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Wild beasts and parliamentary action

Kaye Stearman asks: “Why do MPs care so passionately about animal rights while failing to tackle issues like the arms trade?”

One night in June as I was drifting off to sleep, I was galvanised by the passionate debate being played out on the normally soporific Today in Parliament on Radio 4. The programme is noted for its erudition in the explanation of arcane bills and ministerial soundbites but to hear genuine anger and passionate advocacy is rare.

Tiger jumping through hoop

Even more surprising was that the debate was led by backbenchers and cut across partly lines. Who, I wondered, were these MPs and what was their cause. Surely it must involve an issue such as violation of human rights, poverty, famine, war or the arms trade.

Alas, it was none of these. To be fair, it did involve the rights of living beings – in this case wild animals. MPs united in support of a law that would ban lions, tigers and other wild animals from circus shows in the UK. The government had tried to impose a three-line whip, backbenchers had refused to knuckle under and a heartfelt debate on the wrongs of animal mistreatment ensued. Read more »

BAE wilts under Select Committee onslaught

Ann Feltham, CAAT’s Parliamentary Co-ordinator, attended the International Development Committee hearing on 19 July which saw  BAE under attack by MPs for its shameful inaction in paying £29.5 million to the Government of Tanzania.

Media eyes may have been focused on the Murdochs’ Select Committee appearance, but the real pleasure for CAAT supporters was the International Development Committee hearing which took place on the same day. The focus was “Financial Crime and Development” and, in particular, BAE’s military radar deal with Tanzania which had been the subject of a plea bargain between the company and the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) in February 2010.

BAE’s sacrificial goats up before the MPs were Legal Counsel Philip Bramwell and the company’s Head of Government Relations Bob Keen. Why, the MPs demanded to know, had BAE not paid over the £29.5million for the benefit of the Tanzanian people which was part of the plea bargain and confirmed by Judge Bean in the Crown Court in December. Read more »

Riding the El Cid route to raise funds for CAAT

Kate Byrne with the statue of El Cid

Kate Byrne hugging El Cid

What a fantastic route, what amazing things we saw and what gruelling hills we climbed! Nine friends set off on 26 May to pedal part of the Camino Del Cid, a route which we planned to take us from Bilbao on the Northern coast of Spain to Valencia in the south, a distance of 587 miles.

Burgos is the starting point of the Camino, and so we dutifully posed with a huge statue of El Cid before pedalling off for our first day. This brought us to St Domingo De Silos, just in time to hear the monks singing perfect Gregorian chant in the cathedral. It was a surreal contrast after spending a sweaty day on the bikes. Read more »

A poetic take on Libya

Athos Athanasiou was moved to write a poem about Libya and British arms firms’ dealings with Gaddafi. You can read more of his poetry on his blog.

On Libya

Oh just look! The papers say,
David Cameron leads the way,
in heading to the Middle East
to try and quell that fearsome beast.

But

Athos Athanasiou

what is it he’s actually doing?
Who on earth could he be wooing?
And what ends is he pursuing?
While the fighting still is brewing?

Off he trots to pave the way
for the weapons men who pay,
to have their arms contracts renewed.
They are nothing if not shrewd.

So what message is he showing?
While atrocities are growing,
and a bloody wind is blowing,
and the people’s blood is flowing,

dying from the tanks and bombers
as the arms trade pursues commerce.
For these choppers and these guns
are brought in from other lands.

British arms firms had their hand in
planes, that soldiers d’rather land in
other realms, than bomb those standing
in the squares for change demanding.

Not forgetting France and Russia,
and the others who sell Libya
all the weapons that it needs
to kill its people in the streets.

Now  the Colonel has grown madder,
and the genocide grows sadder.
Paths to peace are looking harder.
Their’s the bloodiest intifada.

But the arms firms have no let up
in protecting contracts set up
when dictators ruled the day.
Turning blind eyes once they pay.

I just hope the tide is turning,
and the city soon stops burning.
But Gaddafi isnt learning.
Freedom is what they are yearning.

