All entries for Sunday 18 May 2008

May 18, 2008

A World of Double Standards

First Published May 16, 2008, Dissident Warwick Issue 3

By Barnaby Pace

What is the value of a life? The answer sadly is not simple, nor is it constant. Is a British or American life worth more than an Iraqi or Sudanese life? It shouldn’t be, but it is. Those three thousand who died in the atrocities of the Twin Towers have been used to justify two invasions and numerous laws restricting or destroying essential liberties of those in the US and around the world. But are those 3000 worth more in this world than the 400,000 Sudanese people who have died in the Darfur conflict since 2003 (UN, 2006)? The violent death of those 400,000 does not even warrant more than a minute on the news or sufficient aid or peacekeeping troops to stop the genocide in Darfur. What about the 18,000 children who die of hunger every day (Associated Press, 2007)? Who will value their lives? At the same time as the UN food agency and charities are attempting to save those 18,000 children our governments and corporations invest in 1st generation biofuels to fuel our vehicles instead of growing food, exacerbating the problem (Borger, 2008).

But what is the value of justice or freedom? As was seen last year British politicians will widely condemn human rights violations and violence in Burma where it costs them little or nothing, but will roll out the red carpet for the Saudi royal family when there are lucrative arms deals and oil supplies on offer. The personal greed of those in power does seem to outweigh the value of justice or morality when the price is high enough. For example the Al-Yamamah arms deal between BAE Systems and the Saudi Arabia, sponsored by the UK government was worth £43 billion (BBC, Judges to rule on BAE challenge, 2008). It seems £43 billion is enough to persuade Tony Blair’s government to ignore bribery and to terminate the Serious Fraud Office investigation into the illegal payments to Saudi ministers and military personnel. It would be deeply naive to believe that national security had anything to do with it. The Saudi Arabian intelligence services are at best heavily reliant on US and British help and at worst a bunch of torturing thugs (Mitchell, 2008) that we should be denouncing on principle. Stopping the investigation also breaks the OECD agreement which prohibits the ending of corruption investigations for “Commercial, Financial or National Security reasons”. This was recently proven in court by Campaign Against the Arms Trade and the Corner House (BBC, Judges to rule on BAE challenge, 2008). The Judge in the case went so far as to say that with regards to the UK government’s disdain for the law “No one, whether within this country or outside, is entitled to interfere with the course of our justice” (BBC, UK wrong to halt Saudi arms probe, 2008). At times the interests of those in power can and has disrupted the fair course of justice. Similarly politicians in both the UK and US (both Democrat and Republican) will turn a blind eye to allegations of war crimes, ordered by the US government, they may fear the loss of their own personal and party’s positions of power thisand the problems caused by admitting to these crimes committed in their name. Is that a fair reason to ignore these crimes?

We condemn the murder of men, women and children in our country strongly enough to occupy several tabloid pages every day and yet on the other hand will praise the mercenaries who kill, maim and torture for a living. Why does our government rightly strive to cut violent crime in the UK but allow armed mercenaries (Private Military Contractors) to operate around the world without being subject to military law or seemingly any law (War on Want, 2006)? This was shown explicitly with the gunning down of 17 Iraqi civilians by Blackwater mercenaries last year and their immunity to Iraqi, US or international law (Guardian, 2008). Their immunity may be because of the UK and US militaries reliance on mercenaries to continue their operations with over 100,000 mercenaries currently employed in Iraq (Scahill, 2007). Their favoured position could also be due to their usefulness in doing the dirtiest jobs with Titan and CACI employees’ involvement in torture at Abu Ghraib (Isenberg) and their subsequent immunity from prosecution as an example (Easton, 2006)). It could also return us to basic human greed with mercenaries having too many valuable political connections and too much money (an estimated $100 Billion sales in 2004 (Holmqvist, January 2005)).

If we cannot judge people equally in life and death then we have no right to hold any ethical opinion. Any opinion we hold before this equality is reached in our mind will be a double standard. These moral inequalities so evident in parts on UK foreign policy and around the world disgrace our societies and will only cause future danger and injustice in the world. We cannot turn a blind eye to the horrors of our world when it suits us. We must insist on the equality of all we have claimed to have valued for so long apply of the law without fear or favour. Some elements of human nature puts obstacles in the way of such a utopian ideal but by taking notice and encouraging change where possible we might inch closer to a better world.

