Watching the Watchers:
But many Canadians, being sheltered from knowledge of their country's deep complicity in the US imperium, are content to cozy themselves with self-righteous delusions about mythical "Canadian values." The prevailing national narratives, propagated by state institutions, corporations (including the mass media) and similarly captive NGOs, still propagate the fiction that Canada is a beacon of light shining human rights, justice and democracy on the world.
In truth, Canada
stands unreservedly for the capitalist model of private exploitation which
has shackled the peoples of this planet for centuries in varying forms of
slavery, and is now driving us recklessly towards environmental
destruction, all in the name of increased profitability for corporations.
magical, spy technology has been used of late by US "law-enforcement"
agencies eager to look down upon the scurrying masses of antiracist
protesters in American cities. But, as we'll see, the centrepiece of this incredible
technology -- a cutting-edge, Canadian-made "high-magnification,
technology -- was used to great effect one decade ago by Canada's military.
The Canadian air force used this same spy technology aboard warplanes to aid
civilian police authorities in their monitoring of mass protests
G8-G20 summit. Ironically, these
protesters were trying to shine a critical spotlight on
the world's most powerful heads of state who were then gathering in
Toronto to structure their control over the global financial system.
Reapers are among numerous aerial platforms that allow the military minions of ruling authorities (akin to Orwell's "Big Brother" or the Brother Grimm's "Evil Queen") to keep tabs on those who dare to threaten the elite's supremacy. But besides keeping a watchful eye on adversaries of the establishment, the Reaper can also be used to target and kill them.
Reapers are in fact better known for their weapons-targeting contributions to warfighting than to policing uppity activists who protest in the streets. These drones have, for instance, been used in various wars including those in Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Libya, Mali and Yemen. Perhaps most infamously, the US military used one of its weaponized Reapers to fire the "Hellfire" missile that assassinated Iranian General Qassim Suleimani (and Iraqi counterparts) in Baghdad in January of this year.(5).
Although the Reaper bestows near-magical advantages to murderous global elites, this eerie technology is very real. Its practical, day-to-day functioning relies on crucial, indispensable high-tech systems that are manufactured by two of Canada's many government-subsidized war industries, CAE(6) and WESCAM.(7)
Dr. Strangelove, General Atomics, Canadair and the RCAF's nuclear payloads
examining in more detail the key roles played by
CAE and WESCAM technology in the
functioning of Reapers, it is worth looking at an instructive history of
events that links this weapons system's prime contractor to the Canadian
government. Reapers are built by General Atomics, which was co-founded some 65 years
ago by the much-vilified nuclear physicist Dr. Edward Teller. While aptly
nicknamed "the father of the hydrogen bomb," Teller is still heralded by
some for his 1950s work at General Atomics. (Although Teller "hated the
association," he is widely-accepted as the real life model for "Dr.
Strangelove," the eponymous mad scientist played by Peter Sellers in
Stanley Kubrick's 1964 classic, Cold-War satire.)(8)
As General Dynamics'
own version of this history explains:
Thanks to Canadair, General Dynamics went on to become a very highly-profitable manufacturer of thousands of warplanes, including CF-104 "Starfighters."(12) The Canadian Air Force operated these nuclear-bomb equipped jets in West Germany as part Canada's faithful commitment to NATO. Dedicated to carrying out NATO's nuclear warfighting doctrine, Canada had its warplanes optimized to work as a "nuclear strike force." Nothing could perhaps better illustrate Canada's grim willingness to reap the souls of the dead than this.
