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.

Jasmin Nario-Galace

In 2014, according to the IHS Global Defence Trade Report, global defence trade increased to $64.4 billion, up from $56.8 billion the previous year. The report underscored that the US supplied one-third of all exports followed by the Russian Federation, France, UK and Germany. Seven of the top 10 defence importers were from Asia-Pacific: India, China, Taiwan, Australia, South Korea, Indonesia and Pakistan. The top 5 company exporters are Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Airbus Group and UAC. The first three are US companies while the last two have headquarters in France and Russia, respectively.1

SIPRI reported that global military expenditures in 2014 reached US$1776 billion with China, India, Japan, South Korea and Australia on the Top 15 of countries with the highest military expenditures.2

Andrew Feinstein

The global trade in arms is a business that counts its profits in billions and its costs in human lives. It is arguably the most damaging of all trades, accounting for around 40% of all corruption. It has massive influence on the way our governments operate, ensuring that war is a preferred option to diplomacy, and that we spend billions of dollars every year on weapons we often don’t need. It perpetuates, makes more deadly and sometimes even causes conflict and repression.

Global military expenditure is estimated to have totalled $1.77 trillion in 2014, that is more than $250 for every person on the planet. This was a fall of 0.4% on the previous year and is about 2.3% of global GDP.

Emily Masters, originally printed in 'Peace News'

After a four-month campaign, the international Stop the Shipment campaign succeeded in stopping a shipment of over a million canisters of tear gas to Bahrain on 8 January.

The government of Bahrain has been using tear gas to repress pro-democracy demonstrations since the Arab Spring spread to the Gulf state in February 2011.

A Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) report in 2012 found that ‘Bahraini law enforcement officials routinely violate every UN principle’ in their ‘unusually relentless and indiscriminate campaign… weaponizing toxic chemical agents – so-called tear gas’.

After the Stopping the War Business seminar, WRI and World Without War activists took action to disrupt the welcome dinner for the ADEX arms fair in Seoul.

Inside the hotel that was hosting the dinner, activists held banners, chanted 'Stop Arms Trade', and flung money strewn with 'blood' on the ground. They were forceably removed by security, but caught the attention of over around 100 'VIPs', arms dealers and members of the military.

Outside, protesters held a rally, with speakers, songs, a die-in and a dance, in full view of the buses of arms dealers arriving for the dinner.

For two days activists from sixteen countries have gathered in Seoul for the Stopping the War Business seminar, co-hosted by World Without War and War Resisters' International.

We heard inspiring talks about ongoing resistance to war profiteering - from police militarisation and the companies that feed it in the USA, to civilian companies profiting from occupation in West Papua. We participated in workshops on different tactics we can use in the struggle to stop war profiteering, and in 'campaigns clinics', in which participants introduced campaigns they are involved in, and heard reflections and ideas from other activists.

During the NATO exercise Trident Juncture 2015 the alliance will practice military interventions in North Africa

Marines from the US train in la Sierra del Retin, Barbate

The NATO exercise Trident Juncture 2015 will take place during October 2015 and until early November in Italy, Portugal, and the State of Spain. According to a variety of sources, this will be the “largest exercise of NATO since the end of the Cold War”1, “largest exercise conducted by the Alliance since 2002” (…) and “the Alliance’s most important exercise in 2015”2, or “the largest deployment of the Alliance in the last decade”3. The exercise consists of two clearly distinguished phases, a command post exercise (CPX, 3-16 October) and a phase of real action (Live Exercise, LIVEX, 21 October-6 November).

The United Nations has released a damning report into the operations of Canadian mining company Nevsun Resources in Eritrea, which accuses the company of using conscripted labour at it's Bisha Mine in the country. Nevsun estimated that the mine held over a billion pounds of copper and 2.7 billion pounds of zinc.

Stopping the War Business, our international seminar on war profiteering, starts in Seoul in two weeks time!

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.

The seminar is being jointly coordinated by World Without War in Korea and War Resisters' International.

What is war profiteering?

'War profiteering' includes all those who profit financially from war and militarisation, or whose money makes war possible. That includes a complex network of companies, financial institutions, and individuals. The obvious thing that people think of when you talk about war profiteering is weapons manufacturers, but it goes much further than that.

We believe that so long as violence remains profitable, war will persist, because the short-term economic interests of the powerful will be put before longer-term peace and liberation. So that's why it's important – because without preventing war profiteering, we can never see an end to war.

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