Toronto, ON M6C 1C0, (416) 651-5800 (Toronto), (905) 526-7982, (905) 527-4488 (Hamilton), email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
December 10, 2002
Three Charged Seeking Information on Canadian Company's Possible Links to International Law Violations
U.N inspectors have enjoyed unfettered access to a range of Iraqi sites this month, right down to the innards of refrigerators in Saddam Hussein's palaces. But a group of Canadians who attempted to inspect military manufacturer Wescam, which may well be linked to gross violations of international and moral law, barely got 20 feet onto the property before they were hauled away in handcuffs and charged with trespassing on Dec. 10.
Charged for trying to obtain some answers to crucial questions about the targetting/surveillance equipment of Wescam were David Jefferess and Andrew Loucks of Hamilton and Matthew Behrens of Toronto.
Who is Wescam? Visit their disgusting website (www.wescam.com) and find out for yourself. The firm which used to be well-known for providing camera equipment for Hollywood movies and NASCAR racing has discovered unparalleled "opportunity," upwards of $3 billion worth in the next 3&endash;5 years, in the so-called war on terrorism and accompanying domestic repression.
Wescam unapologetically advertises its exports to the Armament Authority of Egypt and the Colombian Air Force, as well as the U.S. Air Force, Navy and Army, all of which have been implicated in horrific crimes.
According to the Wescam website's audiostream (underscored by rock and roll music) "Wescam systems provide long-range covert intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance to defense and public safety and security agencies around the globe. When the US Air Force needed a superior electro-optic and clear imaging system for the Predator Unmanned Aerial Vehicles they chose our 14-TS. This advanced technology gives them the air superiority and agile combat support that are central objectives in air force operations. Adding the best information and dominating in tactical intelligence saves lives Wescam: changing the way you see the world."
December 10, 2002, International Human Rights Day (for some, not all, of the people on the globe), Burlington, Ontario, Canada (account provided by Matthew Behrens)
A lonely stretch of Burlington's North Service Road, nestled against the screaming Hamilton-bound traffic on Highway 403, was home to an unprecedented local phenomenon on December 10. A group of 25 people, ranging from Raging Grannies to a spirited 7-year-old, converged at the entrance to military manufacturer Wescam in an attempt to conduct a citizens' weapons inspection of the facility.
But while UN inspectors have enjoyed unfettered (and often unannounced) access to a host of suspected Iraqi weapons production sites, this first in what organizers hope will be a series of cross-Canada inspections was met with almost a dozen police cruisers and, for three of the demonstration's participants, a free ride in handcuffs down to the local police station for booking on charges of trespassing.
While the result was not unexpected, it was nonetheless a clear indication of the hypocrisy that underscores the demands of nations which are armed (and arming) to the teeth that only one nation be disarmed. Further, it was another piece of evidence that the United States is not alone in its push for ever more destructive military capabilities.
Whatever position the Canadian government takes vis-a-vis the war against Iraq or any other U.S. military adventure, the $5 billion military industry in this country will keep humming along normally, with jail cells awaiting those who would interfere.
Indeed, the government of Canada, acting as a middleman for the benign-sounding aerospace/defence sector, continually makes the top 100 list of Pentagon contractors (we were #19 in 2000, #58 in 2001). And The Department of External Affairs, among others, proudly supports and promotes Canadian weapons at such events as the upcoming IDEX 2003 in Abu Dhabi, considered one of the world's premier arms shows, and the annual two-day CANSEC weapons show in Ottawa this April.
Among those companies benefiting from Ottawa's boosterism are almost a dozen southern Ontario firms currently involved in supplying the U.S. nuclear weapons program (read weapons of mass destruction). Other firms across Canada are also implicated in this scheme..
Some of them are household names because of their dual use technology&endash;Honeywell and Litton, for example&endash;while many have titles which would barely distinguish them from suppliers of tupperware or garden equipment (West Heights Manufacturing, Kitchener, Messier-Dowty Inc., Ajax, Panorama Business Views in Toronto).
