London DSEI arms fair selling to dictatorships

This video from London, England says about itself:

Stop DSEI Day 5, Supervillains and Scholars against the arms fair

9 September 2017

Day 5 of the #StopDSEI week of action: Conference at the gates: Academics Against the Arms Fair. Alongside, striking Super-Villains from all over the universe gathered to picket the arms fair, to protest being put out of the job by human human rights abusers from all over the planet facilitated by the arms fair and the UK government.

By Steve Sweeney in Britain:

Guest list from hell at London’s arms fair

Saturday 9th September 2017

THE GOVERNMENT’S official guest list for this year’s DSEI arms fair in London is a roll call of the world’s most appalling human rights abusers, campaigners warned yesterday.

Officials have invited 56 countries to the event, which starts on Monday, including several accused of having committed war crimes and atrocities against their own people including Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

The official list was published following a parliamentary question from Green MP Caroline Lucas, who said the arms fair is “a dark stain on our country’s already tarnished reputation.”

She said it was time to shut this “festival of violence” down for good and urged the government to engage in peace-building rather than trying to cement itself as the world’s weapons outlet.

The government and military delegations have been invited by the Defence and Security Organisation, which is part of the Department for International Trade.

Roughly 60 per cent of British arms exports over the past 10 years have gone to the war-torn Middle East.

Protesters have marked the preparations for DSEI with daily blockades preventing vehicles from delivering weapons and military equipment.

Campaigners say “arrest-happy” police have nicked at least 63 people taking part in the peaceful protests.

Yesterday’s action saw Academics Against Arms holding a conference at the gates of the Excel exhibition centre while activists continued to “lock on” to blocks of concrete and other objects to form a blockade.

Two activists dressed as Daleks, from TV series Doctor Who, were arrested after they joined the protest. Earlier they had been giving advice to protesters about their rights should they be detained.

Hundreds of posters have appeared on London billboards, bus stops and on the Underground this week with the message: “Arms dealers not welcome in London.”

Campaign Against Arms Trade spokesman Andrew Smith said: “This list includes a roll call of despots, dictatorships and human rights abusers.

“They will be greeted by civil servants and government ministers who are there for one reason only: to promote weapons.

“It’s impossible to promote human rights and democracy while arming and supporting authoritarian regimes and tyrants.”

A mass protest is planned for today outside the centre, with Sunday’s action including protests by Kurdish organisations opposing arms sales to Turkey.

Solidarity with the People of Turkey spokesman Arif Bektas said the British government had “blood on its hands.”

“The Turkish government has destroyed many towns and cities in Kurdistan and will use the weapons to destroy even more as [Turkish President] Erdogan continues his attacks on human rights, democracy and freedom of expression.”

Prime Minister Theresa May was criticised earlier this year for signing a £100 million arms “deal of shame” with Mr Erdogan as the initial part of a deal worth billions.

Saudi Arabia has also sparked condemnation for its military onslaught on Yemen, where British-made fighter jets and bombs have been used to kill thousands of civilians since the conflict began in 2015.

In the past three years Britain has approved over 300 arms export licences to Saudia Arabia, worth nearly £4 billion.

Turkey has received over £500m over the same period, and only this week human rights group Amnesty International condemned Britain for its inaction during Bahrain’s crackdown on opposition figures and human rights activists. Bahrain has bought nearly £30m of arms from Britain in the past three years.

20 thoughts on “London DSEI arms fair selling to dictatorships

  1. Pingback: London DSEI arms fair selling to dictatorships — Dear Kitty. Some blog | Art History blog

  2. Monday 11th September 2017

    posted by Peter Lazenby in Britain

    Bloody-handed regimes invited to festival of violence by hypocritical Tories

    Hundreds of activists blockaded the venue for one of the world’s biggest arms fairs in London at the weekend.

    The DSEI arms bazaar at the Excel Centre in east London, which opens today, will offer weapons of destruction to some of the world’s bloodiest regimes.

    As revealed in the Morning Star, customers invited by the British government include Saudi Arabia — which is using British-made aircraft and bombs in its bombardment that has wrecked Yemen and killed thousands of civilians — as well as Bahrain, Egypt and Turkey, all of whose governments have led massive internal crackdowns against political opponents in recent years.

