For the past 40 years successive British governments have been underwriting loans from arms companies to repressive regimes so that these regimes can afford to buy weapons.
To clarify, this is not just the government allowing weapons to be sold to individuals like Mugabe, Mubarak and Netanyahu. This is the government saying to these madmen, “Yes, yes you can buy weapons from British companies! Not only that: if you can’t afford to buy any at the moment, we’ll lend you the money! It’s fine, we’ll just sack a few teachers or something.”
Compare this laid-back attitude politicians have to foreign dictators to the attitude they have towards their own citizens: If a struggling British family wanted the government to lend them money to buy basic necessities, they’d be laughed away. But if Mugabe wants £35 million to buy HAWK fighter jets from BAE Systems, politicians will bend over backwards to lend him the money. Incidentally, these planes were used to invade the Congo in a conflict that killed 5.4 million people (only 1 million less than died in the holocaust). It’s clear that the government of the time (Thatcher’s) has a significant amount of blood on its hands.
Some people would argue that anything the government can do to help business is worth doing. Firstly, these people have no soul. Secondly, they wouldn’t be saying that if they were the ones being shot at with British-made weapons. Thirdly, there are plenty of industries the government can invest in which don’t kill people. It is not just our governments, past and present, which have been complicit in arms-dealing to morally dubious dictators, but as it turns out, our very own University of Sheffield is too.
BAE systems, which sold fighter jets to Mugabe, has strong links with our university through the BAE Systems Centre for Research in Active Control which it runs in partnership with the University of Sheffield. In other words, Sheffield students are helping to develop and improve the weapons BAE sells to the likes of Mugabe. This isn’t, I suspect, why most of these students chose to study science.
BAE Systems is also a regular at the Careers Fairs, sanctioned by the university, which has drawn protests from groups on campus such as Fund Education, Not War and Amnesty International. This behaviour, by our governments and university, over the last 40 years shows the morally bankrupt nature of a society that prioritises profits over people. Everyone involved should be ashamed.