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.)
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.
Karim Malak from Egypt reports on an incident on Armed Forces day, 23 July 2011
On 23 July 2011 the Egyptian military cautiously began marking Armed Forces day. The night before, the military had issued a communique on their facebook page incriminating 6 April, a large civil society organisation and opposition movement.
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.
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.