    A Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) spokesman said yesterday: “Gates to the arms fair were once again blocked for several hours and we were told some stands are more than two days behind with set-up.

    “The weapons sold at DSEI fuel the death, destruction and injustice perpetrated by militaries, police forces and at borders around the world. This is where war, repression and injustice start. But this is also where we can intervene to stop it.

    “If the government cares for human rights and democracy, then it’s time to end the arms sales and stop DSEI.”

    The government has also been accused of double standards for participating in arms control talks for the Arms Trade Treaty in Geneva, Switzerland, while at the same time hosting the world’s biggest arms fair.

    Oxfam’s Sally Copley said: “Yemen is the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, suffering from a borderline famine and hit by the world’s largest cholera epidemic which shows no sign of abating. Yet the deaths, the destruction and the misery seem to count for nothing.

    “Since the war began not one licence to export arms to Saudi Arabia has been rejected by the government.

    “When you are witness to the suffering in Yemen it is hard to understand or excuse how the UK government talks the talk on arms control while it walks the walk of arms sales.

    “It helped push through and signed up to an international arms control law, the Arms Trade Treaty, that it intended to stop arms going to repressive regimes but it continues to sell arms to some of the world’s worst human rights abusers.”


  3. Friday 15th September 2017

    In London’s Docklands, the only defence worthy of the word has been outside DSEI where protesters tried to close the event down – in the defence of decency, liberty and humanity, PAUL CUDENEC reports

    THE word “defence” is a high-and-mighty term which, especially when used with a capital D, reinforces the impression that it is somehow much more important than the likes of you and me.

    Whether it’s the Ministry of Defence, the defence industry or defence spending, we are left in no doubt that this is a label worthy of our humblest respect — protecting the public, boosting the economy and supplying those all-essential jobs.

    Presumably that is why the people behind the Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEI) arms fair — coming to an end today in London’s Docklands — chose to begin its title with that particular word.

    As thousands of people protested outside the Excel Centre these past two weeks — blocking roads, climbing on tanks, dangling from bridges and otherwise trying to prevent the set-up — the organisers could hide behind the apparent legitimacy of this officially sanctified banner.

    To be fair, the implication that their commercial event is connected with the official governmental kind of “defence” is not altogether misleading.

    The DSEI warfest is partly funded by the British taxpayer, with the Department for International Trade and its Defence and Security Organisation (DSO) jointly organising it, along with private company Clarion Events. DSEI also lists the Ministry of Defence as one of its main supporters.

    Government ministers also appear to have been falling over each other to give keynote addresses at DSEI. International Trade Secretary Liam Fox, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon and Security Minister Ben Wallace were all on the bill at the Excel Centre this week.

    Finally, of course, the state has provided very direct physical support for the DSEI organisers by sending its police along to the Docklands. Showing no interest in the imminent sale of guns, bombs and, possibly, torture equipment, they arrested scores of people foolish enough to act on their moral qualms about the arms fair.

    The emergence of a “military-industrial complex,” of which former US president Dwight D Eisenhower warned back in 1961, was not confined to the US.

    In Britain too, the government and the arms trade have grown cosily close, with the DSO being a prime instance.

    Although it is funded by the British taxpayer, its one and only goal is to help arms and security businesses make more profits by flogging their products around the world.

    As Campaign Against Arms Trade says: “DSO is not interested in the human impact of the equipment it promotes. It exists purely to help the companies sell.”

    DSO works hand-in-hand with a private organisation called ADS Group, another main supporter of DSEI, which likes to label itself the “premier trade organisation for companies in the UK aerospace, defence, security and space sectors” and reckons it represents 1,000 businesses.

    ADS is transparently a lobbying group for the arms industry. It boasts of the fact that it “works across Whitehall to influence ministers, government, departments and their agencies about the value and needs of our sectors.”

    This leaves us wondering about the meaning of the “defence” in whose name DSEI is being staged. What exactly is “defensive” about spending taxpayers’ money to help arms companies sell weapons to foreign governments which use them to attack their neighbours or repress their populations?

    What is “defensive” about allowing government foreign policy to be influenced by the commercial aspirations of arms firms with a vested interest in fanning the flames of war?

