Category Archives: Arms trade
Mark Shapiro draws attention to an article by Alan Macleod reporting that – though the US economy is suffering – American arms manufacturers are thriving.
“The American economy has crashed – only the military industrial complex is booming. A nationwide pandemic that has (officially) claimed some 84,000 Americans has also led to an estimated 36 million filing for unemployment insurance and millions frequenting food banks for the first time”. But weapons manufacturers are busier than ever, advertising for tens of thousands more workers:
- Northrop Grumman announced that it was planning to hire up to 10,000 employees this year.
- Last month, the Air Force commissioned Raytheon to develop and build a new nuclear cruise missile.
- Raytheon is still advertising 2,000 new jobs in the military wing of its business.
- Boeing is looking to add hundreds of new workers in its defense, intelligence, and cybersecurity departments and
- Lockheed Martin, the world’s largest arms dealer, announcedon Friday that it is “actively recruiting for over 4,600 roles,” in addition to the 2,365 new employees it has taken on since the lockdown started.
Washington has designated weapons manufacturers as “essential” services during a pandemic (CNN report)
In February, the Pentagon released a $705 billion budget request for 2021, revealing that there would be a “shifting focus from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and a greater emphasis on the types of weapons that could be used to confront nuclear giants like Russia and China.”
Confronting nuclear giants like Russia and China
MacLeod points out that, just as Donald Trump was increasing the military budget, he slashed funding for the Center for Disease Control and for the World Health Organization, perhaps the only international body capable of limiting the spread of the virus.
In America and the rest of the world, poverty and disease have inflicted a far higher death toll than warfare
Yesterday US COVID-19’s death toll was 99,886. The United States has suffered the highest death toll from COVID-19 and the pandemic has led Americans to ask whether the enormous military budget is making them safer or whether well-funded healthcare, education and social care would have saved or enhanced more lives.
(War figures include American military deaths in battle, and in-theatre deaths as available. DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS; JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY)
Alan Macleod ends: “However, that question appears not to have been debated within the walls of the White House, where it is full steam ahead with weapons production”.
Journalist Simon Jenkins reported last year that the British government boasted of record sales with 80% going to the Middle East.
He asserted that Britain should not be weaponising the suppression of dissent in Egypt, Bangladesh, Colombia, Uzbekistan or Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states – their national defence better termed, regime defence.
Calling the last London arms fair (above) “a stain on the nation . . . the most awesome glamorisation of death on the planet”, he added “The reality is that Britain and the US are in an arms race with the Russians in this theatre – with no remotely peaceful objective”.
And Symon Hill, in an article on security, points out that for years, “security” and “defence” have been euphemisms for war and preparations for war, adding that the coronavirus crisis is a fatal reminder that security, safety and defence cannot be found in armed force.
He ends: “In the long term, we must put our resources into addressing real threats, not into the waste and destruction of war”.
This fear, expressed today by the FT’s editorial, will not be shared by some, who see globalisation as ”another version of colonialism or imperialism – with Amazons, Facebooks and Googles, Nikes and the garment industry in many aspects of their conduct as more acceptable looking British or Dutch East India companies” (reader’s comment).
Manila port ‘bursting at the seams’ in the Philippines on Tuesday, March 31, 2020. Read more here.
Following an FT report of drops in rail freight and containerised exports from the UK of as much as 50 to 60% while imports are also declining, its editorial points out that supply chain disruptions and struggles to obtain medical supplies, have accelerated calls for countries and trading blocs to ensure they have sufficient capacity at home — prioritising resilience over producing goods where it is cheapest.
The US trade representative, last week hailed the end of “reflexive offshoring” (NY Times, log in) and in the EU Thierry Breton, the EU’s internal market commissioner, wants government grants, loans and direct intervention to build up European supply capacity.
The FT editorial points out that, in shifting manufacturing jobs out of rich countries and into poorer ones, globalisation reduced poverty in the developing world and prices in the rich ones.
