DIEMACO: WHEN ONE FAMILY KILLS ANOTHER
"This is not a sporting rifle, and war is not a sporting activity." -- Harvie Andre, former Associate Minister of War, 1986, on the Diemaco C-7 Rifle
"If it can be said of a death-dealing weapon, [the C-7] appeared to have no vices when I fired it on the highly sophisticated indoor range at Diemaco...the C-7 fires around 800 rounds a minute." Ron Lowman, Toronto Star, 1986.
"This announcement is an example of how this government is prioritizing its spending so it can better serve Canadians by making efficient use of their tax dollars." -- War Dept. press release, June 2000, announcing a $3 million Diemaco contract for 2,000+ grenade launcher systems
Imagine that just down the road from where you live there is a non-descript building that houses a family business. The purpose of this business is to produce a product which, if used properly, would result in the deaths of hundreds, maybe thousands of people in a matter of minutes.
If this product were a vicious hybrid of heroin or crack cocaine, or perhaps cyanide tablets which could be placed in the food or water of unsuspecting victims, you might be upset, even angry, that such a business operates where you live. Perhaps you then observe that the parking lot of the company reserves spots marked "Pusher," "Addict" and "Dealer." If you then found out that, worse, this business received millions in taxpayer money to carry out its production, testing, and distribution, you might want to kick them out of your neighbourhood or call your Member of Parliament to complain.
The scenario sounds a bit far-fetched, yet it is one which faces scores of Canadian communities and, in this instance, the city of Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario. Just down the road from the Toys 'R Us strip mall at Fairway and Wilson, is the home of Diemaco, "Canada's Centre of Excellence for Small Arms." In the parking lot are reserved parking spaces for the weapons addicts from Canada's War Dept.
In a world plagued by nuclear weapons, chemical and biological agents and other horrors, the term "small arms" sounds innocuous enough, yet the weapons which are produced by Diemaco kill on an individual basis in exactly the same horrifying way that "bigger" weapons do on a community level. One study of 101 conflicts fought between 1989 and 1996 revealed that small arms and light weapons were generally the weapon of preference or even the only weapons used. Scientific American reports "these wars have killed more than five million people, devastated entire geographic regions, and left tens of millions of refugees and orphans. Little of the destruction was inflicted by the tanks, artillery or aircraft usually associated with modern warfare; rather, most was carried out with pistols, machine guns and grenades."
Diemaco prides itself on producing what it calls a "family" product, even though that product results in the deaths of thousands of families annually around the globe. Read their promotional materials and discover that Diemaco describes its C7 Family of Combat Weapons as "a highly engineered and ruggedly constructed small arms system."
The International Committee of the Red Cross, among many international organizations, is alarmed at the growth of the small arms trade and its deadly consequences. In a recent report, the ICRC concluded: "As international arms transfers, particularly of small arms, have become easier the promotion of respect for international humanitarian law has become vastly more difficult.
"The result is appalling levels of wanton violence and a stream of horrific images which threaten to immunize the public and decision-makers to ongoing violations of humanitarian law."
Yet back in Kitchener-Waterloo, the "Family" continues to receive hundreds of millions of Canadian tax dollars on that promise that "Each member of the family is ideally suited to serve in today's demanding military environment."
Indeed, an advertisement proclaims Diemaco provides its customers "army weapons training, maintenance and support" and "has built an international reputation of excellence by consistently providing superior quality small arms weapons systems, through unmatched responsiveness to customer's needs."
When your customer's needs are the ability to wipe out the denizens of a community in a matter of minutes, Diemaco has just what you need. Take, for example, the family member they call LSW99.
"The 5.56 mm Light Support Weapon is a member of the C7 Flat Top Rifle Family. It provides the Infantry Section and others a lightweight, sustained fire or support fire role weapon, for engaging point or area targets to 800 metres. The LSW99 is a highly reliable, very cost effective alternative to the dedicated belt fed machine gun." You can also squeeze off between 600 and 750 rounds of deadly ammo per minute with this baby.
And unlike many deadbeat dads, Diemaco promises it is "committed to the total support of the equipment it produces throughout the systems' life."
Since 1976, Diemaco has proudly "been serving the International Military small arms community." During the U.S./U.K./Canadian slaughter of Iraqis in 1991, Diemaco proclaimed itself "proud that our Defence Industrial Preparedness enabled us to quickly respond to the Canadian Forces and the U.S. Army's urgent requirements in support of Operations Scimitar and Desert Storm."
