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January 2, 2022

Here’s something we need to talk about and happy New Year

When you think of your hopes and aspirations for the new year, do you think of the international weapons industry?  No, probably not, it’s far away from our awareness but nevertheless it’s one of the biggest, most impactful and most lucrative industries going on in the world ($531 billion in 2020) and growing at a steady rate.  It’s also one of the most devious, dangerous and corrupt industries of all the industries we’ve created.

So why talk about Happy New Year and the international weapons trade?  Well it started off when I read this article about President Emmanuel Macron of France.  He recently made a state visit to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabia, two of the super rich countries in the Persian Gulf.  He was peddling weapons.

He signed a contract with Mohamed bin Zayed for 80 Rafale fighter jets and 12 Super Puma helicopters. Mohamed is the Deputy Supreme Commander of the United Arab Emirates Armed Forces and the crown prince of Abu Dhabi (the main city of the Emirates). The deal was worth $19 billion.

Speaking to reporters later, Macron mentioned how they are important contracts for the deepening defense cooperation between France and the UAE and that they will contribute to the stability of the region and enhance a common fight against terrorism.

Alright, let’s talk about terrorism.  First of all, isn’t it the big high powered weapons that are causing the terrorism?  That’s how it seems to me.  And second of all, why do you need a Rafale jet that travels at 1200 mph to kill a terrorist.  If you need a Rafale that goes 1200 mph then it’s probably because somebody sold those guys some high dollar weapons to shoot down your 1200 mph high powered jet. Good for the weapons business, that’s for sure. Shooting down and shooting are their bread and butter.

Anyways, Macron pulled off the largest ever overseas sale of French warplanes and it was sweet revenge having lost out on a 66 billion dollar contract with Australia to build submarines. America swooped in at the last minute and stole that deal. Our nuclear submarines are way better anyways said the US not like those noisy old diesel subs the French build.

Macron signed the deal with bin Zayed and then headed on over to Saudi Arabia to hook up with Mohammed bin Salman, the Crown Prince there. He might want some Rafales too or some missiles or something. They’ve got their dirty little war going on in Yemen, where thousands have been killed.  377,000 according to the UN, 223,000 from indirect causes like famine and disease.  It’s a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Just like America used to do in Central America back in the 80’s. Reagan’s dirty wars. All the innocent people getting killed while the big countries jockey for position.

It’s not just France – all the big countries do it. The United States is the overall big money winner of the weapons sweepstakes. Out of the 531 billion dollars worth of weapons sold, 285 billion was sold by American companies, according to a Dec. 6, 2021 account by SIPRI. That means that over half of the international weapons trade is by the U.S.  Well there’s one thing we can do good.  Heck we invented the nuclear bomb.  You can put one of those on cruise missile, load it on a Rafale and deliver it to pert nearly anyplace on earth.  They fly low to the ground and sneak up on you.  Before you know it your city is gone.  Might as well launch now.  What the hell?

Ok, that’s a doomsday scenario, a little closer to home is the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs report that, “The ready availability of weapons and ammunition leads to human suffering, political repression, crime and terror among civilian populations.” They go on to say, “Countries affected by conflict or pervasive crime have the most difficulty attaining internationally agreed development goals.” Well there you have it. The cause of failed countries? Violence and the ready availability of weapons.

Weapons manufacturing and sales is not only a giant industry, it’s government policy and high level diplomacy.

Macron was feeding his defense industries at home while at the same time signaling a closer bond with the Gulf states. The French already have a military base in Abu Dhabi. They’re a player. And that’s important in international relations. One of the best ways to buddy up with another country is to sell them weapons.

“The Rafale will give the UAE a tool capable of guaranteeing sovereignty and operational independence.” says Dassault the manufacturer. ‘Sovereignty and operational independence’ – code words for ‘you can stay in power and influence other countries with these’. It’s a status symbol. ‘Hey look what I got, a Rafale. Yeah, eighty of them. With bombs. You want a ride in my helicopter?’

