Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Peddling

Over the last few weeks our news bulletins have been full of reports from North Africa and the Middle East as in country after country people have risen up to challenge the rule of autocrats. In some countries change is coming remarkably quickly and relatively peacefully, but for others the process will be long and painful. Few  rulers in the region can sleep easy at night with protestersthe knowledge that their regime might be the next to topple. Some will employ every weapon at their disposal to cling to power and suppress the will of the people; if that means shooting and bombing unarmed women and children then so be it.

So what does our Prime Minister do at this momentous time in world affairs? He jumps on a plane and flies to the Middle East with a quick stop off to glad hand Egyptian leader Ahmed Shafik and talk about how inspired he has been by the protesters. Then it’s back on the plane and on to Kuwait. Is this a trip to encourage democracy; to demonstrate to the brave people standing unarmed in front of tanks that they have the support of the wider international community? No, it turns out this is a business trip and part of the business is making money out of selling arms. David Cameron is in Kuwait with a bunch of arms manufacturers, euphemistically referred to as the defence industry. Meanwhile over in Abu Dhabi the British defence minister Gerald Howarth has been supporting British manufacturers at the region’s largest arms fair. Apparently there are over 90 British companies doing business at this jamboree, selling everything from crowd control equipment to the latest fighter planes.

fighter No doubt the usual platitudes will be trotted out in support of the defence industry’s lucrative business. ‘If we don’t sell the weapons then someone else will’ and ‘Our economy depends on the contribution of arms manufacturers’ are two of the most frequently employed arguments. Here’s what the Prime Minister came up with in support of his trip to Kuwait: ‘My view is that you cannot expect every country in the world to provide for its own defence and so it is perfectly logical and sensible that there should be a trade in defence.’ The problem is that our country has been trading with dodgy regimes who have a track record in suppressing their own people by any means available including the weapons our country has sold them. If that were not the case then why has our government recently had to revoke arms export licenses to Libya and Bahrain? If you want to see who we’ve been doing arms business with in the region then check out this map.

An opportunity has been handed to our Prime Minister and government to stand shoulder to shoulder with those crying out for freedom and the opportunity to elect their own leaders. Instead, in one of the crassest moves of international statesmanship, our Prime Minister portrays himself as a grubby back street trader hawking and peddling his wares in one of the most volatile regions of the world at the most uncertain of times.

A prayer for the Middle Eastern and North African countries facing unrest and uncertainty.

O God you are in the midst of us
and we are called by your name.
As the foundations of our society
are shaken and our future is uncertain,
may we be given the grace to trust in you.
May we find our refuge and strength in
your eternal changelessness,
today and for ever. Amen.

3 comments:

Revsimmy said...

Amen.

Robert said...

They could perfectly well repurpose arms factories to produce something useful if the will was there. A good start would be to refuse to do business with dictatorships, and start that proportion of the industry moving into something else.

Nancy Wallace said...

Shame on us if our economy depends so much on the arms industry.