Dear The Coast,
Once again the annual air show is underway and is being advertised as something appealing to the family. Fast machines are sexy and cool and extreme engineering is fascinating to almost everyone. There's also a defence industry flea market with booze fueled parties to keep defence contract participants on good terms. Whoohoo! It's probably the biggest local public relations exercise of the year for the Canadian military and for arms producers and dealers vying for lucrative government contracts.
What's missing from this family event's PR materials is informationabout the screaming of children and families as they cower beneath a fall of cluster bombs, or hide in cramped shelters during extendeddays missile bombardment caused by arguments between egomaniacal politicians and military leaders.
We don't see the broken spirits of soldiers who have witnessed thehorrors of war. We don't see the images of birth defects and themysterious sickness of soldiers resulting from depleted uraniumweapons use during the Gulf War. Better not mention the unbelievablytoxic conditions in Serbian towns since NATO's destructive bombing of chemical factories and DU use in Serbia in 1999 where Canadian CF-18s dropped a full 10% of all bombs.
Think also for a moment about the cost of this show in terms ofresource consumption. According to John O'Connor of the NationalToxics Campaign, the world's military forces are responsible for the release of more than two-thirds of CFC-113 into the ozone layer. Ozone depletion is linked to skin cancer, cataracts and immunosuppressiondiseases. The value of fuel consumed in airshows compared to the simple cost of living is staggering. How many families could survive on the cost to keep the B-2 in the air for the show? How many diseaseinnoculations could be funded with a cluster bomb? The potentialimplication of cutting out a useless activity like aerial fly pasts isstaggering.
Air show attendees are shielded from the horrible realities about what the warplanes do and about the bloody legacy they leave in various past and present actions. The show romanticizes and glorifies the most lethal tools of military culture and in supporting the show we becomecomplicit in military policy and in war profiteering by the corporateparticipants.
The military communications strategists who orchestrate the Canadian Forces sponsorship and participation in this show are well aware that efforts are needed to help with the bruised public image of Canada's military and that it will become more pronounced in time as we see an increase in events like the recent civilian deaths in Afghanistan.
Even though Canada's military recruiting as uncovered in the 2002Auditor General's report was insufficient to sustain plannedoperations, she found that even in 2006 intake is barely replacing thenumber of members who are leaving and that planned expansion of the force requires far greater successful recruitment. They rely on events like this to try to convince children that military life is an exciting and fun career, while carefully avoiding the awful realities.
The airshow is little more than an archaic and deceptive ploy bymilitary public relations groups and by corporate arms producers anddealers seeking to increase profits through the continuation of globalconflict. People should stop to think about the horrors of war before attending, and then perhaps choose some alternate activity that sends to their children a message that might encourage them to devote energies toward ending conflict, and toward working for a better world, instead of helping power and profit hungry leaders in closed boardrooms fulfil their ugly fantasies.
By Bill Savary