Wars, occupation, oppression, and corruption fuel a surging Middle East arms race

New SIPRI arms transfers data shows small overall increase in global trade, but huge increase in sales to the Middle East.

Graphic showing map of states in the Middle East with bubbles for each country indicating level of arms imports. Heading: Arms imports by states in the Middle East. Subheading: The volume of arms imports in SIPRI trend-indicator values is depicted by the size of the circle. 2014-2018. Source: SIPRI Arms Transfers Database. Copyright SIPRI 2019.

The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) yesterday releasedits latest data on the global arms trade, for which it is by far the best source. The data provides details of deliveries of major conventional weapons worldwide from 1950-2018, both in numerical terms and with searchable lists of the actual weapons transferred between countries. The information can be found in SIPRI’s database, and some of the key points are discussed in a fact sheet also published yesterday.

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Oil & war; 16 years since the 2003 anti-war protests

Protesters stand outside the British Museum in lines holding onto large banners/ a 'living tapestry' with messages about war, colonialism, the Iraq war and fossil fuels painted on
Cover photo by Safa Kadhim

On the 16th Feb, and to mark 16 years since the 2003 anti-war protests, BP or not BP?, and many others took over the British Museum; targetting specifically the BP-sponsored Assyria exhibition. This was part of a series of actions, that also included the action at the press launch of the exhibition in November. Iraqi members of the group also set up an alternative exhibition in Feb-March, with works of Iraqis in Iraq and in the diaspora exposing the realities of BP in Iraq. Here you can read why we protested on the 16th.

An overview of the takeover on the 16th can be found here and Culture Unstained also released a detailed report with FOIs from the British Museum on the recent I am Ashurbanipal exhibition.

Biggest protest in British Museum's history over BP and Iraq

Hey British Museum, did you really think that putting a BP logo on looted objects from Iraq was even a tiny bit acceptable? *Cue largest protest in museum's 260 year history* 🏛✊🏽

Posted by BP or not BP? on Thursday, 28 February 2019
Video of the action on the 16th February 2019
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William Hague: Hero or Hypocrite?

William Hague with Angelina Jolie and Brad PittIt was a surreal sight to see Foreign Secretary William Hague posing with Hollywood’s most famous couple, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie at the recent high profile Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict.

Responding to media accusations that he was “hobnobbing” and “starstruck”, Hague defended the importance of his role at the summit, telling Radio 4 listeners that “this is about conflict prevention.”

So let’s take a look at Hague’s record on conflict prevention.

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Birth defects: Iraq’s toxic legacy

Paediatrician Dr Samira Alaani examining another case at Fallujah General Hospital.
Paediatrician Dr Samira Al’aani examining another case at Fallujah General Hospital.

During the occupation of Iraq, the city of Fallujah bore witness to some of the most intense US combat operations since Vietnam, with 2004’s Operation Phantom Fury widely condemned for its ferocity and disregard for international law.

Paediatrician Dr Samira Al’aani has worked in the city since 1997. In 2006 she began to notice an increase in the number of babies being born with congenital birth defects (CBD). Concerned, she began to log the cases that she saw. Through careful record keeping she has determined that at Fallujah General Hospital, 144 babies are now born with a deformity for every 1000 live births.

This is nearly six times higher than the average rate in the UK between 2006 and 2010, and one strong suspicion is that contamination from the toxic constituents of munitions used by occupying forces could be the cause.

Now a new nationwide study by the Iraqi Ministry of Health, in collaboration with the World Health Organisation (WHO), has the potential to catalyse efforts to understand and confront the issue, but only if science can be allowed to rise above politics. For years there have been huge problems with funding, political bias and delays. Continue reading “Birth defects: Iraq’s toxic legacy”

Green markets or gun markets

David Watson from Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) writes on weapons, wars and climate change for Blog Action Day on Climate Change – 15 October 2009.

On 14 October, BBC’s Newsnight asked the question “Can you be green and capitalist?”

Simon Retallack, associate director at the centre-left think tank, the Institute for Public Policy Research, was asked how best to fight climate change. He rejected an approach based on changing people’s values, saying: “I worry that the [anti-consumerist] approach gets in the way of putting in place some consumerist approaches to solving some of these problems that doesn’t (sic) entail trying to engineer changing people’s values.”

The interviewer didn’t ask Retallack if not changing our values meant we could continue to support wars and military occupations in strategically important locations.

Neither did he offer an opinion on whether this meant that the UK and the US could carry on spending so much of their stretched budgets subsidising their arms industries. Continue reading “Green markets or gun markets”

Blackwater

The name Blackwater first seriously entered the popular consciousness on September 17th 2007 when 17 Iraqi civilians were shot dead by Blackwater employees, working as ‘security contractors’, in an affluent neighbourhood of Baghdad. The Iraqi government’s investigation found that, contrary to the claims of the Blackwater corporation, the security contractors had not been attacked. A parallel US congressional investigation, presumably quite well disposed towards the corporation given that it was the US government who had contracted out defence work to Blackwater, found that their use of force had been “excessive” and “pre-emptive”. Quite reasonably the Iraqi government asked that Blackwater and their men be held to account. Yet this was impossible because the US occupying forces had granted government contractors immunity from prosecution under Iraqi law. However as subcontractors, rather than US government employees, they’re not subject to military discipline. In effect they operate in a complete legal vacuum.
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