Sunday, August 13, 2017

Merchants of Death

Over 10 years, the report ranks Britain as the second biggest arms dealer in the world behind the US.

The latest annual report from the government’s Defence and Security Organisation shows that the UK won £6bn of arms deals in 2016 – representing 9% of the global market. Half of the total value was to the Middle East.

 Memos released by the National Archives, reveal how in the build-up to the 1990 Gulf war ministers and civil servants scrambled to ensure Britain’s arms manufacturers could take advantage of the anticipated rise in orders for military hardware.

Alan Clark, then defence procurement minister, days after Saddam Hussein’s forces had invaded Kuwait, wrote a private memo to Thatcher in which he described the expected response from the US and its allies as “unparalleled opportunity” for the Defence Export Services Organisation (now known as the Defence and Security Organisation) describing the approaching war as "a vast demonstration range with live ammunition and ‘real’  trials.”

Charles Powell, Thatcher’s private secretary, told Clark in a memo that he wanted him to use his visit to Gulf rulers to point out that the UK has been faster and better at responding to help its Gulf allies than France, an arms export rival.

William Waldegrave, minister of state for foreign and Commonwealth affairs, opposed the government’s decision to raise Saddam’s human rights abuses, saying that it provoked the inevitable question of “why did you go on doing so much business with him?”

Joe Lo, a researcher at Campaign Against Arms Trade, commented on the new details “The times may have changed, but the mindset is still the same,” Lo said. “These revelations show that the UK government saw the coming of the first Gulf war not as an impending humanitarian catastrophe, but as an opportunity for arms companies to profit from the death and destruction.” 

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