Saturday, 28 April 2012

Masters of War

by Paul Hanes on Wednesday, October 6, 2010 at 8:02pm · The heralded anti-war song by Bob Dylan 'Masters of War' clearly takes aim at those who profit from war and produce its weapons. In its opening verse it lays out the distaste that Bob Dylan was feeling when he wrote the song in 1963 and represented the anti-war sentiment of many for decades to come.

The opening verse lays out the targets for his wrath:
 Come you masters of war,
You that build all the guns,
You that build the death planes,
You that build all the bombs,
You that hide behind walls,
You that hide behind desks,
I just want you to know,
I can see through your masks.

 The song continues its venom towards those who choose to make a living and profit from the destruction and killing which is carried out with their weapons and notably weapons which are not fired in the neighbourhoods in which they, the war profiteers live. Dylan finishes the song with the overtly threatening verse: And I hope that you die, And that your death'll come soon, I will follow your casket, In the pale afternoon, And I'll watch while you're lowered, Down to your deathbed, And I'll stand over your grave, 'Till I'm sure that you're dead. The resonance of the sentiment of Dylan's 'Masters of War' has made it an anti war anthem for the people. It is one of the most covered songs having touched the emotions of many over the almost 50 years since its release.

Dylan clearly is goading the war manufacturers into a confrontation with the opening line. The war machine is a formidable opponent. A complex industrial and capital structure spread out across the world producing weapons. We in the west rarely see the consequences to families who live far away in commonly NATO, USA, UK or Israeli targeted countries. Increasingly we are becoming aware of the atrocities, which our governments commit on our behalf in some poorly constructed excuse (believable to the non-thinking population and my local Member of Parliament Greg Hands) that 'the war on terror is making us safer'.

The Wiki Leaks expose told us what we had known about war all along. The US government's assertion that the leak had put US troops in danger was laughable. I am fairly sure that the average Afghan knew for years that the school bus got shot up and their kids are dead as apposed to travelling 100's of miles to an internet point to discover it on Wiki Leaks. What the war establishment fears most is that their terrible deeds will come to light and the people will put a stop to their war profiteering. Even the most cursory examinations of tactics in Afghanistan shows that the NATO operation which has failed to shut down resistance from one of the poorest nations on the planet (in more time than it took to conduct World War I and World War II put together) shows that an extended war is more about extended profits for companies than any clear mission objectives.



For example one of the US governments main military contractor, The Carlyle Group who's owners include the Bush Family who through George Bush II had direct say over the disastrous tactics employed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Such decisions like sacking the Iraqi army against military top brass advice and leaving the arms dumps of the Iraqi Army intact and unguarded lead to a greater conflict and taxpayer paid profits for Bush administration owned companies. The other major company Halliburton had Dick Cheney as CEO. Enough said? President of the United States Dwight D. Eisenhower, during his farewell speech of 1961 put it this way. 'In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defence with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together'.

 In Britain the alert and knowledgeable citizenry is taking action against war profiteers with some extraordinary results. Take the popular seaside town of Brighton. A relaxed and traditionally British seaside town noted for its pier, family entertainment and stone covered beaches. It is also home to the EDO MBM Corporations factory which manufactures components including 'racks' for the transportation and release of bombs from a variety of military aircraft such as the F-16 and Tornado aircraft commonly used in Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine. Protesters, part of an organisation calling itself Smash EDO have been targeting the factory since 2004 on a weekly basis conducting noise demos outside the factory and providing information to staff about how the efforts of their labour are being used by armed forces complicit in war crimes. This has led to many staff making an informed decision not to work at the factory on moral as well as legal grounds, costing the company dearly. In what would seem a hot potato move the factory is now owned by ITT. Smash EDO say EDO MBM's supply of weapons systems for the illegal aggression and subsequent war crimes committed in Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine makes their directors war criminals.

International law is very clear on this point, in the 1947 trial of Bruno Tesch, a German industrialist, the court acted: "on the principle that any civilian who is an accessory to a violation of the laws and customs of war is himself also liable as a war criminal". Tesch was convicted even though he did not supply products for specifically criminal purpose, because he carried on supplying them when he became aware they were being used to commit atrocities.