But those working in these sweatshops (a small section of a sweatshop in Karnataka is shown above) still live in poverty and cramped conditions, working far from home in unhealthier conditions than the subsistence agriculture (Karnataka below) which was formerly their lot.
The low prices for their products in rich countries have encouraged a wasteful throwaway culture there, which has added to the waste mountains
The editorial also admits that millions in the ‘rich countries’ lost their jobs in the process, and lost the sense of pride and ownership people felt in their once thriving communities.
But the FT asserts that global supply chains and co-operation are a source of resilience, allowing countries to focus on their strengths and share expertise.
“Spreading people and factories around the world allows companies to guard against risks by diversifying”:
But it has also broken family circles and communities, increased deforestation and reduced the amount of land available for food production
“There will be higher prices and lost export markets”
But higher prices (due to higher wages) will mean a greater market for local goods and better tax revenues. A reduction in exports will lead to a great reduction in transport-related greenhouse gases.
“The direct cost to the taxpayer of subsidising domestic production . . . will make (economies) more fragile, not less”
But huge subsidies are currently given by government to foreign water, energy and transport utilities (including nuclear projects and fossil fuel producers) working in this country, to arms manufacturers and other exporters. That money could be redirected to domestic production which would reduce welfare payments and transport-related pollution.
It can be argued that a knockout blow is long overdue and that purposeful employment created by import substitution and Green New Deal projects might, in time, bring about an environmentally aware, low-crime, harmonious and employment-rich society.
Flooding struck Aden in April, leaving several areas submerged in sewage and water for weeks and this month over 600 people have died in Yemen’s capital.
In a detailed account, the World Health Organisation says there is no way of assessing how many other deaths there have been in this war ravaged country.
Andrew Smith (Campaign Against the Arms Trade) said that UK-made Typhoon Eurofighter jets (above) have played a key role in the devastating Saudi-led bombing of Yemen and despite the humanitarian crisis and the outbreak of Covid-19, the war is still raging. He ended:
“We are in unprecedented times and this should not be happening”.
British arms manufacturer BAE is also responsible for the maintenance and support of the kingdom’s 72 jets and has continued to supply military equipment, including spare parts, to Saudi Arabia throughout the Covid-19 crisis.
New Labour MP Sam Tarry (right) asked the Secretary of State for Defence two questions:
- why have weekly flights continued from a BAE Systems factory in Warton to a military base in Saudi Arabia from where air strikes on Yemen are launched
- and why those flights have been assessed as essential during the covid-19 lockdown.
Though a Saudi-led coalition of Gulf states announced a ceasefire in April, the Yemen Data Project reports that the bombing has continued, with three civilians injured by an air strike as recently as May 2nd.
But as its AGM had to be cancelled, BAE has been spared angry questions about its trade in weapons – an annual ordeal.
Industry editor Alan Tovey notes that there is one bonus to the lockdown: BAE’s annual meeting, scheduled for May 7, is normally a testing time for the board, with proceedings routinely disrupted by anti-arms activists who gatecrash and forcefully question BAE’s trade in weapons.
He adds that BAE’s “sleepless enemies” see opportunities in the dispersed working.
BAE’s Systems’ chief executive Charles Woodburn (left) wouldn’t give details to Tovey, but confirms that BAE has seen a spike in attempted cyber intrusions since the pandemic hit.
Sadly, Woodburn describes higher military spending as a way of stimulating the economy once the current crisis passes. No going back? Or business as usual?
International Workers’ Day – bank holiday concert in Rome, 2019
Some points from Jeremy Corbyn’s May Day message:
“May Day is international workers’ day, but also a day of peace. Let us heed the words of UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres in calling for a global ceasefire in conflicts. Pouring weapons into Saudi Arabia makes the humanitarian disaster of Yemen even worse.”
