Colin Gibson takes issue with Britain’s booming arms trade

Our despicable and morally-bankrupt weapons industry has successfully hoodwinked and bribed its way into the national ignorance. Since the Brexit referendum, export licences worth £3 billion have been granted to UK arms dealers in order to help them provide weapons to repressive oil-soaked and gun-hungry governments like the family-run dictatorship of Saudi Arabia. This is a country which executes a person every two days and is complicit in the export of terrorism. It is mired in a war in Yemen, where air strikes by the Saudi-led multinational coalition that backs the president are responsible for many of 8,600 people killed and 49,000 injured since March 2015.  It is a country so wealthy and powerful that it is beyond legislation or prohibition.

Another eager customer is Equatorial Guinea, a West African country rich in natural resources, led by Mr Obiang Nguema, who seized power in 1979. As Africa’s longest serving leader he has been described by civil rights organisations as one of its most brutal dictators. Human Rights Watch tells us that the ‘dictatorship under President Obiang has used an oil boom to entrench and enrich itself further at the expense of the country’s people’, (a population who live largely in poverty, with a life expectancy of 56 years). He has been pursued by the French judiciary for allegedly plundering state coffers to buy luxury homes and cars in France. The vice-president, Teodoro ‘Teodorin’ Nguema Obiang, (who also happens to be the president’s son), has confounded attempts by the US administration to seize his assets, denying they were obtained with corrupt funds obtained from his country.

Following the death of Islam Karimov of Uzbekistan, Shavkat Mirziyoyev now oversees a highly authoritarian political system with a poor human rights record. It is a former member of the Soviet Bloc with no legal political opposition and a media tightly controlled by a state where, according to a UN report, the use of torture is ‘systematic’. The UK government is only too happy to facilitate their acquisition of lethal weaponry, despite claims that it takes its export control responsibilities seriously.

Stop them? It’s already far too late. The military-industrial complex’s iron grip, established during the industrial revolution with its attendant conflicts, has tightened around the world’s throat. Pandora’s deep-bottomed box lies open, leaking its toxic contents like a jerry-built nuclear facility. The figures are truly staggering and the individually accumulated wealth from this death-trade, revolting. But we are told by the handcuffed hacks of the gutter press, in the name of employment, the balance of payments and in order to deter our enemies from firing those very same missiles at us, the submarines must cruise and missile silos must be kept full. Missiles that bear familiar western names. Missiles that earn the arms manufacturers a handsome royalty for each body shredded, for each family bereaved, for each thriving community blasted to smithereens, its unique antiquity never to return except
in a form designed and built by the perpetrators of its destruction. This is the cynical, acute, irreversible truth, which grants the licensed death-dealers unique and privileged access to the public purse.

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