Industries get rich building weapons and selling them to other countries or groups so they can have their war. People get killed and people get displaced because somebody wants to have a war. And because they’ve got a bunch of crazy weapons, probably paid for by robbing the national treasury of some poor country that they’re trying to dominate.

Happy New Years and know that one Rafale costs $100 million. The US made F-35, $91 million. This stuff is not cheap. A cruise missile – a million and a half. A hellfire missile like what they fire from drones down on wedding parties – $150,000. Probably more than what all those people were worth that they blew up. And then it’s like, oh well, sorry about that. Here’s $110,000 in cash and 101 Kalishnikov rifles for the tribal elders in your village.

So, while we’re wishing each other Happy New Years in our villages, may we also wish for an end to this immoral and inhumane international weapons industry. That would be  really happy and that would be really new. We could think about it atleast.

Why the fascination with weapons and ways to kill people anyways? Everybody has a different culture, everybody has a different form of government. Everybody lives a slightly different way, but we all live. Which God you believe in varies from country to country.

We’re fighting over the minutiae, the tiny ridiculously irrelevant arbitrary bits of lifestyle differences. It’s as if one economic system is supposed to be the best for everybody. Probably not. Just as one religion doesn’t seem to be the best for everybody. People have their own ways of believing, their own traditions.

It could be some form of democracy, it could be a constitutional monarchy, hey maybe you’ve got a dictator running the place. People still live day to day in some way. Are the details worth fighting about?

I’m thinking of the pop-up wars in Africa. One clan against another. Kids with Kalishnikovs. The Burundi Civil War, the Rwandan Civil War, the Rwandan Genocide, the South Sudanese Civil War, the Uganda-Tanzania War, the Ugandan Civil War, the Lord’s Resistance Army, the Boko Haram Insurgency, the Kongo-Wara rebellion – Wikipedia goes on for several pages, dozens really, listing the pop-up wars in Africa over the last 50 years. The Eritrean Civil War, the Eritrean–Ethiopian War, the Tigray War in Ethiopia, the Somali Civil War, the Algerian Civil War, the Libyan Civil War, the First Liberian Civil War and the Second Liberian Civil War. Causing all kinds of havoc because they got guns. They got rocket launchers to knock down walls and they’re ready to kick some butt.

War ravaged countries like Yemen are completely disrupted and now people are starving. They’re dying from lack of medical care because there is no functional infrastructure holding the country together. Seven million people are in need of food aid, three million are displaced, cholera is rampant. Their country has been completely ripped apart by the civil war. Shiite against Sunni. Iran against Saudi Arabia.

The Sandinistas vs. the Contras in Nicaragua. America vs. the Soviet Union is what it turned into.  They both supported their favorite side. A bloody, nasty war. Two wars actually. Massacres, extra-judicial killings, torture, kidnapping, rape and all the rest of it. Similar wars happened in El Salvador and Guatemala and even today those countries are destabilized from the violence. Thousands of refugees abandon their homes every year to seek shelter in the US, creating an immigration problem on the southern border.

There are no easy answers as to why people kill each other but there is an easy answer to the international arms trade. Stop it. Stop making weapons and selling them as if it was a legitimate business. Sell some alternative energy gear, sell some water desalination plants to sub-Saharan nations that need water as the desert encroaches on their farm land. Sell some satellite internet to countries without the infrastructure to connect their people with wires. Let the kids learn about the world. That we are many with one commonality. We are diverse but we share core values. We have many traditions and religions but we all want to be happy. We are human.

I wish you a happy New Year. May peace and contentment be yours. May you feel the internal feeling that everything is ok. It’s a beautiful feeling, placed there by the life force itself that gives us life. Obviously, otherwise we wouldn’t be alive.

Unlike many campesinos in Guatemala. Entire families. Entire villages. Shot and killed with American supplied guns and bullets. Trying to flush out the rebels hiding in the hills. The men fighting for a dignified life for their family, not working like serfs for Ríos Montt. If we kill the women and children in the village, burn the crops, raze the houses then the rebels will have no support in the mountains and they’ll have to show themselves. Simple.


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