Andrew Smith is the Media Coordinator for CAAT and works with the team to ensure that our positive campaigns and messages reach as many people as possible. Andrew has worked on press and media strategy for all sorts of companies and charities and has written about politics and culture for a range of publications.
At the end of June, the University of Glasgow decided to retain the bulk of its £3 million worth of investments in some of the world’s largest arms companies, including BAE Systems, Airbus and Boeing.
The decision to keep profiting from the arms trade was made despite a fierce campaign by the student group Glasgow University Arms Divestment Coalition (GUADC) and concerned members of the community. As has been pointed out again and again, weapons produced by the huge arms companies that the University has chosen to invest in have been linked to serious war crimes across the world. The University has publicly proclaimed that ‘#BlackLivesMatter’, but it has refused to accept that the bombs it profits from have been used to kill people around the world.
This week the Israeli government is expected to begin its immoral and illegal annexation of the West Bank. This follows years of increased tensions and atrocities: including shootings at protests on the Gaza border in May 2018.
Reports from health officials in Gaza say that Israeli forces killed at least 214 Palestinians throughout the 2018 protests. Last month Israeli forces killed the nephew of a senior Palestinian official at a checkpoint in the West Bank.
Despite ongoing abuses, and the threat of annexation, UK arms sales to Israel have continued unabated.
As Black Lives Matter protests all over the world draw attention to the systemic racism inherent in so many of our institutions, we have investigated the extent of Glasgow University’s ties to the arms trade and other industries that profit from globalised violence.
Revelations published in the Glasgow Guardian in 2019 had previously exposed how the university was profiting from over £3 million of investments in the arms trade — resulting in student activists GUADC applying pressure to the university directly through a series of protests.
However, Glasgow’s investment portfolio only represents the surface of the university’s long-running relationship with arms companies.
As COVID-19 forces sweeping changes on our lives, our Government’s obsession with investing in military security over real human threats has been laid bare. Billions have been poured into aircraft carriers, nuclear weapons and war ships, but our health and social care services were on their knees even before the crisis hit.
Amidst the uncertainty, there is a ray of hope. For years CAAT and others have argued that arms company workers have the vital skills needed to build a new greener economy. Yet the political will needed was not there.
The urgency brought by the pandemic saw these blocks lifted almost overnight. Faced with a shortage of ventilators, many of the biggest arms companies including Thales, BAE and Airbus joined Ventilator Challenge UK, a consortium building ventilation equipment, showing how, with government support, change can happen on the factory floor.
At a time when millions of people across the world are concerned about food supplies and the ability of our health systems to respond to crisis, we must keep up the pressure for peace in Yemen, a country whose fragile health system has been devastated by five years of war.
This is a war supported by the UK government, with UK-based arms companies profiting from the destruction. Now more than ever, it is time for peace.
At the time of writing in early April, there are new reports of Saudi forces declaring a two week ceasefire. This is the second ceasefire to be reported in as many weeks – but we still have to still hope this one holds and is taken up by other parties to the conflict. The UK and other arms dealing governments can play their part by finally ending their arms sales and support for the continuing bombardment.
As the UK adjusts to life under lockdown and social distancing measures to combat the spread of COVID-19, local groups and campaigners are taking their work online. Things are difficult right now, but alongside the anxiety and fear there are local and national networks of people connecting, supporting and caring for each other. Meaningful change needs strong communities, and the strong relationships and solidarity of our local groups and networks can help us.
With arms companies and governments forces to recognise that war and militarism cannot protect us from the real threats we face and redeploying troops and resources towards public health, this is also a moment of deep transition and change. Nothing will be the same afterwards, and social justice campaigners need to help shape the conversation about what comes next.
London CAAT are one of the groups who have taken their meetings online. They have even held an online day of action, shifting their vigil for Yemen online. Long-time campaigner and London CAAT member Ian Pocock says:
In February the Government announced that it was undertaking an Integrated Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy Review. Responding, the Commons’ Defence Select Committee invited three military academic experts to give evidence on 10 March. It was business as usual, with no mention of coronavirus or pandemics.
What a difference a week makes. On 17 March a former Chief of the Defence Staff and a former National Security Adviser were up before the Defence Committee. This time the discussion was dominated by coronavirus with both the witnesses stressing that pandemics had been a top tier risk when they were involved in the 2010 Review.
Journalist and researcher Phil Miller has just released a new book, Keenie Meenie: The British Mercenaries Who Got Away With War Crimes, which explores the shameful role of mercenaries in fuelling war and human rights abuses.
Profiting from war is one of the most controversial aspects of UK foreign policy. The debate normally centres on why British bombs are being sold to a belligerent ally. However, the arms industry will always defend its business on the grounds that its staff never pull the trigger, and that any subsequent casualties are therefore not its responsibility. Or as the chairman of Britain’s largest arms dealer, BAE Systems, modestly told shareholders in 2019: ‘[We] provide defence equipment that ultimately encourages peace.’
In October 2019, Turkish forces invaded Northern Syria. This
followed the decision of the US Government to remove its presence from the
area. There were reports of
killed right from the start of operations. The US
had been allied with Kurdish forces, who led the campaign against ISIL in the
region, but Turkey classifies the Kurdish YPG as terrorists.
Turkish forces invaded Afrin in 2018, in operations that saw them accused of “indiscriminately shelling
civilians” by Amnesty International.
Despite its authoritarian domestic policy, and
increasingly aggressive foreign policy, the Erodgan regime in Turkey is among the world’s largest recipients
of UK weapons. Since President Erdogan came to power in August 2014, the UK has
licensed £1.1 billion worth of arms
to Turkey. Among other weapons, these include: £206 million
worth of ML10 licences (aircraft, helicopters, drones); £84 million worth of
ML6 licences (armoured vehicles, tanks) and £82 million worth of ML4 licences
(grenades bombs, missiles, countermeasures)
Increasingly, arms companies are sponsoring public events and spaces in order to boost their profiles and increase their profits. This has caused artists and performers to take action and demand better. In this blog, a member of the Protest Stencil art collective explains why they removed their work from the Science Museum in London.
Last week a new exhibition opened at the Science Museum in London, just in time for the summer holidays. One of our posters was going to be in the show, but we’ve had to pull out. Here’s why…
Back in March, the Science Museum got in touch saying they were planning an exhibition about data and data breaches. They asked if they could have one of our Facebook adhack posters from last year, “Data misuse is not our friend, it’s our business model”. Those posters got a lot of attention, so it wasn’t surprising the Science Museum had heard about them.