Works Cited

Associated Press. (2007, 2 17). 18,000 children die every day of hunger, U.N. says. Retrieved 4 5, 2008, from USA Today: http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/2007-02-17-un-hunger_x.htm

BBC. (2008, Febuary 15). Judges to rule on BAE challenge. Retrieved April 2008, 8, from BBC News: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/7247714.stm

BBC. (2008, April 10). UK wrong to halt Saudi arms probe. Retrieved April 10, 2008, from BBC News: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/7339231.stm

Borger, J. (2008, 4 5). UN chief calls for review of biofuels policy. Retrieved 4 5, 2008, from Guardian Newspaper: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2008/apr/05/biofuels.food

Easton, A. (2006, 4 27). War privatisation talks in Warsaw. Retrieved 4 5, 2008, from BBC Online, 27 April 2006.

Guardian. (2008, 1 16). Report: US fails at enforcing prosecution of contractors. Retrieved 4 8, 2008, from Guardian.co.uk: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/jan/16/iraq.usa

Holmqvist, C. (January 2005). Private Security Companies. The Case for Regulation. SIPRI Policy Paper, No 9 .

Isenberg. A government in search of cover.

Mitchell, S. (2008, 2 18). Rolling over before Saudi threats. Retrieved 4 2008, 8, from Guardian: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/feb/18/saudiarabia.foreignpolicy

Scahill, J. (2007). Blackwater.

UN. (2006, September 21). Annan welcomes extension of African Union mission in Darfur. Retrieved April 4, 2008, from UN: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=19948&Cr=sudan&Cr1=

War on Want. (2006). Corporate Mercenaries.


You Better Observe Yourself

Originally Printed March 11, 2008 Warwick Boar, Issue Week 9 term 2 2008

BAE’s decision to bring private security to careers fairs as “observers” raises concerns for the welfare of students wishing to protest.

This year there have been a number of protests at careers fairs. These have been organised by students angry at the university careers service promoting arms companies at these events. All the protests this year have been entirely non-violent both at Warwick and all similar protests nationwide. The most disruptive incident this year was a stunt where 11 students dressed as grim reapers stood silently next to arms company stalls to illustrate the lethality of the arms companies’ products, these protesters were swiftly removed from the fair by Warwick security and the police in a matter of minutes. We are indeed fortunate to have police officers that take their duty to protect the peace so seriously that they will take time out from patrolling the streets to save Warwick students and staff from being subjected to the horrors of non-violent protest.
However BAE systems, the UK’s largest arms company, which has exhibited twice at careers fair at Warwick this year seems to feel that Warwick’s security is insufficient. An internal BAE memo leaked earlier this year read “Following a meeting this afternoon with [name deleted] the way security is managed at careers fairs will be reviewed. The decision has been taken to provide additional BAE Systems security at events considered to be a risk, in particular Sheffield, Birmingham, Leeds, Warwick, Lancaster, UCLAN.”
Should we be worried about BAE bringing additional security with them to campus? Perhaps so, BAE does not have an exemplary history in dealing with its critics. BAE has in fact been caught twice spying on the peaceful Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT) organisation and collected information on its members, activities and stolen confidential legal advice given to CAAT. Yet university appears not to take issue with companies such as BAE bringing their own security with them. Asked for comment the university spokesman Peter Dunn said “Security on the campus is undertaken by the security staff, they deal with all the student activity, staff and visitors. Occasionally where an outside organisation has concerns for their staff safety they may, and sometimes do, have their representatives on campus to observe our security team’s operation, advise their own staff, and liaise between their own staff and our own security team. If the University security team needs any external support we would seek that from the police. Security team are all SIA registered and operate to this high standard.” Unfortunately it seems to me that it would be naïve to believe that security personnel brought in by a company being protested against would only observe. It seems obvious that security personnel employed by BAE systems might not make the welfare of students their priority and could not be as even handed as the police or Warwick security but could pose a welfare risk to students protesting given the company’s past attempts to investigate, infiltrate and disrupt anti-arms trade campaigns. It also seems worrying that BAE feels the need for added security when students have only protested peacefully.
Asked for comment Richard Hamer, education partnerships director for BAE Systems said “BAE Systems has never indicated that it is not satisfied with the security provided at UK university careers fairs. BAE Systems representatives at Campus recruitment events are typically recent young graduates from these institutions. We value our links with Warwick, and its undergraduate students. BAE Systems has a great deal to offer talented graduates. We train more skilled engineers in the UK than any other company and provide careers full of opportunity. BAE Systems has always hired and trained the very best people and it is investment like this that keeps us, and the UK, at the forefront of technology and engineering across the world.” Sadly the evidence of the leaked memo seems to contradict the claim that BAE is satisfied with security provisions at careers fair but instead sees the peace campaigners as posing a risk. There is also a black irony that as BAE says they have “a great deal to offer talented graduates”, in the UK that may mean a salary and a job but elsewhere in the world its products are used to oppress and murder students in places like East Timor or Palestine. I wonder how much BAE values its links with the undergraduates protesting against the company’s presence on campus, or student union has a policy of asking for the exclusion of arms companies from the university on account of their human rights abuses.
Ed Callow, Welfare officer for the Students Union put it simply “Ed Callow “Unless there has been a sudden outbreak of students launching violent assaults on arms company representatives that I’m unaware of I really cannot see the need for these companies to start bringing their own private security onto UK university campuses. Arms companies who come to Warwick already have Warwick security’s presence to ensure that careers events run smoothly and the students union and the students union has a very good working relationship with this service of the university. On the plus side, if you can call it that, this news does appear to show that student protest against the presence of arms companies at UK universities is finally beginning to have an effect.”
The university needs to decide whether it wants its security team and the police looking out for students on campus or if can trust an arms company with a worrying history to bring their own security staff, to act fairly and look after the welfare of students and allowing their right to protest.


