Posts Tagged ‘Gadaffi’

Former South African MP Andrew Feinstein on Global Arms Trade

January 2, 2016

I received this fascinating comment from Michelle Thomasson on my last post, in which I put up a meme about how the banks, businesses and governments profit from war at the expense of the people, who actually have to live, fight and die through them. She writes

In November I helped host a discussion at the House of Commons on the Ethics (!!) of the UK Arms Trade, one of the speakers was Andrew Feinstein a politician in South Africa (he worked against apartheid), but in the last 10 years has undertaken very brave research re the shadow world of the arms trade, the information he relates in this short clip is hair-raising: https://youtu.be/2F6J4Xvdkuo

For a fuller speech from him and more on the hidden dynamics within politics, here is an extended speech from Andrew a couple of weeks later at Medact:

These clips are grim, but immensely informatiove in giving an overview into how immensely profitable, pernicious and massively corrupt the global arms trade is, and how that corruption infects government at the highest possible levels. The first clip is audio only, but still well worth listening to. The second is rather long at 27 minutes, and has video. They both cover much the same ground, though the second adds a few more details, including Feinstein’s own experience as a South African politician being thrown out of government because of his opposition to a massively corrupt arms deal cut by Thabo Mbeki.

Feinstein is South African, Jewish and a former ANC politician, serving his country in its parliament for seven years. After he was forced out of government by his country’s president, he started making a documentary, The Shadow World, which is both a book and a film, on the global arms trade. He states in these clips that Europe is experiencing its highest level of militarism in peacetime for seven years. This militarism is supported by the global arms trade. The global trade in arms is worth $1.5 trillion. The small arms trade is smaller and less profitable, but worth a whopping $8.5 billion. Nevertheless, it is responsible for tens or hundreds of thousands of violent deaths through the world. The United States is the leader in this trade by a massive margin. Its arms sales make up as much as the rest of the world combined. Other leading countries involved in the trade are Germany, Britain, Japan and a number of others. As many of these countries are on the UN security council, there is a general unwillingness and inability to hold the arms trade to account. And the main customer for British weapons is Saudi Arabia, despite that country’s appalling lack of human rights.

Feinstein goes on to state that arm dealing operates on a continuum between the legal to the illegal. In practice, all arms deals involve some kind of illegality. He describes his meeting with the 77 year old man, whose fellow arms dealers described as ‘the most dangerous man alive’. After failing to track him down, he eventually found him on Facebook. This man was an unreconstructed Nazi, who began his career aged 18 in an office run by a former Nazi officer in post-War Germany. At one point the man told Feinstein to his face that many of the world’s problems would have been solved, ‘if Hitler had been able to continue his work’. Feinstein states that he didn’t tell him that as well as being Jewish, his mother was a holocaust survivor.

Feinstein asked the dealer if his Nazi views ever presented a problem in this business. The man looked at him as if he was stupid, and pulled out from his wallet a stack of cards showing that he was an official in the American Department of Defense and in USAID, the American aid agency, for Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq and Liberia, amongst other nations. He also stated that UN arms embargoes were good for business. He describes them as practically dollar signs, as that means the dealers can charge more.

By and large the arms dealers operate above the law. The trade comprises 40% of all corruption cases worldwide, and 50% of American corruption cases. This corruption is not incidental, but built into the trade’s very structure. It is responsible for the erosion of democracy and state’s internal stability, as well as damaging to their citizens’ health, prosperity and wellbeing. The dealers owe their massive power to the revolving door between them, the arms manufacturers, government and the civil service. This door is so fast, that its changes are impossible to track. One of Feinstein’s media colleagues tried in the US, and gave up after 18 months. And just to show how seriously the Land of the Free treats peaceful negotiation compared to the trade, there are less US diplomats across the globe than personnel on a single US aircraft carrier.

The trade is critical in securing party funding. Hence it operates in a parallel legal universe. Of the 502 violations of UN arms trading laws, only two have resulted in any legal consequences. One of these was the massive al-Yamamah arms deal between Britain and Saudi Arabia, negotiated by Thatcher, which earned her and her disgusting progeny, Mark, a nice little kickback. Mark Thatcher, aka ‘Thickie Mork’, got his own private jet, painted in whatever colour or design the little so-and-so wanted. This was being paid for by the British taxpayer until 2007. Other notorious deals included Iran/Contra, in which the Americans supplied arms to the Islamic Revolutionary Regime in Tehran, and the Contras in Nicaragua. One of the worst aspects of the arms trade is that the weapons often end up in the wrong hands, or turned against the very western countries which sold them. For example, when America started bombing Gadaffi’s Libya in the last stages of the war, the gun installations they attacked were those they had previously sold them. And immediately after the revolutions in the Middle East during the Arab Spring, Dave Cameron was in the region, including Egypt, trying to sell the new governments arms.

Feinstein also describes the massive arms deal that saw him forced out of office. He was head of the oversight committee when Mbeki struck an arms deal worth $10 billion, as well as $300 million in bribes. He was thrown out, and the two anti-corruption agencies in South Africa closed down because he refused to drop the investigation into the deal. This was an arms deal encouraged by Tony Blair. Jacob Zuma, Mbeki’s successor, was also involved, but was let off. The judge who did so was appointed to the high court two weeks later.

Feinstein includes in the final part of his talk a discussion of how arms dealing harms countries’ medical provision for their peoples. At the same time Mbeki was making his deal, he announced that there was no money for the retroviral drugs to treat those suffering from HIV. As a result, 365,000 South Africans died of AIDS in five years, and tens of thousands of babies were unnecessarily born HIV positive. Feinstein concluded his speech by stating that we needed to work to close down the trade’s massive corruption, and make sure that what remained of it was highly regulated.