One company cashing in on the maintenance of nuclear weapons stockpiles in the U.S. is Kitchener-based FakeSpace Systems, which has received millions from the U.S. to aid in the "High performance computing [that] ensures the effectiveness of America's nuclear arsenal," cold comfort to those who would be targetted with such weapons.
FakeSpace's partner in this crime is Los Alamos National Laboratory which, in the kind of irony only the military can dream up (think of the U.S. Air Force's slogan, "Peace is our profession"), states "we serve the nation by developing and applying the best science and technology to make the world a better and safer place." In the same breath they claim to maintain the kinds of nuclear weapons which represent the explosive power of 100 Hiroshimas in one shot. Should those weapons be dropped on anyone, a truly impartial war crimes tribunal would have to indict the executives of FakeSpace for their role in ensuring the successful nuking of, say 10 million people.
FakeSpace technology ("large-scale visualization systems") aids some 300 nuclear weapons designers and researchers in a 300,000 sq. ft. facility that houses Q, one of the world's largest computers, at Los Alamos. It's part of what's called the stockpile stewardship program (which sounds more like a Sierra Club campaign for cute endangered bears rather than the maintenance of weapons of mass destruction.), and it helps ensure, despite the oxymoron, the "safety and reliability" of nuclear weapons.
These firms represent the tip of the Canadian military iceberg, with other firms seeking space warfare opportunities (Cambridge-based COM-DEV and Toronto's CAE are working on the Bush Star Wars II program).
Then there's a multitude of companies which provide what we like to refer to as weapons of mass human destruction. At Kitchener's Diemaco, for example, a whole "family" of weapons are manufactured which can fire upwards of 800 rounds a minute, including sniper rifles recently used in Afghanistan (where Canadian sniper rifles, likely also made by Diemaco, won our shooters top prizes in Soldier of Fortune magazine).
Together, these and many other hi-tech firms are part of Canada's contribution to the puzzle of how the U.S. will remain the dominant military power on the globe.
It's a frightening reality that hits home back at Wescam, which shares a driveway with a private elementary school situated right behind the facility (and they say only Saddam is the type of guy to use human shields next to his weapons facilities!)
Well-to-do parents drop off their toddlers at the private school next to the Wescam building that supplies targetting systems for the U.S., Canadian and Colombian air forces. None of these air forces would consider it beyond reason to bomb such elementary schools, as well as the civilian infrastructure which would support those students and their families--electrical facilities, water treatment plants, pharmaceutical companies--in countries where such international law violations dovetail with U.S. strategic objectives.
We try to explain this to police who block our way. These are not idle leftist conspiracy theories, they are grounded in documents you can download from the Pentagon's own website. For example, the deliberate destruction of Iraq's water system, with the full knowledge that resulting widespread diseases would claim thousands of lives, is mentioned without a trace of regret or self-doubt at www.gulflink.osd.mil (search for "disease information effects of bombing").
Earlier in the morning, an attempt was made to deliver materials on Wescam and our demonstration to the school so no one inside would be upset or fearful. Police blocked our way, refusing to even provide escort for one or two individuals inside. Later, a call is made to the school principal, and numerous requests to meet with school officials are turned down. Our seven-year-old peace activist Evelyna Kay, volunteers to take something in, but even that offer is turned down by the school. Why? "You have to understand, there are children in here!" comes the reply.
As we stand on North Service Road, the all-glass, 122,000 sq. ft. building suddenly shows itself to have a Mission Impossible-style surveillance system. A huge window slides to the left and there emerges a massive-looking surveillance camera, perhaps the size of a great pumpkin, which moves to the left and right as we move. Given the strength of the technology, it is likely recording the finest details of our faces, perhaps performing iris scans for future use. "Smile for your file!" someone yells, and the Raging Grannies boot it into their rousing rendition, sung to the tune if you're happy and you know it, of "If you cannot find Osama, Bomb Iraq!
Draped across the top of the building is a huge Season's Greetings banner, a stark contrast to the greetings Wescam products deliver when employed by the likes of the Colombian Air Force, all branches of the U.S. military, and the Armament Authority of Egypt.
The police, in addition to over-reacting, seem uncomfortable dealing with the situation. Partly because it's a demonstration in a city not used to such things, partly because the police live in the area too, and some are incredulous that Wescam would be involved in potential violations of international law.
