It was billed as the “auction of dreams”- but Liberal Democrats arriving for their spring fundraiser in Twickenham were met by protesters with placards, Vince Cable masks and some uncomfortable truths.
With Baroness Shirley Williams attending as the after dinner speaker and guests including Greg Dyke, Lord Oakshott and Geoff Pope it must have been embarrassing for Vince Cable to have his track record of support for the arms industry laid bare.
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Activists putting the arms trade on trial
This morning saw the start of a private prosecution launched by anti-arms activists against two arms companies for promoting illegal torture weapons at the DSEI arms fair last September. There was a crowd of supporters to greet the activists, but neither of the arms companies in question, Magforce International or Tianjin Myway International Trading bothered to turn up for the hearing.
Following an adjournment, the date of the trial itself has been set for 26th November 2014. The case is being led by a group of individuals who were charged with obstruction related offences for protesting outside the DSEI arms fair in 2013.
Shut down DSEI
One of the accused companies, Magforce, sells weapons to countries on the Foreign Office’s list of countries with the “most serious human rights concerns”; including Central African Republic, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Yemen. However, it’s not just Magforce and Tianjin that need to be held accountable, it’s the entire DSEI arms fair.
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Photo by Jayel Aheram
The latest world military expenditure figures show that spending is an enormous $1.75 trillion. One of the nations continuing to spend the most is the UK, which plans to spend £38 billion in 2014/15. This shows the backwards priorities of a government that is protecting its overblown military budget, at the same time as it is subjecting vital public services to drastic spending cuts.
For too long we have lived with the myth that high military spending maintains peace, creates jobs and combats terrorism. This myth is promoted by governments and the multinational arms companies that benefit from the global arms trade politically and economically.
The money and skills which are currently being wasted on needless and destructive weapons like the Trident nuclear weapons system would be far better spent on strengthening vital services and tackling the real challenges affecting our society; such as poverty, health inequality and environmental problems. Read more »
Who are the best people to teach children about science? You may say world renowned experts and professors, like Steven Hawking or Brian Cox, but you are unlikely to say opportunistic and repressive arms companies like Selex ES.
Selex ES is a major arms company that makes surveillance systems, weapon control systems and military drones. The weapons they make have contributed to global insecurity and strengthened some of the most oppressive governments in the world (including the dictatorships in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain).
Of course Selex don’t want people to see them that way; they would far rather be seen as a kind and caring technology company. That’s why they opted to become one of the chief sponsors of the Edinburgh Science Festival. Read more »
“Social reforms which involve expenditure are at a standstill; we are making drastic cuts in the supplies for education and for housing; our hospitals are seriously embarrassed; our industries are crippled; our unemployed number more than 1,500,000, and yet in the last financial year we spent more than 23 million upon armaments. No wonder the taxpayer grumbles and the financiers shakes their heads.”
– Major General Sir Frederick (Barton) Maurice in 1921 (1)
Today, Monday 14 April, we are taking action with people across the world to challenge military spending and to say it’s time to shift priorities and fund human needs, not war. Meanwhile, researchers for Selling to Both Sides: the arms trade and the First World War have been exploring debates about military spending before and after the First World War, and the parallels with today.
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The government spends thirty times more on weapons research than tackling climate change. Investing in renewable energy could provide more and better engineering jobs in a sector that supports people’s well-being, not death and destruction. But the UK government continue to waste public money on the arms trade. It’s time for this to change.
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