being the most deadly devices ever conceived, can be seen to symbolize the
Spectre of Death. Similarly, those who produce or profit from these
technologies personify those mythic characters, the psychopomps, who
escort the dead away from the land of the living. As
Robert Oppenheimer, "the father of the atomic bomb," remorsefully said
after witnessing the first nuclear detonation on
July 16, 1945: “Now I
am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.”(13)
Canadian military historian Dr. John Clearwater has noted:
Having kept its
fingers in the production of both warplanes and warships, General Dynamics
has since grown to become the world's fifth largest military industry,
with revenues of $36 billion in 2018.(16) It
is a behemoth of war, firmly ensconced in the top one percent of global
merchants-of-death clubhouse. One of its subsidiaries,
Land Systems-Canada, based in London, Ontario, produces the
weapons-laden armoured vehicles that Canada has infamously sold to Saudi
Arabia. Less infamously, Canada has also sold these same tank-like vehicles to other countries as well
including the far-right, US-allied government of
Colombia. Even more significantly, Canada
has also sold these vehicles to the US military which deployed them on
countless missions that "accumulating over 6 million miles" in the Iraq
War between 2003 and 2005 alone.(17)
CAE (Montreal, QC)
(2) WESCAM (Burlington, ON),
Canadian subsidiary of America's L3Harris
Technologies(20) provides the Reaper drone with the MX-20
Electro-optical/Infrared (EO/IR) imaging system. The MX-20 is WESCAM's
largest, high-magnification, missile-grade multisensor. It sports
laser-illuminated, see-in-the-dark surveillance cameras that can identify
and engage subjects that are more than 20 kilometres away. As WESCAM
notes, the MX-20 is an "advanced targeting solution" that allows Reaper
operators to "locate and track targets at long stand-off." WESCAM puffery
goes on to brag that its EO/IR system provides "high-sensitivity
multi-spectral sensors for day, low-light and nighttime missions" that
"support Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance and Precision
Guided Munitions missions." These deadly qualities allow Reapers, and
other aircraft, to "operate with excellent detection and recognition
capabilities from extremely high altitudes."(21)
role of CAE and WESCAM in Spying on Canadian Protests
The Canadian pilots and crew aboard Canada's Auroras learned their crafts -- like their Reaper colleagues -- thanks to the CAE's advanced training and mission rehearsal simulators. Canada's surveillance aircraft are but one of many dozens of varieties military aircraft that employ CAE technologies.(24)
Although Aurora crews had run missions to track Russian submarines, to pursue Iraqi leaders fleeing death aboard ships in the Persian Gulf, and to target those fighting the foreign occupation of Afghanistan, protesters in Canada became a new target in the Aurora's sights in 2010. These spy planes were then used to conduct surveillance during two of the biggest domestic “security” operations in Canadian history.
Podium in Vancouver:
Cutting through such technical descriptions, the vice president of Canada’s L-3 Wescam summed up the role of their MX-20 sensors against protesters by saying: “They were used at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver this year providing persistent surveillance in an overview capability to keep an eye out for anyone who might want to cause trouble.”(27)
Operation Cadence in Toronto:
The CP-140 that was on the lookout over Toronto was part of what Canada's military called Operation Cadence. Col. Eyre, then-Commander of a Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group at Canadian Forces Base Petawawa, described it as “the largest security operation in the history of Canada.”(31) It was also a first, said Maj. Kael Rennie and Capt. Matt Crosbie, in that “a Tactical Air Control Party (TACP) saw its first ever major domestic operation in Canada.” This was unusual, they continued, because “Normal TACP duties included the employment of fixed wing and attack helicopters in the employment of air-to-ground munitions. While that works well in Afghanistan, it was obviously not the desired effect for the G8/G20.”(32)
Canada’s then newly battle-tested technology was referred to as the “Overland Equipment Mission Suite” and the “Tactical Common Data Link.” Using L3Wescam cameras affixed to the CP-140s, these new systems provide “full motion video imagery” for the immediate use of army and/or police units on the ground, whether they are battling the Talibhan or ban-the-bomb protesters. As Major CMR Larsen put it in 2010:
“In plain speak: the Aurora can now use its powerful camera system efficiently, and while airborne can actually transmit video to a supported unit.... What we can see from the air, a tactical commander can see on the ground. It is not hard to imagine how this capability greatly adds to the ‘big picture’ required by operational commanders.”(33)
an even ‘bigger picture’ view of this ‘technological advancement,’ what
this means is that the
militarisation of policing in Canada has reached phenomenally new heights.