The years of austerity have left our NHS working at 94% capacity, our care homes, mostly privately run, virtually full and over one million people waiting for social care of some sort. Our local authorities, whose budgets have been slashed by the austerity doctrine, were expected to cope as the crucial local element in dealing with an emergency.
From testing, to supplies of personal protective equipment to support for companies to survive or workers to survive be they self-employed or employed by others – the government has been found wanting. Failure to procure test equipment and ventilators at the time of the WHO warning has cost time, and lives.
Inequality in Britain, poor air quality in working-class communities, the work of black and minority ethnic communities in our care and health services and the disproportionate death rate are all exposed by this crisis. Being told to work at home if you have reasonable house and garden is one thing. Being told to try and work at home in a tiny flat with a large family is very different. Being told to stay at home when you are rough-sleeping homeless is obviously a nonsense.
NHS and care workers, delivery and postal workers and those that keep our communities clean and safe. Let us never hear another Home Secretary describe migrant care workers and cleaners as unskilled: they are the ones who keep us alive, not hedge-fund managers.
Our demands are for no return to austerity, for proper investment and support for jobs and a green revolution so that the clean air and city birdsong of the lockdown don’t just become a memory, but our normal life in future.
Some points from Len McCluskey’s May Day message:
With millions facing unemployment and an economy on the brink of ruin, Conservative government ministers have ‘engaged seriously’ with trade union representatives for the first time since Margaret Thatcher ‘effectively banned contact’.
They recognised they were in serious trouble and intense daily meetings between unions, ministers and civil servants in BEIS, the Treasury, the Cabinet Office and No 10, have taken place from which the job retention scheme and other pay protection agreements emerged. Our work with government led to securing the furlough scheme and persuading a reluctant Treasury to extend it.
We used our relationships with leading manufacturers and industry bodies:
- helping to establish the Ventilator Challenge
- working with firms the length and breadth of the country to co-ordinate the mass manufacturing drive needed to provide the safety kit our front-line staff must have to stay safe
- demanding the appointment of a minister for PPE to address the chronic shortages of the vital safety materials urgently needed by NHS and social care workers
- working with industry bodies and companies to find safe and secure ways back to work in certain industries, including automotive and construction and
- ‘calling out’ employers putting their workers and the public at risk, or who are using coronavirus as an excuse to lay people off.
May Day is a celebration of workers and also strong trade unions, which have demonstrated during this crisis, perhaps as never before, why they are so needed. A start for paying back our workers with more than admiration and gratitude would be to ensure decent pay and secure, safe work – and make May Day in Britain a public holiday, as it is elsewhere.
Trade unions and working people in Britain have endured over 40 years of relentless attacks. We cannot allow this government to return to business as usual — that’s what got us here. It should not take a pandemic for government to value working people or to recognise the need for investment in our NHS and other public services. “The “new normal” must mean the labour movement keeps our seat at the table with a real plan for changing our economy for the good and for a long-term New Deal for Workers — the campaign we launched with the CWU, GMB and other sister unions”.
The pandemic surely demonstrates, too, the importance of a new normal in international economic co-operation and health planning. A virus anywhere is a virus everywhere. Countries like Austria, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Italy or Sweden demonstrate that it is possible to negotiate solutions that are acceptable for workers and employers. Comprehensive economic recovery plans will clearly be needed to reboot the economy and allow industrial activities to re-emerge.
Jeremy Corbyn’s recommendation: “Those workers who are now being treated as expendable need union support, the self-employed need to be unionised and our movement must recognise the nature of the economy that austerity and neoliberal economics has brought us”.
COVID-19 bulletin 10: does the military’s welcome assistance outweigh the effects of government funding choices & foreign policy?
The Ministry of Defence has set up a “COVID Support Force”, a 20,000-strong group of military personnel who are on standby (Helen Warrell, FT).