The Non–Negotiable Human Right

Originally Printed February 20, 2008 Dissident Warwick Issue 2
by Barnaby Pace

The right not to be tortured is generally seen as the most inviolable of human rights, completely non-negotiable. This is shown with the prohibition of torture being part of the European Convention on Human Rights penned by Winston Churchill, the Geneva Convention and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. But UK government despite its rhetoric of freedom and democracy is complicit in torture and is getting away with it. Perhaps we turn a blind eye because of the climate of fear we are living? Should we blame shows such as 24, which show the hero getting the terrorist to give correct information just in the nick of time through torture; perhaps Tony Blair saw himself as the next Jack Bauer? Whatever the reason, as Tony Blair put it “The rules of the game have changed”1 and our government is now willing to allow torture. The UK government’s complicity is shown by the UK government accepting intelligence acquired through torture, involvement in the US practice of rendition, and providing the people and equipment for torture.

Torture is not only morally repugnant, it is not even very practical. A person being tortured will say whatever they think will stop the torture, even if they know it to be untrue, making any information gleaned highly unreliable. Confessions extracted under torture are more likely to lead to false incrimination, not, a good example of this is the “Ricin bomb factory” in North London that never existed but was suggested by intelligence gained using torture by Algerian security forces, the fictitious nature of the Ricin did not stop the accused men losing more than 3 years of their lives to prison and control orders tantamount to house arrest.

In the long term depriving individuals of their human rights and using torture is likely to fuel hatred, extremism and terrorism, not prevent it. It is incredible hypocritical for our leaders to speak of spreading democracy, freedom and a peaceful vision of the world if the means of spreading these admirable aims is through torture. The use of torture will only strengthen the case of those demonising the UK and US.

The most obvious example of torture by our american allies is the Guantanamo Bay facility. The US claims that the “Detained Personnel” held at Guantanamo and can be kept without fair trial indefinitely and can be denied the rights of prisoners of war. The US government and military maintains that they do not torture but instead use “Enhanced Interrogation Techniques” which include sleep deprivation, forced nudity, isolation, sensory deprivation, extremes of temperature, stress positions2 and “waterboarding” a method of simulating drowning. Fortunately President George Bush reassured the public by saying this about those kept in Guantanamo Bay: “the only thing I know for certain is they’re bad people”.

Unfortunately Guantanamo Bay is thought to account for only 4% of people kept in secret US prisons and we can only guess at the nature of these other 96% of secret incarcerations. However as they are being kept secret, it seems reasonable to assume that many are worse than Guantanamo.

