May 15, 2009

Why Not Ditch the Dealers in Death?

by Barnaby Pace
Originally published in Dissident Warwick Issue 6 31/4/2009

When a company breaks an environmental regulation, it shows that there is some negligence. When a company breaks a few regulations, then the company is probably knowingly not bothering. When a company breaks arms export rules selling to dictators, bribes public officials and spies on those opposing it then what should we make of it? This latter situation is one that we find ourselves in when looking at the largest arms company in the UK; BAE Systems. Sadly it is not a unique case. When investigating the dark pasts of arms companies it is easy to find dirt, but hard to stop finding more and more.

Arms companies in the UK and around the world are not like every other company, and yet they are treated at least as well. We can see a vivid example of this at University of Warwick Careers fairs where arms companies stand side by side with financial houses, telecommunications companies and railway engineers pretending to be normal engineering companies. Our University is happy to promote arms companies and not consider their background. The University believes that keeping good industrial relations brings in research funding and helps maintain their reputation.

A similar situation can been seen at the national level. In 2006, when BAE systems were being pursued by the Serious Fraud Office, the US Department Of Justice (DOJ) and the Scorpions (South African organised crime and corruption investigative unit)[i] and many other groups for six different bribery and corruption cases[ii] and had been recently caught spying on the eminently peaceful Campaign Against the Arms Trade group[iii], then you might think that as the UK government you might cut your losses and disown the company giving them up as a bad lot. However, the Blair government at the time instead chose to shut down the Serious Fraud Office investigation, cease co-operating with the US DOJ investigation[iv] and proceed to hum loudly with its fingers in its ears, deaf to accusations of foul play. In his autobiography, former Foreign Secretary Robin Cook observed “I never once knew number 10 come up with any decision that would be incommoding to British Aerospace”[v].

This single example, one of many, in which governments support arms companies, is extraordinary and stupefying. Not only are there individual instances of favouring a single company but a systemic issue of unconditional support for the industry. The UK arms export industry employs 65,000[vi] people, yet receives an estimated government subsidy of £851 million per year[vii], this works out to £13,106.30[viii] per employee per year. £13,106.30 might not seem too much if it were being spent on an needy area of society, for example employing teachers or nurses, but instead it goes to an industry run for profit whose interests are not aligned with societal good.

It is important to remember that the arms trade is not run for the benefit of society, the UK or the world. The arms industry is privately owned and run, like any other capitalist organisation, with the aim of accruing profit and accumulating wealth. This is potentially disastrous when the method of making money is by causing and exacerbating conflict and proliferating weapons, to whomever can pay. The immorality or illegality of any deal can be trumped by the opportunity for profit, profit which can easily offset any potential legal issues in the future. Therefore if it is expedient to bribe a government official to persuade them to spend their money, not on development or the fight against AIDS but on purchasing military equipment then an arms company will do so[ix].

Why, despite all the many moral, social, economic and pragmatic issues with the arms industry does our government support companies such as BAE Systems? Do they believe that they receive better equipment for the UK military, when the UK Treasury says that by biasing our military’s arms procurement towards UK arms companies a single arms deal can cost the UK taxpayer £1 billion pounds more than it has to[x]? Indeed you only have to speak to any UK military serviceperson to be told how awful the BAE Systems-made SA80 standard rifle is. If we were to cut the UK’s arms exports by half, we would lose 49,000 jobs. However, with the now available capital and skills from halving arms exports, 67,400 jobs would be created in the civil sector in five years, according to a report by the MOD and York Universityvi. This is due the relative inefficiency of the arms industry. There are few possible reasons left for why the UK government gives the treatment it does. The arms industry is seen by some as a symbol of international killing power. Think of it as top trumps for defence ministers. Both the Conservative and Labour governments have been deep enough into the murky and corrupt world of the arms trade to be unwilling to confess to their crimes now. The UK would be better off without the black mark of its arms industry; we could use those skilled workers working in the industry for purposes that help society, for example creating ways to combat climate change instead of creating the means for death, destruction and misery for people around the world.

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[i] “The Arms Deal in your Pocket”, Paul Holden, Jonathan Ball Publishers, 2008
[ii] “BAE: A company out of control”, CAAT, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2007/sep/21/bae.foreignpolicy
[iii] “Martin and Me”, Mark Thomas, The Guardian, 4/12/2007,
[iv] Labour tries to block new BAE inquiry, David Leigh & Rob Evans, The Guardian, 21/9/2007, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2007/sep/21/bae.foreignpolicy
[v] The Point of Departure: Diaries from the Front Bench, Robin Cook, 2004
[vi] “The economic cost and benefits of UK defence exports”, Chalmers, Davies, Hartley & Wilkinson, Centre for Defence Economics University of York, November 2001, http://www.york.ac.uk/depts/econ/documents/research/defence_exports_nov01.pdf
[vii] Escaping the Subsidy Trap Why arms exports are bad for Britain”, BASIC, Saferworld & Oxford Research Group, 2004, http://www.basicint.org/pubs/subsidy.pdf
[viii] “As used on the famous Nelson Mandela”, Mark Thomas, Ebury Press, 2006
[ix] BAE corruption investigation switches to Tanzania, David Leigh & Rob Evans, The Guardian, 12/4/2008, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/apr/12/bae.baesystemsbusiness
[x] “Wrangling ends with order for Hawks”, David Gow & Michael White, The Guardian, 31/7/2003