    Ethics don’t come into the equation for the companies themselves, of course. BAE Systems chairman Sir Roger Carr has made a point of insisting: “We are not here to judge the way that other governments work, we are here to do a job under the rules and regulations we are given.”

    But shouldn’t the politicians and civil servants who work hand-in-hand with the industry bear some responsibility for the wider implications of the sales they encourage?

    In what way is the British public “defended” by a massive £45 billion per year spend which has funded direct British military involvement in the likes of Syria, Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan?

    Have the displacements of populations, refugee crises and bloody conflicts made life safer or more dangerous for the average British citizen, let alone for the displaced people of those countries themselves?

    In what way is Britain’s “defence” served by the Saudi bombing of Yemen, Israel’s violent militarised occupation of Palestinian territories, Turkey’s attacks on Kurdish people or Azerbaijan’s crushing of internal dissent?

    By inviting hordes of dodgy arms dealers and their equally dodgy customers to London, by prioritising and subsidising the profits of the weapons industry over and above the interests of the public, the government is doing exactly the opposite of what is implied by that deliberately misleading term.

    In London’s Docklands, the only defence worthy of the word has been going on outside DSEI in the shape of the protesters trying to close the event down — in the defence of decency, liberty and humanity.

    Paul Cudenec is a member of Shoal Collective, a newly-formed co-operative of independent writers and researchers, writing for social justice and a world beyond capitalism.


  4. Friday 22nd September 2017

    posted by Peter Lazenby in Britain

    Defendants demonstrate after trying to block arms fair

    MORE than 30 peace protesters who disrupted the world’s biggest arm fair in London earlier this month appeared in court yesterday on charges of obstructing the highway.

    Four pleaded guilty to the charges and were given conditional discharges, while the rest pleaded not guilty. Their cases were adjourned until October 4.

    The activists had attempted to block weapons reaching the Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEI) arms fair at Excel Centre in the Docklands where weapons are showcased to some of the world’s most despotic regimes.

    This year’s exhibitors included companies that supply equipment for nuclear weapons. Among them were Lockheed Martin, the world’s biggest arms firm and the main partner in a consortium which runs the Atomic Weapons Establishment at Aldermaston and Burghfield in Berkshire — where warheads for Trident are produced.

    In the week running up to the fair which took place from September 10 to 13, protesters chained themselves together, carried out religious ceremonies in the road and even dangled on ropes from bridges to prevent weapons being delivered to the death fair.

    Police were accused at the time of being “arrest happy” after they detained 102 protesters including a 70-year-old Methodist minister.

    Rev Enid Gordon said after her arrest: “I just think we shouldn’t be selling weapons to Israel … and particularly to Saudi Arabia. It’s obscene, it’s against God’s will. I feel this [protesting] is more of God’s will.”

    Activists from religious, anti-arms and pro-Palestine group joined the seven-day action.

    Ignoring the large-scale protests, International Trade Secretary Liam Fox defended the DSEI fair on the day of its opening, hailing the British arms export sector for its contribution to the country’s economy.

    In 2016 Britain’s arms industry turned over £3 billion.


  5. Friday 22nd September 2017

    posted by Morning Star in Features

    SOLOMON HUGHES reveals how British politicians are being wined and dined and taken on mini-breaks by the firm that runs the DSEI arms fair

    THE company that runs London’s DSEI arms fair has been taking MPs on holiday.

    Clarion, the conference company that runs the huge defence exhibition which took place last week in London’s Docklands, is reaching out to MPs by sending them on military-themed European mini-breaks and helping to pay for their breakfasts and dinners too.

    British-made weapons are currently being used in Yemen, in a war that’s causing death and starvation. It isn’t hard to make a case that the arms trade is pretty evil. If so, this is the banality of evil. The type of low-level, very British lobbying that might happen over some nice lamb chops in Westminster.

    DSEI (Defence and Security Equipment International) is a huge arms trade sales fair that takes place every two years in London’s Docklands.

    For three days this month the Excel Centre in London was filled with stalls displaying everything from sniper rifles to tanks and bombs: it’s lethal killing kit for sale, but presented in the standard stalls-in-a-hall trade fair-style you might find at the Ideal Home Show.

