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NATO & U.S. spreading ‘disinformation on Syria,’ says Veterans for Peace

The conflict in Syria is a war of aggression against Syria by a coalition of powerful states led by the US. ‘Socialists’ misrepresent it and facilitate this aggression by adopting the US/NATO narrative of a ‘revolution’ against a ‘tyrant’.

Rick Sterling

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At the recent annual convention of Veterans for Peace, VFP Vice President Gerry Condon said “The US peace movement has been demobilised by disinformation on Syria.”

Disinformation and propaganda on Syria takes three distinct forms. The first is the demonisation of the Syrian leadership. The second is the romanticisation of the opposition. The third form involves attacking anyone questioning the preceding characterisations.

There is a recent article which exemplifies all three of these forms. It is titled “Anti-Imperialism and the Syrian Revolution” by Ashley Smith of the International Socialist Organization (ISO). It’s a remarkable piece of misinformation and faulty analysis.  Because it is clear and well written, it is likely to mislead people who are not well informed on the facts regarding Syria. Hence the importance of critically reviewing it.

Technique 1: Demonize the enemy … “the Syrian regime and its brutal dictator”  

Smith starts off posing the question: Are you with the Syrian revolution or the brutal Assad dictatorship? The way he frames it, it’s not a difficult choice: yay for the revolution!

Like these false options, Ashley Smith’s article is a fairy tale devoid of reality.  His bias is shown as he criticises the Left for ignoring “Assad’s massacre of some 400,000 Syrians”. Included in this death count are 100 – 150 thousand Syrian soldiers and allies. Ashley blames Assad instead of the armed opposition for killing Syrian soldiers!

Another example of false propaganda is the discussion of the chemical weapons attack that took place on August 21, 2013 in outer Damascus.  Neoconservatives speak of this event as “proving” Assad’s brutality – “killing his own people” – as well as the “failure” of President Obama to enforce his “red line”.  Ashley aligns with the neocons as he says “Barack Obama came under pressure to intervene militarily in Syria after the regime carried out a chemical weapons attack in a suburb of Damascus in 2013, but he backed a Russian-brokered resolution that protected Assad.”

In reality, the Damascus sarin gas attack was carried out by an opposition group with the goal of forcing the U.S. to directly attack the Syrian government. Soon after the event, Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity issued a statement reporting reporting “the most reliable intelligence shows that Bashar al-Assad was NOT responsible for the chemical incident”.

Later on, Seymour Hersh wrote two lengthy investigations pointing to Jabhat al Nusra with Turkish support being culpable. Investigative journalist Robert Parry exposed the Human Rights Watch analysis blaming the Syrian government as a “junk heap of bad evidence”. In the Turkish parliament, Turkish deputies presented documents showing that Turkey provided sarin to Syrian “rebels”.  A detailed examination and analysis of all fact based stories in online at whoghouta.blogspot.com. Their conclusion is that “The only plausible scenario that fits the evidence is an attack by opposition forces.” 

Ashley Smith accuses the Syrian government of widespread torture. His main example is the case of Syrian Canadian Maher Arar who was arrested by US authorities in collusion with Canadian authorities, then rendered to Syria for interrogation in 2002.

Arar was beaten during the initial weeks of his interrogation in Syria. After ten months imprisonment, Syrian authorities determined he was not a terrorist and sent him back to Canada. Arar received an official apology and $10 Million from the Canadian government.

The most highly publicised accusation of rampant torture and murder by Syrian authorities is the case of “Caesar”.  The individual known as “Caesar” was presented as a defecting Syrian photographer who had 55,000 photos documenting 11,000 Syrians tortured by the brutal Assad dictatorship.

At the time, among mainstream media only the Christian Science Monitor was skeptical, describing it as “a well timed propaganda exercise”. In the past year it has been discovered that nearly half the photos show the opposite of what is claimed.

The Caesar story is essentially a fraud funded by Qatar with ‘for hire’ lawyers giving it a professional veneer and massive mainstream media promotion.

While western media routinely refers to Assad as a dictator, in fact he is elected and popular with the majority of Syrians.

