Ronnie and Reggie at DSEi
SchNEWS reckons that this PR puff should be slightly more honest – How about “Do you want to gun down a few unarmed civilian protesters – then we’ve got machine guns by the armful. Or maybe you’ve got a province that wants independence – hey they’re your resources, not their resources you’re mining – bomb a few villages; that should keep the uppity locals in check. Have you invaded another country and are having problems with ‘terrorists’? We’ll supply all your needs, including armoured bulldozers to knock their houses down.”
This is what the weapons sold at the world’s biggest arms fair are ultimately used for – to kill, rape and torture. Welcome to the wonderful world of DSEi. This bunch of sick scumbags are in the business of selling weapons to all and sundry – or as they like to say “We recognise that DSEi fulfils an important role within the selling process for defence companies and we make every effort to ensure the business environment at DSEi meets and exceeds exhibitors’ needs.”
DSEi is the showcase of the British “defence industry”. Occurring every two years it is “the largest tri-service exhibition in the world.” In other words if you want to kill someone from the land, sea or air – they’ve got it. The last DSEi was in 2003 and this year it is supposed to be 30% bigger with more emphasis on “Products and services related to Homeland Security, anti-terrorism, access control, and personal security” – in other words - more internal repression and erosion of liberties and human rights.
At the 2003 exhibition there were visitors from 65 countries buying wares from 973 companies from 28 countries enjoying a “customer-rich environment”. This is all promoted by the government and directly subsidised to the tune of £400,000. Oh and there was a police bill of £4.5 million just to keep the public out - with 3000 police making sure it was business as usual for the merchants of death. That figure is likely to be dwarfed by the policing of this year’s event, which will include the imposition of an extensive exclusion zone around the venue.
HALL OF SHAME
Every two minutes, someone somewhere dies as a result of armed conflict. Most of the 13 million people worldwide who were internally displaced or forced to become refugees last year are in that situation as a result of war. Britain is world’s 2nd largest arms exporter and DSEi is the privately run showroom for the wares of the government’s arms industry. In 1999, it asked the private sector to start organising an equivalent to the long-running Royal Navy and British Army Equipment Exhibition. Ever since, Spearhead Exhibitions, now a subsidiary of information and education giant Reed Elsevier, has been making a tidy profit on what has become the world’s biggest arms fair. More than 1,000 exhibitors and 20,000 pre-approved visitors are expected at this year’s event.
The arms fair is opposed by both Ken Livingstone, the mayor of London, and the local council. But central government support for DSEi is hardly surprising. The Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) calculates that the government spends £888 million annually subsidising arms exports. This includes ‘export credit’– the underwriting of arms sales to ensure that companies don’t lose out should a country default on its payments. Military goods make up only 2 per cent of UK exports but receive 25 per cent of the export credit budget (see www.eca-watch.org for more). Government subsidies also contribute to research and development, the use of military and diplomatic personnel and the cost of maintaining the Defence Export Services Organisation (DESO), the MoD’s arms marketing department which employs 600 civil servants across 18 countries with the sole purpose of helping to sell UK arms abroad.
DESO works very closely with Spearhead for DSEi and has a special role in deciding who is invited. At the last fair in 2003, these included the governments involved in 12 of the 18 major armed conflicts raging at the time. They took their place alongside regimes with clear records of human rights abuses, such as Colombia, China, Algeria, Nigeria and Israel (UK and US also guilty of human rights abuses). Both India and Pakistan were invited despite standing on the brink of war. This year, as the world postures on making poverty history in Africa, impoverished countries such as Angola and Tanzania look set to be invited again and encouraged to increase their foreign debt to line the pockets of the western military industry that dominates the international arms trade.
In order to justify DSEi against the backdrop of growing international opposition, the Defence Manufacturers Association has resorted to the claim that DSEi is not an arms fair, just an exhibition. Yet DSEi’s own 2005 brochure states clearly that it “fulfils an important role within the selling process for defence companies”. The reality is that by organising and facilitating DSEi, Reed Elsevier and the British government are enabling international big business to profit financially from the death and suffering of millions and directly fuelling war and conflict around the world.
* For more see Campaign Against Arms Trade www.caat.org.uk
Go to www.schnews.org.uk/archive/news511.htm for the rest of this weeks issue.