Sadly UK businesses have also been turning a profit from the suffering of the detainees in Guantanamo. A Birmingham based company called Hiatt’s (a subsidiary of BAE systems) has been manufacturing shackles ever since the slave trade and its products are now used in Guantanamo Bay, even on British citizens who I am sure were greatly comforted by the “Made in England” mark on their restraints.3

When the “Enhanced Interrogation Techniques” used at US facilities are not enough then the process of rendition comes into play. The CIA practice of rendition involves “detainees” being transported to a country where they are likely to be tortured. Examples of rendition destinations include Egypt where Electro-shock torture is used; Libya, where a device called the German chair is used which stretches the spine to breaking point; Morocco, where prisoners are raped with broken bottles, and Uzbekistan, where prisoners have been boiled alive. The intelligence is then communicated back to the US and its allies, naturally including the UK. Not only does the UK government receive the intelligence, the UK also acts as a stopover point with CIA rendition flights refuelling at Manchester and Prestwick airports. The government response to the allegation of rendition flights in the UK was to order an inquiry which claimed that “Britain did not allow CIA ‘torture flights’ to use its airports to take terror suspects out of Europe”. Contradicting this finding, a Council of Europe report concluded that the “US and its NATO allies reached a secret agreement allowing the CIA to hold high-value detainees in Europe”. The Council of Europe alleged that Britain provided logistical support at civilian and military airports.4 Who to believe is your choice.

Some of those in positions of authority have taken a stand against torture; notably Craig Murray (Former ambassador to Uzbekistan) and Derek Pasquill (a civil servant who leaked details of rendition to the press5). But we need more of those in power to take a stand against the abhorrent practice of torture.

Disagree? Want to check our sources? Visit our Blog.

1. “Blair vows to root out extremism”, The Guardian, 6th August 2005 http://www.guardian.co.uk/attackonlondon/story/0,,1543784,00.html

2. “Canada puts US on torture list”, BBC Website, Friday 18th January 2008 http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/7195276.stm

3. “As used on the famous Nelson Mandela”, Mark Thomas, Ebury Publishing

4. “CIA torture flights did not land”, The Times, 9th June 2007 http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/politics/article1907078.ece

5. “Secret Email that freed mole at the foreign office”, The Guardian, 13th January 2008

Also worth looking at are

Amnesty International: www.amnesty.org

Human Rights Watch: www.hrw.org

Council of Europe: www.coe.int

“Murder in Samarkand, A British Ambassador’s Controversial Defiance of Tyranny in the War on Terror” by Craig Murray


Weapons out of Warwick Press Release

25th of February 2008
Weapons out of Warwick Protest

On Wednesday the 27th of February there will be a student protest at the University of Warwick. Members of the student Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT) group and People and Planet society will be dressing up as arms dealers and raising awareness about the presence of arms companies at the university and their negative affects. The group is urging the University to:
1. Adopt an ethical and socially responsible investment strategy and disinvest any shares in arms companies they may have.
2. Cease participation in military and arms company research which does nothing to improve our society.
3. Stop promoting arms companies at student recruitment events.
The protest will be part of a national day of action against the arms trade organised by CAAT and People and Planet with other protests happening at Nottingham, Manchester, Birmingham, UCL, Leeds and Newcastle universities.

Notes
1. The protest will start at 12 noon in the University of Warwick Piazza.
2. Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT) works for the reduction and ultimate abolition of the international arms trade.
3. Students at the University of Warwick have held 3 separate protests this academic year against the university promoting arms companies at student careers fairs. The companies included BAE systems, Rolls Royce, QinetiQ, Thales, General Electric, MBDA and DSTL. At the most recent careers fair protest 11 students appeared in the careers fair dressed as grim reapers in order to draw attention to the deadly nature of the arms companies’ activities.
4. The University of Warwick Student Union has a policy of giving full support to students protesting against arms companies on campus.
5. The University of Warwick has received more that £5.2 Million for 46 research projects for arms companies including BAE and Rolls Royce according to the recent Study War No More report made by CAAT the Fellowship of Reconciliation. The full report can be obtained at http://www.studywarnomore.org.uk/.
6. UK Universities hold over £240 Million of shares in arms companies. Further information on the campaign for clean investment at universities is available at http://www.caat.org.uk/campaigns/unis0708/clean-investments.php
7. Spokespeople from CAAT and the student group are available for comment.

