Posts Tagged General Dynamics

Canada still set to sell mini-tanks to Saudi despots

The new Liberal leader Justin Trudeau is set to rubber stamp the continuing sale of Canadian Light Armoured Vehicles to the despotic monarch of Saudi Arabia, violating Canada’s own arms export rules and straining the Prime Minister’s ‘liberal’ credibility. The outgoing Conservative government of Canada agreed in 2014 to sell an unspecified number of LAV III mini-tanks to the king of Saudi Arabia in a deal worth $15 billion over several years. They will be built by General Dynamics Canada, Land Systems Division. The deal was supported and actively promoted by the Canadian Commercial Corporation, a crown corporation, that uses government funds and credit to support external trade, including arms deals.

Lobbying

The deal came after extensive lobbying by the Conservative government, including (then) Foreign Affairs Minister John  Baird, and support from members of at least one of Canada’s right-wing military think tanks. Wikileaks published documents in June 2015 that showed how members of the Conservative cabinet lobbied  the Saudi regime.

Violation of Canadian Laws

Rules for the export of arms from Canada require that the weapons will not be used against civilian populations. Saudi troops have used similar LAVs against their own citizens on many occasions, and in 2011 notoriously invaded Bahrain at the request of the Bahrain dictatorship to put down (largely Shia) democracy protesters. Given the past history of Canadian arms sales to Bahrain, it is probable that earlier Canadian LAVs were used against democracy protests. Project Ploughshares has pointed out that the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development will not even let Canadians know how the arms export permit system works, hiding behind the veil of ‘commercial confidentiality’.

The Vancouver Sun reported that the LAVs would not be for the state army of Saudi Arabia, but for the ‘SANG’ the personal army of the Saudi despot, who maintains a force four times the size of the state army. They reported

“According to reports in a variety of specialist military publications — including Jane’s — the SANG comprises Bedouin tribesmen and Wahhabi religious zealots whose prime task is to protect King Abdullah and the royal family from domestic opponents”.

Secrecy

The government has provided little information about the contract, citing ‘commercial confidentiality’. The government has refused to say whether the LAV’s will be armed as they leave Canada. They don’t provide information about who might have been paid to broker aspects of the deal. The government refuses to say whether the Saudis have provided assurances that the mini-tanks won’t be used against their own people. It refuses to say how many LAV IIIs will be sold to the Saudis.

Deception

The Conservative government, defeated in October, regularly tried to deceive the public about the true nature of the deal. Stephen Harper, when questioned about the deal, denied that the LAV’s were arms, calling them ‘transport vehicles’, obfuscating the reality that the LAVs are armed small tanks often used in aggressive attacks on both civilian and military adversaries.

Strategic Context

The arms sale can’t be understood without examining the convoluted strategic context of the Canadian Conservative Party. Saudi Arabia is bulwark of the conservative ‘Sunni-sphere’, and thus the main local adversary of Iran. Iranian relations with Canada have been poor, but the main driver of events has been Canada’s solid support for Israel in its relentless campaign against Iran. Any foe of Iran is a friend of Canada, in this view, and supportive of the Israeli regime.  Support for the Israeli strategic plan was enough incentive for the Conservatives to allow Canada’s own rules to be violated, and to maintain a high level of secrecy.

Opposition complicity

Despite clear violations of Canada’s best interests and international human rights, Canada’s opposition parties have been tepid in their opposition to this deal. While the New Democrats spoke out against it, they were pressured by the union Unifor to protect jobs by dropping their opposition. New Democrat leader Tom Mulcair maintained his opposition to the deal but said he would not stop an ongoing commercial transaction, thereby making his opposition irrelevant. He said that under a New Democrat government there would be more ‘transparency’.

Incoming Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was also against the deal while speaking in Parliament, but is expected to provide no opposition to it while in power. In the lead up to the election he minimised the LAVs as ‘jeeps’, claimed that the deal was between the Saudi and a private commercial company, dodging the involvement of the Canadian Commercial Corporation and the responsibility of the Canadian government to respect its own laws on military exports.

Decide for yourself. Are they ‘jeeps’, or ‘tanks’?

(Last link added, somewhat unfairly, after the fair comment  below).

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Peace Activists in Hastings Mock Local Arms Company

Peace activists in Hastings satirised the ‘blood washing’ activities of a local arms company with some street theatre. Hastings is on England’s south coast.

The arms company they mocked was General Dynamics UK, a branch of the giant General Dynamics arms company, which has a three facilities in Hastings. General Dynamics is one of the largest arms companies in the world. (See overview here). General Dynamics UK was recently embarassed in the public sphere by its sales of military communications equipment to the Qaddafi regime immediately prior to the UK intervention in Libya. (The UK intervened to protect Libyan civilians from being slaughtered by the military of that very regime).  The Independent newspaper documented the involvement of General Dynamics, and its government enablers, with the Libyan regime in this article.

