Wishful thinking on “Harper’s Crimes”

There have been lots of papers and stickers going around campus about a book and lecture meeting about “Harper’s Crimes”. Unfortunately I was busy the day of the meeting, so I was unable to attend. Thankfully though, while I was in a washroom, a strategically placed sticker alerted me to the existence of a website for this information series. I visited the website as soon as I could and had a look.

The contents of the “Harper’s crimes against humanity” list are unsurprising. The presentation is short, lacking in depth. On the plus side, there is a book available, and this book, along with the presentation they gave, probably elaborated on the website’s points.

Many of the issues they raise are undeniable, such as the conduct of Canadian mining companies, and I encourage you to visit the website with an open and critical mind. Others, such as Canada’s “endless wars” as crime 2 of 10 seem misplaced. As evidence, they state in six years the military budget has increased from $15 billion to $23 billion, and our number of soldiers has risen by about one quarter to 95,000. Special Forces, which can be deployed in total secrecy have doubled.

Our military spending is around 1.5 per cent of our GDP, which puts us with awful militaristic countries such as Finland, Cameroon, and Lithuania. As a percentage of our total budget, our military spending is at 8 per cent, putting us in an arms race with Australia at 7 per cent. As for total or active personnel per 1000 citizens, Canada is behind the Netherlands, Ireland, Bolivia, and others. I was unable to find any information on the doubling of Special Forces, but it is a fact that in the last budget, the military got slashed, not increased.

Among other crimes, Harper’s Conservatives are spending miniscule amounts of money, some $800,000, to tell our soldiers they are the best in the world. He also has the audacity to say great conflicts have been defining moments in our county’s history, and he feels we are heading towards another conflict. More damning is that our top generals have made statements that Canada’s soldiers want to go somewhere after Afghanistan as opposed to doing nothing at home.

As evidence of preparation for a huge upcoming war, Canada is opening supply bases across the globe. This is not necessarily a bad thing. The more Canada can rely on its own supply chains and force projection, the less it has to piggyback on the United States. This operational freedom gives current and future leaders a flexibility to bomb, invade, aid, peacekeep, or supply whom they please, without having to worry about Washington. On matters such as these, increasing military funding can have the effect of making us less reliant on the United States in the long run.

A touch of big picture context puts a hole in their arguments. The placement of this “crime” is probably there because it fits an assumed narrative rather than reality, and we all make similar mistakes when we generalize without thought.

Our armed forces were sent to desert environments with jungle fatigues, and have lost personnel to fires on second hand naval gear. Our helicopters have a tendency to crash moments after lift-off and our tanks have 71% breakdown rates in Afghanistan. These are not the hallmarks of a robust military. Harper probably does want a stronger military, but if this is Canada’s attempt at being a huge military power, ready to invade countries at moments notice, we are exceedingly bad at it.

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