February 17, 2009

Letter to the Boar

Letter published in the Boar 10/2/09

Dear Sir,
We have become concerned this year over our Student Union President’s flagrant disregard for Union Council. Public attacks on Council in your newspaper, in which he has denounced Council as “irresponsible” and not attempting to represent students’ views, are insulting. We find his public criticism of Union policy, which he is mandated to enforce, damaging to trust in our Union’s democratic processes. Debate within Union Council and before policies are enacted is very healthy. However, demonising Union councillors for decisions made with which he disagrees, and which he is expected to uphold is only likely to undermine the Union’s ability to function.
We would also like to express our dismay that he saw fit to act as a judge in a talent contest instead of attending Union Council for the full duration. Despite his vigorous exhortations in the Boar against a ban on McDonalds advertising, he manifestly saw little value in voicing such arguments in Council.
We hope our President will, in future, attend Council for its entire duration and make his case there rather than simply in the Boar the following week.
Yours sincerely
Andrew Rosser, Union Councillor
Barnaby Pace, Union Councillor
Chris Rossdale, Union Councillor
Dave Steele, Lifelong Learning Officer
Hannah Smith, Union Councillor
Jack Ashton, Student with Disabilities Campaigns Officer
James Hilsdon, LGBTUA+ Campaigns Officer
Jess Raw, Environment Campaigns Officer
Lorna Russell, Union Councillor
Puneet Dhaliwal, Welfare Committee Chair
Sam Glace, Union Councillor
Sumaiya Khaku, Academic Representation Forum Coordinator
Sami Wannell, Executive Committee Officer
Sarah Reader, Ethics and Social Justice Campaigns Officer
Tommy Precious, Union Councillor


Union Council Voting Record

As a result of the same problems being raised year after year with not enough students being aware of Union Council and the decisions they make, I have attempted to put together my voting record. I hope that the 4th year students who I represent on council will have a look (as can anyone else who is interested) and give me any feedback they would like. Obviously I can’t agree with everyone and its simply not possible to survey and poll all the 4th years in advance of every vote, but I hope that my opinions represent those of many students. Also a system of noting voting patterns could be useful for those seeking re-election or election to an officer role.

This voting record is accurate to my knowledge, I have not included the occasional vote that I cannot remember my position on (sometimes they get quite complicated!). Feel free to comment. I have also noted when I have proposed or seconded policies (sponsored policy). This record is roughly modelled on the information you can find on your MPs at theyworkforyou.com. The votes are in chronological order. Please also apologies that I have only include the title of each motion, sometimes the title doesn’t fully explain the policy and may even be misleading (for example “Discrimination in the National Blood Service” is about campaigning against discrimination in the national blood service).

1st Council 2008-2009
Voted to take Freshers/ Induction week to referendum
Voted for Freshers accomodation
Voted against NUS reform
Voted for Opposing NUS reform
Voted against Breaking World Records
Voted against Student Fees
Voted for Sabbatical Officers Holding Positions of Responsibility in the union
Voted for Cannabis in University Halls of Residence
Voted for Union Independence
Voted for Multi Faith Working Group
Voted for Themed Weeks
Voted for Adding a 4th warwick sport member
Voted to lapse Renaming the MSAGI Campaigns Officer to LGBTUA+ Campaigns Officer
Voted to lapse Governance Reform
Voted to lapse Sponsorship for Union Counci
Voted to agree amendment to Steering Group Remit.

2nd Council 2008-2009
Voted for Adherence of Warwick NUS Delegates to Warwick Policy
Voted for GM foods
Voted for Smoke and Alcohol Free-Space in the Union
Sponsored and Voted for Academics Spying on Muslim Students
Voted against amendment 2 to RAG cloakroom
Voted for Womens Committee
Voted for Institute of Education Representative
Voted to lapse Oriental Food Outlet

3rd Council 2008-2009
Voted for Promoting Union Democracy
Sponsored and voted for Campaigning Against ID Cards
Sponsored and voted for Refusal of Oil Company Advertising and Sponsorship
Voted for Associate Membership of Societies Federation
Sponsored and voted for Condemnation of Delegates to NUS Extraordinary Conference
Voted for Ratification of the Appointment of the Board of Trustees

