Arms to Renewables: Join us for a CAAT speaker training day

The government spends thirty times more on weapons research than tackling climate change. Investing in renewable energy could provide more and better engineering jobs in a sector that supports people’s well-being, not death and destruction. But the UK government continue to waste public money on the arms trade. It’s time for this to change.
Continue reading “Arms to Renewables: Join us for a CAAT speaker training day”

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”

A global referendum on militarisation and climate change

Ian Mackinnon reports from the People’s World Conference on Climate Change in Cochabamba, Bolivia.

At the Peoples’ World Conference on Climate Change from 19-22 April 2010, activists and grassroots organisations from around the world gathered to address what they see as the failure of governmental climate policy at Copenhagen.

Working Group 4 was charged with developing a proposal for a global referendum on environmental issues. However, the debate among the participants ranged frequently and profoundly into issues of war, militarisation and occupation.

Discussion at the PWCC
Discussion at the PWCC, Bolivia, April 2010

The group concluded two and a half days of discussions by submitting to the plenary session a document outlining their plans for the structure and preparation of the referendum. Their proposal recommended that it comprise the following five questions:

1) Do you agree with changing this capitalist model of over-production and super-consumption, and re-establishing harmony with nature, recognizing and respecting the rights of the Mother Earth? YES or NO

2) Do you agree that countries and transnational corporations reduce and reabsorb their greenhouse gas production proportionally to their emissions and historical responsibilities in order to halt global warming? YES or NO

3) Do you agree with transferring all that is spent in wars and for allocating a budget bigger than used for defence to climate change? YES or NO

4) Do you agree that our countries be transformed into territories of peace, free from occupation by troops and foreign military bases? YES or NO

5) Do you agree with a Climate Justice Tribunal to judge those who destroy Mother Earth? YES or NO
Continue reading “A global referendum on militarisation and climate change”

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”

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.