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War is big business. We need a strengthened movement to challenge the arms industry

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Photo by Brent Patterson.

War is highly profitable for a few transnational corporations.

Case in point, on April 7, 2017, Fortune reported, "Raytheon stock surged Friday morning, after 59 of the company's Tomahawk missiles were used to strike Syria in Donald Trump's first major military operation as President."

Fortune also highlighted, "The shares of other missile and weapons manufacturers" including Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and General Dynamics  "each rose as much as 1 per cent, collectively gaining nearly $5 billion in market value as soon as they began trading, even as the broader market fell."

Arms corporations based in Canada are also making a killing.

In June 2016, The Globe and Mail reported, "Canada has soared in global rankings to become the second biggest arms dealer to the Middle East on the strength of its massive sale of combat vehicles to Saudi Arabia, new figures show."

That article also noted, "Canada has also vaulted to sixth overall among all arms-exporting countries, based on rankings released by Jane's this week. This means only five countries are currently selling more weapons and military equipment."

And the Canadian government intends to increasingly be a big customer.

The federal government spent an estimated $20.6 billion on the Canadian military in 2017 and the Trudeau government has announced its intention to spend $32.7 billion a year on the military by fiscal year 2026-27.

Those figures also help to understand the relatively low priority the federal government has given to clean drinking water for Indigenous peoples across this country. In 2016, the Liberals allocated $1.8 billion -- over five years -- for water systems.

And while climate activists in Canada have rightly targeted the Trans Mountain pipeline, less is said about the carbon emissions produced by the military.

In December 2015, Newsweek reported, "The Iraq war was responsible for 141m tonnes of carbon releases in its first four years, according to an Oil Change International report. On an annual basis, this was more than the emissions from 139 countries in this period, or about the same as putting an extra 25m cars on to U.S. roads for a year."

In March 2017, Vice noted, "And then there's the not-so-small problem that Canada doesn't count greenhouse gas emissions for any overseas operations conducted by its military. That's right, any of them. Army, navy, air force."

There is at least one international example of a peace group linking the arms industry and the climate and taking action on that front.

The U.K.-based Campaign Against Arms Trade has an "Arms to renewables" campaign that says money now spent on subsidizing the arms industry would be better spent on renewables and that in turn would be better for workers, the economy and world peace.

A discussion with the labour movement is also needed. Most of the workers who will be building armoured vehicles -- some mounted with 105-millimetre guns -- for Saudi Arabia at a General Dynamics plant in London, Ontario are members of Unifor Local 27.

Weapon sales mean a few transnational corporations profiting from death and destruction, public money diverted from the social good, unsustainable carbon emissions, violations of Indigenous rights, and the destructive mining of strategic metals for military production.

This country appears to be in urgent need of a strengthened, community-based, networked peace movement that is deeply connected with other movements for climate justice, workers' rights, and Indigenous rights.

Photo by Brent Patterson

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