Archive for category Ethics of the arms trade
Peace activists in Hastings satirised the ‘blood washing’ activities of a local arms company with some street theatre. Hastings is on England’s south coast.
The arms company they mocked was General Dynamics UK, a branch of the giant General Dynamics arms company, which has a three facilities in Hastings. General Dynamics is one of the largest arms companies in the world. (See overview here). General Dynamics UK was recently embarassed in the public sphere by its sales of military communications equipment to the Qaddafi regime immediately prior to the UK intervention in Libya. (The UK intervened to protect Libyan civilians from being slaughtered by the military of that very regime). The Independent newspaper documented the involvement of General Dynamics, and its government enablers, with the Libyan regime in this article.
The activists held a mock ‘triathalon’ complete with costumes and athletic contests and moved between the three Hastings facilities occupied by General Dynamics. The protest drew attention to General Dynamic’s community involvement programme, which includes sponsoring the Hastings Half Marathon. General Dynamics has a variety of community involvements in Hastings also including supporting the Half Marathon and the local bonfire society. (Editor-this is really a ‘bloodwashing’ activity. See earlier discussions of this practise elsewhere in the blog).
General Dynamics community programmes serve to divert attention away from the real nature of General Dynamics products, which is to conduct warfare. And warfare on a grand scale, since one of General Dynamic’s products is the Trident submarine, each one capable of razing many cities.
In a demonstration earlier in the month, Hastings activists picketed the Castleham Road facility of General Dynamics as part of the national protests against the arms trade. The Hastings Observer quoted a company official as claiming ‘we are not in the arms trade’ (although it is hard to imagine that military communications equipment can not be described as ‘arms’).
(photos to follow)
The Oxford Study Group discussion paper on drone attacks, titled DISCUSSION PAPER 2: DRONE ATTACKS, INTERNATIONAL LAW, AND THE RECORDING OF CIVILIAN CASUALTIES OF ARMED CONFLICT can be found here.
Ann Taylor, former minister for defence equipment in the defated New Labour government of the UK, has been hired by Thales UK, the British arm of the giant French arms company Thales, according the the Guardian.
Thales habitually hires former politicians, according to the Guardian article. The Guardian article goes one to list a few.
As minister, Taylor had an active relationship with Thales, which is coventurer with Elbit Systems of Israel in the Watchkeeper project. She was reported here discussing the potential arming of the Watchkeeper drone:
”We are currently conducting analysis to investigate the contribution that an armed Watchkeeper UAV system could make in current and future operations as part of its routine capability planning process,” said Ann Taylor, minister for international defense and security, under questioning from Lord Lewis Moonie, former junior minister for science and technology in the Ministry of Defence. (Source)
Now Taylor works for the very company she was responsible for negotiating with only months ago.
Elbit Systems of Israel, whose subsidiaries provide security sytems for illegal West Bank settlements, and the Israeli ‘security wall’, is the provider of the technology behind the new UK Watchkeeper drone system.
For a report of Elbit’s other activities see: Stop the Wall
Dan Williams, writing in Reuters Alertnet, hinted at one of the possible reasons why Israel is prepared to attack its adversaries with such force.
(Israel is one of the top ten arms companies in the world by sales. Arms sales are extremely important to Israel’s balance of payments and provides employment to thousands of Israelis. Furthermore the Israeli political elite, top soldiers and arms company traders and executives are in a revolving door relationship–ed)
In 2006, Israel sold $4 billion in arms, accounting for 10% of arms sales in the world, and in fourth place behind the US, Russia, and France.
The sale of weapons depends very strongly on the perception that these weapons are effective.
“Defense News quoted Israeli security experts as attributing many of the new contracts to Israel’s perceived successes in battling Palestinian militants in the West Bank and Gaza Strip” Quoting Rachel Naidek Ashkenazi, spokesperson for the Israeli Ministry of Defense, from the Defense News article: “We expect the pattern of increased sales to continue, unaffected by the recent campaign in Lebanon. Clients are prudent. They know they can trust battle-proven experience, and they go to the trouble of finding out the facts.”
So, are arms companies in Israel, and their friends in government and the IDF, cynically attacking Palestinians in order to bolster their international arms sales? Is it part of the equation? Clearly the spokes person for the Israeli Ministry of Defense thinks so.
It was predicted that Israeli arms sales would go down after its attacks on Lebanon and the Gaza strip, but in fact arms sales have remained steady or increased, showing that many governments cynically claim to abhor the human rights abuses of the Israeli government while standing in line to buy their battle proven armaments.
Korean consumer electronics giant Sumsung is also a weapons manufacturer. Samsung builds an automated sentry robot, which is able to fire a machine gun autonomously at intruders. It is used to guard areas and can detect a target and fire a weapon without reference to a human controller. See also Anyone approaching an area guarded by one of these needs a password, otherwise they will be shot at by a robotically controlled machine gun.
As someone who has occasionally purchased Samsung products, and been satisfied with them, this gives me pause. It hadn’t occurred to me that the Korean company would be a weapons manufacturer. I have additional concerns about the weapon it produces, which is one that further removes responsibility for a violent action from the operator. The search for a new computer printer to replace the aging Samsung laser printer we now have prompted me look at Samsung’s record on military sales.
According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, Policy Paper #12, the South Korean arms industry is not very transparent, and few figures are available regarding the size and nature of the arms manufacturing industry there. In 1999 Korean Aerospace Industries (KAI) was formed from Samsung Aerospace, Daewoo Heavy Industries and Machinery, and Hyundai Heavy Industries. It has been recognised as the Korean national defense company and provides a number of services and products (especially military aircraft) to the Korean Defence Department. (Source) It isn’t clear if it is partly owned by Samsung, but one presumes so.
According to Joongang Daily, South Korea was one of the top 12 countries that sold arms to Iraq before the Iraq War, violating UN sanctions.