Although not wealthy, Syria was largely self-sufficient with a semi-socialist state apparatus including free health-care, free education and large industries 51% owned by the state. You do not see pervasive western fast food, banks, and other corporate entities in Syrian cities.  In the wake of protests, the government pushed through reforms which ended the one party system. There are now political parties across the political spectrum. These are a genuine ‘moderate opposition’. The June 2014 election confirmed Assad’s popularity despite the denials of those who have never been there. 

Technique 2: Romanticize the opposition … “the Syrian Revolution”

Ashley Smith echoes mainstream media which portrays the conflict as a “civil war” which began with peaceful democratic loving Syrian revolutionaries beaten by a brutal regime.

In reality there was a violent faction from the start. In the first protests in Deraa seven police were killed. Two weeks later there was a massacre of 60 security forces in Deraa.  In Homs, an eye-witness recounted the situation: 

“From the start, the protest movements were not purely peaceful. From the start I saw armed demonstrators marching along in the protests, who began to shoot at the police first. Very often the violence of the security forces has been a reaction to the brutal violence of the armed rebels.”

In the first two months, hundreds of police and security forces were killed.

Ashley and company listen to Americans and British citizens and mistakenly believe they are listening to real Syrians.  Some of these people left Syria at age 3. Some of them have never lived in Syria. Thus you have fantasy portrayals such as “Burning Country: Syrians in Revolution and War”.

A more realistic picture is given by a Syrian who still lives in Aleppo. He writes under the name “Edward Dark” and describes how he and his friends quickly regretted the take-over of Aleppo by armed groups in summer 2012. He describes one friend’s reaction as the reality was hitting home:

“How could we have been so stupid? We were betrayed!”. And another says: “Tell your children someday that we once had a beautiful country, but we destroyed it because of our ignorance and hatred.”

Edward Dark is a harsh critic of President Assad and Baath Party.  He is also naive regarding the role of US Ambassador Robert Ford.  But his description of early protesters and the arrival of armed opposition rings true and more authentic than the portrayal of Yassin-Kassab and Al Shami.

In fact many of the idealised “Syrian revolutionaries” promoted by the authors of “Burning Country” are trained and paid agents of the US and UK.  The Aleppo Media Center which produces many of the videos is a US creation.  The White Helmets which purport to be Syrian, independent and unarmed first responders are a creation of the US and UK. The banner boys from Kafranbel are another western funded operation. In her book about her time as Secretary of State, Clinton boasts of providing “training for more than a thousand activists, students, and independent journalists” (p. 464).

Why do the enemies of Syria create such organizations?  Partly as a way to channel money and support to the armed opposition. Also to serve as propaganda tools to confuse the situation and generate support for the real goal: regime change.

For example, White Helmets mostly work in areas dominated by the Syrian Al Qaeda.  Unlike legitimate organisations such as the Red Crescent, they never work in areas controlled by the government. And they are also active on the propaganda front, continually pushing for US / NATO intervention via a  “no fly zone”. The misinformation of Ashley Smith and ISO confuses unwitting people and helps the enemies of Syria in their drive for regime change.   

In contrast with the romanticised delusions of Ashley Smith and the authors of “Burning Country”, the U.S. Defence Intelligence Agency gave an accurate assessment in August 2012:

“Events are taking a clear sectarian direction.  The Salafists, the Muslim Brotherhood and AQI are the major forces driving the insurgency in Syria.”

Technique 3: Attack Those who Question the Dogma … “You’re an Assad supporter!”

Ashley Smith does not criticise the NATO and Gulf states that are violating international law and the UN charter by funding and supplying a proxy army to attack Syria.  Instead, he criticises left groups who oppose the aggression.

That is a sign of how far off track ISO is. They did the same thing regarding Libya and have evidently learned nothing from that disaster. Ashley Smith should go and tour Libya now to savour the “revolution” he promoted.

Ashley Smith’s theme with respect to Syria (peaceful popular uprising against brutal dictator) is the same theme promoted by neoconservatives and the mainstream media.  When they encounter a different perspective,  they cry out, “You are an Assad supporter!”. Never mind that many genuine progressives do not say that. What we say is that it is for the Syrian people to determine their government, not foreigners.

Smith criticises the British Stop the War coalition for having “adapted to Assad supporters” and for “giving a platform to allies of the dictatorship”, specifically “regime apologist Mother Superior Agnes Mariam”.