The activists held a mock ‘triathalon’ complete with costumes and athletic contests and moved between the three Hastings facilities occupied by General Dynamics. The protest drew attention to General Dynamic’s community involvement programme, which includes sponsoring the Hastings Half Marathon. General Dynamics has a variety of community involvements in Hastings also including supporting the Half Marathon and the local bonfire society. (Editor-this is really a ‘bloodwashing’ activity. See earlier discussions of this practise elsewhere in the blog).

General Dynamics community programmes serve to divert attention away from the real nature of  General Dynamics products, which is to conduct warfare. And warfare on a grand scale, since one of General Dynamic’s products is the Trident submarine, each one capable of razing many cities.

In a demonstration earlier in the month, Hastings activists picketed the Castleham Road facility of General Dynamics as part of the national protests against the arms trade. The Hastings Observer quoted a company official as claiming ‘we are not in the arms trade’ (although it is hard to imagine that military communications equipment can not be described as ‘arms’).

(photos to follow)

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Elbit Tests Robotic Killing Sentry

Elbit has tested its robotic ‘unmanned turret’ in Finnland, at a firing range owned by the Finnish Armed Forces. The automated turret tracks targets and fires 30mm rounds at them automatically, with a 90% accuracy rate. The system is contracted to several  NATO countries.

One NATO country, with the system mounted on its Piranha tanks is Belgium. Elbit works with Mowag, a General Dynamics subsidiary to provide the turrets and a electro-optical fire control system.

The article does not suggest how the turret would distinguish between a small child, a stray dog, or an armed intruder.

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Elbit Systems and General Dynamics form link

Elbit System in the US and General Dynamics in the US have formed a joint venture, UAS Dynamics, LLC, to provide ‘unmanned aerial systems’ (UAS, or drones) to the Department of Defense  and other U.S. government customers.

The new ‘UAS’ would be based on the Israeli Hermes or Skylark drones. The Hermes 450 drones have been the basis for the UK Watchkeeper system. The UAS Dynamics website is here.

General Dynamics in its partnership with Grumman was frozen out of the £850 million Watchkeeper programme by the Elbit/Thales consortium.

Since General Dynamics is a top ISTAR provider, including from its UK operations (Hastings and otherwise) it is not surprising that it is linked with an Israeli drone company.

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Meggitt Defense Systems

Meggitt Defence Systems has an office in Medicine Hat Alberta, managed by Spence Fraser, which is dedicated to unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) and target systems. Meggitt Defence products include drones, ammunition handling systems, and many more military oriented devices. It is a subsidiary of Meggitt PLC, a UK based multinational. Its products are found on the Abramsmain battle tank, the Stryker mobile gun system, the F-16, the F/A-18 Hornet, the AC 130 Spectre gunship, and the AH 64D Apache gunship. (Source) Many of these weapons have been exported to Israel, and are used in the suppression of the occupied territories. Many are also used in conflict zones where the US operates, such as Iraq and Afghanistan.

These are some of the most deadly and devasting weapons of destruction on earth. Meggitt provides crucial weapons systems for them, primarily systems for loading the ammunition into the weapons. In 2007 Meggitt had revenues of £878 million, and 6,000 employees, based at least partly in Bournemouth, UK.

6 October, 2008 MDS received a contract from General Dynamics to provide ammunition handling systems for its Stryker Mobile Gun Systems. This system has been used a great deal in Iraq.  (Source)

Presumably MDS’s main reason for being involved in the Canadian Centre for Unmanned Vehicle Systems is its drone target business, however it may be expanding into the booming UAV industry.

MDS offers training at Medicine Hat, AB, for Canadian Forces personnel to use the Vindicator UAV. The UAV industry is seen as an economic development generator for the region of SE Alberta. (source)

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General Dynamics Worldwide Revenues, 2007

General Dynamics, based in Falls Church, Virginian, has 82,900 employees and expects 2007 revenues of $27 billion.  Source

General Dynamics Canada has 2,200 employees. General Dynamics Canada was created by the purchase of Computing Devices Canada in 1997, for $500 million. CDC was an indigenous Canadian high tech company.

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Bloodwash at General Dynamics Canada

General Dynamics maintains a ‘community investment’ program, a series of charitable activities in the cities it operates in: Calgary, Ottawa and Halifax. GD supports the United Way, Calgary Interfaith Food Bank, and in an ultimate irony, Canadian Blood Services.

Their website talks about the 50 community services they support, the participation of their employees in charitable work. But of course there is no mention of the death and destruction caused by the use of their products. No doubt it helps their employees to avoid the reality of their actions by focussing on ‘good deeds’. That’s bloodwash.

Can charitable works in Canada balance the destruction caused by the F-16 fighter jet designed by GD, the 50 calibre machine guns that obliterate people wherever the US fights, the potential devastation caused by nuclear armed submarines built by General Dynamics?

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