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Friday, 16 September 2011

A view from DSEi: "War is normal"

On the first morning of the arms fare in the Docklands, a group of us tried to obstruct the main bridge entrance to Excel. We sang peace songs and tried to engage with the delegates. Most just kept their heads down, and tried to ignore us. One though, was keen to talk.

"War is normal" he said in a plummy accent "Just like death, and birth. War is a perfectly normal part of life"

He smiled, he meant it from the bottom of his soul. War is normal. And for this reason, it is perfectly possible to justify the actions of 25,000 men (very few women) in suits going about the 'normal' business of buying and selling arms.

The smell of money was palpable. This is big, big business. The wealth that comes along with the arms trade is formidable. It must be intoxicating to those who want it.

But war is not normal. Most people, most normal people do not want war. Throughout history, war has been the tool of the few. The few who desire more land than they need, the few who desire more wealth and power than they need. War is the opposite of normal - it is sick and the product of greed and cruelty. In the powerful words of the CAAT slogan "This is not OK!"

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Disarming DSEi! Do all that you can to stop this evil trade!

Hats off to the hundreds of folk who have been working hard to shutdown 'Defence and Security Equipment international' (DSEi) the worlds biggest arms fare, being held this week at the Excel centre in the docklands. I was able to join in for the first few days of protests and it was a privilege to mix with such a diverse and determined group of people.

This arms fare has been particularly repugnant due to the number of oppressive regimes invited to the event, especially ones still involved in repressing the Arab Spring (Algeria, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain)

Even worse, has been the desperate attempts to sell the new UAV's (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, or 'drones'), inflicting death to civilians at an alarming rate from control desks on the other side of the world.

I have so many tales to tell, from gaining entrance to Excel after saying I was there to perform the official exorcism, to being part of some extraordinarily brave actions to block the entrances to the event.

I even managed to get myself ejected from the National Gallery in protest at the meal they put on for senior arms dealers. Eventually, SERCO (nasty, nasty privateer company) even banned me from using the DLR,  (Docklands Light Railway) though I never once blocked the way of passengers on the actual stations.

So many stories, watch the blog site in the coming weeks, but now is the time to say: DSEI is still on! If you can get down there in the next few days, be brave, sit down in the road, sing peace songs, do all you can to say to our government: control arms sales, don't gratuitously promote sales no matter what the human cost.

The Arms trade is not normal, in the words of CAAT (Campaign Against The Arms Trade) 'THIS IS NOT OK!' Make your voices heard.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Thoughts on September 11th

It is hard not to think that this is the defining moment of the century so far. We all remember exactly where we were ten years ago. I was in a bookshop in Knutsford, the owner had turned up the radio for us all to hear. America was under attack. When I got to a television, the images dug deep into the memory, a horror made for TV.

Those pictures; the impact of the planes on metal and glass; people leaping to their deaths; the fire officers struggling in the dust; the lines of shocked people walking away from Manhattan.

But it is the response to the violence of those 19 suicidal extremists that has sadly defined this last decade. Revenge on nations, invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. Over a million killed. The US could have pursued those responsible in such a different way. They choose retribution and violence, and now there are at least 19 suicidal extremists every month in Iraq and Afghanistan. Vicious and endless circles of violence.

Let us pray, that the next ten years will see nations refusing to follow the logic of violence and revenge, and instead, doing all they can to foster real justice and peacemaking in our troubled world.