Smith is misinformed on this issue also, but it is doubly revealing. In fact, Mother Agnes was hosted on the tour by Syria Solidarity Movement.  When she was in London, she was invited to speak at a Stop the War rally. To his great discredit, the keynote speaker Jeremy Scahill, who is closely aligned with ISO, threatened to withdraw from the conference if Mother Agnes spoke.  Scahill has done great journalistic work exposing Blackwater and Drone Warfare. 

However that does not excuse the complicity leading to blackmail regarding a Palestinian Lebanese nun who has shown immense courage in promoting reconciliation and peace in Syria. However, that action is typical of some misguided “socialist” groups, the Muslim Brotherhood and their allies. Mother Agnes was verbally attacked and abused by these groups throughout her tour, which otherwise met with great success. Mother Agnes has lived in Syria for over twenty years.  She consistently says that Syria needs reform, but you don’t do that by destroying it.

Ashley Smith goes on to criticize the US Peace Council for recently sending a delegation to Syria and having the audacity to talk with “Assad and his henchmen”. He sounds like the right wing hawks who denounced Jane Fonda for going to North Vietnam in the 1970’s. Smith displays a dogmatic and closed-minded view; what kind of “international socialism” does he represent? 

Smith criticizes Green Party candidates Jill Stein and Ajamu Baraka for “remaining silent about Putin’s and Assad’s atrocities”. This is another measure of how far off track the ISO is.  They evidently are not aware of international law or they don’t care about it. The Assad government has a right to defend itself against terrorist attacks which are sponsored, funded and supplied by foreign governments.

Syria also has a right to request help from Russia and Iran. But with tunnel-vision dogma, Ashley Smith and ISO do not care. They seem to be supporting instead of opposing imperialist aggression, violations of international law, and the death and destruction these have led to.

Ashley disparages the Syrian government and people who have continued to fight against the forces of sectarianism promoted by NATO, Israel and the Gulf monarchies. Ashley and ISO would do well to send some people to see the reality of Syria. They would find it very different than their fevered imagination or what they have been led to believe by fake Syrians and Muslim Brotherhood dogmatists.

Genuine progressives are not “Assad supporters”. Rather, we are opponents of imperialist aggression and supporters of international law–which says it’s the right of Syrians to determine who leads them. That would mean real Syrians, not those raised in or paid by the West. 

Ashley Smith’s Inaccurate Overall Analysis

Ashley Smith gives a very inaccurate analysis of the overall geopolitical situation in Syria and beyond.

He says

“The US has been seeking a resolution that might push Assad aside, but that above all maintains his regime in power”. He goes on to say ‘U.S. policy from the beginning has been to preserve the core of Assad’s state.”

Ashley believes

“the U.S. has retreated in general from outright regime change as its strategy in the Middle East”.

This is absurd. In reality the US and allies Israel and Saudi Arabia have been pushing for ‘regime change’ in Syria for over a decade. In 2005 CNN host Christiane Amanpour expressed the situation bluntly:

“Mr. President, you know the rhetoric of regime change is headed towards you from the United States. They are actively looking for a new Syrian leader. They’re granting visas and visits to Syrian opposition politicians. They’re talking about isolating you diplomatically and, perhaps, a coup d’etat or your regime crumbling. What are you thinking about that?”

In 2007, Seymour Hersh wrote about the destabilization efforts in his article “The Redirection”.

In 2010, Secretary of State Clinton spoke of “changing Syria’s behavior” and threatened

“President Assad is making decisions that could mean war or peace for the region …. We know he’s hearing from Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas. It is crucial that he also hear directly from us, so that the potential consequences of his actions are clear.”

Secretary Clinton appointed Robert Ford to become US Ambassador to Syria. Ford was previously the chief political officer in Baghdad for Ambassador John Negroponte.  Who is John Negroponte? He was Ambassador to Honduras overseeing the Nicaraguan Contras and El Salvador death squads in the 1980’s. Negroponte’s arrival in Iraq in 2004 led to ‘the El Salvador option’ (sectarian death squads)  in Iraq. 

