War triumphant | Opinion | Halifax, Nova Scotia | THE COAST

War triumphant

The arms industry has proven to be recession-proof, and Canada’ military budget has increased nearly 50 percent since 2000.

Peaceniks, eat your hearts out: Finally, good news! In spite of the global recession, business is booming for arms makers. In 2009, global military spending reached a record $1.5 trillion US---a solid gain of nearly six percent over 2008 and a whopping increase of 49 percent since the year 2000. The authoritative 2010 yearbook from SIPRI, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, notes that more than half of the increased military spending in 2009 came from the US. And no wonder. Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen are a few of the lucky countries where Uncle Sam is dropping bombs and spreading treasure. American largesse supports the military in Mexico, where the four-year campaign against drug cartels has so far sent more than 34,600 people to a better world.

SIPRI points out that Canada's $19.2 billion military budget continued to earn it the rank of 13th largest spender in 2009, a truly impressive achievement for a peaceable kingdom with less than one-half of one percent of the world's population. The Canadian military budget has increased by 48.8 percent since 2000 and, praise be, further hikes are on the way, including $21 billion (or so) for a fleet of F-35 fighter jets---a contract that will surely put broad grins on the faces of the good people at Lockheed Martin.

Speaking of L-M, SIPRI figures show the US aerospace giant continues to flourish. It ranked number two among the top 100 arms makers in 2008, with $29.8 billion in arms sales and almost $3.22 billion in total profits. The number one arms maker in 2008 was BAE systems, based in Britain. It sold $34.4 billion worth of military goods and services in 2008 and racked up a total profit of $3.25 billion. Other companies in the top 10 included the US giants, Boeing (total profits $2.67 billion) and General Dynamics (total profits almost $2.46 billion). SIPRI predicts continued good times for these recession-proof companies.

Unfortunately, Canadian peaceniks tried to squelch this heart-gladdening investment news last week when the US celebrated Martin Luther King day. They pointed to an anti-Vietnam war speech King delivered in April 1967, a year before he was killed. In it, he called the US government "the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today" then went on to link poverty, racism and militarism:

"This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation's homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into the veins of peoples normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice and love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death."

King also noted the "glaring contrast of poverty and wealth" and accused Western capitalists of extracting profits from poorer regions with no concern for social betterment. "We must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society," he said. "When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism and militarism are incapable of being conquered."

Powerful words, but during an official ceremony honouring King last week at the Pentagon, defense department lawyer Jeh C. Johnson said the civil rights leader might applaud the US military today because its soldiers are acting as Good Samaritans. "I believe that if Dr. King were alive today, he would recognize that we live in a complicated world, and that our nation's military should not and cannot lay down its arms and leave the American people vulnerable to terrorist attack," Johnson said, adding that US military personnel are willingly risking their lives to bring peace, freedom and aid to people in Iraq and Afghanistan. Amen!

So there, peaceniks. Righteousness and the arms trade are flourishing together. And yes, war is peace.

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