Release mechanisms may not be as 'glamorous' as warheads, but they are just as crucial to the committing of the atrocities in Iraq. Dave Jones, EDO MBM's Managing Director has said under oath that he is "fully aware" of what his products are used for. The protesters tell me, 'We have read out testimonies from the survivors of the Fallujah massacre over a megaphone outside EDO. We have read out the names of the dead in Lebanon, Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine. We have shown pictures of those killed or wounded by the bombing campaign. We have directed their attention to the report in the Lancet which estimates over a million people have been killed during the US/UK occupation of Iraq and the UN's Goldstone report which catalogue's war crimes in Gaza.' Yet EDO MBM continues its complicity. Campaigners have been calling for the closure of EDO MBM/ITT and the campaign was started with a roof occupation and lock-on at the factory in May 2004 and demonstrations have taken place every week since then. Several protest camps have been held outside the factory and recent mass demonstrations at the factory have attracted thousands of people. At last years Mayday demonstration the cost of policing this peaceful protest was £560,000. Early in the group’s existence, what was then known as EDO MBM Technology obtained a High Court injunction banning protests outside its factory in Home Farm Road, Moulsecoomb. An attempt to create a half-mile exclusion zone around the site failed and the company was forced to pay the Smash EDO campaign's legal costs of £200,000.

Then on 16th January 2009 during the brutal Israeli assault on Gaza which killed and injured thousands of innocent Palestinians six activists broke into EDO MBM's manufacturing facility. For an hour they wreaked havoc with hammers. Filing cabinets and computers were hurled from top-floor windows. Machinery was also sabotaged. One of the reasons that the six had so much time in the factory was ironically that Sussex Police somewhat colludingly saw a bomb in the car park and cordoned off the area for specialists to arrive. The 'bomb' was in fact a dummy, a prop for EDO to display at trade fairs, precision guided out of an upstairs window by the decommissioners. Sussex Police are well versed in the issues according to protesters having attended Smash EDO protests for many years monitoring the campaigns leaflets and information. One of the decommissioners Elijah Smith in a pre-recorded statement said, 'I don't feel I'm going to do anything illegal tonight, but I'm going to go into an arms factory and smash it up to the best of my ability so that it cannot actually produce munitions and these very dirty bombs that have been provided to the Israeli army so that they can kill children. The time for talking has gone too far. I'm not a writer, I'm just a person from the community and I'm deeply disgusted'. The following day the Police issued a statement that they estimated that over £180,000 in damage had been done to the factory. Hilariously the decommissioners retorted the police assertion with now an infamous statement, 'That is not true. It was much more damage than that'.

'First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.' - Mahatma Gandhi With all six decommissioners charged with Conspiracy to Commit Criminal Damage which carries a 10 year maximum prison term the trial began and it was EDO MBM in the shape of the now managing director Paul Hills who found himself in the dock. He had come to court intending to represent a company primarily manufacturing in-flight entertainment equipment. He was presented with a dossier of evidence painstakingly built up over the years by campaigners, which pointed firmly at the company's complicity in war crimes. Hills revealed that the company has owned the rights to the main bomb rack used on Israeli F-16s VER-2 since 1998. He admitted removing website evidence of his company's dealings with Israel as early as 2004, the date of the first protests. He admitted having interfered with the crime scene, retrieving debris and papers, before police photographers arrived. He claimed to have police permission but no police statement backed him up.

There has been speculation that £189,000 is actually an underestimate of the damage caused and that more controversial evidence may have been spirited away. After being warned at one stage by the judge that he was at risk of perjuring himself if he contradicted evidence he had produced in earlier court cases, crucially he ended by admitting that anyone looking at the evidence presented to him in court would form the reasonable belief that his company was involved in arms sales to Israel. It was this that the defendants needed to convince the jury of - that there was an obvious link between this factory and the bombardment of Gaza. A witness, Sharyn Lock, provided the background necessary for the jury to understand the full scope of the horror then unfolding in Gaza. Now a trainee midwife, in 2009 she was a human-rights volunteer in Al-Quds hospital, Gaza City. She was in the Gaza strip for the whole of Operation Cast Lead, and able to show footage of a missile strike on the hospital, just metres from the maternity ward.