Since the conflict in Syria began in 2011 the US has spent many billions of dollars trying to overthrow the Syrian government or force it to change policy. The supply of sophisticated and deadly weaponry continues.  In April 2016 it was reported that the US recently supplied 994 tons of sophisticated rocket launchers, anti tank and other heavy weapons to “moderate rebels” who ally with the Syrian Al Qaeda ( Jabhat al Nusra recently renamed Jabhat Fatah al Sham).

Ashley’s theory that the US is intent on “preserving” the Syrian state and the US has “given up” on regime change is not supported by the facts.

Ashley continues the faulty analysis by saying

“the U.S. is solely and obsessively focused on defeating this counterrevolutionary force (ISIS) in Iraq and Syria”

and

“the Obama administration has struck a de facto alliance with Russia”. 

This is more theory without evidence. The US coalition was doing little to stop ISIS and looked the other way as ISIS went across the open desert to attack and occupy Palmyra.  They were similarly looking the other way as ISIS sent hundreds of trucks filled with oil from eastern Syria into Turkey each day. 

It was not until Russia entered the scene in support of Syria one year ago, that the US coalition got embarrassed into actually attacking ISIS. 

As to a “de facto alliance”, this is what Russia has implored the US to do, largely without response.  In the past two weeks the U.S. has threatened Russian and Syrian planes not to attack US ground forces inside Syria and refused to come to agreement with Russia that “moderate rebels” working with acknowledged terrorists are not “moderate” and can be targeted.

The Obama administration is trying to prevent the collapse of the regime change project by stalling and delay. Perhaps they wish to keep the project alive for a more aggressive US policy. Hillary Clinton continues to talk about a “no fly zone”. Her allies in Congress have recently initiated HR5732 which will escalate economic and financial sanctions against Syria and assess the implementation of a “no fly zone”. 

Ashley Smith suggests that large portions of the US left have been avidly supporting “oppressive regimes” such as Syria and Iran.  He mocks those on the left who suggested the Iranian ‘green movement’ was US-influenced. His mockery is exposed as ignorance by none other than Hillary Clinton herself.  In her book “Hard Choices” she recounts how they arranged for Twitter to postpone a system upgrade which would have taken the social media giant offline at a critical time, right after the 2009 Iranian election. Hillary and her group at the State Dept were actively promoting the protests in Iran. 

Dangerous Times Ahead

Some Middle East analysts have made the faulty analysis that Israel is not involved in the aggression against Syria.

In reality, Israeli interests are at the core of the US policy against Syria. The Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. was explicit: “Israel wanted Assad gone since start of civil war”. He also said “bad guys supported by Iran” are worse than “bad guys not supported by Iran”. 

In other words, Israel prefers chaos and Al Qaeda to a stable independent Syria. 

Saudi Arabia is the other key U.S. ally seeking overthrow in Syria.  With its close connections to the oil industry, military industrial complex and Wall Street, Saudi Arabia has enormous influence in Washington. It has been mercilessly bombing Yemen for the last 18 months and continues funding and promoting the proxy war against Syria.

Both Saudi Arabia and Israel seek the same thing: breaking the resistance alliance which runs from Iran through Syria to Lebanon.  They are in alliance with US neoconservatives who still dream of “a new American Century” where the US fights multiple wars to enforce its exceptional and sole supremacy. Along with some other countries, these are the forces of reaction violating international law and promoting the war against Syria. 

The tide is turning against the forces pushing for ‘regime change’ in Syria. But they have not yet given up and may even escalate.  Now is when progressives in the West need to raise our voices in opposition to this aggression. Jill Stein and Ajamu Baraka can hopefully bring much more attention to this critical issue. Bernie Sanders and his supporters need to speak out against Hillary Clinton’s statements and plans.

There are good people in ISO which does good work in many areas. We hope they will re-examine their assumptions, beliefs and actions regarding Syria. In the dangerous times ahead, we need them to be resisting the drive to war in Syria, not condoning or supporting it.

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Germany Wants Nuclear Bombers

Germany does not manufacture atomic weapons but has come to consider itself as a nuclear power because it has vectors to use them.

The Duran

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Via VoltaireNet.org:


Germany’s armed forces are currently studying the possibility of acquiring nuclear bombers capable of using the new American B61-12 atomic bombs.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon itself plans to deploy these new atomic bombs in the German region of Eifel, in violation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

The German air force already has multi-tasking Tornado warplanes, which are already capable of deploying American atomic bombs. But those aircraft are going to be replaced, possibly, by European-developed Eurofighters, or by United States manufactured F/A-18 Super Hornets.

