Arming the world for profit
Socialists never need to be reminded that there is an insane logic to capitalism, that capitalism continues to throw up obscene contradictions that appear to consign the human species to a downward spiral towards oblivion. The world arms trade for instance.
Britain is the world’s second biggest arms supplier. There are 145,000 workers in this country employed directly or indirectly in the arms trade. If we add to this figure the number of Britain’s armed forces, regulars and reserves, the figure jumps to 750,000 people gaining an income from the maiming and killing business. Which means for every two employed in hospitals and clinics, etc saving lives and helping people, there is one employed in doing the exact opposite, albeit unwittingly.
Most of us are familiar with the hackneyed justifications for Britain’s share (20 percent) of the world arms trade. It goes something like: “If ’we’ didn’t sell arms, someone else would.” The reality is that arms sales generate profit, and for capitalists where there is the potential for profits, then morals and principles go out of the window.
We were led to believe that the end of the Cold War would initiate a “peace dividend”. Money hitherto spent on arms would be rechannelled into social programmes such as health, welfare and education. Capitalism was finally going to put on the humanistic guise that the threat of “communism” had prevented it doing in the past. If anything, however, the post-Cold War set-up now means that the West can sell arms anywhere, even to countries that had previously been dependent on Russia.
While it is true that “Third World” countries now only purchase one-third of the arms they did in 1988. the vacuum is being filled with arms sales to newly-developing countries like Brazil. Pakistan. Indonesia and China. Hence, mid-November saw the US Defence Secretary, William Perry, “opening the door to a possible sale of advanced fighter jets to Latin America at the start of a six-day trip to improve military ties with Brazil and Argentina”. (Guardian, 17 November).
Days previously, the Observer (13 November) ran a headline about a secret UK arms deal with Indonesia worth £2 billion, inclusive of military hardware and military training for the Indonesian army.
Between May and November this year, the UN Security Council and the EU lifted arms embargoes on three countries famous for aggression and repression — Israel. Syria and South Africa. That these countries already possess the wherewithal to defend themselves against potential enemies — both South Africa and Israel have a nuclear capability — matters little to Western governments. The profit motive comes first.
And such is the thirst for profit that Western governments are prepared to sell arms to both sides in a conflict. During the Iran/lraq war some 26 countries were arming both sides, fuelling a war that lasted 8 years, killed 1.000,000 people and cost $600 billion. During Pakistan’s and India’s most recent stand-off and General Zhia’s intimidating sabre-rattling that threatened to pitch Hindu against Moslem, it was Britain that saw to it that both countries were armed to the teeth should insults come to blows. Furthermore, Britain is currently arming five countries with internal conflicts.