Manchester University staff member’s ironic letter to colleagues about their indifference to the consequences of their research for BAE

Dear Colleagues,

I attended the presentation given by the arms company Thales a few months ago as a personal interdisciplinary exercise. The problem was as follows.

Given a group of thoroughly decent academics listening to a presentation of some highly technical problems posed by an organisation devoted to the production, inter alia, of tools of repression, mass slaughter, and arbitrary execution, I was interested to learn how such individuals would cope with a certain cognitive dissonance which they might be expected to experience.

The results were very interesting. During the two hours or so for which I attended, despite the fact that numerous questions were asked, not a single member of the audience (including myself) asked any question concerning the purpose for which the resolution of any of the problems might be required. Read more »

UKTI DSO: pimping for the arms trade?

Jim McCluskey, who lives in Vince Cable’s constituency asks: As a Liberal Democrat MP Vince Cable supported the call to end government support for arms exports; what’s he doing now he’s trade minister responsible for the arms industry?

Constituents lobby Vince Cable

The international arms trade fuels the World’s wars. This is essentially a criminal activity which causes violent death and untold suffering on a vast scale. The British government is a key player giving massive help, with taxpayers’ money, to UK arms manufacturers.

In 2007 total UK arms exports amounted to £5,474 million. In 2009 the British government claimed that, of the 192 states in the United Nations, the UK was the second largest seller of arms. Read more »

Something for the Weekend: Disarming DSEi

On Sunday 12th June, the “Get Ready for the Arms Fair” planning event took place. Campaigner and blogger Kirsten Bayes took part and had this to say about it…

I spent the day with some of the most amazing people I have ever met (present company excepted, of course).

They were gathered together to work out what to do about about the world’s largest Defence and Security Equipment exhibition, taking place in London 13-16 September.

DSEi is a particularly poisonous event. It has a history of Governmental-invites to representatives from dreadful regimes, of drawing on massive public subsidy, and of using British servicemen to demonstrate tanks, guns, ships to international arms dealers. This in support of multi-billion corporate profits. Read more »

London CAAT indulge their artistic side at Fine Art Fair

Ian Pocock writes about London CAAT’s demonstration at the International Fine Art & Antiques Fair.

CAAT Arms Trade Clarion Banner

Our fantastic banner brought us lots of attention

London CAAT members maintained the pressure on Clarion Events with a demonstration outside the International Fine Art & Antiques Fair at Kensington Olympia on Saturday 11 June. After being moved on by the over-zealous security guards, we took up a position outside the entrance to the tube station.

Our brand new banner ‘This Show is Brought to you by the Arms Trade’ gained a lot of attention and a number of passersby stopped to ask why we were there. Read more »

Kicking up a stink at the Baby Show

Anti-arms activists in Birmingham had a busy week protesting against Clarion Events’ Baby Show.

Clarion Events is the owner and organiser of several arms fairs, including the forthcoming Defence & Security Equipment International (DSEi) in London in September. Clarion sees no contradiction between organising consumer shows, like the Baby Show, and arms fairs.

Before the Baby Show opened, activists took their message to prospective customers of Mothercare, one of the principal sponsors of the Baby Show. On Monday 16 May and Friday 20 May, campaigners ran an information stall and leafleted outside Mothercare in central Birmingham. Many people turned away in disgust. Others went inside and asked the management why they were supporting arms dealers. Read more »

“It opened my eyes. I realised I had to do something.”

Modgala, a Buddhist nun working with the Amida Trust, speaks to Kat Hobbs of CAAT about taking action at the DSEi arms fair in 2001 and what action she will take at DSEi 2011.

Why take action?

Modgala at a festival

Modgala at a festival

“I’m in favour of direct action, as long as it doesn’t distress people. I don’t have any qualms about disabling the equipment – just when and where.”

While giving teachings in former Yugoslavia in 2003, Modgala experienced first hand the destruction that conflict brings. Prior to going to her first demonstration on 11 September 2001 she came across a photograph at a John Pilger exhibition: “a photo of an empty bed, where you could see the bloodstains underneath. It opened my eyes. I realised I had to do something.” Read more »