Tuesday, November 08, 2011
Hats off to the Economist which features a piece by the author of a new book on the International Arms Trade.
Andrew Feinstein comments:
In 2010 84% of retiring generals in the Pentagon went into employment with the big defence contractors. Lawmakers seldom vote against any of these gargantuan projects. They get a lot of campaign contributions from the large defence contractors, and the contractors ensure that there are jobs on these contracts in every single congressional district, even if it’s just a couple of people sitting around a table surfing the internet.
This means that anyone who votes against these projects is accused by the lobby of voting against jobs in their own constituency.
A Pentagon whistleblower I interviewed, Chuck Spinney, describes the system as a self-licking ice cream.
Feinstein in the Economist’s online More Intelligent Life ‘Quick Study’ feature.
Odd questions that come to my mind. What is the situation in the UK? Do we have self-licking ice-cream relationships with former military and civil service personnel taking up roles with the arms industry after retirement? (1)
Should MPs with significant defence establishments in their constituencies be banned from sitting on defence committees?
And should LibDems be using our presence in government to prise out more information about all this so public debates are better informed? If this is not happening, why not?
This is a matter of political will. The imperatives of national security and commercial confidentiality legitimately conceal some aspects of these deals, but they’re also used to hide the malfeasance that takes place. There needs to be greater transparency, particularly around the use of middlemen.Feinstein was a South African MP who resigned in protest over failures to investigate a $5 billion arms deal and now heads Corruption Watch in London.
Secondly, we need far stronger regulation of an industry that quite literally counts its costs in human lives and is highly under-regulated. There are negotiations in the UN at the moment for an international arms-trade treaty, but it will have to be tough with meaningful enforcement methods.
I would also suggest that no weapons manufacturer should be allowed to make any political contributions.
See Quick Study, a new series on The Economist's Prospero blog that offers a crash course in a particular subject, delivered by an expert in the field, with some suggestions for further reading and for more useful links.
(1) is a rhetorical question really…see Lewis Pages book 'Lions Donkeys and Dinosaurs' for some thoughts...
Feinstein, A (2011) “The Shadow World: Inside the Global Arms Trade”. Hamish Hamilton.