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21 years on: solidarity with the disarmers

Andrea Needham writes: On 29 January 1996, I was one of a group of women who disarmed a Hawk warplane at BAE’s Warton factory in Lancashire. The plane was destined for Indonesia, where it would be used in the ongoing occupation and genocide in East Timor.

Exactly 21 years later, and now in the era of social media, I was idly perusing Facebook on a Sunday morning when I saw that two men had broken into the very same factory, with the intention of disarming warplanes being sold by BAE to Saudi Arabia, for use in their crimes against humanity in Yemen.

Andrea Needham with a copy of The Hammer Blow

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The ‘arms for dictators’ scandal isn’t new. It is cross-party, well-established and has been going on for too long

The British government actively promotes the Eurofighter Typhoon to foreign government. This scene comes from  the Farnborough arms fair in 2012.

The British government actively promotes the Eurofighter Typhoon to foreign governments. This scene comes from the Farnborough arms fair in 2012.

The fringe issue of arms export criteria became headline news today (17 July),  with The Independent’s splash on an “‘arms for dictators” scandal. A parliamentary report by the Committees on Arms Export Controls (CAEC) raised a few eyebrows, but the embarrassment of the government approving arms sales to 25 out of 27 of the countries blacklisted as human rights abusers will soon vanish.

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TAPOL – 40 years of campaigning

A British-made Stormer APC in Aceh, Indonesia

A British-made Stormer APC in Aceh, Indonesia

TAPOL, the organisation that campaigns for human rights in Indonesia, celebrated its 40th birthday last week with a reception and film screening at the Ritzy cinema in Brixton. Staff from Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT), which has worked with TAPOL for many years, were at the reception.
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Protest at BAE Systems AGM

Just came back from the CAAT protest at the BAE Systems AGM. It was a great success. Before the start of the AGM we gathered in front of the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre in Westminster.

Some protesters had prepared a stunt: One of us dressed up as a judge. Two others were dressed up as Tony Blair and as BAE Systems CEO Mike Turner. They grabbed the judge and gagged him.

Tony Blair and Mike Turner silence a judge

The stunt was very popular with the media. There were loads of photographers taking pictures. Our stunt was also really popular with the tourists on their way to Big Ben. Read more »

A timely reminder

A sobering reminder of why opposing the international arms trade and working for de-militarisation across the world is increasingly vital was provided to me today. The latest report published by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change shows the catastrophic effects on the world that climate change is seemingly certain to have.

There are of course many moral reasons to oppose the arms trade. The sickening spectacle of executives such as Nicholas Prest and his shareholders, who profited handsomely from Alvis’s sale of armoured vehicles to Indonesia, used by the Indonesian Army in their horrific campaign of atrocities in Aceh in the early years of this century, is reason enough in many eyes.

Climate change is going to radically alter the global security environment in negative ways. As the UN notes “a warming world will place hundreds of millions of extra people at greater risk of food and water shortages and threaten the survival of thousands of species of plants and animals…floods, heatwaves, storms and droughts are all expected to increase, with people in poorer countries suffering the worst effects”. Most wars, both civil and international, take place in the poorer countries.

As the human race appears no more able to resolve conflicts in a peaceful manner than it has for centuries, the negative effects of climate change are certain to increase the amount of war, killing and suffering in the world in the decades to come. The existence of the international arms trade, and the arms companies which develop ever more destructive weapons system in their quest for more and more war profits is going to exacerbate this problem in many terrible ways.