Wikileaks reveals intense PR push to sell US war planes | News | Halifax, Nova Scotia | THE COAST

Wikileaks reveals intense PR push to sell US war planes

NS activists urge MacKay to cancel plan to buy F-35s

Sam Lorincz , 6, delivers Xmas card to Peter MacKay

Sam Lorincz , 6, delivers Christmas card to Peter MacKays office Friday
  • Allan Bezanson
  • Sam Lorincz , 6, delivers Christmas card to Peter MacKay's office Friday

Small groups of peace activists rallied outside Defence Minister Peter MacKay’s constituency office in New Glasgow on Thursday and Friday to voice their opposition to the Conservative government’s plan to spend $16 — $21 billion on F-35 fighter jets made by Lockheed Martin.

“The US military-industrial complex and especially Lockheed Martin have put tremendous pressure on the Department of National Defence,” Pictou County peace activist Paige Kennedy told the Coast in a telephone interview. “We understand how large this pressure is.”

Kennedy referred to confidential cables from Wikileaks showing how the US government pressured Norway to buy the controversial F-35s in 2008 when it appeared that Norwegian officials favoured buying Swedish military jets instead. One cable reveals that high-level American officials conveyed “forceful” behind-the-scenes warnings to Norwegian politicians that failure to buy the fighter planes would damage relations between the two countries. The cable shows that at the same time, the US and Lockheed Martin worked together on an intense PR campaign to sway public opinion in favour of the F-35s and against the Swedish Saab Gripen aircraft.

Tamara Lorincz, who helped organize the rallies outside MacKay’s constituency office, says it appears the US government and Lockheed Martin have adopted similar tactics to sell the F-35s in Canada.

“The Canadian peace movement and concerned citizens are not just up against the federal government and our defence minister making the wrong decisions, but there’s a ton of pressure coming from the US government and Lockheed Martin in our country,” Lorincz says. She points, for example, to a federal website touting the F-35 that conveys similar messages to a Lockheed Martin site calling the F-35 “Canada’s Next Generation Fighter,” even though no final contract for the planes has yet been signed.

“Representatives from the Canadian Department of National Defence just did a cross-Canada tour trying to convince sympathetic audiences like the Centre for Foreign Policy Studies at Dalhousie and industry groups,” Lorincz adds. “It’s the first time in history that we’re aware that Department of National Defence representatives are going across the country to try to soften the public up on a military procurement.”

Lorincz points out that the diplomatic cables describing the tactics used to sell the F-35 in Norway were written by Kevin Johnson who then served as a senior official in the American embassy in Oslo. Johnson is now head of the US Consulate in Toronto.

“This is going to be a huge challenge for the Canadian public to prevent our tax dollars being wasted on the F-35s when we have the US government, the Canadian government and the world’s largest weapons manufacturer...working very hard on the campaign to try to turn the tide in their favour.”

“The three main points we wanted to make to Peter were to cancel the stealth fighter order,” Paige Kennedy says, “not to extend the Afghan mission and bring the troops home and finally, to cut oil subsidies and invest that money into action on climate change and the environment.”

At the rally outside MacKay’s office on Thursday, Kennedy carried a banner which quoted Oscar Arias, a Nobel Peace Prize winner and former president of Costa Rica: “Military spending represents the single most significant perversion of worldwide priorities known today.”

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