The CP-140 aircraft facilitated the government’s highly-militarised, $1
billion response to G8/G20 protests, was operated out of a Canadian Forces
Base (CFB) in Trenton, Ontario. Two RCMP officers very
happily took turns working 12-hour shifts doing “air services” aboard the
CP-140. As RCMP Cpl. Bob Thomas describes it: “We did flight observation
for the security on the ground.... Just before both Summits started I
moved to CFB Trenton and did all my flying from there as the Summits were
going on.”(34) Thomas was chosen for the job because of his experience
with “aerial flight observation and infrared camera training.” He was “one
of just two RCMP officers assigned to fly with the ... surveillance
aircraft, a CP-140 Aurora. It was that opportunity that Thomas found most
memorable. ‘It was an awesome experience.’”(35)
The “Demon’s Creed”
Reapers on the Horizon?
To build its case for
Canada's acquisition of Reapers, General Atomics, which leads Team
SkyGuardian Canada, noted that "We have a long-standing global relationship with CAE and L3
WESCAM."(43) This "long-standing relationship" does not just relate to
their participation in making the Reaper a successful
US instrument of war and surveillance.
These companies began working together during joint efforts on the
Reaper's precursor, the RQ-1 Predator. Used in
Bosnia (1995), Yugoslavia (1999), Afghanistan
(2001-2003), Yemen (2002) and Iraq (2003), this low-altitude drone was
used primarily for photographic, electronic surveillance and
target-acquisition missions. The RQ-1 drone was also weaponized by the CIA
so that it could fire missiles to assassinate suspects in the War on
Terror, as it did in Yemen in 2002.(44)
Unrestricted Flow of Weapons vs. Restricted Flow of Information
America has a long history of using Reapers to spy on people, to wage wars, to overthrow foreign governments, to carry out mass murder and, generally, to wreak havoc and destruction around the world. This, of course, has never stopped the Canadian government from allowing the export of CAE and WESCAM technologies to the US so that it can maximize its use of these deadly Reapers.
Neither, for that matter, has Canada's government ever seen fit to prevent any other Canadian war industry from feeding the voracious appetite of the US military industrial complex. While about half of Canada's military production is exported, as much as two thirds of those exports go to the US. This huge flow of Canadian military hardware has been deeply entrenched in the world's closest economic trade relationship since the Canada-US Defence Production Sharing Agreement was signed in 1956.(47)
For many decades, the Canadian government has required domestic military industries to obtain permits for their exports around the world, except, that is, for arms sales to the US. This exemption has served to ensure the free and unrestricted flow of Canadian military exports to the US. Since, over the deaces, the Canadian government has handed out billions in grants and "investments" to support the business prospects of Canada's hugely profitable military industries, the US has been able to benefit from unfettered access to its northerly neighbour's generously subsidized military industrial base.
In stark contrast, the flow of publicly accessible information about Canada's traffic in arms to the US has been severely restricted by our government. Although limited, generalized information about Canadian military exports to other countries is made public in government reports, virtually all data on Canada's military sales to the US have long been completely excluded from this reporting process. This of course has made it extremely difficult to monitor Canada's contributions to the US war machine. This lack of transparency is unacceptable not only because America is by far the largest recipient of Canadian military products and services, but because it can still accurately be seen as "the greatest purveyor of violence in the world" (as Martin Luther King Jr. put it in 1967).(48)
Regardless of which particular brand of drones is acquired by the Canadian military, activists will soon have to contend with the fact that their government has acquired yet another tool for its deadly arsenal of war. This will not only allow Canada's military to increase its practical support for US-led foreign invasions and interventions, it will also give even more resources to police forces which have been spying on progressives since this country's inception.(49)
2020 Vision: Watching the Watchers and Watching Ourselves
By watching the watchers we progressives become more aware of the continuing crimes committed by those powerful institutions which have put us in their surveillance sights. In the process we also build our awareness of how these institutions have been victorious in the battle to fabricate and frame the public's limited understanding of history.