    A kind of Ideal Death Show. DSEI relies heavily on government support: a government department, UKTI, arranges for foreign “delegations” to come to DSEI from regimes with appalling human rights records — countries like Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.

    The British army even gives these foreign delegates uniformed officers to escort them around the arms fair and back to their hotels.

    DSEI is run by Clarion, a conference firm that has turned increasingly to arms fairs. Clarion also run non-lethal events like Coffee Fest and Classic Motor Show. But it makes big money from 15 defence fairs, including DSEI.

    It also runs Bidec, an arms fair that takes place in Bahrain in October, and Milsim, an arms fair based in Singapore which happens next January.

    According to the current register of MPs’ interests, Clarion helped pay for a two-day trip to Italy in July for Torbay Tory MP Kevin Foster and his wife.

    The £559 trip included some military-themed tourism in the form of visiting “the sites of World War II battles and Commonwealth and Polish cemeteries as part of the ‘Monte Cassino battlefield tour’.”

    The Battle of Monte Cassino was a key struggle between the allies and the German axis near Rome in WWII.

    Clarion helped to pay for the trip as part of its sponsorship of the all-party parliamentary group for the armed forces.

    Such groups, known as APPGs, bring together MPs with a common subject interest. They are widely seen as very open to corporate lobbying, as they allow big business to fund MPs’ trips and events.

    Labour MP Madeleine Moon, who also sits on the armed forces APPG, says she and “a small number of MPs and peers who take an interest in defence” also went on the same trip.

    So it is very likely that Clarion helped to fund more MPs on the Italian mini-break, but they have yet to record the details on the register.

    The APPG has around five Conservative MPs, along with three Labour MPS and two Lib Dem lords.

    The all-party group for the armed forces is funded almost entirely by big donations from the arms industry.

    Since 2015 this group of MPs has received £94,000 from arms firms including BAE Systems, as well as £7,000 from Clarion.

    In 2017 so far the group has received £42,000 from arms firms, including Babcock, Raytheon, Thales, Northrop Grumman and Boeing Defence — all of whom exhibited their rockets and warplanes at DSEI.

    Many of these firms have a history of bribery and corruption. BAE Systems paid $400 million in 2010 to settle charges of bribery in Saudi Arabia and other countries.

    Allegations of bribery against BAE have included lurid details like the supply of prostitutes, Rolls-Royces and Californian holidays as well as plain cash. Boeing paid a $615m fine over a huge bribery scandal in 2004.

    The arms trade has historically involved sleazy and lurid influence-peddling. But it also involves much more banal attempts to buy influence or good feeling by the arms industry.

    According to the register of MPs’ interests the armed forces APPG uses the money it gets from the arms firms and from Clarion to, among other things, buy MPs breakfast and dinner.

    Robert Courts, the Conservative MP who took over David Cameron’s Witney seat in Oxfordshire, and North Wiltshire Conservative MP James Gray both list receiving “11 dinners value £40 each; four breakfasts value £14.25 each; total £497” from the weapons industry-funded armed forces APPG in the current register of MPs’ interests.

    So ultimately money that comes from selling missiles with names like “Maverick” or “HARM” or “Storm Shadow” or “Vulcano” is transformed into breakfasts for our members of Parliament.

    I asked James Gray, who is chairman of the APPG, whether the overwhelming funding from arms firms meant his group wasn’t really an organisation representing the defence industry, not the soldiers, sailors, airmen and airwomen who make up the armed forces. He did not reply.

    There is in fact a separate APPG to represent the “armed forces covenant.” The covenant means the conditions of service, wages, housing and post-army careers of soldiers and other armed forces. It gets no funding from the arms industry.

    DSEI gets a lot of government support but, thanks to protests, it is increasingly controversial.

    In July London Mayor Sadiq Khan said he was “opposed to London being used as a marketplace” for dictators and autocrats who come to London to buy weapons at DSEI, although he “had no power to stop it.”

    So DSEI organiser Clarion and the defence firms that exhibit there have a strong motive to give money to MPs to pay for their group, dinners and trips.

    Follow Solomon Hughes on Twitter @SolHughesWriter.


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