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.

Block the Factory

Placheolder image

Ben Whitaker

On July 6 the sun rose to the news that three arms factories had been occupied, and a fourth blockaded. All four factories are wholly owned subsidiaries of Israel’s largest arms company, Elbit Systems.

War profiteering

We live in a world where people profit from war. In 2014, Global military expenditure was estimated to be $1776 billion. Lockheed Martin - the world's biggest arms company - sold more than $45.6 billion worth of equipment. The war in Iraq wrenched open the country's economy to contractors of all shapes and sizes.

Arms companies profit from every bomb that falls, and every bullet that's fired. Through occupation, companies have the opportunity to exploit cheap land and lax labour laws. Conflict zones give fossil fuel giants access to new resources to exploit. Militarism means that research funding goes towards developing weapons of war, not finding solutions to global challenges like climate change.

In October, War Resisters' International and our South Korean affiliate World Without War will host an international seminar with a specific focus on skill sharing for taking action against war profiteering. “Stopping the War Business” will take place on 16th and 17th October, in Seoul, South Korea. The seminar will be followed by nonviolence training, and then an action to oppose the ADEX arms fair, which will be taking place the following week.

During 2014, Spain made defence materials exports worth €3.203 million, whilst in total €3.666 million worth of exports were authorized. The value of the actual exports has decreased by 18% in comparison to that reached in 2013, from €3.907 million. Nonetheless, the tendency during the last 10 years has been a continued increase, as revealed in the following graph.

Spanish exports of defence material 2005-2014

On 5th May 2014, peace activists made a stand in the very place where arms are promoted, in the heart of the European quarter in Brussels. Behind the walls of many grey office buildings, arms dealers are lobbying decision-makers. Behind a closed sliding door is the office of the AeroSpace and Defence Industries Association of Europe (ASD).

The activists had previously attended the action training 'I stop the arms trade'. They entered peacefully, took over the office and handed over letters of dismissal to the staff. The reason for the dismissals? Complicity in the killing machine of the arms trade.

AeroSpace and Defence Industries Association of Europe

ASD is the voice of the defence industry in Europe. As an umbrella organisation, ASD represents the interests of 16 large European businesses and 27 interest groups from 20 countries. The executives of ASD are also the CEOs of Europe's biggest arms companies, including BAE Systems, Airbus, Finmeccanica, Thales, Rolls Royce, Safran, and Saab. In 2012, the turnover of the European arms industry was €96 billion. Almost €40 billion of this business was designated for export. The current head of ASD is Mauro Moretti, also the head of Finmeccanica. Via their affiliate AgustaWestland, Finmeccanica supplies fighter helicopters to regimes in Algeria, Libya, and Turkey.

ASD's main mission is to strengthen the European arms industry, by shaping EU legislation and policies as well as by securing public funding opportunities.

Crumbling Control

As the voice of the arms industry, ASD speaks with top politicians and civil servants inside and outside of European institutions, and with privileged access to the European institutions, ASD leaves its mark on EU policy. This was evident in 2009 with the creation of the 'Defence package': two European Directives which form one of the key pieces of EU legislation on the arms trade.

Since the 90’s, European defence companies have clustered to be able to compete with the American giants. Now a handful of large companies dominate the European defence sector. They see internal controls as an obstacle in the development and trade of arms systems. To simplify collaboration with affiliates in various countries, the arms industry pushed the European Union to deregulate. The Defence Package meets this demand of the arms industry: it simplifies arms trade within the EU. Due to the elimination of control at the borders between member states, weapons can now be exported worldwide via the European country with the least stringent export rules.

The 2009 Directives definitely made European arms export rules less strict. Export control continues to be a national domain, but responsibilities of governments and control mechanisms disappear along with weapons over national borders. The arms industry desperately needs an expansive trade of weapons to conflict regions in order to be profitable; that we are exporting a catalyst for violent conflict is an after-thought. For example, in 2011, the year of the Arab Spring, European arms export licences to the Arab region amounted to €9 billion, double the exports in 2007.

With the Defence Package, the arms industry got the 'harmonisation' that they were looking for. In their annual report, ASD congratulated themselves for their successful lobbying work.

Before they propose new legislation, the European Commission publishes a “green book” to seek comments from interested parties. In this way, ASD could already include their comments before any legislation was actually proposed. During the “collaborative procedure” that followed, ASD established a special committee to co-ordinate the lobbying efforts of the companies that they represent. The goal was to influence the discussions between the European Parliament and the Council. The icing on the cake was the 2008 speech by Ake Svensson, then president of ASD and CEO of Saab, to the European Parliament. Later, ASD monitored local implementations of the Directives and exerted pressure when necessary. In this whole process, ASD had a privileged position, from preliminary discussions, to editing of the policy texts, and even checking the implementation.

Public Money for Weapons

ASD lobbyists also exercise their influence in the domain of public financing for research. The arms industry develops ever more technically advanced weapon systems and subsystems, so they try to feed at the trough of public subsidies for scientific research.

By the letter of the law, European research money may not be used for the development of weapon technology. In practice, within the FP7-Security program, which ran from 2007 to 2013, €1.4 billion was available for “civil security research”. By embellishing their intentions, arms manufacturers managed to help themselves to a sizeable sum out of this research fund.

