Recently Rona Ambrose, federal minister of Public Works, has been justifying the purchase of 65 F-35 fighter aircraft for $16 billion on the basis of its “unprecedented” potential for generating jobs in the Canadian aerospace industry. She claims that Canadian companies will be able to bid on contracts “worth at least $12 billion in the global supply chain for 5,000” of these aircraft.
Surely I am not alone in thinking that there are more constructive, more morally enlightened ways for the federal government to generate jobs. Consider what we could do, for example, if we invested $16 billion more in health care or education or low income housing or the development and installation of clean energy technology. Unlike building, buying and maintaining weapons of mass destruction, the consequences of such investments would contribute to the well-being of an increasing number of people and extend far into the future.
It seems to me that President/Gen. Dwight Eisenhower spoke the truth when he said, “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its labourers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.” (April 16, 1953)
The truth of his words also resonates at the international level. According to the United Nations, one billion people are always malnourished, 1.3 billion have no access to clean water, 2.5 billion have no sanitary means of waste disposal and only 33 countries (about three-quarters of a billion people) have any form of universal health care. Instead of spending money, sweat and genius on righting these terrible inequities and relieving this enormous burden of suffering, at least 11 countries have chosen or are choosing to buy between 3,000 and 5,000 F-35 fighter aircraft at a cost of $300 to $500 billion. The United States alone plans to buy 2,443 of these F-35s for about $299 billion.
How the increasing militarization of the world will create a more secure and peaceful community of nations escapes me, and how we can build a secure and peaceful world on a foundation of gross social and economic inequity and depravation also escapes me. The saying that we cannot have peace without justice has perhaps become a cliché, but it is still true. The poor are not poor by choice; they are poor by design, the design of those who own and operate the dominant political/economic systems of the world.
Dale L. Watson