4th Council 2008-2009
Voted against Amendment to Policy 324 Adherence of Warwick NUS Delegates to Warwick Policy
Voted for This Union Shall Not Ban Books
Voted for Campaign Against the BNP
Voted for Specialist Food Provision
Voted for Access to the University Experience
Voted against Supporting NUS Reform and Re-engaging with NUS
Voted for Reaffirming Our Support for Liberation in NUS
Voted for Lifelong Honorary Membership for Shakeel Padamsey
Voted for Wednesday Afternoons
Voted for McDonalds
Voted for Discrimination in the National Blood Service
Voted for Sensible Drinking
Voted for Testicular Cancer
Voted for Supporting Temporarily Withdrawn Students
Asked a question to the president: What progress have you made in responding to policy mandates in writing letters and lobbying, and can you publish these actions on the website?
Stuart Thomson – I am meeting the VC in a couple of weeks and will talk about ID cards. A lot of the letters. I have not got around to writing all the letters yet.
Sami Wannell – I am working with Felix Faltin and Pidge on a policy review system, based on a traffic light system, red – outstanding, amber – ongoing, green – completed. This will be placed on the Website.
Michael Jones – I am also working with Pidge on specific sections of the website relating to particular policies that concern campaigns, what is happening for those campaigns i.e. the ID Card demonstration.

5th Council 2008-2009
Voted for Feedback on Work
Sponsored and voted for Student fees
Sponsored and voted for Amendment to Campaign Against the Arms Trade
Voted for Amendment One World Week
Voted for Ratification to the board of trustees
Asked a question to the president: What progress have you made in responding to policy mandates in writing letters for Oil Companies, Academics Spying on Students and ID cards. Also could these letters be posted on the Union website.
The president responded that he had written the Oil company letters but not the others. The executive committee officers said that they will work on putting the letters on the union website


February 02, 2009

Sit in Success

Writing about web page http://www.warwicksolidaritysitin.wordpress.com

Sit in Success
By Barnaby Pace
On the 12th of January a group of students at the School of African and Oriental Studies (SOAS) in London occupied a gallery suite. They were protesting the Israeli invasion of Gaza and the use of the gallery by the Ministry of Defence to recruit and display what the students saw as a sanitised one sided view of war. The occupation was peaceful, with the space reclaimed for teach-ins, lectures, workshops and exhibits. The SOAS occupation succeeded after two days, with the military no longer being allowed to use the room for free, or without consulting the students union in advance and the student occupation being able to use the space for further talks and exhibits for free. This action spurred students all over the country into action and inspired a movement.

In the wake of SOAS’s actions a wave of further occupations occurred. Nineteen have so far occurred at the time of writing, with occupations in SOAS, LSE, Warwick, Kings, Sussex, Oxford, Cambridge, Essex, Nottingham, Birmingham, Leeds, Queen Mary, Newcastle, Sheffield Hallam, Kingston, Salford, Bristol, Manchester Met and Bradford. The occupations and sit ins varied in their demands, in their stances on the Gaza conflict and their successes and failings, but student occupations on this scale have not occurred in decades.

I was fortunate to be involved in the Warwick Solidarity Sit In. We had our ups and downs, had moments of doubt, pain and anger but also experienced the joys of learning, reaching out and meeting beautiful new people and hoped that our actions could make a difference and change the world in some small way.

The Warwick Solidarity Sit in began on Wednesday 21st of January 2009, with a group of students walking into a lecture theatre, maybe just like they might on any other day. But these students had a plan, they saw the issues around them, a humanitarian crisis and a university not helping but being complicit in that disaster. Some students had known about the University’s links with the arms trade before; £2 million in researching military projects, promoting arms companies at careers events and refusing to exclude investing University funds in arms companies. It was known that many of the arms companies that the University was helping were selling arms to Israel among their many other clients of tarnished reputation. They saw that because of this their University was in complicit in the death, destruction and suffering they had seen in Israel and Palestine.

The students saw that there was too much variation in their opinions on the conflict to give a definitive position, but they found three defining principles that they could define their action by. Peace, Humanitarianism and the Right to Education, these basic statements informed everything that the sit in group did. The sit in was simple; stay in the room, educate people about the conflict and the issues, express our solidarity with other groups and those suffering in the middle east and try and persuade that University authorities to meet the demands. The group invited speakers, ran workshops and screened films and over time the group grew and evolved. People who had never taken part in a demonstration or a march before took an interest and came along. The Warwick Sit In gathered support, from students simply bringing packets of biscuits and their company, Student Union Sabbatical Officers giving advice, many messages of support being sent by student groups, trade unions, Political parties, academics and individuals from all over the world. The groups enjoyed support from such well known names as Tony Benn, Noam Chomsky, Vandana Shiva, Avi Shlaim and Peter Tatchell. The group put on talks from among many others, the CEO of Greenpeace International Gerd Leipold, founder of the Corner House NGO Nick Hildyard and local restaurant owner Manal Timraz. Possibly the most striking and best of all the speakers was Manal, a Palestinian refugee, former UN aid worker and somebody who has lost family in the recent Gaza conflict. It was incredibly powerful to hear her speak about the innate value of life and how we must look beyond the small differences between people but see every human being as a person with dreams, ambitions and a life to live. When you think about each individual whose life has been destroyed by war, not just the statistic, you are obligated to act to prevent any further suffering that you can.