Armed forces personnel and NHS staff aboard a large Chinook helicopter
Commander Chris Knowles said the team has had experience of moving contagious patients since its deployment to the Ebola crisis in west Africa. Further military airlift teams will be based at Kinloss Barracks in Moray, Scotland; Odiham in Hampshire; Yeovilton in Somerset; and Leeming, in North Yorkshire.
The Guardian reports that key military officials will help to ensure that food and medicines reach vulnerable people isolated at home during the coronavirus crisis.
The Ministry of Defence has sent a team to support the Cabinet Office in tackling online misinformation – part of COVID Support Force effort in bolstering the UK’s coronavirus defences. It will help to identify and tackle fake online news about the pandemic and set its sights on an increasing number of fraudulent phishing scams.
Military engineers and logistics experts have helped to design nine field hospitals, while other members of the armed forces have delivered oxygen and personal protective equipment to health facilities.
The British Army helped to set up a new temporary hospital at a site in Birmingham’s national Exhibition Centre, another NHS Nightingale Hospital based at the ExCel Centre and a hospital at Manchester Central Convention Complex, formerly known as the GMEX. It is also helping to convert Glasgow’s SEC Centre into a temporary NHS hospital and more details about the army’s work maybe read on the ForcesNet website.
But many sources are protesting about ongoing financial support for the arms industry and ‘questionable’ military action at this time
They echo the words of Dr Ian Davis, a trustee of a charity, Maternal and Childhealth Advocacy International and director of NATOWatch in 2014: “At a time when questionable missions are being contemplated to address threats from the so-called Islamic State in the Middle East, NATO boots on the ground to fight infectious disease seems like a more urgent and appropriate response for a military-political alliance”. In 2020 he writes a measured account of NATO’s ‘absolute maximum’ contribution at this time.
Support going to the defence industry is deemed “essential” during the COVID-19 crisis
George Monbiot reports that a month ago, just as the coronavirus began racing across the UK, the government announced that it had raised military spending by £2 billion to £41.5 billion. Our military force, it claimed, is “the tip of the spear for a resurgent Global Britain”.
UK, USA and France are continuing to give logistical and intelligence support to Saudi Arabia, which is using British weaponry to bomb schools, markets and hospitals in Yemen already suffering the world’s worst humanitarian crisis and which has now had its first COVID case.
Mark Shapiro, who now lives in California, drew attention to a scathing article by Sarah Lazare (left). It was published in a site founded by author and historian James Weinstein in order to “identify and clarify the struggles against corporate power now multiplying in American society.”
Sarah records that military officials, with the help of Congress and defense industry lobbying groups, have fought to ensure that tanker and missile manufacturing sites remain open. Though workers will be at risk of infection, the profits CEOs and shareholders will be maintained. Her summary: the U.S. weapons industry is being kept afloat at a time when healthcare systems, and millions of ordinary Americans, are sinking.
She adds that this is further evidence of her country’s ‘militaristic bent’ and the political muscle of the companies that profit from the arms industry. This is also the case in Britain. Assistance to arms companies is depriving this and most other countries of the healthcare and social spending needed to reduce and address routine illness and disease, leaving them ill-equipped to deal with epidemics and pandemics such as COVID-19.
WordPress error: photograph could not be uploaded; it was included in the mailing list alert.
Britain has been providing arms with which its allies continue to bomb the people of Yemen for the fifth year, in contravention of a Court of Appeal ruling. This stated that it is unlawful to have licensed the sale of British-made arms to the Saudi regime without assessing whether their use in Yemen breaches international humanitarian law.
The United Nations has described the effect of this five-year air onslaught, leading to many thousands of Yemeni deaths, as “the worst humanitarian crisis in the world.”.
Peter Lazenby reports the words of Andrew Smith (Campaign Against Arms Trade – CAAT): “It is a crisis that has been enabled by the political and military support that the UK and other arms-dealing governments have given the Saudi regime and its coalition partners”.
