The events in the Middle East and north Africa have highlighted that the governments who have ignored human rights issues to support and sell arms to authoritarian regimes are not only hypocritical and immoral, but also short-sighted in terms of /realpolitik/. Politicians squirm yet remained shameless when pressed on shameful dealings in the not-so-distant past.
Our criticisms of the arms traders and war profiteers are not based on hindsight. Authoritarianism and repression are not the way to stability, and certainly not to justice. At times like this, when the lethal stupidity of this death-dealing business stands exposed, campaigns against the arms trade and war profiteering more generally have a real opportunity.
Remembering the fourth of Saul Alinsky's Rules for Radicals - "make your opponent live up to their own book of rules" - one step is to insist that governments abide by the declarations they have signed. Many governments have signed up to international conventions on the arms trade, and the importance of applying human rights standards, which they disregard the instant these come into conflict with what they see as their country's economic interests. The trade with Libya is a very clear example, as shown in Jordi Calvo's article. That kind of hypocrisy might seem newsworthy today, but today is too late. The arms trade needs perpetual monitoring backed up durable campaigns of pressure. The sign "Danger! Human Rights Violations" needs to be posted at every arms fair - like the recent ones in Bangalore, India and Abu Dhabi. We need to build powerful coalitions which include both those oppose arms production in their own country and those who have experienced how these arms are used.
And yet ... that will not be enough.
As we see the lengths to which businesses and governments are willing to go to circumvent the restrictions they themselves have agreed, it is hard not to conclude that as long as there is arms trade, arms will always reach "dangerous" destinations. The only way to guarantee that this doesn't happen is to strive to stop all arms production and exports. Yes, call me utopian, but actually I am being rather realistic, there is no way we can have a "secured arms industry".
Recent events have also shown the importance of linking with the civil society of the countries where weapons are being used. WRI's support of Egyptian conscientious objectors is a step in that direction. Bringing together campaigners against war profiteers from all over the world to form working alliances is one of the aims of WRI's work against war profiteering. As part of this effort, WRI has teamed up with the European Network Against Arms Trade to organise a crucial International Seminar, titled: "War Profiteering and Peace Movement Responses" which will be hosted by Justícia i Pau (Centre Delàs) and Fundació per la Pau in Barcelona between 30 September and 2 October. If you agree on the need for a global network against war profiteering, please join us in Barcelona!
The War Profiteer of the Month deserves a special mention. For the first time we are not focusing on a specific company but on an economic project that will affect the livelihood of the people of West Papua. I would like to thank Rosa Moiwend who contributed to this issue.