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SNC-Lavalin has long been seen as one of Canada’s biggest corporate success stories. With SNC now over a century old, and billions in contracts spanning the globe, the Engineering and Construction giant is now among the world’s top five Global Design firms. Or at least it was until this fall.

Yesterday the company’s former CEO, Pierre Duhaime was arrested in Montreal by the “Hammer” anti-corruption squad. He’s charged with fraud, conspiracy to commit fraud and using forged documents, in relation to a new $1.3 billion “superhospital” project at McGill University. He was forced to resign last month after audits revealed $56 million in dodgy payments. Former VP, Ben Aissa who oversaw construction is also being sought, though he’s currently being detained in Switzerland on charges of international money-laundering.

The missing payments and laundered money, thought to be around $140 (Canadian) at this point, were used to “help secure contracts” with governments like the now-deposed regime of Moammar Gadhafi in Lybia. Since the revolution, SNC-Lavalin has come under international scrutiny for their involvement with the regime, going so far as to attempt to smuggle members of the Gadhafi family out of the country.

Before that, the company’s infamy came largely from their role as military contractors. Referred to as “Canada’s Halliburton“, they’ve been involved extensively in the Iraq and Afghan wars. For Iraq, they’ve built power plants, pipelines and manufactured between a third and half billion bullets for the US Military. In Afghanistan, they’re Canada’s largest private contractor.

A lot is being written about the company’s latest scandal(s), but few are drawing the obvious connections. Why did anybody expect that a corporation which saw nothing wrong with providing hundreds of millions of bullets for the Iraq occupation and paying who-knows-how-many millions in bribes to the Gadhafi regime would even blink at defrauding a public hospital in their own hometown? Amorality is amorality – we can hold out hope that our leaders are racist and nationalist enough not to treat us the same way they treat Libyans or Iraqis, but ultimately, if the price is right, they will.

Of course, this raises the question, once again, of how widespread corruption is within Canada’s ‘power elite’? How many more mayors, CEOs and bureaucrats will be drawn into these inquiries, and how many more will have to be sacrificed to satiate the public’s thirst for blood? How many will escape prosecution entirely? And even if every single one were captured, how long would it take for this level of corruption to set in again?

Power corrupts. Wherever the opportunity exists, so will the temptation to take “advantage” of them. That’s true of governments, corporations, religions, armies and schools. As long as we rely on small, secretive and self-interested cliques of individuals to run our society’s largest institutions, we’ll keep falling victim to those who take a little too much for themselves.

One of the facts that you don’t hear so often about the War in Afghanistan is the role that drugs played. Prior to the war, Taliban theocrats had actually banned the drug because it was “un-islamic” (or to drive up demand, depending on who you ask). But after the invasion, Afghanistan had many record-setting years in a row.

Currently Afghanistan supplies 90% of the world’s opium, and more hash than any other country. While opium exports dropped in 2009 (just like every other commodity exported worldwide that year), the problem is still enormous. Despite record drug seizures, the us forces estimate they’re only getting about 2%, and are beginning to see violent reprisals.

The question of military involvement is also being raised in more serious ways. British military police are now investigating claims that British troops have been using military aircraft to ship the drug out of the country.

This is not to say there’s a massive conspiracy at work. But there doesn’t have to be. Heroin serves many basic capitalist goals – requiring people to work many hours for overpriced, addictive narcotics. Bankers and generals don’t have to tell people to grow opium or traffic heroin because they know they will. They simply need to create an environment (like a war) that makes it possible. Like dead civillians, crippled infrastructure and massive public debt, this heroin explosion is a direct result of the choice to go to war in Afghanistan.

It’s hard not to love wikileaks. Ever since the internet began, powerful interests have been cracking down on employees who all this communications equipment to spread their dirty secrets. Lawsuits, charges and the like are their favourite weapons. And it seems to be working fairly well at keeping department store employees quiet about which products always come back to the returns desk.

Unfortunately, it doesn”t seem to be working so well for larger issues. I’ve been a fan of Wikileaks for a while now. But recently, when they published over 90 thousand secret documents about the Afghan War, they crossed a very serious line. One day, they were at the mercy of major worldwide government institutions. Now, those tables have turned.

Will the American government and others (perhaps the Australians) go after wikileaks for this? Probably. But it will quickly be overshadowed by their own trials. It turns out there’s been a few more massacres than they’d been letting on.

Here’s an excellent piece by John Pilger which I feel sums it up nicely.

If only these guys had been around during Vietnam.

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