Most people will not have heard of Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEI) or be aware of its appearance in London every two years. The world’s largest arms fair is an event for those “in the know”, namely weapons manufacturers, international militaries and delegations from governments including Saudi Arabia.
Organisers hail the “unrivalled scale” of the four-day fair held at London’s ExCeL centre, despite loud opposition from Sadiq Khan, the local authority and protesters who are arrested in their scores at every DSEI. More than 35,000 people are expected to attend this week, each one of them carefully vetted and searched before being allowed inside the cavernous conference centre to mingle with ministers and heads of the world’s largest militaries.
They will be greeted by a jarring spectacle, where suited delegations quaff free wine over cabinets full of ammunition. Meetings deciding multi-million pound weapons deals happen in the shadow of real tanks and helicopters. DSEI puts an unsettlingly corporate sheen on what is, in reality, a festival of killing machines, from guns to drones, jets, ballistic missiles, hand grenades, rocket launchers and mortars. In the event’s language, death is “defence”, weapons are “technology”, and countries accused of war crimes and human rights abuses are “strategic partners”.
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