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Action at the arms fair

Jamie Kelsey-Fry writes for New Internationalist on protest on the opening day of the London arms fair.

Protesters die-in before BAE HQ - London 13 September 2011

A ‘die-in’ outside the offices of BAE Systems. Photo by Jamie Kelsey-Fry.

There was a moment on Tuesday during the series of actions against the UK’s biennial Defence and Security Systems International (DSEI) exhibition, taking place from 13-16 September, that was so absurd it could have come straight out of a Monty Python sketch.

Anti-arms trade activists had discovered that a gala reception for delegates would be hosted at London’s National Gallery. After a ‘die-in’ (everyone lying around in the throes of mock-death) outside the nearby offices of BAE Systems, activists made their way to the entrances to the Gallery to provide their own reception as delegates arrived. Read more »

How I (nearly) got into an arms trade conference

How shameless is the government’s arms sales unit? Even as ordinary people across the Middle East are laying down their lives in the struggle for democracy, UKTI DSO organises a seminar to help arms companies to sell weapons to the repressive regimes of the region.

The event was called Middle East: A vast market for defence and security companies, it was presented by London Chamber of Commerce, and it was to be hosted in the City of London by Royal Bank of Scotland. (The very same RBS that Amnesty International recently forced to stop financing the makers of cluster bombs.)

MIDDLE EAST: A VAST MARKET FOR UK DEFENCE AND SECURITY COMPANIES

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DSEI: playground of the power elite

Brenda Heard of Friends of Lebanon on how arms fairs, such as DSEI, fuel conflict worldwide.

The images have become commonplace. Pick-up trucks laden with rocket launchers and machine guns.  Dusty men with their rifles, poised as so many Rambos. Billows of smoke that linger after the bomber has flown on to its next target. These are the images of contemporary conflict. Differences of socio-political opinion are settled by bloody confrontation.

True, violent conflict is as old as mankind itself. True, self-defence is a necessity, even a responsibility. But the business of war has become the norm rather than the exception. The significance of this development lies not merely in the multitude of violent and unnecessary deaths -but more so in our readily viewing this reality with a novel brand of bold nonchalance.

In business-speak for international arms dealing, DSEI -Defence & Security Equipment International—boasts that its biennial exhibition “provides a time-effective opportunity to meet the whole defence and security supply chain”. DSEI further promises that this year’s event will exceed attendance figures from 2009: 25,170 attendees; 1280 exhibitors; 98 countries; 70 official delegations; 27 national pavilions. Just have a look at its slick website offering  “infinite opportunities” to those who would jump on the weapons carousel.

A stall at DSEI advertising AK-47 assault rifles

A stall at DSEI 2009 advertising AK-47 assault rifles for sale

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