Watch and listen to his talk yourself, and be informed about how vile and pernicious the trade is. The parapolitics magazine, Lobster, also has numerous articles on the arms trade and Iran/Contra, as well as criticism of Tony Blair.

Cameron Wins Vote to Bomb Syria

December 3, 2015

Okay, Cameron’s finally got his way, and MPS have voted by something like a majority of 179 to bomb Syria. Mike and very many other bloggers, activists and journalists have repeatedly stated that this will not make Britain safe, or end the tyranny of ISIS in Syria. My fear is that it will only play into their hands. By killing civilians – innocent men, women and children, who just happen to live in the enclaves taken over by the Islamist State – we will just increase radicalisation by seeming to bear out ISIS’ claim that they are really the defenders of Muslims and Islam against Western aggression, while everything is the complete opposite.

Cameron has been so desperate to join the ten other countries in bombing Syria, that he libelled Corbyn, and the rest of the opponents of bombing, as ‘terrorist sympathisers’. This also includes the 65 or so members of his own party, who held fast to their opposition to Blairite wars and voted against it.

Mike’s written an excellent piece taking apart Cameron’s slander here, at http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2015/12/02/tis-the-season-to-be-jolly-cameron-insults-half-the-uk-slanders-mps-in-eagerness-to-bomb-syria/.

He also produced this little meme, showing how closely his rhetoric resembles the tactics used by Hermann Goering and the Nazis to whip up popular enthusiasm in Germany for war.

Goering War and Pacifism

Don’t be fooled by the rhetoric. This will not keep us safe, and it will be used by ISIS and their sympathisers to radicalise young and disaffected Muslims. The Iraq invasion was supposed to keep us safe from al-Qaeda. It has done everything but. The country has been seriously destabilised and is riven by sectarian fighting, out of which has come ISIS. And the Islamists have also used the war to promote themselves as Islam’s true defenders. Various radical Islamic groups have declared that the war was ‘a war on Islam’ or a ‘war on Muslims’.

This simply wasn’t true, except in the limited sense that it was supposed to be part of the war against al-Qaeda and Islamism, Islam as practiced and distorted by murderous fanatics. Even George Bush, who authorised and promoted it, denied that it was a war on Islam. Indeed, parts of the Christian Right in America were angry that Bush refused to let certain Christian charities and organisations in to help in the work of reconstruction, or to try to gain converts after the invasion.

Greg Palast in his book, Armed Madhouse, makes it very clear that the reasons were chiefly economic: the Libertarians wanted to create a free market utopia, where they could try out their stupid and fallacious ideas of transforming the country into a low tax, free trade zone. And the American and Saudi oil companies simply wanted to steal the country’s large oil reserves. There were also geopolitical considerations. Back in the 1990s, the Repugs in America and the Likud in Israel planned an invasion of Iraq to stop Saddam Hussein supplying arms and other aid to the Palestinians.

Unfortunately, the Islamist claim does have a kind of specious validity due to the very vocal support of some Republicans, who do seem to see it as part of a general campaign against Islam, and who make little difference between ordinary Muslims and violent extremists. You can bet that their words will be used in Islamist propaganda.

I can remember reading Akhthar’s article, Be Careful with Mohammed, back in the 1990s during the controversy over Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses. Akhthar was one of the leaders of the groups demanding the book’s suppression. The article is basically one long rant against Christianity, democracy, and western society in general. There were other pieces written by Muslims explaining why they found it offensive and arguing for its banning, which took a much more conciliatory approach to wider, non-Muslim society. Akhthar’s book wasn’t one of them. At the end was a short appendix with the title, ‘What Western Intellectuals Think About Islam’. This consisted of a series of quotes from leading western intellectual figures criticising or denouncing Islam. These were presented in isolation, and without any context. They were deliberately included to try and persuade his readers that western society and its leaders uniformly despised Islam, and that they should stop listening to them and support him and his clique as the Prophet’s righteous defenders.

From what I remember of the quotes, some of them were probably responses to atrocities committed in the name of Islam by terrorist groups or despotic states like Gadaffi’s Libya or Iran. Or Saudi Arabia. Regardless of their original context, Akhthar cited them purely for his own political, radical Islamic agenda. Now I don’t recall Akhthar himself demanding Muslims take part in a terror campaign. He was simply trying to make his Muslim audience hate non-Muslim, mainstream British society, and create further alienation and disaffection. I think it’s because of this, and similar radical Islamic propaganda, that the term ‘Islamism’ was devised: to make a distinction between Islam and the terrorists. This was to protect ordinary Muslims on the one hand, and prevent the words uttered by politicians and other public figures on the other being twisted to add specious verisimilitude to the Islamists’ own propaganda. The anti-Islamic Right have also criticised Western intellectuals and political leaders for not criticising or denouncing Islam in the wake of successive terrorist attacks, as they do not share the belief that there is a difference between Islam and Islamism. Indeed, they are extremely critical of the use of the term, and the promotion of the distinction between the two.

Unfortunately, even such linguistic delicacy has not prevented the growth of Islamist terror, intolerance and murder. Part of the reasons for the growth has been the continued military campaigns by the West in Iraq and the Middle East. I am not saying by any means that we should not strike back against ISIS with our armed forces. I am saying that we need to be extremely careful to avoid playing into their hands. And I’m afraid that Cameron and the supporters of the bombing campaign against Syria have just done so.