Yemen’s healthcare system is already in crisis, with many damaged and destroyed hospitals and a weak healthcare system, already struggling with cholera and malnutrition. The Red Cross reports that medical supplies, drinking water and sanitation are scarce.
Ahmed Aidarous, 36, a resident of the southwestern city of Taiz, who survived dengue fever, expresses the general fear to MiddleEastEye: “In Yemen, there are some diseases like dengue fever and cholera but we know their reasons and we can be treated for them. I heard from media that coronavirus spreads through the air and we cannot protect ourselves from it.”
Two days after his 23 March appeal to warring parties across the globe for an immediate ceasefire, UN Secretary-General António Guterres called on those fighting in Yemen to end hostilities and ramp up efforts to counter a potential outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. The FT reports that, in response on Wednesday, the Houthi movement and the exiled Saudi-supported government agreed to an immediate end to hostilities.
A new report by Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) calls for addressing the climate crisis to be treated as the ‘first duty of government.’
Fighting the Wrong Battles: How Obsession with Military Power Diverts Resources from the Climate Crisis, is written by CAAT’s Dr Sam Perlo-Freeman, the group’s research co-ordinator and former head of military expenditure at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. He says:
“The climate crisis is not only an environmental crisis, it is also one of human security. It is already causing catastrophic damage and loss of life worldwide.
Analysis in the report shows that the government spends more than twice as much on the military as it does on mitigating climate change. The report argues that “The balance of priorities for these two areas of spending should be clear. Climate change represents an existential threat to the UK and the world. Loss of the UK’s status as a global military power does not.”
While the programmes for Trident replacement and new large aircraft carriers go ahead, the same level of financial support is not provided to tackle the biggest threat to the security of people in the UK and worldwide – the unfolding climate catastrophe. As the report reflects:
“It is striking that the maximum spending estimate for achieving the UK’s climate change targets is around the same level as what the government considers to be the bare minimum requirement for military spending.”
“The climate crisis is not only an environmental crisis, it is also one of human security. It is already causing catastrophic damage and loss of life worldwide. The recent floods have shown how ill-prepared UK infrastructure and government responses are today. As climate change worsens then so will the impact of floods and extreme weather events.
Pictured in a thoughtful article in Carbon Brief
“If we are to make the changes that are needed, that means moving towards a vision of climate justice and sustainable security. We must focus on the real threats to human well-being, recognise the interdependence of security for people around the world, and ensure that our economic systems remain within the bounds set by nature.”
Shadow peace minister Fabian Hamilton hosted a lobby in parliament today from 11.30am where CAAT presented the report.
Speakers were the report’s author, Dr Sam Perlo-Freeman and Anna Vickerstaff, UK Team Leader at 350.org, which works to end the use of fossil fuels and build community-led renewable energy.
A wider discussion followed.
As many readers have a particular interest in defence we add a distinction between spending on true defence and on the nuclear weapon and the equipment used in Allied coalition operations in the Middle East.
The BBC reported the views of a former Head of Joint Forces Command, Gen Sir Richard Barrons, some time ago. He established the important Joint Force Command, which examines areas such as cyber warfare, medical, logistics, information and surveillance.
Sir Richard said that key capabilities such as radars, fire control systems and missile stocks had been stripped out. Neither the UK homeland nor a deployed force could be protected from a concerted air attack . . . Manpower in all three services is dangerously squeezed and Navy ships and RAF planes depend on US support.
Major General Tim Cross, who served in the British army for 40 years, responded to criticism of Sir Richard’s statements as “wrong and unfair”; adding that he was “simply highlighting a reality”.
Read more here:
The revolving door between government & big business
Yesterday’s headlines review of ONS report: 2008-2019, richest 10% enjoy biggest gains in household wealth
In March 2018, the Military Times reported another of Trump’s apparently casual observations that ‘space is becoming a “war-fighting domain”, adding later that at first he wasn’t serious when he floated the concept, but “then I said what a great idea, maybe we’ll have to do that.”
