Letter: Moral justifications for the arms trade

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The Independent Online
Sir: By talking of a hardening in the way export laws have been interpreted in the last seven years, Keith Bailey ("Another View", 31 March) claims the right to be utterly practical in defence of the Project Lisi contract. But he cannot resist slipping into an ethereal, almost mythical tone, in attacking general criticisms of his industry. This is a somewhat broader moral argument which, to say the least, does not serve the manufacturers' case.

Mr Bailey contends that any moral justification for the trade as it stands comes from a country being able to defend itself: "so its people are safe and can use their democratic freedoms and enjoy economic growth". Is it not the case that a large part of the industry profits from trade to countries where there is internal conflict, the combined death toll running to hundreds of thousands of people?

If the Lisi affair is to be a starting point for a broader discussion, in Mr Bailey's terms, by all means let us have a debate around his claim, "The love of freedom in itself justifies the sale of defence equipment: maintaining balance of power reduces conflict". It may not serve the specific cases for or against Jonathan Aitken, but I cannot not think of a better way to celebrate the future security of your newspaper.

Yours faithfully,

MARK WALMSLEY

Basford, Staffordshire

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