The group worked day by day, working against accusations of being disruptive, due to the University moving lectures, against the group’s wishes, to other rooms around the campus. They worked against accusations of being aggressive, made by students who had never visited the space and taken time to visit the space where they would have been welcomed. They worked against accusations of partisanship or anti-Semitism for criticising Israel over other horrors in the world. This was probably the most painful accusation to students many of whom spend much of their time campaigning against the problems in the world, whether through anti-arms groups, anti-racism campaigns, amnesty groups and other campaigning groups. The students tackled these problems the only way that they could, by being as welcoming as possible to all, by laying out ground rules that allowed for free speech and fair discussion and prohibited any aggression, by helping students carry on their studies as free of disruption as possible and by taking all decisions using consensus methods and encouraging everybody to participate.

The sit in succeeded after nine days, after much publicity, negotiations with the university and using all the skills and resources available. The university had agreed to publish a public statement and sit down and negotiate seriously many of the demands. The group called an emergency general meeting of the Students’ Union. With only two days notice, more students attended than at any Students’ Union meeting in over a decade. Nearly four hundred students arrived, debated and celebrated the renaissance of student democracy. The sit in won the support of over 83% of students, which provided the sit in with a huge student mandate. The group is now continuing campaigning for the University to help in sending spare textbooks and computer equipment to schools and universities destroyed, to have the University support a series of high profile debates on the Israel-Palestine conflict and for the University to end its relations with arms companies that profit from the death and destruction in the world.

Despite these successes the struggle and campaign is not over, the university must still acquiesce to the demands, many students still do not know enough and there is still pain and suffering in the world and these must be worked against. Even though these aims are not yet fulfilled, the sit in campaign has succeeded in forging a movement, making new friends and in some small way helping deal with the problems in our world.


January 30, 2009

Warwick’s unethical career services

By Barnaby Pace (Thanks to Todd Higgs for his editing)
Originally Published 16/1/09 on the CAAT Blog

On Thursday 15 January a group of Warwick University students, in opposition to the arms trade and in solidarity with Gaza, protested at a recruitment event run by BAE and Warwick University Careers Service.

Why BAE? Is it especially unethical? Just look at their record. BAE is the third largest arms manufacturer in the world. So much has come to light in the last few years with the discoveries, investigations and court cases surrounding the Al-Yamamah arms deal to Saudi Arabia, in which BAE systems was the primary supplier of weaponry. It is alleged that BAE paid over £1 billion in bribes to members of the Saudi regime.

But this case is not unique – BAE is currently being investigated over bribery allegations Arms companies are often not willing to disclose who their customers are (especially for arms components); this may be common practice among many businesses, citing “commercial confidentiality”. However, most businesses do not need to hide that they sold fighter jets to Robert Mugabe (as BAE and Rolls Royce have) or torture equipment for Guantanamo Bay (BAE subsidiary Hiatts). Nor are reputable business alleged to give a cool £1 million in bribes to the late, but not lamented, General Pinochet (BAE again). All good reasons for protesting and the inclusion of Israel in its (very colourful) list of customers made action particularly important at this time for us.

On their way into the recruitment event, attendees were leafleted with our BAE alternative careers guide. At the start of the presentation, a group of students stood up, with one delivering an excellent and emotive speech about the darker side of a career with BAE. During the talk itself a second group disrupted the presentation with another speech, heroically ignoring the pleas of the Careers Service to be quiet. The many students keen to ask questions about the unethical nature of the company led to the group question session being abandoned.

It is strengthening to be part of a broader campaign across universities against companies such as BAE and after our action we had much excited chatter about activism over a pint or two. And many thanks to all those in the CAAT office who worked to research and write the information used in our handouts.

Want to know more: See http://weaponsoutofwarwick.wordpress.com/

Remember: Universities Day of Action on 11 February 2009


January 26, 2009

The return of red warwick?