Five months later the Department of Defense released a report explaining how it intends to create the Space Force and Trump repeatedly stressed the need for American dominance in space.
In a January 2019 White House government briefing announcing his vision, though liberally using terms like protection and defense, President Trump said “we will recognize that space is a new warfighting domain, with the Space Force leading the way.” This ‘Unified Combatant Command’ will ‘protect US interests’ in space.
The voice of sanity:
Massachusetts Institute of Technology astronautics professor and former NASA deputy administrator Dava Newman said she prefers space to be as peaceful as possible: “Space is for exploration and lifting up humanity. We should learn from our mistakes on Earth and keep space peaceful.”
Good for business – developing a new arsenal, Star Wars 2 ?
On October 6th, in The Spectator’s inaugural US edition, James Adams comments: “In the new space race, victory won’t mean landing on the moon or sending a rocket to Mars, but developing a new arsenal to wage and win war in space”. This would include extending the range of orbital surveillance networks and producing weapons to attack space systems in orbit (anti-satellite weapons), to attack targets on the earth from space or to disable missiles travelling through space. Read more here.
Space Force’s stated mission is to protect American space assets and, in the first stages of a new war, destroy enemy satellites. All US military communications are dependent on satellites, as are 90% of communications intercepts and other forms of intelligence gathering. If they were knocked out, it would be almost impossible for the Pentagon to wage war.
Mr Adams reminds us that the militarization of space is regulated, in theory, by the Outer Space Treaty, created in 1967 by the United States, Russia and Britain, and signed subsequently by another 106 countries. He adds: “It governs the peaceful exploration of space and bans the placing of nuclear weapons there. But it didn’t ban the placement of conventional weapons in orbit, and it could not foresee all of the technological changes that, by altering the balance of power in space, threaten to alter the geopolitical balance on earth”.
Since 2013, Russia has launched three satellites that US intelligence believes may carry Anti-Satellite (ASAT) weapons and Adams reports that ‘sources’ have told him that the US intelligence community is certain that Russia, China and India already have ASAT capabilities, and that North Korea and Iran have programs in development.
The most recent official announcement:(29.8.19): “Department of Defense Establishes U.S. Space Command says: “At the direction of the President of the United States, Secretary of Defense Mark T. Esper established U.S. Space Command (USSPACECOM) today as the eleventh Unified Combatant Command”. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph F. Dunford, Jr. said, “This step puts us on a path to maintain a competitive advantage in this critical war fighting domain.”
USSPACECOM standup ceremony at Petersen Air Force base
The United States Space Command website reports that ‘Joint and coalition’ space officials from Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States attended a ceremony to recognize the establishment of Combined Force Space Component Command (CFSCC) at Vandenberg on Oct. 1, 2019
Only Peter Lazenby, in the Morning Star, in two recent articles, appears to think that this news is of any significance. He writes, “The British government is complicit in the US military’s plans, partly by its association with the NATO military alliance and partly by the presence of US military bases within the country, which will be involved in the space militarisation project.”.
He reported that a nationwide week of action to “Keep Space for Peace” was launched last Saturday as part of worldwide protests against extra-planetary militarisation. Oxfordshire Peace Campaign targeted the US intelligence-gathering base at RAF Croughton, on the Oxfordshire-Northamptonshire border.
Today, Lazenby reports, campaigners will hold a peace vigil outside RAF Menwith Hill in North Yorkshire, a US base run by the US National Security Agency, which gathers military, political and financial information communicated by spy satellites circling the Earth and feeds it to the Pentagon. (Right: meticulous report by Steven Schofield)
The Spectator’s James Adams’ sardonic comment: “Down here on the ground, it’s a good idea to buy a wind-up radio and keep that landline phone connection. And get a road atlas, just in case”.
Many will fear far more extensive repercussions from President Trump’s latest inspiration