Arms for sale, limbs for repair

With governments such as our own determined to pursue military adventures around the world, the arms trade remains big business. And despite a supposedly softer focus on “force protection” rather than offensive weaponry at this year’s DSEi, there is no mistaking the fact that the industry’s end product is death. If cabinets full of guns, grenades and armour-piercing ordnance do not make this sufficiently clear, marketing is there to fill in the gaps. Lockheed Martin is promoting its bid to upgrade the British army’s Warrior armoured vehicle by talking up its “greatly enhanced lethality”, while one of the Pakistani companies present is selling a new automatic firing system on its “increased kill probability”.

Even the innocent-looking stands harbour secrets. Caterpillar’s smart display of its military diesel engines gives no indication that the company has been singled out by the UN for complicity in Israel’s violation of Palestinians’ human rights. Similar concerns apply to the eight Israeli companies exhibiting at this year’s fair. Campaigners have long complained that Israeli weapons technology has been developed in Palestine, Lebanon and other conflicts where many of its victims have been civilians, and indeed the equipment on the Rafael stand is proudly labelled “combat proven”. When the promotional video for the Cardom 120mm mortar boasts of its “superior lethality” and shows Israeli soldiers firing it at the rate of 16 rounds a minute, it is hard to keep recent history out of one’s mind. [my emphasis]


The military historian John Keegan noted in The Face of Battle that although “[w]eapons have never been kind to human flesh, but the directing principle behind their design has usually not been that of maximizing the pain and damage they can cause. Before the invention of explosives, the limits of muscle power in itself constrained their hurtfulness; but even for some time thereafter moral inhibitions, fuelled by a sense of the unfairness of adding mechanical and chemical increments to man’s power to hurt hs brother, served to restrain deliberate barbarities of design. Some of these inhibitions — against the use of poison gas and explosive bullets — were codified and given international force[; b]ut the rise of ‘thing-killing’ as opposed to man-killing weapons — heavy artillery is an example — which by their side-effects influcted gross sufferring and disfigurement, invalidated these restraints. As a result restraints were cast to the winds, and it is now a desired effect of many man-killing weapons that they inflict wounds as terrible and terrifying as possible […] Military surgeons, so successful over the past century in resuscitating wounded soilders and repairing wounds of growing severity, have thus now to meet a challenge of wounding agents deliberately conceived to defeat their skills.” [John Keegan, The Face of Battle: A Study of Agincourt, Waterloo, and the Somme, Penguin, 1983; my emphasis.]

So much for Progress.

Britain’s £20bn arms deal with Saudi
Indonesia (world’s most populous Muslim country) and Russia come closer together


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