Either way, the warplane that Germany selects will have to be equipped with the AMAC (Aircraft Monitoring and Control) system, which allows the use of the new American atomic bombs and enables the regulation of the power of the explosion as well as at what height the bombs explode after they are launched.

Germany does not manufacture atomic weapons but has come to consider itself as a nuclear power because it has vectors to use them, and believes that this gives it the right to sit on the UN Security Council sharing the permanent member position occupied by France.

Both countries would thus represent the European Union, under the auspices of NATO.

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1st since Notre Dame: Yellow Vests back despite ‘unifying’ disaster & they are angry

‘Yellow Vests’ march in Paris for 23rd straight week.

RT

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Via RT…


Yellow Vests protests brought clashes and tear gas back to the streets of Paris, despite politicians’ calls for “unity” in the wake of the Notre Dame fire. For protesters, the response to the fire only showed more inequality.

Saturday’s protests mark the 23rd straight weekend of anti-government demonstrations, but the first since Notre Dame de Paris went up in flames on Monday. Officials were quick to criticize the protesters for returning to the streets so soon after the disaster.

“The rioters will be back tomorrow,” Interior Minister Christophe Castaner told reporters on Friday. “The rioters have visibly not been moved by what happened at Notre-Dame.”

For many of the protesters, grief over the destruction of the 800-year-old landmark has made way for anger. With smoke still rising from Notre Dame, a group of French tycoons and businessmen pledged €1 billion to the cathedral’s reconstruction, money that the Yellow Vests say could be better spent elsewhere.

“If they can give dozens of millions to rebuild Notre Dame, they should stop telling us there is no money to respond to the social emergency,” trade union leader Philippe Martinez told France 24.

Saturday’s protests saw a return to scenes familiar since the Yellow Vests first mobilized in November to protest a fuel tax hike. Demonstrators in Paris’ Bastille district set barricades on fire and smashed vehicles, and police deployed tear gas to keep the crowds at bay.

Sporadic incidents of vandalism and looting were reported across the city, and some journalists even reported rioters throwing feces at police.

60,000 police officers were deployed across the country, and in Paris, a security perimeter was set up around Notre Dame. A planned march that would have passed the site was banned by police, and elsewhere, 137 protesters had been arrested by mid afternoon, police sources told Euronews.

Beginning as a show of anger against rising fuel costs in November, the Yellow Vests movement quickly evolved into a national demonstration of rage against falling living standards, income inequality, and the perceived elitism and pro-corporation policies of President Emmanuel Macron. Over 23 weeks of unrest, Macron has made several concessions to the protesters’ demands, but has thus far been unable to quell the rising dissent.

After Notre Dame caught fire on Monday, the president postponed a television address to the nation, during which he was expected to unveil a package of tax cuts and other economic reforms, another measure to calm the popular anger in France.

Macron’s address will be held on Thursday.

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O Canada! The True North Strong and Free – Not

Maybe it’s past time for Canadians to get serious again about their independence.

Jim Jatras

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Authored by James George Jatras via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


Canadian visitors to Washington sometimes wonder why their embassy stands at the foot of Capitol Hill.

The answer? To be close to where Canada’s laws are made.

A main showcase of Ottawa’s craven servility to Washington is Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s complicity in the US-led regime change operation being conducted against Venezuela. Not content with ruining his own country with multiculturalism, polysexualism, and the like, Li’l Justin has acted in lockstep with Big Brother to the south inslapping sanctions on Venezuelan officials and serving as a US agent of influence, especially with other countries in the western hemisphere:

‘A Canadian Press report published at the end of January revealed that Canadian diplomats worked systematically over several months with their Latin American counterparts in Caracas to prepare the current regime-change operation, pressing [Venezuelan President Nicolás] Maduro’s right-wing opponents to set aside their differences and mount a joint challenge to the government. “The turning point,” said the Canadian Press [Global News], “came Jan. 4, when the Lima Group … rejected the legitimacy of Maduro’s May 2018 election victory and his looming January 10 inauguration, while recognizing the ‘legitimately elected’ National Assembly.” The report cited an unnamed Canadian official as saying the opposition “were really looking for international support of some kind, to be able to hold onto a reason as to why they should unite, and push somebody like Juan Guaidó.”