Media Contacts
Barnaby Pace (University of Warwick Student organiser)
07969295078

Symon Hill (Campaign Against the Arms Trade Media Co-ordinator)
020 7281 0297 or 07990 673 232


The Arguments of the Arms Trade

Originally Published November 26, 2007, Dissident Warwick Issue 1

The very first thing to remember about the arms trade is that they make things for the purpose of killing, maiming and incapacitating other human beings. All the people that design, manufacture or assemble these weapons have in some way contributed to the death of the person on the opposite side of that weapon.

Arms companies are treated as being above the law, one of the best recent examples of this was the government terminating the Serious Fraud Office inquiry in December 2006 that was looking into corruption allegations against BAE Systems’ dealings in Saudi Arabia, by shutting down the SFO inquiry the government is in breach of the OECD agreements on tackling corruption that the UK is a signatory of. The government has set forward the classic three arguments for the arms trade. Those three arguments are; National security and defence needs, the economy and “If we didn’t do it somebody else would”.

National security was quoted as a major reason for ending the BAE system’s- Saudi Arabia SFO inquiry, the government contended that Saudi Arabia was a valuable ally in the “War on Terror” and threatened to stop sharing intelligence should the SFO inquiry be allowed to continue. However the Saudi Intelligence service is at best weak and at worst a bunch of torturers who the UK intelligence services should not cooperate with on principle. The more general case for the national security or “Defence” argument is that the world is a violent place and we need weapons in order to protect ourselves and our allies. Unfortunately “Our boys” do not receive adequate equipment, an MoD internal survey found that “nearly half our soldiers in Iraq had no confidence in their fighting kit”2 and there is a mountain of anecdotal evidence on UK military equipment to support this. The MoD is pressured into buying equipment from UK firms in order to persuade foreign buyers to buy the same equipment; this means that the UK taxpayer is paying more than they should for equipment that is not ideal costing the lives of soldiers and civilians in conflicts. Arms exports are put ahead of UK interests when it comes to the arms industry. BAE systems (strictly speaking a global company, not British except when it suits them) recently agreed to a new contract known as Salam (roughly translates as peace, BAE lack a sense of irony) with Saudi Arabia selling Eurofighter jets, the first 24 of these jets were intended to go to the RAF but instead are being shipped to Saudi Arabia3.

The argument of the economy and jobs is one favoured particularly by MPs saying that stopping the arms trade would cause terrible unemployment and damage the national economy, however some statistics need to be considered. Arms exports are subsidised by the government by around £900 million per year. According to the MoD 65,000 jobs are sustained by military exports (approximate 0.2% of the UK workforce), with a bit of simple maths this tells us that each arms export job is subsidised by the UK taxpayer to the tune of £13,000 every year. The MoD estimated that halving the number of military exports over a two year period would lead to a loss of almost 49,000 jobs however within five years 67,400 jobs would be created in non-military sectors and in fact between 1995 and 2002 the number of jobs estimated to be reliant on military exports fell from 145,000 to 65,000 with no major effect on the economy1. The fact is that the majority of employees working in the arms industry are highly skilled and could be of incredible value in a worthwhile industry instead of one dedicated to destruction.

“If we didn’t do it somebody else would” is often used by arms dealers as a justification for their activities whether legal or illegal, however this argument is fundamentally flawed, you could not use in any other context and expect anybody to agree with you. Were anybody to argue in court that they had to commit a crime because if they did not do it then somebody else would then they would be reprimanded for wasting the court’s time, just because somebody else is willing to do something morally wrong, it does make it right for you to do it.

Only through understanding the reasons that are put across by the arms industry can the debate be won and these companies whose purpose is to cause destruction can be defeated.

By Barnaby Pace

---------------------
1 Jobs and Subsidies, Campaign Against Arms Trade, http://www.caat.org.uk/issues/jobs-subsidies.php, Accessed 25/10/07

2 House of Commons Debate, Colin Breed, South East Cornwall, Liberal Democrat, 20/01/2005 Column 999, http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200405/cmhansrd/vo050120/debtext/50120-18.htm#50120-18_spnew4, Accessed 25/10/07

3 “BAE is poised for £5bn Saudi Eurofighter contract”, David Robertson, The Times, 14/6/2006, http://business.timesonline.co.uk/tol/business/industry_sectors/engineering/article608183.ece, Accessed 25/10/07


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