The current EU research program - Horizon 2020 - keeps this civil focus. But there's no objections to research of which the results can also be used to increase military capacity. So-called “dual-use products” can now be financed openly in this way, and the arms lobby is grinning like a hyena.

The European Commission is now preparing the next long-term budget, from 2020 to 2027. The arms industry is lobbying to make sure that the EU will directly and openly fund military research - and with success. The European Commission wants to launch a “preparatory action” to look into the added value of military research. At the European Council meeting in December 2013, while Vredesactie protested the further militarisation of the EU, the Council decided to set up a “high-level group of personalities” to study this. This “independent advisory council” has recently become active. Seven of seventeen members come straight from ASD's board or working groups, Which means Europe’s biggest arms suppliers are dictating policy again. Unfortunately, it is not new that industry is heavily over-represented in the expert groups designing policy. Critical voices are missing.

It is time to stop them

Behind closed doors, arms dealers meet decision-makers, lobby for less export control, and promote their weapons. With a bespoke policy for the benefit of the arms industry, European values have no meaning. Europe is one of the biggest arms exporters on earth. This creates problems - weapons are never neutral, they are used in bloody, violent conflicts. Weapons have no expiry date, and European weapons pop up in conflicts and increase insecurity worldwide.

On May 5th peace activists tried to stop the arms trade. They closed down the ASD office and handed over letters of dismissal to the employees. Business as usual was disturbed until the police intervened. This was only the beginning. Join us and stop the arms trade!

Swiss activists have been protesting against the purchase of war drones from the Israeli company Elbit Systems. On 25th May, activists blocked the entrance to one of Switzerland's biggest military bases, where members of the Swiss parliament planned to watch a demonstration of the Hermes 900 drone. This was just one of several actions Group for a Switzerland Without an Army (GSoA) took during the last session of the Swiss parliament.

In October 2015 War Resisters' International and our South Korean affiliate World Without War will host an international seminar against war profiteering. This seminar will provide a space for activists using a whole range of different methods to gather together, learn how a spectrum of tactics interlink and help each other to be more effective. The seminar will coincide with a WRI council meeting, and will be followed by a nonviolent direct action against the ADEX arms fair, which will take place in Seoul and is the largest arms fair in the Asia region. For more information and the registration form, visit: /stopping-the-war-business

[an international seminar on war profiteering]  Stopping the War Business talking tactics and linking methods
16 - 17 October 2015: Seoul, Republic of Korea

 

Please register here

For antimilitarists, disrupting war profiteering means knocking out the economic pillars that make war inevitable. It goes far beyond the arms trade (although that is an important part of it), and includes all those who fund and profit from war and militarisation.

Disrupting war profiteering takes a whole range of activities, from research, lobbying and legal challenges to mobilisation, direct action and creative campaigning techniques.

This seminar will provide a space for activists using a whole range of different methods to gather together, learn how a spectrum of tactics interlink and help each other to be more effective. It'll answer questions like 'How can we make our direct action more strategic using research? 'How could a public campaign support our lobbying work?' 'What tools or methods can help my campaign be more effective?'

This international seminar Stopping the War Business will be held in Seoul, Republic of Korea, 16-17th October. The seminar is jointly coordinated by World Without War in Korea and international antimilitarist network War Resisters' International.

Source: http://www.gsoa.ch/medien/02327/war-drones-activists-block-entrance-military-base-/

Swiss activists blockade entrance to military baseThun, Switzerland – Since 9:30am on Tuesday 25th May, activists have been protesting against the purchase of war drones from the Israeli company Elbit Systems. The activists have blocked the entrance to one of Switzerland's biggest military bases, where members of the Swiss parliament planned to watch the Hermes 900 drone.

Since 9:30 AM, activists from different organisations - Gruppe für eine Schweiz ohne Armee (GSoA), Boycott, Divest and Sanctions against Israel (BDS), Collective Urgence Palestine (CUP) and independent activists - have blocked the entrance to the planned presentation of the Hermes 900 drones, that Switzerland is planning to purchase. No vehicles can go through the main door of the military compound in Thun, which the members of the security committees of both chambers have been invited to.

Turkish antimilitarists protest the IDEF arms fairOn Friday 8th May, ten protesters met in front of the IDEF 2015 Defense Industry Fair in Istanbul, Turkey. The protesters, who came together with the call from the Conscientious Objection Association were met with a heavy police presence including 15 civilian police, tens of riot police and one water cannon truck.

Around ten protesters met today in front of the IDEF 2015 Defense Industry Fair in Istanbul. The protesters, who came together with the call of Conscientious Objection Association were met with heavy police presence including 15 civilian police, tens of riot police and one water cannon truck.

Despite attempts to prevent the protest by the police, the protesters read their statement in front of the building. “President Erdogan opened the fair by saying 'I hope this fair will bring fortune to the peoples of the world'. But the weapons that are present here will bring only death to the people all around the world” told Merve Arkun, the co-president of Conscientious Objection Association. Arkun criticized the increase of defense budgets worldwide, reaching to 1.6 trillion Euro per year. “The taxes taken from the poor peoples are spent for developing weapons of mass destruction. We're calling the states to stop their arms race” she told. Arkun ended her speech by referring to the latest developments in the defense industry like self guiding bullets and autonomous UAV's and telling “Don't forget that these weapons are killing people all over the world every day. You can never know when you'll be the next target. Militarism kills”.

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