Sun, Jun 20, 2004 - Page 8 News List

Rhetoric versus reality

As a European, I am vehemently opposed to the EU lifting the ban on arms sales to China, on the basis of world security as well as Beijing's human rights record.

This is part of a wider problem with the West irresponsibly selling military equipment and training to undemocratic countries and organizations.

However, what Lee Long-hwa fails to address in his letter (Letters, June 15, page 8) is that America is undoubtedly the leader in this respect.

The figures are shocking. Despite the rhetoric of being the guardian of peace and democracy in the world, the US has supplied arms or military technology in about 90 percent of world conflicts in recent years.

In the 1990s, around three-quarters of US arms sales were to undemocratic countries.

While Lee is quite legitimately concerned about America's safety if China were to receive arms from Europe, perhaps he should consider what the effects of his own country's sales have been.

The US armed and trained Osama bin Laden, and gave military aid to former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein, even after US intelligence reports indicated he was persecuting Kurds in Iraq. If the EU is prepared to sell its soul to the devil, then the US has been guilty of helping to create a few devils.

And what about the rest of the world? Developing nations spend twice as much on the military as on health, and millions of people are dying each year as a result.

And did you know, Lee, that you are probably paying for this? Yes, the US arms industry is heavily subsidized by the taxpayers.

Thankfully, there were enough responsible countries in Europe to block France and Germany's desires.

What we need is an international agreement on international arms sales, where countries would have to sacrifice profits for peace.

Given America's rhetoric, perhaps it should be taking the lead.

As then US president Jimmy Carter put it in 1976, "we [the US] cannot have it both ways. We can't be both the world's leading champion of peace and the world's leading supplier of arms."

Philip Wallbridge


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