Abdul Sattar Dec 19, 2017|
The lucrative business of death and destruction is witnessing a huge profit with the rise of new wars, conflicts and tension between nations. According to a new report by Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), arms sales are increasing around the world. The report claims that the main beneficiaries of this are armaments groups in the US and Western Europe – although, Russia and non-Western countries have also benefitted from this thriving business of insane killings, ruthless maiming and outright devastation.
According to the report, the global trade in arms and military services increased again in 2016, for the first time in five years. It was up 1.9 percent the previous year, and 38 percent compared to 2002. It says that in 2016 the world’s 100 biggest armaments groups sold $374.8 billion worth of weapons and weapons systems. The biggest champion of peace in the world – the United States – produced and sold more arms than any other country on earth. The sales of companies from the US rose four percent in 2016, totalling $217.2 billion. The American military’s deployment abroad and the purchase of large weapons systems by other countries contributed to this huge figure. Lockheed Martin – the biggest weapons producer worldwide – did lucrative business selling its new F-35 to countries like Britain, Italy and Norway. Its biggest customer, though, is the United States Air Force.
Even pacifist India and peace-loving Japan did not hesitate in grabbing their share in this business – 1.6 percent and 2.2 percent, respectively. The share of the US was 57.9 percent, UK 9.6, Russia 7.1, France 5.0, Italy 2.7, Germany 1.6, other European companies 4.2, South Korea 2.2, Israel 2.1 and others 3.7. It is a worrying trend that even small countries are entering the race of selling arms. And all this of course requires more tension, conflicts, wars and civil wars across the world so that their arms can be sold.
A number of rights groups are already furious over the ways arms companies operate. They accuse such companies of violating the international laws and norms related to the arms trade. Campaigners against arms sales say that after more than 20 years of campaigning by Amnesty International and partner NGOs in the Control Arms Coalition, the UN General Assembly voted decisively to adopt the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) in April 2013, which entered into force on December 24, 2014. The treaty set out, for the first time, prohibitions to stop the international transfer of weapons, munitions and related items when it is known that they would be used to commit or facilitate genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes. But, despite all that, such transfers remained unabated.
For instance Saudi Arabia, which has been accused of violating human rights both inside the country and against the war-torn peoples of Yemen, was showered with arms deals by the US and the UK. The US reportedly struck various deals worth over $300 billion. In May this year, the US announced $110 billion worth of potential arms sales to Saudi Arabia. Right activists claim these sales included $4.6 billion worth of guided air-to-ground munitions – a total of 104,000 bombs of the type that have been used routinely in the Yemen war. The UK has also approved exports of licences worth over GBP3.7 billion to Saudi Arabia since the beginning of the most recent conflict in Yemen.
This clearly indicates that, as the number of human corpses and the spectre of war or conflict rise, so does the margin of profit of these arms companies. For instance, during the height of the cold war in the 1980s, global military spending was around $1000 billion. It witnessed a downward spiral in the mid-1990s because of the demise of the USSR in 1991. But new conflicts and the war on terrorism led to a drastic rise in arms sale. The US alone spent around three trillion dollars in the wars of Afghanistan and Iraq. The insurgency in Iraq, the rise of Islamic militant groups in Syria, the invasion of Yemen by Saudi Arabia, the tension between Iran and the Arab states and the encirclement of Qatar by Saudi Arabia, UAE and some other states provided a myriad of opportunities to the merchants of death for wreaking havoc in the Middle East and other parts of the world by arming warring states and groups.
The result is obvious. Only in the last five years, the Gulf States have massively increased their imports of major conventional weapons. Saudi Arabia has imported 212 percent more than the previous five years, the UAE up 63 percent, Qatar up 245 percent and Kuwait 175 percent.
What did the region and the world gain out of this trade of death and destruction? According to Amnesty International, around 2,238,326 people have been killed in armed conflicts since the end of the cold war – with over 100,000 in 2016 alone. Iraq and Afghanistan already stand in ruin. Syria has been devastated; more than six million people of the country are living as refugees. Damascus has also lost billions of dollars in the Islamist insurgency allegedly backed by Western powers and their Middle-Eastern allies. Yemen is witnessing a humanitarian catastrophe, its people starving and facing death and disease. The aggregate economic and financial cost of violence in 2016 only was estimated to be $14.3 trillion, or 12.6 percent of the global economy. This is the figure of one year only. Imagine how much would we have lost in the more than 280 wars, conflicts and civil wars since the end of the Second World War.
This is not the time to just hold conferences on disarmament. The international community must take prompt action to thwart the spread and sale of lethal arms – both conventional and non-conventional. Since the Western world is the biggest manufacturer and supplier of these arms, a massive revolt of the people against this business is needed in the civilised world. Remember: it was not only the resilience of the Vietnamese but the powerful resistance inside the US that ended the war. This is what the world needs: a powerful resistance to this trade both in the US and in Europe.
The writer is a freelance journalist.