Right of Reply: Gideon Burrows

The joint co-ordinator of the Campaign Against Arms Trade replies to David Aaronovitch's article on the dangers and hypocrisy of the British defence industry
Click to follow
The Independent Culture
DAVID AARONOVITCH, while claiming to be morally opposed to Britain's role in the arms trade, appears to suggest that there's little we can do to stop it. Yet if it were not for the actions of thousands of ordinary people protesting against the arms trade and exposing hypocrisy, we would not be witnessing now the the Government's backtracking on sales of Hawk jets and other military equipment to Indonesia. And the public knowledge that Robin Cook's so-called "ethical foreign policy" consists of regularly arming other repressive regimes and fuelling human rights abuses, continues to be more than "mildly embarrassing" for the Government.

Moreover, peace campaigning can be very effective, especially when it is sustained - not only in putting pressure on the Government and raising public awareness, but in the most direct cases, such as when four women disarmed an Indonesia-bound BAe Hawk jet in 1996, stopping the delivery of the weapons altogether. As a result of peaceful protest the Copex private arms show has been forced to change venue three times. In 1997 more than 1,000 protesters descended on a British armed-forces-sponsored arms exhibition. Few are now willing to deal with the bad publicity involved in hosting arms shows, let alone, perhaps, the guilty consciences.

If everyone who not only wanted Britain to stop selling arms to the Indonesians, but who also wanted us to stop our other extensive dealings with regimes such as Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Sri Lanka, made it clear to the Government that they cannot continue to "deal in death" in our name - perhaps by joining our protest outside DSEi in Chertsey and Docklands - then they wouldn't be able to get away with it for much longer.