‘One day prior to Maduro’s inauguration, [Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia] Freeland spoke to Guaidó, the newly-elected National Assembly speaker, by telephone to urge him to challenge the elected Venezuelan president.’

But that’s not all. Canada is out front and center in the “Five Eyes” intelligence agencies’ war on China’s Huawei – with direct prompting from US legislators and intelligence.  As explained by Col. Larry Wilkerson, former chief of staff to Gen. Colin Powell, it’s not that Huawei violated any law when circumventing US sanctions but it is the US that is acting illegally by unilaterally imposing sanctions that were never agreed to internationally. But that’s OK – when it comes to Washington’s claims of jurisdiction over every human being on the planet, Justin and Chrystia are happy to oblige!

Also, let’s not forget Chrystia’s role in keeping the pot boiling in Ukraine. It would of course be cynical (and probably racist) to attribute anything relating to Ukraine to her own interesting family background …

To be fair, the lickspittle attitude of Canadian officials towards their masters south of the 49th parallel is hardly unique in the world. Also to be fair, it’s natural and would be generally beneficial for Canada to have a positive relationship with a powerful, kindred neighbor rather than a negative one. Think of Austria’s ties to Germany, or the Trans-Tasman relationship of Australia and New Zealand, or the links that still exist between Russia and Ukraine despite efforts by the west to set them against each other (as, for example, Spain and Portugal were at loggerheads for several centuries, when the latter was a loyal ally of Spain’s foe, Great Britain, to such an extent that Portugal was sometimes shown on maps and globes in the same pink as British possessions; a similar situation existed between Argentina and British ally Chile).

A close and mutually advantageous relationship is one thing, but Canada’s de facto loss of independence is another. Not only does the US control Canada’s diplomacy, military, and intelligence but also her financial system (with, among other levers, the notorious FATCA law, which places Canadian institutions under the supervision of the IRS, with Canada’s revenue service acting, care of the Canadian taxpayer, as a cat’s paw for not only the IRS but the NSA and other snooping agencies). As explained by one Canadian nationalist (yes, they do exist!), the redoubtable David Orchard, trade is also a critical issue:

‘Canada …, after almost three decades of “free trade” with the U.S., has more than $1.2 trillion in federal and provincial debt, large deficits at every level, no national child or dental care, high university tuition, miserly old age pensions, years of massive budget cuts, and giveaway prices for its exports of oil, gas, timber and minerals.

‘For 150 years, great Canadian leaders have warned that without an economic border with the United States, we would soon no longer have a political border.

‘We once owned the world’s largest farm machinery maker, Massey Harris, headquartered in Toronto; built the world’s largest and most respected marketer of wheat and barley, the Canadian Wheat Board, based in Winnipeg; created a great transcontinental railway system, beginning in Montreal, which tied our country together; and saw Vancouver’s shipyards produce the beautiful Fast Cat ferry.

‘Instead of spending hundreds of billions on foreign-made machinery, electronics, automobiles, ships, fighter jets and passenger aircraft (even payroll systems for federal employees!), we can build our own, both for the domestic and export market.

‘We once designed and built the world’s most advanced jet interceptor, the Avro Arrow, so we know it can be done. [Emphasis added] With Canada’s resources and ingenuity, it could create a prosperous, domestically controlled economy that would give Canadians multiple benefits, security and pride of ownership. All that is required is some of the will that drove our ancestors to create an alternate power in North America. As George-Étienne Cartier, the great Québécois Father of Confederation, put it, “Now everything depends on our patriotism.”’ [Note: Orchard is the author of the must-read book The Fight for Canada: Four Centuries of Resistance to American Expansionism. To begin at the beginning, in the late 1680s, as part of English-French rivalry in North America, Massachusetts Puritans sought to root out the nest of popish deviltry known as Quebec. Following their disastrous 1690 defeat, they decided to fight Satan closer to home by hanging witches. The rest, as they say, is history…]

Scratch a Canadian patriot and you’ll hear about the Avro Canada CF-105 Arrow. As a watershed moment in Canada’s downward slide into subservience, the cancellation of what by all accounts was a magnificent aircraft – and a snapshot of what Canada’s international competitiveness (including in advanced aerospace) could have looked like had it been able to develop independently – might have been the point of being sucked into the American vortex. As noted by one response to my suggestion that Ottawa’s stance on Venezuela amounted to Canada’s annexation by the US: “Canadian here…unfortunately, the above is true (not literally of course, but in practice). It goes back even before the time of Diefenbaker, who canceled our Avro Arrow program on demand from the US – thus destroying our aerospace industry and causing brain drain to the US/Europe.”

