The arms trade kills thousands of women and children

Men help a wounded boy who survived an airstrike by forces loyal to Bashar Assad in Damascus. File photo: CNS/Reuters
Men help a wounded boy who survived an airstrike by forces loyal to Bashar Assad in Damascus. File photo: CNS/Reuters

The drums of war are beating ever louder as arms traders supply weapons for the war in the Middle East while the superpowers line up in confrontational posturing in a show of might and military power. “Might is right” is the military thinking behind the three biggest military powers that are vying for prestige and power in the world.  The United States (US), Russia and China, despite being in the middle of a pandemic that has infected over 16 million people and killed hundreds of thousands, they continue to build up their armed forces and supply weapons to nations of the Saudi-led coalition making war on the Houthi in Yemen.

The most devastating war is that in Yemen where thousands of civilians, including many children, have been killed and wounded, driven to near starvation by the air attacks of a Saudi-led coalition of Arab nations against Houthi rebels who took power in 2015 and are backed by Iran. The indiscriminate air strikes against hospitals, clinics, schools, markets, mosques, houses and festival occasions are gross violations of international humanitarian and human rights laws.

Abdullah al-Ibbi was at home with his extended family in the country’s capital, Sana’a, when it was suddenly hit by a missile fired from a coalition fighter jet. The building collapsed in dust and rubble like a house of cards killing 27 members of his family. He was gravely injured and barely survived. The youngest child killed was two-years-old.

The United Nations has said that as many as 10,000 people have been killed in the war and two-thirds of them have been civilians. The number of injured so far is 55,000 and is increasing daily. In bringing evidence of war crimes and halting the arms trade by the British government, Amnesty International visited Yemen and carefully documented as many as 42 indiscriminate air strikes. They meticulously documented and confirmed the killing of 518 civilians and the wounding of 433 others. The evidence was presented in October 2019. 

In a successful court case, the judged ruled that the arms trade by the United Kingdom (UK) to the coalition for the war in Yemen was illegal. 

Arms manufacturers, nevertheless, find ways to supply weapons, likely using other countries as intermediaries. 

Deadly cluster bombs, banned under international law but still manufactured in the United States, the UK, and Brazil, have been found in Yemen. When dropped, they scatter dozens of smaller bomblets that explode when touched. The exploded remains of missiles supplied by western countries have been found and documented as evidence of war crimes against the suppliers.   

If not killed by bombs and bullets supplied by the arms manufacturing nations, then cholera, Covid-19, typhoid and starvation have killed thousands more. There are an estimated 22 million people in need of humanitarian aid.  It is a horrific war bringing death and destruction.

A school bus filled with children received a direct hit from a missile fired by a coalition jet fighter when it was stopped in the market area of Dahyan. At least 29 children were killed outright and 30 were seriously injured; a terrible war crime among many for which no one has been held accountable. 

Jan Egeland, the secretary general of the Norwegian Refugee Council said that it was a “grotesque, shameful” attack and showed a “blatant disregard for the rules of war.”

Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and United Arab Emirates have the most fighter jets and troops in the fighting while Egypt, Jordan, Sudan and Morocco have given their support. It is a war against their traditional enemy, Iran, which supports the Houthi the rebels. The rebels are, themselves, also responsible for many civilian deaths.

Behind the coalition are the suppliers of arms, jet planes, missiles and weapons of all kinds. The Saudi Arabian spending spree is a boon for the arms suppliers who welcome war and weapons sales. 

A Google search will show that the main US companies involved in selling arms to Saudi Arabia are: Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon, General Dynamics, Northrop Grumman, General Electric, Exxon Mobil, Halliburton, Honeywell, McDermott International and Jacobs Engineering Group. The US and the UK are biggest suppliers of jets and missiles and munitions to Saudi Arabia. 

The Saudis also buy weapons from France, Italy and Spain. Denmark, Finland, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, while Sweden have announced that they will stop selling weapons to members of the coalition, however it not is not clear if they have done so since billions of dollars in contracts are on offer or have been signed.

So the war rages on. Money is made by all and the carnage in Yemen continues as the world watches helplessly and too paralysed to intervene as the arms traders and manufacturers do their dirty, death-dealing business with the approval of their respective governments that issue the weapons export licenses.

Russia is busy arming and supporting the tyrant, Bashar Al-Assad, in Syria ,who is going after the last remaining opposition rebels in Idlib. Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has given support to the rebels that are holding the province.  

Assad’s army, armed and backed by Russian planes, advance and allegedly intentionally bomb hospitals, mosques and markets. Thousands more civilians are fleeing to the Turkish border where over 1.5 million have taken shelter over the past several years of the nine-year civil war. It is now a standoff between Syria and Turkey. 

In Asia, the United States Navy and the Chinese are escalating from a war of words and consulate closures to near confrontations in the South China Sea and the West Philippine Sea. Two US aircraft carriers and support destroyers are patrolling the international waters claimed exclusively by China where it has grabbed and occupied islands belonging to the nations in the region.

The US Navy is planning to return to Subic Bay, the Philippines, which it lost in 1991, on a purely commercial deal where US and Australian shipyard companies will buy the former Hanjin ship repair facility and provide repair services to the US Navy. 

This will deny the port and yards to Chinese investors who were negotiating with the Philippine government to take them over. Washington and the Philippine Navy oppose the Chinese bid. The rivalry will continue for years to come. 

Father Shay Cullen

Father Shay Cullen

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