Saturday, February 11, 2012

Post #183 - Arms and Men

"Metanoia is conversion -- a turning away from forces of death to the promise of abundant life." (John 10:10)

Things fall apart
The centre cannot hold
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned.
(William Butler Yeats, The Second Coming)

Yeats could have been describing the 21st Century and the effect of out-of-control trading in armaments of all types -- more of them produced in the United States than anywhere else. As another possible war looms in the Middle East, part of the difficulty is that there are SO many weapons available to SO many bad actors.

In many countries, like Burundi, Brazil and Jamaica, deadly violence is a daily hazard for the poor, as tons of munitions pour into areas which don’t have enough to feed the people. "The casualties of conflict today are, to an overwhelming extent, civilian, increasing from a clear minority of war-related deaths in the first half of the twentieth century to 90 per cent by the mid-1990's." (Peter Brune, The Gothenburg Process: Faith-based advocacy for disarmament).  I am certain that an Iranian conflict would be no exception to that trend.
Global military expenditures (including personnel, operations and maintenance, procurement, research and development, military aid and the civilian aid associated with military operations) have grown from approximately $1 trillion in 2000 to about $1.5 trillion in 2009. Cross-border arms trade is running between 20 and 25 billion dollars per year (of which about $6 billion is in small arms and light 

A couple of years ago, I was invited to attend the fourth meeting of what has come to be called The Gothenburg Process, which addresses global trade in arms. K.G. Hammar, Archbishop emeritus and chair of the GP Steering Committee, said, “For the first time in history, the leaders of the most powerful armies on earth have reached consensus that their most serious problems do not have a purely military solution (e.g. Iraq and Afghan wars). If fact, using our tremendous strength often seemed only to make matters worse… We must replace MAD (mutually-assured destruction) with MED (mutual economic interdependence).” His co-chair, William Kenney, Roman Catholic bishop of Birmingham, reminded us that the sanctity of the human person must be at the heart of our response to the crisis.

Pieter-Jan van Eggenberg, of SweFOR [Swedish Fellowship of Reconciliation], said that the purchase of arms in many countries becomes the “cuckoo’s egg in the nest” pushing out all other priorities from national budgets. (For a time, Burundi expended an incredible 54% of its national treasure on “security.”) And, with big arms sales comes large-scale bribes from the vendors (often up to 25% of the sale price), corrupting one government after another.

Dwight D. Eisenhower said, in 1953, "Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and not clothed." In India, activists note that the price of one sophisticated military plane could feed many thousands of poor Indian villagers for many months.

Lanctatius (who tutored Emporer Constantine's son), wrote: "Wherever arms have glittered, they must be banished and exterminated from thence," for "God, in prohibiting killing, discountenances not only brigandage, which is contrary to human law, but also that which men regard as legal." I am sure, if there is war against Iran that it will be, in some sense "legal" -- and it will be bloody.

For more information, see the website:

Other notable groups include:

  • Religions for Peace (European Council of Religious Leaders) []
  • Life and Peace Institute [ ]
  • Campaign Against the Arms Trade []
  • Violence Prevention Initiative of WHO
  • Conference on Christian Approaches to War and Disarmament
  • Ecumenical Network on Small Arms (now moribund, for lack of funds at the WCC) Saferworld [].

(More on this subject a little later...)

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