The jury also saw news reports of the white phosphorus attacks on the UNWRA compound, which incinerated much-needed food and medicine. Sharyn closed her evidence by saying she had no doubt that those who armed the Israeli Air Force, 'had the blood of children on their hands'. After hearing the verdict she told the press, 'Brilliant news. I am so proud not only of the UK civilians who risked their liberty to protect fellow civilians whom they may never meet - but also of the jury who recognised that it is everyone's responsibility to uphold international law, even if that means decommissioning the weapons'. The decommissioners were also congratulated by Noam Chomsky, who said, 'I would like to express my respect and admiration for those who are undertaking non-violent resistance to oppose British participation in Israel's cruel crimes in Gaza'. The Smash EDO victory is not an uncommon tale in Britain for companies who profit from war crimes. The British Public is willing to stand up and take on the companies who immorally profit. Other examples of citizens targeting such companies are abound.

The AHAVA Cosmetics Company an Israeli Cosmetics firm operating on stolen land in the occupied West Bank of Palestine is one example where campaigners locked themselves onto concrete-filled oil drums inside the central London shop, closing it down for two days in September and December of 2009. AHAVA now joins a group of companies such as Carmel Agrexco, EDO Corporation, Raytheon and Veolia who have all been targeted and have lost billions in business for their complicity in war crimes either through direct action or lost contracts. The AHAVA campaigners insisted that they are legally justified in their actions as the shop’s activities are unlawful. All cosmetics on sale in the shop originate from Mitzpe Shalem, an illegal Israeli settlement in the occupied West Bank, and are deliberately mislabelled “Made in Israel”. To date, no campaigner has been successfully prosecuted and AHAVA has consistently refused to cooperate with the prosecuting authorities. Carmel Agrexco an Israeli State owned flower and produce importer to the United Kingdom regularly faces the same predicament and is regularly shut down by campaign groups in London. For charges to stick it is up to the company to prove their business is lawful Something Carmel Agrexco is also unwilling to do and as such Police refuse to charge campaigners who target their premises.

 On the first day of the AHAVA four trial prosecutors dropped aggravated trespass charges. This would have required the prosecution to demonstrate AHAVA was engaged in lawful activity. Significantly, the Crown Prosecution Service decided that this was not something they would attempt to prove. The primary witness for the prosecution, AHAVA’s store manager, refused to attend court to testify despite courts summons and threats of an arrest warrant leading to the activist’s acquittal on all remaining charges. Perhaps he had been advised that his appearance may implicate him in war crime. After the acquittal of the AHAVA four the celebrations continued on Saturday 14th August 2010 when activist from a variety of campaigns continued the fortnightly protests outside the store. These protests are supported by the Jews For Boycotting Israeli Goods, Palestine Solidarity Campaign, International Solidarity Movement, Boycott Israeli Goods and other notable campaigning groups. Interestingly whilst business was very limited for AHAVA during the protest, I was able to observe the shop continue trading for a about an hour and a half after everyone had left the vicinity and no customers entered the shop during this time.

Clearly the message is getting through to the modern consuming public who are educated in the facts and actively seeking out goods, which are from sources, who operate ethically. Notably the £48 price tag for a facial reduced from £60 as advertised on their sidewalk board seemed equally as murderous. With little support or trade going on for AHAVA on a Saturday things looked bad for them. At Covent Garden, in support of AHAVA the racist English Defence League turned up in small numbers and Unfurled their Flag adorned with 'EDL Croydon Division' and joined a smaller group of Pro Zionists in a counter rally with a historically unusual Fascist Zionist Coalition. Whilst all in this group could have done with a facial none seemed to be overly cashed up enough to afford the products.

It was announced at the demonstration that AHAVA are now being investigated by the Camden Trading Standards Officers. It can only be a matter of time before the high rents in the area match up with poor sales and the illegality of the business - providing a three way pincer movement which will see it's Flagship London outlet close due to the protesters efforts.