To this day, the decision of then-Prime Minister John Diefenbaker to kill the Arrow project (and “put 14,528 Avro employees, as well as nearly 15,000 other employees in the Avro supply chain of outside suppliers, out of work”) on what came to be known as “Black Friday,” February 20, 1959, remains controversial and shrouded in mystery. A mix of budgetary, political, technological, and personality factors has been cited, none of them conclusive. Pressure from the US side, including unwillingness of Washington to purchase a Canadian aircraft when the US could pressure them to buy American planes and missiles, no doubt played a key role: “Instead of the CF-105, the RCAF invested in a variety of Century Series fighters from the United States. These included the F-104 Starfighter (46 percent of which were lost in Canadian service), and (more controversial, given the cancellation of the Arrow) the CF-101 Voodoo. The Voodoo served as an interceptor, but at a level of performance generally below that expected of the Arrow.”

While we may never know reliably why Diefenbaker cancelled the Arrow or how Canada or Canadian industry might have followed a different path, there’s no question of the superior capabilities of the Arrow. As it happens, one of the few pilots who had a chance to test the Arrow in an impromptu friendly dogfight is now-retired USAF fighter pilot Col. George Jatras, later US Air Attaché in Moscow (also, this analyst’s father). As he related in 2017:

‘I’ve received a number of messages in the last couple days about this bird, including some that say it may be revived. I don’t know how The Arrow would compare to today’s aircraft, but I had a first-hand lesson on how it faired against the F-102.

‘In 1959, I was stationed at Suffolk County AFB on Long Island with the 2nd Fighter Interceptor Squadron. We had an informal exchange program with a Canadian fighter squadron stationed near Montreal. From time to time, two or four aircraft from one of the squadrons would fly to the other’s base on a weekend cross country.

‘On one such exchange, I was #3 in a four ship formation led by [former Tuskegee airmanErnie Craigwell (I don’t recall who the other pilots were). As we entered Canadian airspace, cruising at about 40,000 ft., we spotted a contrail well above our altitude (probably at 50,000ft.) and closing very fast.  As the other aircraft appeared to be passing by, we could clearly see the delta shaped wing and knew it was the Avro Arrow that the Canadian pilots had told us about. Then, instead of just passing by, he rolled in on us! Ernie called for a break and we split into elements. When we talked about the encounter afterwards we all agreed that our first thought was, “This guy is in for a surprise; he doesn’t know that he’s taking on the F-102.”  Well, we were the ones in for a surprise. Even with two elements covering each other, not one of us could get on his tail. His power and maneuverability were awesome.  After he had played with us for a few minutes, like a cat with four mice, he zoomed back up to about 50K and went on his way. What an aircraft! What a shame that it never went into production.’

What is perhaps most curious about the Arrow’s demise is that “everything was ordered brutally destroyed; plans, tools, parts, and the completed planes themselves were to be cut up, destroyed, scrapped and everything made to disappear.”  Why? Well, security of course! Don’t engage in conspiracy theories …

The Canadian national anthem finishes with a pledge: “O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.” It should be noted that understandably resentful Loyalists fleeing the US following the American Revolution were a major contribution to the growth of Canada’s English-speaking population. American troops – back when we were the plucky underdog fighting the mighty British Empire – invaded Canada in 1775 and during the War of 1812 but were defeated. Relations got testy during the American Civil War as well, and even afterwards the US was wary of a proposed united “Kingdom of Canada,” hence the choice of the name “Dominion” in 1967. If today’s Canadians think we-all down here don’t know whom they’ve mostly had in mind to “stand on guard” against all this time, they’d better think again.

Maybe it’s past time for Canadians to get serious again about their independence – eh?

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