But besides watching the watchers it is important to be ever more vigilant in watching ourselves and those civil organizations which claim to represent our best interests. For centuries, good honest Canadians have been convinced to support criminally-harmful state policies and to collaborate in turning those policies into reality. The complicity of Canada's churches in the genocide of First Nations peoples is a case in point. It illustrates how decent, well-meaning Canadians became so enamoured by entrancing mainstream narratives of racism, xenophobia and white superiority, that they went beyond just turning a blind eye to repressive policies, and actively administered the crimes that were committed throughout the entire Residential School process. These crimes were, afterall, conducted in the name of helping those poor so-called "savages" who were wrongly seen to be in great need of a benevolent grace that could best be bestowed by the great uplifting processes of civilization, Christianization and Canadianization.(50)
So, while it is important to watch the watchers who oversee the ongoing international crimes against peace and crimes against humanity, it is -- perhaps counterintuitively -- even more important to watch ourselves. Although we have little if any real power to influence those who hold sway over global military, political and financial institutions, we do have a fighting chance at influencing our own behaviour. With this in mind it may be useful to engage in thought experiments to imagine ourselves standing at a vantage point 100 years in the future from whence we can look back in hindsight at the present day.
Just as Reaper drones hover above the social fray looking down upon us all from a great distance, we can try to escort our imaginations to a point in time when we as individuals will all be long dead. From that hopefully more advanced point of view we can perhaps more objectively see the current flaws in our society and then ask ourselves what crimes Canadians were unwittingly committing back in the dark days of 2020. By viewing ourselves through this Reaper like "Magic Mirror" hovering on the other side of our own deaths, we may be able to see some way to prevent Canadians from becoming even further complicit in vast crimes that many cannot yet even see.
Defunding the Military and Defusing NATO
Besides calling on Canada to defund the police, many activists are also ramping up demands to defund the military. What better bank of resources is there than Canada's vast military coffers to find the monetary resources needed to invest in institutions that promote health, education, day care, mass transportation and environmental protection? Instead of continually electing politicians that unquestionably increase financing to feed our military's unquenchable desire for more and more weapons, Canadians need a government that will instead fund socially-useful and environmentally-sustainable solutions to the world's collective problems. By doing so, the Canadian could not only create far more jobs at home, it could -- for a change -- actually have a positive influence on the world. Demilitarizing Canada and the planet would be extremely beneficial in many ways, not least of which because the armed forces burn more fossil fuels, and hence contribute more to catastrophic climate change, than any other force on earth.
Instead of continually aiding and abetting US-led wars, and further promoting the most destructive, exploitative practices of unfettered capitalism, Canada desperately needs to make an abrupt about face. We need, for example, to have a government that will stop dressing itself up behind phoney facades of sensitivity to the evils of racism, and begin to actually take practical steps to eradicate the systemic, institutionalised racism that riddles the Canadian state. This work must begin by recognizing the continuing harm that has been done by the centuries of genocide, slavery and imperial land plunder upon which the whole Canadian nation-building project has long been based.
The struggle to end Canada's longstanding complicity in war could start by severing our military ties to the US, and by removing ourselves from NATO. This aggressive military alliance is a major threat to world peace and Canada should have no part in it. NATO still maintains its founding doctrine which is based on its willingness to prepare for and wage nuclear war. Canada also needs to sign and ratify the UN treaty to ban nuclear weapons. And, while we're dreaming in technocolour, Canada should stop mining uranium, stop plans for spreading mini nuclear reactors across the north, and stop creating more nuclear waste because we simply cannot dispose of the vast stores of this deadly material that we have already amassed.
But achieving such utopian visions of
an independent, peaceful and just
Canada will always remain in the realm of fairy-tales unless Canadians, as a
small first step, are able to free themselves from the many powerful myths
and deceptive narratives that distort this country's self awareness.
Because these grand national myths constrict Canadians' understanding of
history and obscure our current complicity in international crimes, they
form major ideological obstacles which block the work of progressive
people struggling for social change. Only by becoming more aware and
mindful of our Peaceable
Kingdom's powerful mythologies, can Canadians hope to ever extricate this
country from its ongoing collaboration with the American imperium of war