 Similar successful actions have occurred throughout the United Kingdom on 11th June 2006, nine peace activists who broke into a Raytheon arms factory in Derry, Northern Ireland and destroyed computers causing damage valued at £350,000. All were found not guilty by a Belfast jury. Eamonn McCann, journalist and activist, was one of the first 'Raytheon Nine'. On 12th January 2009, the second 'Raytheon Nine' struck during Israel's attack on Gaza. Nine activists had intended to bring down Raytheon’s computer to highlight Raytheon’s supplying missile software to the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF). They faced a jury at Belfast Crown Court and in yet another unanimous jury decision they found nine women not guilty of charges including breaking and entering into the Derry offices of the arms manufacturer. They had chained themselves to doors inside the offices in an attempt to force a criminal investigation into Raytheon, apparently agreed to by the Police Service of Northern Ireland. Raytheon reduced operations soon after and fully closed its facilities in Derry a year later.

Clearly companies involved in war crimes are not welcome in our communities by citizens or the state. On 29th January 2006, three women entered a hangar on the site of the British Aerospace (BAE) factory in Warton, Lancashire, armed with household hammers and wrote off a £13 million Hawk jet fighter. They were acting to protest against the planned export of BAE Hawks to Indonesia, a repressive dictatorship that has invaded and occupied East Timor where a third of the population were killed. The Hawk Jet ready for delivery, with the Indonesian flag and serial number, sat on the tarmac.

They disarmed the cockpit weapons systems, radar controls, nose cone and wing parts from which bombs are hung. They continued to paint the plane with slogans and peace symbols. The three un detected in the hangar for two and a half hours then rang the Press Association to tip off the world of what they had done and seek safe extraction form the heavily guarded site. 'The panels were surprisingly weak and it wasn't difficult to actually make a hole when you thought you 'd just be denting it', commented Andrea Needham in a letter sent whilst on remand from prison. Britain was the single most important supplier of arms to the regime in Indonesia, which is responsible for one of the worst genocides since the Nazi Holocaust. A third of the population of East Timor - 260,000 people - were slaughtered by the Indonesian army's killing squads, or by the famine they created. The rest were terrorised by the occupying army, displaced from the land, their Tetum language and culture suppressed, their women raped and forced to undergo sterilisation as part of a systematic attempt to wipe out the Timorese and replace them with Indonesian migrants.

Other British firms have also sent armoured vehicles and water cannons. The Bramshill Police College has, on the aid budget, trained the security forces of President Suharto to use riot-control techniques to keep his regime in power. The waters around East Timor are rich in oil however Britain is rich in ordinary housewives willing to take a crow bar and hammer to instruments of war crime. All the women involved in decommissioning the Hawk Jet cost British Aerospace, Britain's largest Arms Manufacturer and probably best known company a multi-million pound price tag. All were found not guilty.

To conclude my sentiment toward arms manufacturers and war profiteers in the words of Dylan's Song, 'Masters of War' I have changed one lyric.

 How much do I know To talk out of turn
You might say that I'm young
You might say I'm unlearned
But there is one thing I know
Though I'm younger than you
That even a JURY would never forgive what you do.

 I am glad that the tide of popular sentiment to those, who commit war crimes is being supported by the courts in this country. After destroying resistance and dissent some of the most brutal regimes in history have gone onto kill millions. Without doubt Britain has participated in war crimes either complicit with or directly and needs to be brought to bear on these crimes. It is too clear to see so often when leaders and artists like Dylan talk about war and peace that its comments are relevant or directed at the arms manufacturers who feed of destruction.

 'Too often we excuse those who are willing to build their own lives on the shattered dreams of other human beings.' - Robert F. Kennedy 'If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favour freedom, and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. This struggle may be a moral one; or it may be a physical one; or it may be both moral and physical; but it must be a struggle.' - Frederick Douglass

 I would encourage anyone to install and demand the rule of law and seek justice. Join the protest movement, participate and be as effective as it has become. As a community we cannot live in isolation and if we see crime we must report it. We have an obligation to prevent it or it will become a cancer, which spreads. As the decommissioners have shown our duty of care extends to those in the world who may face war crimes at our hands as well.

We have a duty to take action and in the words of Elijah Smith the EDO decomissioner when 'the time for talking' is over it is time for action. As the Smash EDO groups says, 'Its Hammertime!' Paul Hanes Fourman Films Concerned Citizen Journalist and peace activist living in London. I have strong links and involvement with the antiwar and trade union movements and am also part of the Counterfire group. I released the first of three feature documentaries in 2007 and reguarly report on the anti war movment on my youtube channel http://www.youtube.com/user/fourmanfilms










£


No comments:

Post a Comment