War Profiteers

WRI activists disrupting the welcome dinner at the ADEX arms fair
WRI activists disrupting the welcome dinner at the ADEX arms fair

Economics is one of the key causes of war - wherever there is a military conflict, someone is profiting from it. We call this "war profiteering".

WRI looks at war profiteering in a broad sense - we consider all companies and initiatives that benefit financially from military conflict as war profiteers, in some sense. This includes the arms trade and companies profiteering for the privatisation and outsourcing of the military, but also those extracting natural resources in conflict zones, financial institutions investing in arms companies, and many others.

WRI publishes a quarterly magazine called War Profiteers' News (in English and Spanish), and organises events to bring campaigners and researchers together to share strategies against war profiteering. In 2017 we will gather members and friends of the WRI network in London, for a seminar called “Stopping the War Business”. Campaigners will share experiences and strategies of countering the arms trade and other war profiteers. The seminar will take place at the same time  as the DSEI arms fair, where we will also take nonviolent direct action together. In 2015, we organised a similar event in Seoul, South Korea, which took place at the same time as the ADEX arms fair.

Originally published on WRI's antimili-youth.net website

Activists from Peace Action Wellington (PAW) organised two days of nonviolent direct actions against the annual Weapons Conference held in New Zealand (NZ) last November. Following their peaceful protests, 27 activists - 26 of whom keep fighting charges - were arrested and taken to court. On 18 February they are standing trial again, defending their right to peaceful demonstration for peace and justice.

Sending our solidarity messages to the activists in Wellington, we reached Valerie Morse from PAW and asked her about their campaign Stop the Weapons Conference as well as many other questions on militarism and the antimilitarist movement in New Zealand.

A destroyed house in Yemen. Photo: wikipedia

The European Parliament has voted in support of an arms embargo against Saudi Arabia. The European Network Against the Arms Trade (ENAAT) were part of efforts to lobby Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) to impose the European-wide arms embargo. The lobbying action included groups from Germany, UK, Spain, Finland, France, Italy, Sweden, the Netherlands, and Belgium. Groups from across Europe tweeted and emailed MEP's using the #StopArmingSaudiArabia hashtag, and the vote was passed on the 25th February, despite being heavily opposed by diplomats from Saudi Arabia, who met with and wrote to MEPs before the vote.

Martin Broek

Defence-industries profiting of the Dutch tax laws are double cynical. Apart from ethical objections, the defence industry are evading the very taxes which are uses by their governments to pamper them, buy their product, subsidize their research and facilitate their exports.

In 2009, US president Obama put the Netherlands on his list of the world's worst tax havens. The Dutch government did its utmost to deny this allegation. But the issue was on the agenda and has never disappeared since.


Tahoe Resources is a Canadian mining company. In mid-2010, Tahoe acquired the Escobal mine in southeast Guatemala from Goldcorp; Escobal is a 'high grade silver' mine, and also contains gold, lead and zinc. Some analysts believe it to be one of the biggest silver mines in the world. The Escobal mine is approximately 40km southeast of Guatemala City, and 3km from San Rafael los Flores.

At the end of the Stopping the War Business international seminar, three participants shared their reflections from the meeting. Here they are below.

Tuuli Vuori

It's good to be in South Korea. I'm from a country which still maintains conscription and I've used half of my life working with issues related to conscientious objection. That is one reason why it feels so special to be in Seoul, as I've heard so much about the campaings that our South Korean friends have been doing here.

Anyway, war profiteering is not the strongest area of my knowledge so I've learned a lot during this seminar. Thanks for the really interesting keynote speakers as well as workshops!

In this seminar we discussed about the consecuenses of war profiteering for the individual people. We also discussed about the vast and dark structures of the war profiteering. Sometimes these structures make me feel very small.

War draws on deep roots, and leaves long legacies. Years before the attention-grabbing shots of bombs falling and armoured vehicles rolling around, and well after the photographers have packed up and gone home, violence is being fed, nurtured, and profited from. In November we saw the shocking attacks in Paris – the first business day after the French president 'declared war' on Daesh saw healthy growths in the share prices of some of the world's biggest arms companies.

Return to Conscientious Objection: A Practical Companion for Movements

Hannah Brock gives us an historical example of objection to war profiteering which conscientious objection movements today could emulate.1

The introduction to this book puts the following question: 'and what of the future?  Conscientious objection movements have often been inspired by the old expression 'imagine if there was a war and no one showed up?'.  Well, soon perhaps hardly anyone will need to show up for there to be a war, as technology 'advances' and can do the killing of 1,000 armed people at the touch of a button.  Increasingly, professional armies using remote control weapons, private security firms and robots have taken over from the mass armies of the mid 21st century.  Yet even with these 'advances', you still need people to wage war. Those people are increasingly not members of the armed forces however, but instead the 'civilian' branches of the supply chains for weapons and the militarism that make war inevitable.  This opens up whole new vistas of people who might resist war and their part in it.

Amnesty International press release, sourced from here.

Decades of poorly regulated arms flows into Iraq as well lax controls on the ground have provided the armed group calling itself Islamic State (IS) with a large and lethal arsenal that is being used to commit war crimes and crimes against humanity on a massive scale in Iraq and Syria, Amnesty International has said in a new report.  

A PhD student studying applied matematics at a university in Britain reflects on the links between academia and the arms trade.

When I started my PhD in applied mathematics around one third of my proposed funding plan was to come from BAE systems. Knowing very little about BAE and the arms trade in general I did some research, and was horrified at what I found. It soon became clear that there was no way I wanted their money or any involvement with them, which fortunately did not involve me dropping out of my PhD, just taking a funding cut. This move was a knee-jerk reaction; one which I have been trying to justify ever since. I do not struggle to justify standing against weapons research, but mathematical research by nature can have many unpredictable outcomes; a new technology that might seem like a genuine asset to humankind is only a couple of modifications from the latest killing machine, so even non-military research cannot be truly considered safe.

Tear gas by remote controlA new report exploring the development of the use of remote control technology to deliver tear gas and other 'riot control agents' (RCAs) has been released by the Remote Control Project, the Omega Foundation and the Bradford Non-Lethal Weapons Research Project.

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