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.
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.
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.