Diemaco's website reads like any other family's doting record of their growing brood: "The Canadian Forces selected the Colt M16 Rifle and the FN Minimi Light Machine Gun as the basis for their new family of Small Arms," and Diemaco was there to ensure the newest member of the family got the specifications it needed to be more "reliable."
Reliability. In other words, an "unreliable" weapon doesn't deliver well on its only purpose: killing human beings.
Diemaco says it is a legitimate business which only sells to NATO and "allied countries," which assumes that these largely white, "first-World" armies are responsible gun owners and users. But these "respectable" nations have caused untold misery though direct military intervention, arms sales or via proxy forces in dozens of countries around the world, from of Vietnam and Laos and Cambodia to El Salvador, Nicaragua, Chile, Colombia, Rwanda, Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia, Haiti, Iraq, and the former Yugoslavia.
Diemaco is also the proud supplier of arms to the Canadian Forces, who blithely point out that they did "collateral damage" (murder of civilians who got "in the way" of bombs) over the Balkans. "I do believe we caused collateral damage. I'm certain that we did," said air force colonel Dwight Davies, head of the Canadian task force for most of the Kosovo campaign. "In evidence presented recently to a parliamentary committee, the government acknowledged that 28 per cent of the laser-guided 'smart' bombs dropped by Canadian pilots missed their targets. That means about 100 of the 361 laser-guided bombs exploded somewhere other than on a military target," reports the Globe and Mail.
These are the same Canadian Forces whose most celebrated contemporary general, Lewis MacKenzie, recently summed up the culture of our peacekeepers thusly: "As much as Canadians would like to ignore the fact, the role of a soldier is to kill as efficiently as possible with the resources available once he is ordered to do so by his government. There are many sidelines to his profession that make us all feel warm and fuzzy...But they are all subordinate to one overriding responsibility, and that is to kill on demand."
One can imagine Diemaco's rationale clearly: Diemaco would never export to countries that violate human rights, because that would be against the law. Leaving aside the question that most of Diemaco's customers are regular violators of international and humanitarian law, let us assume for an instance that Diemaco were sincere in its respect for guidelines which would prohibit sending arms to, say, a Saddam Hussein or Muammar Ghadafi.
A look at Diemaco's chequered history would reveal that when it comes to opening up new markets for its weapons, Diemaco has never had much respect for the law, as evidenced by its long-standing battle and ultimate victory in securing the ability to export automatic small arms weapons (which unleash a barrage of bullets with a single pull of the trigger).
Diemaco for years lobbied Ottawa to change the criminal code to allow for such an export. The Conservatives' John Crosbie, Trade Minister in 1984, in discussing the issue of proposed changes, noted, "The prohibition against export of such weapons has been a delicate subject of discussion for some time, by reason mainly of the inevitable perception that Canada would be seen as increasing its share in the international arms trade."
By 1988, an Order in Council was passed allowing for changes in the Criminal Code, later solidified by legislative changes in 1991. Yet before the changes were finally allowed, Diemaco had already lined up contract bids abroad, and moaned that it might lose jobs and future opportunities if its contracts had to be cancelled because they did not receive Ottawa's approval. In an ideal world, one would hope that such pressures would have had no bearing on Ottawa's final decision, but we do not live in an ideal world.
Hence, if there is a law prohibiting sales to a particularly brutish regime, but your company can arrange a sale to that government's military, you simply lobby Ottawa and state that jobs and future market opportunities are at stake and a way will be found. It's the magic of the market.
But this is not good enough for groups which have to deal with the victims of these weapons. The Red Cross points out, "The current pattern of transfers of small arms, light weapons and related ammunition, because it is largely outside of international control, should be a matter of urgent humanitarian concern. While the primary responsibility for compliance with international humanitarian law falls upon users of weapons, States and enterprises engaged in production and export bear a degree of political, moral and, in some cases, legal responsibility to the international community for the use made of their weapons and ammunition."
Diemaco's latest contracts include automatic cannons, or chain guns, (firing 100-400 rounds per minute when mounted on Light Armoured Vehicles), a $5 million contract for rifles for the British "special forces," , and a grenade launcher system contract worth $3 million, which is "particularly good news since it sets the stage to sell the device to foreign customers," according to the Kitchener-Waterloo Record.
In a War Dept. press release, Minister of War Art Eggleton is quoted saying "these new grenade launcher systems will help ensure that our soldiers have the combat capabilities necessary for modern operations."
The Canadian Forces, the release continues, require "close combat function [that] requires the capability to use a complementary mix of small arms fire and fragmenting munitions...Allied experiences in the Gulf War and other UN operations indicate that the grenade projector played a major role in winning small arms engagements."
