aren’t as bad as other murderers, or if they ask for the murder weapon really, really nicely. Don’t sell weapons to murderers.
Politicians' talk is cheap, and Trudeau's distracting propensity for peddling sunny selfies cannot conceal an ugly and indisputable fact:
The Liberals and Conservatives allowed Canadian companies to sell weapons to a murderer, and whether or not there is already blood on their hands, there is shame of the highest order.

UPDATE: From the pants-on-fire-department:
... rules call for restrictions on arms exports to countries with a “persistent record of serious violations of the human rights of their citizens.” Shipments are supposed to be blocked unless there is “no reasonable risk” the buyer could turn arms against its own population.

A Canadian arms-export researcher, Ken Epps, says the Saudi arms sales reveal the contradictions with the department of Global Affairs, which is supposed to promote business with other countries but also police military and defence shipments.

Also, Mr. Epps said what’s unfolding now in Saudi Arabia exposes how Ottawa has long failed to meet the test set out in arms-control guidelines: The government is supposed to have “demonstrated there is no reasonable risk” that military goods may be used against the local population before it signs export permits.

In the case of the $15-billion deal, the Liberal government never met this threshold, said Mr. Epps, with Project Ploughshares, a disarmament group. It merely stated it was not aware of any abuse of citizens with Canadian-made goods.

“It appears that the Canadian government isn’t even using its own standards.”
You can read the full story here.


  1. I hope this link still works.


    At that page you'll find some photos, one of them showing an earlier batch of LAV fighting vehicles mounted with turrets and cannon that the Saudis used to cross into Bahrain to put down pro-democracy demonstrators.

    Trudeau and Dion had to have known about the Bahrain incident when they pushed through the sale of these "jeeps" to Saudi Arabia. Some of these new "jeeps" are also scheduled to be fitted with after-market turrets and cannon.

    1. Thanks for the link, Mound. It still works. There is no question in my mind that Dion and Trudeau knew of these inconvenient realities, but the sheen of a 'new' government and Justin's pearly whites were probably thought to be sufficient to blind everyone else to the truth.

  2. Replies
    1. Freeland does fake outrage really well, doesn't she, Owen?

  3. I'm more concerned that the "investigation" will be a white wash.

    The UN Arms Control Treaty provides a mechanism for future sales to be blocked by 3rd party lawsuits, if there is evidence of human rights violations.

    1. I would love for us to be proven wrong, Jay, but I agree that given the neoliberal nature of the government, a whitewash seems almost inevitable. Thanks for the info about the UN Treaty; I did not know about the possibility of lawsuits.