AYLAN KURDI: 6 MONTHS ON

by Jess Howard

Last year, I wrote an article on what a photograph of a drowned Syrian toddler’s body being lifted from a beach in Turkey could tell us about the Syrian civil war. About how the common misconception that refugees are coming to western countries in order to receive benefits and take money from our governments was entirely incorrect, and how these photographs show us the risks these people are taking just to survive.

Aylan Kurdi, along with his brother Galip, mother Rihan and father Abdullah, were travelling from Syria to the Greek Island of Kos. Their goal was to eventually travel to Vancouver in Canada, where Abdullah’s sister Teema had lived for a number of years. However, during their journey to Kos the boat in which they were travelling capsized, and the two young boys and their mother subsequently drowned.

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THE EU REFERENDUM – WHAT IS BEING OFFERED TO US?

by George Laver

Amidst the giants of British politics, there is an ever-growing rift that threatens to split central parties in all directions. Even though the stereotypical dichotomy of the right-wing representing anti-EU camp – playfully dubbed ‘Brexit’ – and the left-wing representing the pro-EU camp tend to stand up to truth, there are subdivisions within the parties that make this a more complicated matter. In particular, the main figures on both sides having differed opinions over the matter.

For example, Prime Minister David Cameron has stated that he believes Britain should remain in the European Union (EU), whilst London Mayor Boris Johnson – an associate and old Eaton friend of Cameron’s – is thoroughly backing the ‘Brexit’ campaign. If anything, it shows that this point of contention can trigger big differences amongst the closest of allies. It is not just these individuals that we must consider, but also the collateral damage that their campaigning has: those who see their efforts will more often than not draw inspiration from them, casting an influence over their vote when the day arrives.Continue Reading

THE FINE ART OF WAR: PROFIT, DEATH AND THE GLOBAL ARMS INDUSTRY

by Gunnar Eigener 

“You must not fight too often with one enemy
or you will teach him all your art of war.”

                                                                                                              – Napoleon Bonaparte

Last week the European Parliament voted in favour of an EU embargo on selling arms to Saudi Arabia. Although non-binding, it remains nonetheless an interesting attitude taken by a trading block which in 2013 made €36 billion in arms export licenses. The attitude is not without reason however. Saudi Arabia has been involved in a conflict with Houthi rebels in Yemen for over a year resulting in bombings of a number of Medicines Sans Frontier hospitals, the deaths of thousands of civilians and the use of internationally outlawed cluster bombs. This embargo has come late in the day but it is still a positive action.

The UK Parliament’s International Development Committee has called for the UK to suspend arms sales to Saudi Arabia. Last year, the UK supplied almost £3 billion worth of arms to Saudi Arabia. British military forces have also been involved in training Saudi pilots who carried out airstrikes. These Saudi pilots were offered 100 Bentleys by a billionaire prince as a reward for their work. David Cameron has long been accused of secretly involving the UK in a war of which we should have no part but has rejected this suggestion during Prime Minister’s Questions.

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(Yemen after an airstrike © Hani Mohammed)

Needless to say, the rest of the government hasn’t displayed a progressive attitude. Hours after the vote, Minsters attended the ADS Group dinner at the Hilton. ADS is an industry trade body that represents defence and security industries. ADS members include BAE Systems, the builder of Eurofighter and Tornado jets, as well Raytheon UK which builds guided bombs. Saudi Arabia is the UK’s biggest customer for weapons so this is hardly surprising. Yet it is the blatant fashion in which ministers ignore the death tolls and the violence. Despite calls from Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch that there is a humanitarian disaster happening in Yemen, it appears that business comes first. Despite world conflicts consisting of nearly 90% civilian casualties, 40% of them children, there has yet to be a serious debate.

The arms industry is without morals; it has no conscience. The connections between this industry and the political establishment should be an embarrassment for a government that claims to care about human rights. As austerity measures hit the military – George Osborne ordered £1 billion worth of cuts last year – private companies are stepping in to fill the void. Weapons manufacturers are reaping the benefits, and there doesn’t seem to be a shortage of them which is no wonder considering the government support they receive.

Research carried out by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) for the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAP) found that approximately £700 million in government subsidies are provided to arms companies every year. Marketing and promotion support is provided by the Defence Export Services Organisation (DESO) and financing is given by the Export Credit Guarantee Department (ECGD). Support consists of military personnel being made available to help with bids and arranging visits with government ministers and officials. While making up 2% of exports, 50% of the work done by the ECGD covers the arms industry. The government insists on using British companies to supply its military, often at a greater cost.

