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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Wednesday, August 09, 2006
    Trying to be a better human being
     
    If I was a better human being then I'd be far more involved in the activities of the Campaign Against the Arms Trade. Like other shrivelled, self-possessed, so-called citizens I fail to be roused to action against the UK government's sponsorship of the worldwide weapons industry: even when as a CAAT supporter and reader of their publications I regularly see the evidence before my very eyes.

    The trouble is, to a SSPSCC like me a campaign to close down a government department doesn't seem the most thrilling ride to hitch myself on. I did manage to write to ol' Bob Wareing asking if he'd sign Charles Kennedy's Early Day Motion to shut down the Defence Export Services Organisation, and to his credit he did. The EDM is:

    That this House notes that the Defence Export Services Organisation (DESO) is the unit of the UK Ministry of Defence which helps UK companies sell their military equipment and services overseas; further notes that through DESO, the UK taxpayer subsidises the export of arms into areas of conflict and to governments that abuse human rights; further notes that the trade in military equipment damages economic development at global, regional and local economic levels; and calls on the Government to close the DESO, not to transfer its functions elsewhere in the public sector nor to allocate public funds to enable them to be undertaken in the private sector.

    Each issue of CAAT News details more of DESO's bloody work - most recently their involvement as key organisers of Farnborough International 2006, which is essentially an arms fair under cover of an air show, and where, as Israeli bombs were raining down on Lebanon, BAE Systems were showcasing their latest Unmanned Ariel Vehicles whose 'lethal-payloads' were first used in Israel's invasion of Lebanon in 1982.

    Mark Thomas, who has just published a book detailing his adventures in the arms trade, asserts that the UK government (ie, the taxpayer) subsidises each job in arms exports by £13,000 per year.

    What do you do with information like that? Well, he's taking himself off on an 80-plus date tour around the country to share it out a bit. I think he has it about right: