Adonis Diaries

The Lords of premature death: International Accredited Arms dealers

Posted on: December 16, 2011

The Lords of premature death:  International Accredited Arms dealers

The industry of military weapons and the monopoly of the few to export weapons is hard-wired for corruption: Very small number of people decide, under the veil of secrecy, on multibillion dollar contracts, and transactions are negotiated within the stigma of  “national security“.  Show me who makes a profit from war, and I’ll show you how to stop the war. Henry Ford, US industrialist (1863-1947)

The manufacture of and trade in weapons is a business that accounts for $1.6 trillion in 2010 alone: $235 for every person on the planet.

It accounts for almost 40% of corruption in world trade. The formal, large government-to-government deals, and illicit or black market trade, are tightly connected and function on the basis of collusion among politicians, intelligence operatives, listed corporations, bankers, money laundered mafia, go-between and common criminals.

This shadow world of money, corruption, deceit and death operates according to its own rules, largely non scrutinized, bringing enormous benefits to a chosen few and misery to millions. There is a high correlation that this arms trade corrodes democracies (in developed and nascent States), weakens already fragile States and frequently undermines the national security objectives.

Andrew Feinstein wrote (with minor editing):

“I experienced this first hand as an ANC Member of Parliament in South Africa’s nascent democracy. At the time, President Thabo Mbeki claimed we did not have the resources to provide life-saving medication to the over five million people living with HIV/AIDS.  We did spend $10 billion on weapons we didn’t need and barely use today. About $300 million in bribes were paid to senior politicians, officials, go-between and the ANC itself.

Greased palms

To cover up this corruption the ANC leadership shook the very institutions of democracy they had courageously fought to bring about. Parliament was turned into a rubber stamp. I was thrown off the committee I ran, and eventually was forced to leave Parliament: The ANC majority voted down any meaningful enquiry into the arms deal.

The two key anti-corruption investigative bodies were closed down: Inspectors were told who and what they could and could not investigate, and prosecuting authorities directed as to who to charge. If you were involved in the corruption and a political danger to President Mbeki, you were charged. If, however, you were knee-deep in corruption but an ally of the President, you were not even investigated.

The British company BAE Systems contributed $180 million of the bribes and received the biggest contract, even though the jet it sold had not made an initial shortlist and was two and a half times more expensive than the plane desired by the air force.

The Defence Minister at the time, a major recipient of bribes, decided to exclude cost as a criterion on this single biggest contract that democratic South Africa had ever signed. Only 11 of the 24 jets have ever been operational.

In the five and a half years after the deal was signed, 355,000 South Africans died of avoidable and curable deaths as a result of the government’s refusal to provide anti-retroviral drugs through the public health system. South Africa could have built close to 2 million houses with the money spent on the weapons, or created 100,000 low-skill jobs a year for 10 years in a country with a formal unemployment rate of close to 30%.

According to the country’s Deputy, President Kgalema Motlanthe, corruption is now pervasive throughout the ruling party and at all levels of government. Its roots are to be found in the arms deal and its cover-up, the point at which the ANC lost its moral compass.

Accounting irregularities?  You mean bribe deals?

The British Serious Fraud Office (SFO), after an extensive investigation into six cases of corrupt arms deals, first sought to prosecute BAE, but then settled with the company which was obliged to admit only to minor accounting irregularities and pay a fine of £500,000 (about $781,000). A few months later, in a settlement with the US government, BAE admitted that it had paid unauthorized commissions (what you and I understand as bribes) on these deals. The company was fined almost half a billion dollars, a miniscule percentage of what it had made on the deals, and allowed to continue its activities.

A few years earlier, under political pressure from Tony Blair, the SFO had closed down an investigation into BAE in relation to the world’s biggest ever arms deal. According to police, BAE paid over £6 billion ($9.37 billion) in bribes on the Al Yamamah’s deal with the autocratic, (absolute monarchy and Wahhabi obscurantist sect) State of Saudi Arabia. No-one has ever been charged with wrongdoing.

Governments protect their country’s arms companies from meaningful scrutiny and the legal implications of their symbiotic relationship behaviors. There is regular movement of senior people between jobs in governments, intelligence agencies and arms companies. The companies are seen not only as key components of their country’s manufacturing sectors but also as crucial to national defence, foreign policy and intelligence gathering.

In the post 9/11 world, with its emphasis on national security, it has become increasingly difficult to criticize these assumptions (national defence, foreign policy and intelligence gathering against “terrorists”).

Sure weapon industry create a few jobs: for the cost of every job generated in the industry, about 7 jobs could be created in other sectors such as health, clean energy and education.

Lift the veil

During these economically difficult times, in which millions are losing their jobs and the public sector is being stripped bare, the weapons business displays few signs of belt-tightening.

The US spends almost as much as the rest of the world combined on defense.

The US  is pressing ahead with the production the F-35, a jet fighter which will cost its taxpayers at least $380 billion and which, in the words of a former Pentagon aerospace designer, is “a total piece of crap“.

The time has come to lift the veil on this shadow world, to demand that our taxes are not used to develop another deadly weapon for the material benefit of a tiny self-serving élite. Politicians vote slavishly for them because they receive massive political campaign contributions and promote arms industry on the ground that it creates jobs!

The arms business, which fuels and perpetuates conflicts around the world, is less regulated and scrutinized than other ‘harmful’ industries such as tobacco and alcohol. Shouldn’t the manufacture and trade of arms be subjected to great degree of regulation, transparency and accountability?” End of quote

France and England decided to remove Gadhafi because two years ago, Gadhafi exclusively purchased weapon systems from Russia: That was his deadly grave mistake, getting senile in later years? Actually, France and England had already detailed war plans before the Arab uprising started in Tunisia.  Russia will not let France and England militarily crush the Syrian regime so that it preserves its lucrative arms deal and its only military port in the Mediterranean Sea.

It is reported that England PM whispered in the ear of the visiting Bahrain monarch to send a smokescreen human rights gesture so that England will enjoy a political cover for the lucrative arm deal that Bahrain is tendering.

The petro-dollars monarchies in Saudi Arabia and Arab Gulf Emirate States will always receive political cover from the US, France, and England because they are ever ready to part with a specific ratio of its oil revenue to purchasing redundant weapon systems that they will never use, and will never be trained to use.  All these sophisticated useless weapons are in fact stored in US, France, and British military bases for “emergency” war supplies in preemptive wars around the globe.

The time has come to lift the veil on this shadow world, to demand that our taxes are not used to develop another deadly weapon for the material benefit of a tiny self-serving élite, but are rather employed to enhance the lives of those who go hungry, who are without work or who suffer the deadly consequences of the trade in arms.

Note: Andrew Feinstein published The Shadow World: Inside the Global Arms Trade (2011, He is a campaigner and co-founder of Corruption Watch.

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December 2011

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