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.
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.
Other notable groups include:
- Religions for Peace (European Council of Religious Leaders) [www.rfp.europe.eu]
- Life and Peace Institute [http://www.life-peace.org/default2.asp?xid= ]
- Campaign Against the Arms Trade [www.caat.org.uk]
- 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 [http://www.saferworld.org.uk/].
(More on this subject a little later...)