Originally published 22/1/09 on the Campaign Against The Arms Trade blog caatblog.wordpress.com

Barnaby Pace updates us on the current wave of anti-arms activism to sweep the nations universities: -

Since 12.30 yesterday a number of Warwick students have occupied our SO.21 lecture theatre. We are demanding firstly that the university help the victims of the Israel-Palestine conflict by sending textbooks and computer equipment, restoring the ability of students in the region to use their right to education. The university should inform students about the issues by funding a series of talks on the conflict. Importantly we feel that the university should end its complicity in the conflict by severing its ties to the arms trade. Our university promotes arms companies in an unquestioning positive light at careers events, does research for arms companies in our academic departments and has university finances invested in funds which do not preclude arms trade investments, and this is an unacceptable status quo.

We have been expressing our solidarity with both the students trapped in the Gaza conflict who can no longer continue their education and all the victims of the war. The feeing of solidarity with the other universities where occupations have taken place is also very important. SOAS, LSE, Essex, Birmingham, Sussex, Kings College, Oxford and Newcastle have all had occupations or have ongoing occupations. Messages of support have been hugely empowering we have had a constant stream of messages from other students, Campaign against the arms trade activists, trade unions, political groups, private individuals like Tony Benn and academics like Avi Shlaim.

Right now this feels really big, with this wave of occupations sweeping the country, re-invigorating the anti-war movements in universities that many thought had ended decades ago. It harks back to the days when Warwick University was known as Red Warwick for its campaigning and activist culture. We hope that through these occupations and new generation of student activist will be inspired to resist and campaign against the injustices of our world and fight against the arms trade.

We have been putting on some fantastic talks with representatives of the International Solidarity Movement, Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Jews for Justice for Palestinians, Socialist Party, Stop the War Coalition and others speaking tonight. We were all deeply moved by our speaker last night. Manal Timraz who owns a restaurant in Coventry, the outskirts of which Warwick University is built. Manal spoke about the experiences of her own family in Palestine and experiences as a UN aid worker. She emphasised the uniting nature of humanity and how although we can be personally touched by the people we know who suffer and lose their lives in conflicts, but every life is unique and special and should be mourned, no matter what side of a border they are on, what god they pray to or what their ideas are. We must always remember that every number in the death count is a person with dreams, ambitions and a life to lead. We can hope that maybe if the person who pushed the button to drop the bomb that killed a human being thought about what that bomb would destroy they might reconsider. We hope that those in a factory in England making a small part, that goes into a military aircraft that drops bombs on fellow human beings, will think about what their own work leads to, and might think again about the validity and morality of their work.

We have had our motives questioned by our Jewish-Israeli society, but we have succeeded in convincing them of our genuine belief that every life is precious, and that we can recognise that we are united by our desire for peace in the region. Although we are all deeply political about the issue of Israel-Palestine we understand that we all share this one ideal, and that in our reclaimed space on campus we can discuss the politics and learn about everybody’s positions.
In Coventry the city of Peace and Reconciliation, which has suffered so much from the horrors of war 60 years ago, we should be mindful of the consequences of war were there are only victims. It seems fitting that as part of this national and international effort to help the victims of this conflict we can hope that in some small way our protest might contribute to the ending of the cycle of violence in the region.

We hope that you can support what we are doing and hope that you will follow our protest on our blog at www.warwicksolidaritysitin.wordpress.com


The Cluster Bomb Treaty: Can the Cluster Bomb Treaty Work

The Cluster Bomb Treaty: Can the Cluster Bomb Treaty Work

by Barnaby Pace
Originally Published in Dissident Warwick No.5 26/1/09

Arms get everywhere. There is, at present, one firearm for every 12 people on the planet, and it is the aim of the arms industry to make as much profit possible by arming any other 11 who can pay. The question then posed is that with weapons spreading everywhere, how can the flow of arms be controlled to curb the worst excesses of the trade? Numerous methods have been posited; from international treaties, arms embargoes and national regulation down to activists smashing fighter jets with hammers, all these methods should be examined carefully so that we may find the most effective in stemming the flows of arms and preventing violence.

In December 2008 more than 100 countries signed up to the cluster bomb treaty, including the UK. The treaty is intended to end the manufacture, stockpiling and use of cluster munitions among the signatory states. Cluster munitions work through dispersing hundreds of small explosive devices across large areas; many of the bomblets land unexploded and will remain as de facto landmines, preventing the use of the land and causing a constant hazard, devastating communities for many years after the end of a conflict. The effects of these weapons are felt most heavily by civilians who make up 98% of 13,306 recorded cluster munitions casualties that are registered with Handicap International, while 27% are children.[i] Once 30 countries have ratified their treaty domestically it will become international law.

