Guardian, 22 May 2007
Three months before his election in 1997, Tony Blair wrote in BAE Systems Newsletter that his government would champion arms exports and a “strong defence industry”. That, despite the hoopla surrounding the idea of an “ethical” foreign policy, was always the prime minister’s ambition. A decade on, a new set of figures reveal the devastating extent to which he has succeeded.
Yesterday’s report by Saferworld documents the £45bn worth of arms delivered by Britain in the last 10 years, making us the world’s second largest arms exporter. In the last three years, arms have been exported to 19 of the 20 countries identified in the Foreign Office’s annual human rights report as “countries of concern”. The Colombian military and its paramilitary allies have killed thousands of people in the country’s civil war. Yet last year Britain exported armoured all-wheel-drive vehicles, military communications equipment and heavy machine guns, alongside a military aid programme. Indonesia has received more than £400m worth of military equipment since 1997 while using British military equipment for internal repression on a dozen known occasions….