The arms trade

A note from the editor

Dinyar Godrej

It’s not long, as I write this, since we’ve seen EU leaders line up with pursed lips and prim self-righteousness to recommend that Greece further slash its public services in order to get its €130 ($179) billion ‘rescue package’. But while Merkel and Sarkozy have been waving much stick and much less carrot, there are cries from Greek civil society of continuing crimes in this climate of austerity.

They refer to Greece’s unabated military spending, which has been rising during its deepening crisis, and which the great and good do not suggest cutting. What’s a slashed pension when there’s a much more urgent need for guns? Only the cynical would suggest that it’s because Greece spends most of its military budget shopping from US, German and French corporations that everyone’s keeping shtum.

Meanwhile, it transpires that the British government is still demanding back money from Egypt for loans made to ousted dictator Hosni Mubarak which allowed him to buy arms.

It appears that Egypt owes £100 ($160) million to the Export Credits Guarantee Department (ECGD) which blithely lends money in support of arms and fossil fuels. The ECGD claim not to remember what the loans were for. Who keeps track of such trifles? But intrepid activists at the Jubilee Debt Campaign dug up documents to show the arms link.

So, on the one hand the British government parades its support for democracy in Egypt, while the hand hidden behind its back tugs back blood money it gave to a dictator who suppressed democracy for years.

Two continuing scandals that reflect how things pan out at the confluence of arms industry interests with governance.

The Euro debt crisis features this month in our Argument – bailout or default, that’s the question. Also check out our long reportage about a Brazilian mother whose struggle for a decent life has become emblematic of a mass movement. This is everyday heroism, but it remains extraordinary.

Dinyar Godrej for the New Internationalist co-operative.
www.newint.org

The big story

Demonstrators get straight to the point in September this year, when protesting against the Defence & Security Equipment International arms fair that drew 1,300 arms companies to London this year to hawk their wares to buying delegations from around the world.

Demonstrators get straight to the point in September this year, when protesting against the Defence & Security Equipment International arms fair that drew 1,300 arms companies to London this year to hawk their wares to buying delegations from around the world.

sinister pictures/Demotix/Demotix/Press Association Images

The clout of the arms industry

The arms trade tends to have the government's ear. Why, wonders Dinyar Godrej, when it is so counter-productive?

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It was an unlikely hurrah for democracy. But in February this year, British Prime Minister David Cameron, plump and rosy of cheek, set out on a four-day tour to promote democracy in the Middle East – with representatives of eight arms manufacturers bringing up the rear.

First stop was Egypt, where, with his shady companions in tow, he became the first world leader to congratulate the populace for chasing off President Hosni Mubarak. There arose a mighty chorus of condemnation at this blatant...




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