The most shaming picture to have been published in a newspaper for some time appeared in yesterday’s Mail. It showed a British-made armoured personnel carrier speeding past Libyan demonstrators.

Perhaps you will think that Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, the genocidal maniac still clinging on to power in Libya as I write, acquired this vehicle from a third party, and that its ominous presence in a Libyan street has nothing to do with Britain. I’m afraid you would be wrong. In 2007, the British Government agreed a £5 million package with Libya which included armoured personnel carriers and water cannon. Since then we have sold arms worth tens of millions of pounds to Gaddafi’s regime. As recently as last summer, the Coalition Government approved licences to sell products to Libya including ‘crowd control ammunition’ and ‘tear gas/irritant ammunition’. Only a few months ago we shipped sniper rifles to Libya.

COMMENT: There should be no arms trade.

But, as that ain't going to happen any day soon, here's a couple of pragmatic suggestions.

1) No government or civil service should be involved in the selling of arms other than to strictly enforce the laws governing sales.

2) The Democratic nations should all get together, define what "democracy" is and limit the sale of arms to those countries that abide by that definition.



  1. All during the Egyptian Uprising, we were treated to scenes of protesters holding up “Made in the USA” tear-gas cannisters.

    Sometimes, the face in the mirror is ugly…

  2. Ah, welcome to the USA’s shame every time the word “Taliban” comes up, or “Noriega” or “Ayatollah!”

    What dictators and murderers we didn’t put in control, we backed someone, like the Shah, who made a murderous dictator preferable. That comes even before our shame about who made ordnance or equipment.

  3. Of Course, You Could Be Right!

    But it’s an uphill swim to get to “right.”

    Our “Military/Industrial Complex” has been supplanted by a larger “Corporate/Congressional Complex,” but as a subset of such it still wields (and sells) considerable power. And the Corporatists at the top couldn’t care less about “Democracy” – dictatorships are better suited to the monochromatic world view which favors war over words.

    I thought I’d given up writing about Things Political, but this post has me brimming over with such messy thoughts…

  4. The sale of arms is a toxic business. Let’s leave it at that. The solution of defining democracy and limiting arms sales to those who abide by the definition sounds a bit like establishing a covenant to see who’s in and who’s out.

  5. Trouble is, regimes change, and who is “in” sometimes becomes “out” and vice versa. Sell someone a club and they’ll use it, and their victim will want a bigger one.

  6. I want to say that we should ban all arms trade.

    But wait, does that mean that less militarized countries are at risk? Or does it mean that those countries will divert manufacturing resources to making arms? It certainly does not mean peace!

    Your idea, identify the good guys (PUBLICLY!) and limit the trade to them is about the best available. It is not however perfect. We provide arms and ammo to Israel for “defense” and they use it to persecute Christian Arabs. ;;sigh;;


  7. I think they could come up with something acceptable. It would be afterwards that we would, no doubt, see different interpretations. It would be like the United Nations – a great idea, agreed upon but never adhered to.