the arms trade
a publication to explain the reasons behind the Fiesta
THE MORAL CASE against the arms trade is a
pretty strong one. Weapons kill people. Britain
exports £5 billion of military equipment each
year. Two thousand children are killed, maimed or psychologically
affected every day by weaponry.
According to the UN Human Development
Report, in 1999 the world's governments spent an
estimated $719 billion of our money to run their
military machines - of which more than two-thirds
($520 billion) was spent by Europe and North
America alone. This is 14 times more than is
needed to eradicate the very worst - "absolute" -
poverty from the world. In the same year the UN
spent less than $1 billion on peacekeeping.
To give some idea of the type of item on offer
at arms fairs such as DSEi, a favourite toy of any
well to do military is the cluster bomb. When
dropped a cluster bomb disperses scores of
smaller bombs - "bomblets" over its target. The
bomblets scatter before exploding, allowing a
large area to be devastated - Cluster bomb CBU-87/B
has an overall blast radius size of 3 football
There is a variety of bomblets; anti-personnel
that kill or maim by fragmentation - in effect, nail
bombs. Anti-tank bomblets are designed to be
used against armour or vehicles So-called "combined
effect munitions" contain both anti-armour weapons
with an incendiary capacity. Cluster
bombs can also drop various kinds of landmines.
Many bomblets do not explode, creating a hazard
for those civilians who escape the blast.
But while the twisted inventiveness of arms
manufacturers never fails to appal, 90% of civilian
casualties of conflict are caused by small and
light weaponry. In 1999 the British government
issued nearly 1000 export licenses for consignments
of small arms. The number of weapons in
each consignment have not been revealed.
To make matters worse, these deals are underwritten
by the tax-payer. The Export Credit Guarantee
Department coughs up cash for arms dealers when
countries default on payments. Heaven forbid
defenceless arms companies should have to face
the consequences of free market capitalism.