Since Turkey’s aggressive offensive against Rojava, an area of North Eastern Syria, began early in October 2019, at least 160,000 Syrians have fled their homes. A BBC report from the 17th October states that airstrikes and ground attacks have killed civilians on both sides of the Turkey / Syria border and quotes a UNICEF estimate that 70,000 children have already been displaced. This is a tragedy for the Kurdish citizens of Rojava, as well as the broader Middle East, given what the Rojava political project represented.
It’s been over a week since Turkey launched a fresh military offensive targeting Kurdish forces in northeast Syria. The death toll in Rojava is rising, and an exodus of civilians from the area has already reached a mass scale. Conflict in Syria thus deepens, becoming ever more complex, with the Syrian regime armed forces now reported to have moved into Kurdish controlled Manbij in order to counter the Turkish invasion. But what has sparked this new wave of insurgency? What role does the US have? What are the Kurds fighting for? And what significance does this have for the wider global justice movement?
by Lotty Clare
The environmental and climatic impacts of war and conflict have long been silent causalities. Environmental implications throughout the timelines of conflict are huge. From deforestation, mining for metals, use of chemical weapons, ‘scorched’ earth tactics, plunder of resources, and collapse of environmental management systems. Natural resources can cause war, fuel war, and be destroyed by war.
We’ve all seen the headlines – tripled tuition fees, retroactive changes to the student loan book, the nefarious uses of the National Student Survey. Often treated as isolated issues, these policies are in reality the foot soldiers in a war being waged to undermine the very foundations of our universities, twisting them from hallowed halls of challenge and transformation into bland centres for corporate training and indoctrination. This spectre haunts academics, senior managers and even Students’ Unions alike, forcing them all to dance to the mantra of the market, to the profit agenda. This spectre’s name is capitalism.
With negotiations for Brexit to be finally executed come March 2017, as announced by Theresa May last week, a burning question yet to be properly tackled by the Conservative Party is: what exactly is their overarching plan to ensure future economic sustainability and prosperity for the country? Now that a major source of economic strength has been cut off (read: migrants), a fully laid-out plan to outline Britain’s steps towards continued economic growth in their absence has yet to be tabled.
“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.
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.
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
We keep reading news reports on the Islamic State, immigration from Syria and all-round growing Islamophobia that we often forget that there are other real, everyday problems affecting Muslim countries that are very easy to overlook. The increasing trend in focusing on much broader, impersonal issues by the international media has a tendency to de-humanise Muslims altogether, making it easy to forget that they too face ordinary problems, which often have nothing to do with the abovementioned huge issues.
In an increasingly globalised world, it is inevitable to encounter people from families who have settled in host nations with customs and norms that are different from their own. Coping with this culture clash and confusion of identities is therefore an increasingly common complaint, albeit one that is not always raised publicly. For example, Arabs who have been raised in the West not only have to endure daily Islamophobia (whether they are actually Muslims or not — other religions in the Middle East also include Christianity, Judaism, Baha’i, Druze, Yazidism and Zoroastrianism), they also have to deal with the inevitable clash of East meets West.
When soldiers go to war, they face a grave peril. On the battlefield they face a danger that most of us back at home have no comprehension of. If we follow the logic of the Government regarding their policy of airstrikes in Syria, it is likely that boots on the ground may very well become part of the military intervention to defeat Daesh. Once again, young men and women will be asked to put their lives on the line for their country and for democracy. Irrespective of your view on a particular military venture, such men and women deserve our respect, but should our government really be sending our armed forces into war yet again, if they aren’t able to uphold their promises to look after them and guarantee their welfare when they come home?
“The State shall protect human rights in accordance with the Sharia”
Article 26, The Basic Law of Governance, Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia have been let onto the UN Human Rights Council. Who thought this would be a good idea? Well, apparently the UK and US governments do. The US State Department welcomed the news, while the recently exposed deal between the UK and Saudi Arabia leaves us with little doubt over how the government feels about this appointment. David Cameron’s inability to justify the secretive deal in an interview with Jon Snow shows just how hollow any beliefs he proclaims to have in defending human rights are.
Saturday 18 July, 2pm – 5pm. Friends Meeting House Committee Room, Upper Goat Lane, Norwich NR2 1EW.
This September, the world’s weapons industry plans to arrive in London for a huge arms fair: Defence & Security Equipment International (DSEI). The results of DSEI are felt around the world as people are killed, economies are devastated, refugees are traumatised and peaceful protest is crushed.