There are however significant limitations to the potential effectiveness of the cluster bomb treaty. The treaty allows cluster weapons with up to 10 submunitions (the smaller explosive devices that are released), and allows nations to co-operate with militaries that do still use these weapons (notably among NATO states). Both of these measures watering down the treaty were pushed for by the UK. The UK government was torn between the armed forces who opposed the treaty, and wished to continue using Israeli made cluster munitions in Iraq and Afghanistan, and DFID (The Department For International Development) who along with the foreign office, saw the moral hazards and the pragmatic issues with winning “hearts and minds” while using these weapons.[ii]

The most serious difficulty in making the cluster bomb treaty work is the notable absence of the USA, Russia and China who, between them, have an estimated 1 billion submunitions stockpiled, Israel, who along with the US and UK have been the heaviest users of cluster bombs[iii], India and Pakistan.

The USA, China, Israel, India, Pakistan and Russia did not subscribe to the Ottawa convention in 1997 either. The Ottawa Convention banned the use of land mines and was signed after years of widespread international campaigning. Despite not signing the Ottawa convention due to the international pressure and the growing taboo around the use of landmines, the US has not used, exported, or produced any antipersonnel landmines since the treaty was negotiated 11 years ago. Attempts have been made to circumvent the treaty; since its signing numerous arms dealers have been caught attempting to sell hand grenades with tripwires, attempting claiming that it was a legal grey area[iv]. It is in the interests of arms companies not to comply with any moral or legal code when profit can be made by ignoring them; their motivation as a corporation is one defined by the pursuit of profit. Forcing armed forces (or corporate mercenaries) not controlled by a government or judiciary to forgo the use of a weapon as cheap and deadly as a landmine is nearly impossible, they have no motivation to obey a law that cannot be applied to them. The only method of stopping the use of landmines in this case is to stigmatise them in every culture so that any soldier will see them as morally wrong and refuse to use them.

The question then that should be asked is whether any arms treaties really can work on a global scale? This becomes even more pertinent with the mooted arms trade treaty that groups such as Amnesty International, Oxfam and War on Want have vigorously campaigned for. Although it may prove to be a step in the right direction controlling the rampant flow of arms on the black and grey markets, some fear that the treaty will be watered down, legitimise the legal arms trade, and serve as nothing more than a PR stunt for politicians. The fear of governments weakening an arms trade treaty are not unfounded, considering many governments’ unconditional support for arms companies and the many cases where illegal arms dealers have been paid by governments to secretly smuggle around the world to assist revolutionaries.[v]

It is my belief that the true turning factor in making such treaties work is not just the signed piece of paper but the social and political movement that has forced governments into accepting the treaty in the first place. Groups such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Campaign Against the Arms Trade have worked constantly on this issue for many years but what is needed is more than the few dedicated campaigners acting on this largely foreign and hidden issue. At one time Princess Diana became the public face of a widespread campaign to ban landmines, but now we can only appeal to her memory as activist did at DSEI (the bi-annual London Arms Fair) by dying the Princess Diana memorial fountain blood red[vi]. We need a new respected public face that can carry the anti-arms trade message around the world. A building of momentum within our communities is essential to work against this vile trade, to oppose the manufacture and sale of these weapons in our areas. SmashEDO have opposed the EDO bomb factory in Brighton, DisarmDSEI have campaigned against the London arms fair and student Campaign Against the Arms Trade groups have protested against arms companies recruiting and researching on their campuses. The work of dedicated experts, journalists and researchers is crucial to expose the facts about the arms trade and work against the secrecy and PR propaganda that arms companies can propagate. The trade in products designed to kill people is one that must be stigmatised just like the slave trade was, the taboo strong enough that the general public and governments cannot legitimise supporting the arms trade. The campaign to control and end the arms trade must not only make weapons illegal but make it unthinkable for any human to participate in the trade, this must be achieved by making people working in the arms trade see the atrocities big and small that are the ultimate end products of their work.

--------------------

[ii] Guardian, 28/5/2008, “Cluster bomb treaty follows UK decision to scrap stockpiles”, http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2008/may/28/military.defence2

[iii] Guardian, 3/12/2008, “100 countries join clamour for global ban on cluster bombs”, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/dec/03/cluster-bomb-international-convention-signing

[iv] Guardian, 10/5/2002, “UK firm accused of selling landmines”, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2002/may/10/armstrade

[v] See work by Global Witness on the case of Victor Bout for example, http://www.globalwitness.org/index.php

[vi] IndymediaUK, 13/9/2007, “Princess of Wales fountain died red for victims of cluster bombs” https://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/regions/london/2007/09/381006.html


