Selling Weapons: Eldorado

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When we sit back and listen to France’s President François Hollande banging out the reasons why the world needs to strike Syria and stop the al-Assad regime and we hear President Barack Obama of the USA trying to rally support from inside the country as to a possible missile attack on the already-war-torn country we might wonder why they are so dead set on it. There are many reasons that we could think of such as control of the region; ousting al-Assad would enable control of the country and the resources by the West, perhaps at a chance. But, that chance is pretty remote anyhow since the West prides itself on so-called democracy and how countries should have free elections and elected governments by the people for the people. Except the chances are that this will happen much later down the road. Before, there will only be greater strife and increased trouble for the Syrian people. The real reason might be more immediate. It certainly entails the need for war to increase the sale of arms and if there are two countries that are at the top of the list in terms of selling weapons in the world, it’s France and the USA. So it’s not going to shock anyone that they are pushing for gun-toting tank trails to bomb the hell out of Assad.

France and USA

France and the USA were very much isolated at the G20 summit in Russia over the past few days. But, today the EU has come around to agreeing that there was indeed a chemical-weapons attack on the Syrian people and that it was perpetrated by the Bachar-al-Assad regime. But, what is even more problematic in the story as it unfolds before our very eyes is that if there has been a chemical-weapons attack and if they are certain they all have the proof, then as a citizen of those countries shouldn’t we been told in detail what that proof is and where and when and even how it managed to happen? The story is worse than the Septaper caper. It’s coming, it’s coming and it never gets here. But we hear about it all the time. The same goes for the Syrian debacle. Al-Assad used the chemical weapons that were forbidden, but we’re waiting on the evidence, please.

But it’s probably not surprising after all that the EU has made a first step to backing Hollande and Obama. They announced in a joint statement from the G20 summit that they firstly agreed that there had been a chemical-weapons attack by al-Assad and that secondly they would wait for the UN report. But, it was underlined that a strike was possible. It’s hardly a turn up for the books that will astound anyone in the world, when we look at how much those countries make from arms sales.

Arms Sales in the World

1. The USA exported $712, 265, 000-worth of weapons in 2009.

  • That figure rose to $807, 545, 000 in 2011.
  • The US sold ammunition worth the value of $0.43 billion in 2011.
  • $0.17 billion in military weapons.
  • The USA is the largest exporter in the weapons industry in the world.
  • Their exports make up roughly 30% of all sales of arms in the world.
  • They sold (between 2005 and 2009) one third of all of their exports to South Korea, Israel and the United Arab Emirates.

2. Russia sold arms to the value of $130, 350, 000 in 2009.

  • That sum fell in 2011 to $97, 525, 000.
  • Russia comes in at a close second as the largest arms dealer in the world.
  • It sells about 23% of the world’s arms today.
  • Russia mainly sells to China (40%) and to India (20%).

3. Germany is the biggest arms dealer in the EU however.

  • The Germans exported enough arms to net $313, 650, 000 in 2011.
  • Its best client is of course none other than Syria.
  • Germany has seen its exports in the world double in the past half a decade.
  • Germany stands for 10% of global sales in arms and is the third largest in the world.

4. It’s hardly surprising therefore that France is attempting to make sure that a strike goes ahead. It’s one of the top sellers in arms in the world.

  • 2009 was its best year with the most ever in history of arms sales for the country in terms of exports around the world, bringing in $132, 400, 000, with more than 75% of that coming from Saudi Arabia.
  • In 2009, the bumper-crop year for French exports, the country sold $0.2 billion in ammunition.
  • 2011 saw a drop to just $62, 295, 000 for exports with $49.5 million in exports of ammunition alone.
  • France is the 4th largest arms exporter in the world and stands at 8% for global volume.

5. The UK is the 5th largest arms exporter today and rounds off the top 5 countries in the world, of which 4 are permanent members on the United Nations Security Council. The veto has a lot to answer for and brings with it the privilege that these countries have taken as their right.

  • The UK stands for about 4% of global sales in weapons in the world today.
  • It sells 21% of its exports to the USA.
  • India buys 14% of the UK’s weapons.
  • Chile purchases 9%.

They have all regularly played a dangerous game of selling arms and maintaining peace. Perhaps arms can maintain peace, but selling them to others, and sometimes arming the friend that turns into the foe in the end is not the card to play. It’s a strange manner of providing the shovel to dig their own grave for these countries. They’re the biggest arms dealers in the world; legalized dealing (and wheeling). But, selling arms is good business and so is war, despite what might be said. It’s a grenade that someone has pulled the pin on and thrown into their own backyard.

These countries are reaping the benefits of being the biggest arms dealers in the world and will continue to do so for many years to come. Why change a winning team? Those countries are not at the top economically for nothing. War means big business. Losses, certainly. But, the people will pay with their lives and the taxpayer will fund the wars. The benefits will be selling the arms to the other states, the rebels, the countries that are the enemies of Syria and al-Assad. The rewards outweigh the losses financially-speaking and a few lives here or there seem of little importance when the governments that run our countries have to weight up the pros and the cons of a strike. We hear that the strike will be with missiles, remote-located warfare with the promise of no troops on the ground and so no loss of life. War without loss of life? That’s a new concept that has the merit of being invented.

Reports show that it is developing nations that are the main focus of the top five countries that sell arms in the world today. But also the price of oil has resulted in cash-rich spending sprees for Middle Eastern oil-producing nations and the inability to curb weapon production and arms selling for the countries that consume that oil due to the same increase in prices and the financial crisis. Any money, it would seem, is good, whether it’s clean or dirty greenbacks.

Why have we been arming the country that is now the enemy of the world? If al-Assad did perpetrate the heinous crime of using chemical weapons on his people, then first of all there is a heinous crime in the texts that have outlawed that since it hierarchizes death and makes one way of dying more acceptable than another.  It’s ok to shoot you down, but not gas you up. But, surely both are contemptible. The second crime is that the West has been arming his regime to the hilt, so that he can fight back against any of the West with the weapons that have been produced here.  We only have our governments to blame for that.

But, the financial rewards were too great for them to stop doing that even when it was the most wanted man around. Selling weapons is the new Eldorado, the land where the sun never sets and the gold just keeps flowing into the pockets of the governments that deal.

There’s a neat little web site that enables you to track the sale of arms between sites that you can find. It details the mapping of arms data for small arms and ammunition in the world between 1992 and 2011.

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