‘Lassie’s trying to tell us something… what is it girl?’

7 08 2007

The arms trade export laws are insufficiently enforced? Uh huh. Government must plug the holes in arms exports? Okay. You’ve been barking for years and someone really, really, really needs to do something about this? Awh, how cute!

When the Quadripartite Committee barks, that Lassie-like Commons watchdog ends up with little more than a pat on the head. Poor mutts. They’ve been barking (far too?) politely on this issue for years.

Committee chairman Roger Berry [2007]: ‘In serious cases it can be very difficult to obtain evidence from abroad to put before the British courts and those cases that go to court can result in fines worth only a fraction of the goods seized. The enforcement arrangements lack a strong deterrent.’

Committee chairman Roger Berry [2003]: ‘Failure to control all arms trafficking and brokering by UK citizens means that British-sold weapons will continue to end up being used to slaughter civilians, violate basic human rights and destroy lives in conflicts across the world. Our committee urged the government to tighten up the Act. Tragically, they appear to have… brushed aside our concerns.’

Again in 2004, it censured the government over its performance in regulating arms exporters… and again it was effectively ignored.

But these are accusations of really meaty corruption. Surely Mr Berry can’t mean the kind of ethical government that commits to this? Oh no, he means the kind of duplicitous government that instead does this.

So with a strong track record of ignoring Parliament, why would government listen now?

Quite simply, it won’t. The obstinacy is astonishing. It’s kind of pantomime-ish. The BBC and Guardian says oh-yes-you-did. Lord Goldsmith says oh-no-we-didn’t.

Is your Parliamentarian sufficiently interested in this? In terms of NI representatives, I see only the names of SDLP members backing this EDM. Given that Raytheon is an employer in his constituency, I think Mark Durkan deserves praise.

But for anyone interested, and considerably frustrated with toothless Westminster committees, there’s always the campaign route.

It’s not just the return of foot-and-mouth that reminds you just how quickly the news cycle can boomerang back in your face again. It happens a lot when you factor in a cynical government-backed business model that repeatedly refuses to learn from some pretty mendacious decision-making. Sort of like a Groundhog Day that doesn’t get further than the Bill Murray suicide scenes.

Oh, and while we’re on arms, take a Russia that didn’t learn from its past and you’ve got apocalypse on a loop. Which is nice.

So what’s needed? Less polite barking and more savaging of Prime Ministerial trouser legs by committees and MPs. And perhaps even all the recommendations of Lassie’s report could be implemented by government.

If the Quadripartite Committee releases another similar report in another four years time it will represent the most dire criminal failure. The result of all this inaction is loss of life – largely its military juntas with a flexibile approach to human rights that get tooled up with British-made weapons.

Someone can take responsibility now or The Hague must make someone amenable later.

(*Hint*In both instances, I’m thinking of you Gordon.*Hint*)

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2 responses

9 08 2007
Brian Crowe

Welcome back Bob. In an insecure world, with plenty of wackos about, the arms industry is necessary. Decent regulation that prevents governing wackos from getting hardware to turn on innocent civilians is, however, only common sense. I’m hoping that some well-paid PR consultant for the arms lobby knows something about corporate social responsibility and is encouraging the industry to support realistic regulation.

Avoiding a silly ‘the arms industry is evil’ approach is obviously necessary – the UN peacekeepers heading to Darfur aren’t going carrying flowers. They are going with hardware to stop the wackos with hardware.

I guess most of us know that instinctively – and instinctively know that giving helicopter gunships to governments who don’t mind razing villages is not what we should be about.

10 08 2007
Bob

Ah, Dr Crowe. Yes, plenty of wackos. Loads of wackos. Most of them armed by us unfortunately. Bill Hicks (*bows head, stares skywards at new star in the distance*) once said that the US knew Saddam had weapons of mass destruction because they simply re-examined the credit card receipts.

Yes all those thousands of jobs in key marginal constituencies at stake with an election on the horizon as well. Some people are getting carried away – Liam Fox all but called for the reintroduction of Atlantic convoys last month. http://www.theyworkforyou.com/debates/?id=2007-07-25a.865.0

People feel fearful and insecure over the intense violence in the world right now. Not sure that throwing more weapons and more arms industry at the problem is altogether the right idea.

Does the missile defence shield make you feel more secure? If we lived in Kaliningrad would the testing of Russia’s new intercontinental ballistic missile make me feel more secure?

Never quite put you in the ‘outta mah cold dehd hands’ side of the house but if it’s good enough for Moses (Charlton Heston) then who am I to judge?

‘UN peacekeepers heading to Darfur aren’t going carrying flowers’. Nope, but the expensive and terrifying weaponry they humped about Rawanda and the Balkans proved just as effective as a viciously well-aimed bunch of flowers. Wonder though, would it be necessary to send blue hats out there if there weren’t so many nice new AK47s knocking about?

‘helicopter gunships to governments who don’t mind razing villages is not what we should be about.’

Yes, but this sort of thing has the strangest habit of recurring. There’s no prospect of arms industries being properly regulated in the absence of serious deterrents. Slinging a complicit Prime Minister or two into The Hague would grab attention. Unlikely, but I’m just sowing seeds here. Mighty oaks, little acorns.

On the other hand though, if the arms lobby was looking to pay a PR consultant well to know something about corporate social responsibility and encouraging the industry to support realistic regulation then… ‘outta mah cold dehd hands gawddammit’!

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