January 20, 2009

Merchants of Death

By Barnaby Pace
Originally published in the Warwick Boar 20/1/09

There is a group in the world that facilitates murder, evades the legal system, spies on its enemies and is implicated in war crimes, terrorism and genocide, and no I am not talking about the Bush administration right now. I am in fact referring to the global arms industry. It is alone in its reckless pursuit of profit through selling products designed to kill to whoever they can. Arms dealers can take many forms, from the seedy gun runners who transport weapons violating UN embargoes to Liberia, Somalia or North Korea, but more often those in the arms trade appear more like the average businessman or worker. However these two extremes of appearance cannot be separated, it is the big companies of this world that produce the weapons that end up all over the world, you cannot talk about Victor Bout (portrayed in the film Lord of War) without talking about companies such as BAE Systems or Lockheed Martin who make the weaponry in the first place.
In a capitalist based world the arms trade’s primary motive is profit, through selling weapons to whoever can pay, unsurprisingly those who pay often intend to use the weapons, this often conflicts with the legality and morality of the rest of society. As an arms company gets larger, it can pay for better political connections and better public relations, but the conflict between its activities and what it would like to admit is always there. The topic has become much more obvious over the last few years with the discoveries, investigations and court cases surrounding the Al-Yamamah arms deal to Saudi Arabia, in which BAE systems was the primary supplier of weaponry. It is alleged that BAE paid over £1 billion in bribes to members of the Saudi Regime. This case is not unique; BAE alone is currently being investigated for six other bribery cases around the world. Arms companies are not willing to disclose their customers, this may be common practice among many businesses. Most businesses however do not need to hide that they sold fighter jets to Robert Mugabe (as BAE and Rolls Royce have), torture equipment for Guantanamo Bay (BAE subsidiary Hiatts), or gave £1 million in bribes to General Pinochet (BAE again). This is merely a taste of what has been uncovered about the arms industry.
Arms companies frequently attempt to defend their activities, claiming that they are essential for employment, despite the huge subsidy they receive amounting to an estimated £13,153.23 per arms trade job. They claim to be essential for national security yet sell to anyone they can and skew our own military’s equipment purchases. They claim that “If we didn’t do, someone else would”, a defence heroin dealers would love if it worked in court. Occasionally they might be more blunt, “Sometimes people need to be killed!” as the Head of Communications at BAE Systems told me. Arms companies must be forced to account for their actions and therefore what is needed is not PR but an examination of the facts.
I feel that everyone should know these facts about arms companies. I especially feel that students who might think about applying for jobs with arms companies should know these facts. Yet our own university inform students at all. Instead every few weeks an arms company will come and recruit on campus, spreading their own propaganda about their company, promoted and legitimised by the Careers Service. You might see some protestors outside the building handing out leaflets, asking arms industry representatives searching questions at their stalls, or unveiling t-shirts detailing facts about arms companies in the fair before being escorted out by security, believing that T-shirts with facts about arms companies are too disruptive. The Careers Service should be assisting students to learn the full facts about potential employers, instead the careers service advertises for companies, no matter their quality, and does not allow the negative side of the company to be seen. It is left to the handful of anti-arms trade campaigners to attempt to inform students about these companies’ dirty dealings that they will not include in their recruitment pitch. I am proud to be a part of the Weapons out of Warwick campaign, who oppose these merchants of death whose profits come at the unacceptable cost of causing the deaths of millions and untold suffering around the world.


November 04, 2008

Barack Obama: A Force for Change

Published in Dissident Warwick Issue 3/11/08
by Barnaby Pace

I hope the change that is on offer in US politics today is real. I am not referring to the facetious image politics of the new hopeful having a different racial background, gender or being somebody you would have a drink with but a lasting sea change from the self-serving, squalid and sometimes cruel political climate that has existed in the US for the last 8 years. Yes we are talking about Obama. He is not, and cannot be all things to all men, he isn’t Santa, the Easter bunny or the second coming of Jesus (despite the McCain campaign’s nickname for him, “the one”) but he does offer real hope to both the American people and to everyone else around the world.

In the last 8 years we have witnessed corruption, authoritarian domestic security policies, torture programmes, pugilistic foreign policy, increasing poverty inside the US, the export of an extreme ideological economic policy, denials and obstructionism of action on climate change and a failing US economy, to name but a few issues. We are extremely fortunate that Bush has become a lame duck president with little support in the House of Representatives or Senate. It seems that opinion of US politics is at rock bottom.

It is worth remembering at this point that there will be flaws in the policies put forward by any politician. For my part I dislike the unbalanced pro-Israel stance that Obama has adopted during the campaign, the pugnacious attitude to cross-border strikes in Pakistan, his support of the FISA bill which granted immunity to telecoms companies for illegal wiretapping ordered by the Bush administration, the unwillingness of nearly every US politician to consider prosecuting the current administration for war crimes. On the economy Obama, considered by many an extreme lefty in US politics could be considered either moderate or right of centre by the standards of UK politics. US politics always has been very free market oriented and that is unlikely to change. Obama and the US democrats are not perfect, but we cannot expect any politician to be.

Obama does however have a huge amount to offer. Unlike every US presidential candidate before him his finances are not coming from special interest groups and lobbyists but from small donations from supporters now numbering in the millions. This unwillingness to kowtow to businesses we can hope will be a foundation of many aspects of an Obama presidency. Obama’s plans to reform bankruptcy law to protect pensions over executive pockets, to allow the medicare programme to find cheaper generic prescription drugs from anywhere in the world and to increase the minimum wage to $9.50 an hour are indicative this.