Fragmenting munitions. What does that mean? The ICRC again condemned such weapons (similar to cluster bombs, which spew out thousands of flying metal shards) earlier this year.
I called the War Dept., curious to find out how they define the term. A press liaison calls them "anti-personnel," and although she was reluctant to further define that term, the euphemism stands for "kills people."
I was passed to a Major in the press office, whose response to my question about fragmenting munitions was to giggle. He then tried to explain that they explode into hundreds of fragments of flying metal. When I asked again for an official War Dept. definition of fragmenting weapon, the giggle returned, and I was passed to another major. This major clearly stated that the purpose of such weapons was to fragment, to blow apart into flying projectiles. But if I really wanted to find out more, I should talk "to the boys is ammo." But I had had enough of their laughter for one day.
Perhaps the nervous laughter is the only way human beings can deal with the fact that their job is to plan for and carry out acts of state-sanctioned murder. Perhaps it is embarrassment that what any child in a playground could tell you is a ridiculous way to deal with one another is in fact official policy.
The cost of maintaining such a policy should now be obvious to anyway who sees the decaying social landscape of Canada. Government military expenditures represent a massive theft from the poor of this country, as well as countries unfortunate enough to be targets of our military action (such as Kosovo, bombing them for 78 days at a cost of $482.5 million, and Iraq, where we annually spend the equivalent of at least 2,000 affordable housing units -- $72 million -- to enforce the punitive sanctions against the people of Iraq. In fact, Canada has spent over $1 billion enforcing sanctions which have been almost universally condemned as genocidal. And then there is the use of the Canadian military against First Nations people, at Oka, in Nitassinan, Stoney Point, etc.).
Since 1980, Canada has spent over a quarter of a trillion dollars on war -- over $250 million of that has gone directly to Diemaco. The lengthy trail of closed hospital beds, patients dying in hallways or in redirected ambulances, homeless people dying within view of the seats of government, generations of latchkey kids growing up without daycare, lack of action on environmental cleanup, and so much more is a path which has been purposely paved by successive governments who have chosen guns, not bread, bombs, not homes, as their national policy.
In a shocking display of the ease with which Orwellian terminology can placate a supposedly educated people, all this has been done in the name of peace and peacekeeping. The construction and testing of cruise missiles, the refining of depleted uranium into the exploding munitions which have caused cancers to skyrocket in Iraq, Kosovo, and among returning veterans, the research into fuel-air explosives, the export of hundreds of millions of dollars worth of armaments every year, the $5 billion-a-year military industrial base in Canada, all this is done in the name of peace.
And so it is in Kitchener Waterloo. Look at this divided region, an area where the gap between the haves and have-nots continues to grow, and imagine what the $250 million the federal government has poured into one arms manufacturer over the past twenty years could have done to ensure all a safe, healthy life free from poverty, hunger, ill health, and homelessness.
Thus we come back to the case of Diemaco, that nondescript building just down the road from the Toys 'R Us, quietly pumping out thousands of deadly weapons. Do Diemaco's employees deserve jobs? Yes, there is no question. Are there socially useful things which could be done in Kitchener-Waterloo that don't involve the production of killing machines? Yes. Can Diemaco, which draws its name from the fact that the company was formerly a tool-and-die maker, find civilian uses for its talents? Definitely.
But will Diemaco transform from a merchant of death to a sustainer of life? Not unless there is outcry from the community, not unless we approach the company with open hearts to show that there are life-and-death consequences that result from their daily labour, not unless we take the first step.
Just as the crack cocaine profiteeer bears liability for the screwed-up lives of those hooked on the drug, so the weapons profiteers bear responsibility for the blood which flows when their weapons are used.
The countries of the so-called "developed" world regularly take it upon themselves to inspect and, if necessary, destroy other nations' capacity to develop and deploy weapons which may be a threat to us. Do we as Canadians not have a similar responsibility to stop the production and flow of weapons which pose a threat to the rest of the world?
With that responsibility in mind, we went to Diemaco on the eve of Remembrance Day, Friday, November 10, to remember all victims of war. At that time, we presented a Notice of Impending Citizens Inspection. On Monday, January 15, 2001, Martin Luther King Day, we will return to try and enter the premises for that inspection, to shed light on what goes on behind the walls of this place, to expose and transform the Diemaco "family" from the illicit shadows of the murder trade to the light of positive community development.
- By Matthew Behrens, of Homes not Bombs-Toronto.
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