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As background to the following and of relevance to Iraq: the biggest buyer of arms last year was Saudi Arabia, with $7.9 billion in new sales; the United Arab Emirates ranked second at $2.5 billion. Among sellers, the U.S. was first with $7.1 billion in new arms deals ... $4.6 billion of U.S. sales went to developing countries. Regards, Drew Hamre Golden Valley, MN USA --- http://www.the-times.co.uk/news/pages/tim/99/09/17/timopnope01003.html?11240 27 Merchant in mayhem by Simon Jenkins The Times of London September 17, 1999 Gun control? Britain is a world leader when it comes to killing Yesterday saw another serial killing in America, and another gift to British smugness about primitive, dangerous, gun-toting America. Can these tinpot John Waynes not understand, we cry, that their equation of guns and freedom merely kills people? Can they not see that all the homespun communitarianism in the world is helpless against a mail-order semi-automatic? What value democracy, when it can be gunned down by a single-interest lobby? That feels better. Now switch to home. This past week Britain's own National Rifle Association, otherwise known as the Department of Trade and Industry, showed that Britain's gun control is about as lax as America's, at least on the non-domestic front. The DTI supposedly regulates the biggest per capita arms exporter in the world, that is, Britain. In a glaring conflict of interest, it also represents the arms industry. This week it sponsored a huge arms fair at Chertsey, Surrey, inviting at least 30 countries whose human rights records fail the Amnesty seal of approval. Every British diplomat is trained as an arms salesman. Every arms manufacturer is given the services, free, of military attachés the world over. Every time a Prime Minister goes overseas, the gleam of an arms deal is in his eye. Do they worry where the weapons go? My dear chap, guns don't kill people, foreigners do. British foreign policy has long been a confection of self-interest spiced by opportunism and cling-wrapped in sanctimony. When the Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, in a former guise, was conducting his pavement rants outside the arms-for-Iraq inquiry, I wondered how he would handle the same issue when in power. Would he withdraw the Foreign Office from its key role in marketing British weapons? Would he expel the defence salesmen from his embassies? The answer is no. From Sierra Leone to Indonesia, from Eritrea to Angola, from mighty China to puny Kosovo, the arms have flowed. Gun control is suddenly for wimps, so long as only foreigners get hurt. As "Cool-Hand" Cook might put it, ground attack jets don't kill people, pilots do. To be fair to Mr Cook, when he took office he did institute a review of arms exports to avoid another arms-for-Iraq fiasco. He at once found himself crossing missiles with George Robertson at the Defence Ministry and Peter Mandelson at the DTI. The Defence Ministry would sell a cluster bomb to a football hooligan if it could get away with it. Even the bullish Alan Clark despaired at his officials' love affairs with expensive weaponry: "I would fire the lot of them. Out. Out," he wrote in a rage. The DTI was no better. It feared Mr Cook's review might impede trade and spoil its arms fairs. In other words, Labour ministers wanted to keep secret what they knew could not bear the light of publicity. Mr Cook persisted. His first report on arms sales was published last March and made ghoulish reading. Britain sells helicopter missiles to Turkey, baton rounds to Kuwait, cluster bombs to Ecuador, smoke grenades to Colombia, "crowd control ammunition" to Bangladesh, "dual-use goods" to Iran, small arms to Bahrain, a complete military arsenal to China, sub-machine-guns to the Philippines and Mexico, body armour to Indonesia, assault rifles to Kenya, machine-gun silencers to Pakistan and air-to-surface missiles to the Gulf States. It sells Hawk ground attack aircraft and naval helicopters to Indonesia, complete with "machine-gun spares and ammunition". Britain's large defence sales office in Jakarta did not vanish, as Mr Cook in Opposition implied it would when he came to power. Britain is arming both India and Pakistan, both China and Taiwan, both Peru and Ecuador, as well as most of sub-Saharan Africa. It is merchant in mayhem by appointment to the world. The ethical approach to arms exports holds that they should not go to states that are at war, are unstable or might use them for "internal repression". Everyone has an interest in foggying this definition, except the repressed. An audit of the arms trade, by the think-tank Saferworld, points to a paper mountain of licences given by the Labour Government in defiance of its own rules, to regimes riven with war and human rights violations, including Colombia, Sri Lanka, Angola and Pakistan. So-called riot control gear was sent to Indonesia during the well-publicised repression in East Timor. The Foreign Office justification was that it would "protect members of the security forces from violence". Not content with dropping cluster bombs - landmines, in effect - over Kosovo and Iraq, the Cabinet is selling these appalling weapons to South America. Licences go to states known as long-standing re-exporters, such as Jordan and Singapore. Selling arms to authoritarian countries is as immoral as imposing sanctions on poor ones. Both policies usually do more harm than good. In both cases, the true "end user" is a human being shot, bombed, maimed, impoverished or starved. Over the past quarter century Britain has shipped billions of pounds' worth of arms to the Middle East, supposedly to stabilise the region and protect oil supplies. They have done neither. In 1990 Kuwait and its neighbours were too scared to use their vast arsenals against Saddam Hussein. The West had to bail them out. During South African sanctions, weapons poured through Israel and Chile, with dud end-user certificates. They did the same during the conflict in Yugoslavia. Everyone knew what was happening, except the public. One virtue of the elephantine Scott Report on arms for Iraq was to lay bare this moral quagmire of euphemism, hypocrisy, half-truth and stupefying wealth. The message was clear. In Whitehall, ministerial and official machismo was hopelessly bound up with exporting every weapon in sight. The only restraint was a vague moral "yuk" test and "don't get caught". This week the DTI had to admit it had underwritten the £130 million cost of British jets for Indonesia. The money, said the DTI's Stephen Byers, "would not go to the Government of Indonesia". This displays Mr Byers's well-known sense of humour. The money goes to British Aerospace; the jets go to Indonesia. A guarantee is a subsidy. British taxpayers are helping to supply these weapons and thus sustaining these regimes. Mr Byers's claim that he cannot stop contracts for fear of incurring charges or losing jobs, even if true, may win an alpha for commercial self-interest. It wins gamma minus for ethics. Such is the crazed world of aid for trade. The sole purpose of these weapons is to support governments that might otherwise fall, by giving them the means to kill people. I cannot imagine a trade to which the word ethical is less applicable. We manufacture weapons for our own defence, knowing that we elect their custodians and trust them with their use. Selling them overseas weakens that caveat and that trust. Purchasers should therefore be subject to even more stringent tests of good behaviour than we would apply to ourselves. This means that, in general, we should not export arms, in the same way that, in general, we should not interfere in the affairs of foreign states. If other countries wish to cash in on the arms trade, so be it. An immoral act does not become moral because someone else wants to do it, too. A furious conventional arms race is now the chief cause of misery in central Africa, the Balkans, the Caucasus, the Middle East and South-East Asia. Any dictator, or any dissident movement, can walk into any bazaar and buy guns off the shelf. Controls are inadequate and spares plentiful. British Labour governments once believed in disarmament - apparently no more. The only "ethical" policy is not to make or sell these wretched things, to go one small step down the road to sanity. If he is not of this mind, Mr Cook should never use the E-word again. This week we have seen that the arms lobby is as powerful in Whitehall as in the gun shops of America. -- ------------------------------------------------------------------------- This is a discussion list run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. 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