America has become trapped into the Bush-Cheney sabre rattling form of “diplomacy” where anyone who’s not your friend is your enemy, and anyone out of favour cannot even be spoken to. This does not look tough, it looks arrogant. Real diplomacy is based on talking to anyone, friend or foe. The Obama-Biden commitment to talk to any leader and to attempt to re-establish the US as a nation to lead on diplomacy, instead of one to block and bully is one that represents a real hope for action. On issues ranging from global poverty and global arms control to climate change, a new diplomatic approach is much more likely to suceed. The proof of interest in these issues can be found merely by looking at Obama’s voting record and the bills he has sponsored whether on Darfur in the Darfur Peace and Accountability Act in 2006 or by opposing the Kyl-Lieberman amendment which said that the US presence in Iraq should be used to counter any Iranian threat, which would have been a highly aggressive and provocative step.

This is arguably the most scrutinised election in memory with US escapist drama viewers switching to the reality TV of election fever. Barely a day goes by where you cannot find a sizeable article in every UK broadsheet analysing the twists and turns of this election. This isn’t merely due to the spectacle of the rallies or the constant TV adverts but because what this election embodies the hopes of Americans and the world. We see in Obama not only somebody to steer American away from the horrors of the Bush years but to quote former president Clinton, we want to be awed by the power of America’s example, not the example of its power. We can hope that this renewed interest and scrutiny of American politics continues and that a potential Obama presidency is one that is made to live up to the ideals of the lofty rhetoric expressed by the Obama campaign.

We cannot expect Obama to solve every problem, we certainly cannot expect him to do everything we could wish of him, but he has the opportunity to help the millions of American’s people around the globe whose lives have only been made harder directly or indirectly by the Bush regime. Obama can restore our hope that America can be a beacon of hope for the world not the source of pain.


Letter to the Warwick Boar

Published in the Warwick Boar 4/11/08

Dear Editor,

“Our role is to facilitate not dictate debates, the reason being that many of our students have differing opinions. I will make no apologies for my Warwick focus…Gone are the days when we should be prioritising ideological campaigns trying to achieve world peace or trying to bring down capitalism. This year what we want is a focus on ourselves…”

I’m sure we speak for a large number of students here at Warwick in expressing our annoyance at comments made by our Students’ Union President in last weeks edition of the Boar.

Tommo’s article painted a truly dismal picture of the potential for student campaigns both on campus here at Warwick and on an international scale. To admit defeat is to be entirely ignorant of the multitude of successful student campaigns that have been led in the past and are still very much active today in pushing for social change worldwide. Take for example the student boycott of Barclays in 1986 for financially supporting the Apartheid regime in South Africa. Barclays was forced to pull out of the country after the boycott which helped lead to the destabilisation of the Apartheid regime and their eventual downfall. Other examples include the Vietnam War, Tiananmen Square and high-profile student protests in France in 2002, 2005 and last year. The issues that students are campaigning on today are no less important than they were in ’68 but we must tackle the climate of student apathy in order to make today’s campaigns as successful and wide-reaching as they were then.

Although it is undoubtedly true that a large proportion of the student population will spend their years at Warwick caring about little more than the price of a pint, is this really something that their union should be encouraging? We are encouraged to ‘get involved’ with union decision-making and we are often reminded that the Union is ‘more than just a nightclub’, yet how do Tommo’s comments promote this in any way, beyond limited internal policies on Freshers and Accommodation.
It is also true that there is a range of diverse opinions on campus, and lively debate involving all sides is hugely important, but do we want to be dictated to by the apathetic? The president of the Student’s Union has a responsibility to draw students’ attention to issues of national and international importance; they are not only there to facilitate debate but to lead it, especially where the Union democratic bodies have decided to take a stance on issues.

Students are concerned about issues outside the Warwick bubble and the Student’s Union is a body which can facilitate and act on behalf of these concerns. With 26 registered campaigning societies in the Union, support at all levels is vital, otherwise we may find that policies banning unethical companies such as ExxonMobil, Nestle and Arms Companies are gradually rolled-back to leave our Students’ Union with the bare bones of a stance on anything at all. The body of Union policy on campaigns is testament to the history of active Warwick campaigners who recognise that the Union can make a difference on issues outside the bubble.

A final point that is crucial to make here is that not all student-led campaigns will achieve their aims within a year. This may be hard for someone who is elected into a year-long term at the Union to accept but it is important to look at the big picture, the long-term. Big campaigns will take a long time but their effects will be worth the effort in the long run.

Sincerely,
Hannah Smith and Barnaby Pace


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