Is this really how we want to be viewed by the rest of the world? Judged by our ability and readiness to put our war machine into motion?

Despite being a critic of Robert Mugabe’s government in Zimbabwe, the UK government still granted arms export licenses to Zimbabwe so as to protect the reputation of British arms firms. Arms also continue to be sold to countries which continuously violate human rights like Qatar, Bahrain and others in Africa.

How long will our government continue to act in this way? The EU vote is unlikely to stem the tide of weapons flooding wars zones and creating new conflicts. Our politicians should surely be held accountable for their questionable actions. The arms industry is not a financial advantage for our economy, only employing approximately 90,000 people yet costing over £700 million in subsidies with jobs regularly going abroad. Arms industry experts often attend government officials foreign trips to boost their business.

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(War Heads © Polyp)

Is this really how we want to be viewed by the rest of the world? Judged by our ability and readiness to put our war machine into motion? As usual, the establishment carries on with its corporate duties, denying care and assistance to its own people whilst willingly piling onto a bloated, soulless industry that couldn’t care less about who its products affect. War is a business, that much is obvious but it has successfully entangled itself with those who control the purse strings. The rate at which arms firms line their pockets with taxpayers money and profit from predominantly killing civilians in any number of despicable ways is a stain on every country that participates in this business.

Two ex-defence Secretaries, Geoff Hoon and John Ried, have gone on to hold prominent positions in arms firms. Former junior military minster Ann Taylor left for Thales at the end of 2010. Admiral Sir Alan West, former First Sea Lord, ended up at QinetiQ’s Defence Advisory Board. The list goes on but you get the message. The people who are entrusted with this countries safety and prosperity use the government and military as a springboard to better paydays. And we, the taxpayer, have funded their journey. President Dwight Eisenhower’s warning in 1961 is coming true.

“In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.”

See also: https://www.caat.org.uk/issues/influence

Featured Image © Polyp

THE SMART CRUNCH

by Andrew McArthur

The world looks on with bated breath as the FBI and Apple discuss the access rights to the iPhone belonging to the San Bernardino killer Syed Farook.  But the world isn’t interested in the injustice of another American killer being granted his rights to privacy, despite the lives he ruined.

If the FBI is granted access rights to Farook’s device, the integrity of smart technology would suddenly be thrown into question. If you follow the work of Julian Assange and Edward Snowden, then it becomes clear that the security of most electronic communications has been compromised for a long time.Continue Reading

#STANDWITHJNU AND ITS RIPPLE EFFECTS

by Kunal Chattopadhyay

Seldom has an incident in an Indian University received so much international coverage and solidarity as the ongoing confrontation in Jawaharlal Nehru University. 450 scholars, among who were names like Noam Chomsky and Gilbert Achcar, as well as JNU alumni, signed a statement. 358 academics from Universities across California issued a letter in which they condemned the harassment of students for their political beliefs. The letter called the police crackdown on the students an “alibi for the incursion of an authoritarian regime onto the university campus”. Oxford University and the University of Chicago among others have sent in their support. Within India, solidarity actions developed in Delhi, Chennai, and various academic institutions, including notably Jadavpur University in Kolkata. And there have also been massive, unrelenting state and rightwing attacks, including physical violence.Continue Reading

THE EASTER RISING: ‘WE SERVE NEITHER KING NOR KAISER’

by John Sillett

Ireland was Britain’s first colony and British imperialism has done all it can to hang on to it. The Easter Rising of April 24th1916 followed a long history of the Irish seeking to be a free nation through armed rebellion. However the 1916 rising, although a failure in itself, had distinct traits that previous rebellions did not have.

The method of subjugation of Ireland by the British was Landlordism and the use of planters — the bringing in of English and Scottish Protestant settlers to work the land in what was a Catholic country. Surpluses from the country estates were sent to absentee landlords in Britain. Attempts before 1916 to free the country from foreign rule rested on a leadership by the Irish gentry and middle class traders and farmers. This nascent native ruling class — which also included settlers who had assimilated into Irish culture — proved unable to lead a decisive struggle for national liberty.Continue Reading

BANNING THE BOYCOTT OF ISRAELI GOODS?

By Gunnar Eigener

The UK Government’s decision to prevent local authorities and public-sector organisations from boycotting Israeli suppliers has been widely criticised. The British Cabinet Office stated that such boycotts ‘undermine good community relations, poisoning and polarising debate, weakening integration and fuelling anti-Semitism’. In an opening speech to a visiting UK trade delegation, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said: ‘I want to commend the British government for refusing to discriminate against Israel and Israelis and I commend you for standing up for the one and only true democracy in the Middle East’.

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