Thursday, 30 October 2014

Students protest BAE's 'careers in killing'

Students protest against BAE Systems on campus
(Image from 2007 protest)
The Lancaster University Careers Fair was again the venue for a protest against the inclusion of BAE Systems. A Group of Lancaster University Students and activists staged a "die-in" at the careers fair in the university's Great Hall this afternoon. The group lay on the floor to symbolise the death and destruction caused by arms manufacturer BAE Systems, who were represented at the fair.

A number of students also held a vigil outside the hall, to remember those killed by the arms trade.

Cllr Jack Filmore, who represents the university ward, was present at the protest and said 'I think it is ethically unacceptable for a company such as BAE Systems to be allowed onto campus. We wanted to send a clear message that companies with no regard for human life are not welcome here.'

Horrific Human Rights Abuses
A spokesperson for the group said 'BAE has a horrific human rights record, having sold arms to Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Turkey, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Algeria and Qatar. The company produces everything from nuclear submarines to the handcuffs and shackles used at Guantanamo
Bay.

'The fact that they are here, at this respected institution, lends legitimacy to human rights abuse. We are here to say that this is not okay.'

Gaza? - Kerching!
It's hard to put a finger on when this area became dependent on the manufacture of weaponry and its associated systems. To the point where, through BAE, we could even see profit from the bombing of civilians in Gaza.

Lancaster University is only one of the many universities that rely heavily on BAE for research funding. The university's Sci-Tech faculty now has a Security Centre and develops 'solutions' for 21st century rulers interested in secrecy, surveillance and control, as well as drone technology and other military systems.

But the uni isn't the only camp-follower to the arms dealers in the region. The students have been protesting against it for years now, but for the rest of us it seems that militarisation is increasingly part of our normality.

Military-Industrial Planning
As well as being famously involved in bribery and fraud across several continents overseas, BAE Systems is deeply embedded in local business and planning networks. The Lancashire Enterprise Zone boasts that it is anchored by BAE Systems across its two sites at Samlesbury and Warton. Pretty much every local and regional plan, from economics and housing to retail developments, cites BAE as the regional driver for growth - a strategy that depends heavily on escalating global insecurity and aggression.

BAE Systems
BAE Systems is the world's third largest arms producer. Its portfolio includes fighter aircraft, warships, tanks, armoured vehicles, artillery, missiles and small arms ammunition.

BAE's arms are sold indiscriminately around the world. The company has military customers in over 100 countries and around 95% of its sales are military (SIPRI).

BAE has 5,900 employees in Saudi Arabia and provides operational support to the armed forces including the Saudi air force, which bombed Yemen in 2009.

Saudi army troops enter Bahrain in BAE-supplied apcs,
to suppress the popular uprising.  March 2011
The Economist Intelligence Unit publishes a "democracy index". The 2012 index saw Saudi Arabia ranked 163rd out of 167 countries. Only Syria, Chad, Guinea-Bissau and North Korea were assessed as worse.

BAE supplied 200 Tactica armoured vehicles to Saudi Arabia, which were used by Saudi troops helping to suppress pro-democracy protests in Bahrain in March 2011 (Jane's Defence Weekly, 23.3.2011).

Somebody else
When asked to comment about the student protest, a security guard representing BAE Systems  said, 'Its all about the profit. If we don't do it, somebody else would.' He may have been quoting British PM Tony Blair, who famously said the same thing about the indiscriminate nature of UK arms industry sales in 2002.

What that means is, that it's ok to facilitate harm - even atrocities against humanity - as long as it's not just you doing it.  If the Uni is in the market for a new motto, they need look no further.

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