A group of nine people slowly walks up the driveway to Wescam, prepared to make a pitch to enter the building. It's not the first trip there. Andrew Loucks has gone three weeks earlier to deliver a letter to CEO Mark Chamberlain spelling out a series of concerns and questions, and saying he will be back on Dec. 10 with some colleagues in the hopes of holding a meeting and inspection. He has cc-ed MPs and other local politicians, only one of whom responds with the cheery thought that nothing amiss is going on at Wescam, and that if we are really concerned, we should talk to the U.S. Congress.
CEO Chamberlain has refused to reply, and the company has not even bothered to send out a PR flak. Wescam is media shy as well, turning down numerous interview requests.
We explain that we really have no choice but to breach the police line when Wescam will not respond to urgent inquiries from the community, when there is the urgency that Wescam technology will be aiding further atrocities in the coming weeks.
A sergeant in command handles the situation with what at first appears typical good cop behaviour, "hearing" our concerns but saying there is nothing he can do, because his instructions are to keep people off the property. But that is only the surface.
The more we talk, the less he seems in a hurry to get us off the property. Andrew holds up a picture of the Predator Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV), and explains how it was used to execute six people in Yemen in early November who were not charged, not tried or convicted of anything, but who were simply "suspect"--an extrajudicial execution which drew nary a whimper of protest from Foreign Affairs or the State Dept.
We talk about the human suffering in war zones which are 17 km below where the Wescam equipment would be flying, and how we need to help Wescam employees get over the disconnect between their products and the human devastation caused by them.
The sergeant is looking almost powerless, and almost tears up as seven-year-old Kay asks with all sincerity, "Why are you not letting us in? That's not right! We need to stop the war."
At this point, we walk single file up towards the plant, but are stopped by police and placed in the back of patrol cars. Young Kay sings out loud and proud, We Shall Overcome, and soon everyone is joining in, serenading the arrested inspectors and dedicating themselves to a return visit.
Wescam represents an ever uglier future of warfare and domestic repression. What's at stake at Wescam is not simply the concern over what will happen in Iraq over the next few months, though that is perhaps foremost in most of our minds. We worry as well about villagers being targetted by the Colombian air force using Wescam systems, and the larger issue of what the Wescam-equipped UAVs are for: the waging of war from the safety of a Rocky Mountain bunker where, with no risk of pilots' body bags returning home, and the relatively inexpensive loss of a crashed UAV (as opposed to a human-guided jet fighter), wars and extrajudicial executions will take place in almost complete secrecy, and generate even less domestic opposition. (UAVs also fly at altitudes where they are completely beyond the reach of anti-aircraft defences.)
Canada has served as an overflight area for the USAF Global Hawk High Altitude Endurance (HAE) Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), beginning in January 2000. Global Hawk can see targets with one foot of resolution from as far away as 200 km. The Canadian War Dept. claims, "It is designed to cover an area roughly the size of the Maritime Provinces (or roughly 140, 000 km2) on each flight and send radar, infrared and visible images to a ground commander. This enables commanders to observe large areas of coverage, select areas of interest, and zoom in on specific targets to enhance their situational awareness"
The cost of such UAVs is far less than, say, for example the average $200 million-plus for each new manned F-22 fighter. It is expected that some 80% of the bombing missions flown during the bombing of the Balkans will be done by UAVs within the next two decades.
This is the type of technology which is aimed at complete global control: with eyes in the skies and weapons in the skies, whether on UAVs or through space warfare, the people of the globe become ever more vulnerable to instant and deadly attack if their voices stray too far afield and interfere with the ability of capital to freely exploit the people and resources of the planet.
For info on upcoming Wescam actions, contact Hamilton Action for Social Change at (905) 526-7982, (905) 527-4488
Homes not Bombs is organizing a citizens' weapons inspection for Litton Systems in Toronto on January 20, Martin Luther King Day. For more info on this one call (416) 651-5800.
If you would like to organize such an inspection (need not be arrestable) in your community but need some tips, pointers, suggestions, whatever, get in contact with us as well!
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