Interview to Vicente Segura, conducted by Andreas Schiwon in Radio X, 29 September 2005, Frankfurt - Germany
The theme today is called “Military Spending and Poverty”. We will talk and analyze with Vicente Segura the big military spending and trade of some countries, while they are dismantling their whole social structure and cutting their public expending for health, education, environment, arts, etc. This militarization attitude, through a massive proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, are producing more violence and creating more poverty in the world. This situation only benefits the military class and industries of the deep state.
Q.- Vicente, mostly in your project Parliament of Dreamers you are concerned about Peace, Freedom and in the utopia of an ideal society of living and sharing together, so why this military topic now.
A.- Well, yes, I think is necesary to see the other side of the coin that causes the conflicts. The antithesis of peace and freedom is conflict and war, and this matter are directly related to weaponry and industry. A war is an armed conflict in which the military industry, military traders and military logistic and reconstruction are involved. Conflicts is a good business for the groups involved and as far as this business are running we will never have peace on Earth. Every military action is disguised under the umbrella of “Defence” and “Security” decided in the United Nations to gain a kind of legitimacy and sometimes decided unilaterally in the Congress of the United States. I personally questioned this western legitimacy very much. We have to understand that in the face of these military industrial monsters we all are innocent people and we all are victims.
Q.- Lets jump now to the military market. What are the actual figures about the arms transactions and expenditures and who are involve in this business?
A.- Good. I will only offer you a global view, not to bore our audience. Military spending is related to arms trade to military industry, and to global markets of course. The top five countries profiting from the arms trade are the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council: the USA, UK, France, Russia, and China..
From 1998 to 2001, the USA, the UK, and France earned more income from arms sales to developing countries than they gave in aid or help anyone. The arms industry is unlike any other industry and transnational corporation. It operates without regulation and it suffers from widespread corruption and bribes. This industry makes its profits on the back of machines designed to kill, exterminate and mutilate human beings. So who profits most from this murderous trade? The five permanent members of the UN Security Council — the USA, UK, France, Russia, and China. Together, they are responsible for 88% of reported conventional arms exports.
While the world is spending only $3.billions in basic education for everyone in the world and $13billions in health and nutrition for everyone in the world, they are spending $780 billions in military expenditure. The global military expenditure and arms trade is the largest expending in the world at 900 billion dollars annually. USA, Russia, France and Britain do the largest business arms trade in the world. The business is made secretly to human rights violators, military dictatorship and corrupt governments.
In effect, those governments act as extremely influential sales/marketing people for these companies. UK, for example, has sold arms to both Pakistan and India at the same time.
US and European corporations receive enormous tax breaks and even lend money to other countries to purchase weapons from them. Therefore tax payers from these countries have no idea that they subside the arms sales In every of the cases, every international trade and investment agreement you will allways find a clause which exempts government programs and policies as vital for “national security”. Here is the loophole that allows the maintenance of corporate subsidies through virtually unlimited military spending.
As everybody knows by now “maximum security” or heavy militarization of any region increases the risk of oppression on local people. And as a consequente reactions there will be uprisings from those oppressed that can become violent in the form of insurgency and guerrilla. The Middle East is a current example. Latin America is an example from previous decades, where in both cases, democracies or popular regimes have (or had) been overthrown with foreign assistance, and replaced with corrupt dictators or monarchs.
Q.- What has to do the globalization in this militar spending?
A.- Well, So, as the world trade is globalizing, so does the trade in armaments and weaponry. In this global rush also the arms industry wants to globalize the arms production and sales, ignoring the grave humanitarian and strategic consequences of global weapons proliferation. The arms industry must open new markets even if has to be sold to their potential enemy or to the friend of their enemy or to the enemy of their friends. Profit motives in the military industry have resulted in arms export decisions that contravene some treaties of non-proliferation. Industrialized countries negotiate free trade and investment agreements with other countries, but exempt military spending from the liberalizing demands of the agreement.
Only the wealthy countries can afford to devote billions on military spending through defence contracts, and maintain a high technological industrial capacity in the globalization. You see, the liberalization of the global market and trade is formulated and produced by the rich and powerful. That means the rich leaders of rich countries, the multinational corporations, the financial institutions and the industrial lobbies. This weight of external influences put it into the poor nations and powerless people it is unbearable and cannot be hold it.
Q.- It seems as if the whole wealth is concentrated in the West. Can we talk about poverty in order to understand this military phenomenon?
A.- Yes, of course. we cannot talk about “Militarism” without talking about “Poverty”, “Debts” and “Corruption”. You see, half the world –three billion people- live on less than two dollars per day and one fifth of this population are living on less than 1 $ per day. That means they are starving. If we compare, in Europe the people spend that money in a cup of coffee or an espresso, Is hard to image the disparity of the life between the Western World and the Third World. 30,000 children die every day.
That means around 11 million children die each year due to the condition of poverty and debts. Debt affects the poor, specially women and children. Debt is killing children. One of every two child in the world live in poverty that means one billion. Around 300 millions children have no access to health services. 10, 6 million die in the year 2003 before the reached the age of 5.This is incredible high. Africans are abandoned to look for itself, poor, indebted, getting sicker, weaker, less educated and more destitute, while the First World gets richer while wasting the money in triviality and non sense consumerism.
The Gross Domestic Product of the poorest 48 nations in the world is less than the wealth of the three richest people in the world. It is not to believe. Nearly a billion people enter the 21st century unable to read a name or to sign their names, you know. To put this child’s into school, all you need, is less than one percent of what the world spend in weapons every year. How can that emotion be channelled to indignation about poverty and social injustice?
The developing world now spends $13 on debt repayment for every $1 it receives in grants. You can image. The 60 poorest nations in the world, had already paid in debts $550 billion -in both principal and interest- over the last three decades, and yet there is still a $523 billion dollar debt burden. This is a little bit too much. The promises of the debt relief in the summit of the G8 nations in Gleneagles to make poverty history through the relieve of debts owed to the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, etc are not working because they don’t see economic growth after the aid help, and the same with the reduction of the Greenhouse effect. This is only a show for the media.
So in general I would say that the only “security” and “defence” for the hungry people is food; The only defence and security for the poor people is medicine and school. They don’t need weapons.
Q.- You have an idea of the military expenditure in the world, lets say globally?
A.- Well, roughly speaking, in the table list of expenditure, USA is the first in expenditure. They expending 400 billion a year, which means 43% of the total global expenditure. Them comes Russia with 62 billion that makes 7% of the total, China with 56 b. (6%). United Kingdom with 49b. (5%), Japan 45b.(5%),France 40b. (4%), them comes Germany with 29b. with 3% of the total global expenditure, of course I can not mention the other countries involve in less percentage. Not to bore our nice publikum.
Q.- And what about military trade? Well, In this topic is impossible to avoid not to talk about the United States since they are the centre of gravity in this particular topic. So what are the figures of USA on trade?
A.- Yes. Let me tell you roughly the figures of sales. Jus to give you an example: in the year 2000 the sells of USA were 18.6 Billion world wide; and the sells for developing countries were 12.6 billion. After the 9/11 the arms sales has boomed and mushroomed.
…You see, since the end of the Cold War, the United States has been the world’s largest arms dealer. As a consequence many governments with some of the worst human rights records [have] received American weapons and training. In the year 2000 the U.S. controlled half of the developing world’s arms market.... This dominance of the global arms market is not something in which the American public or policy makers should take pride in. The U.S. routinely sells weapons to undemocratic regimes and gross human rights abusers.
The United States is the only country that maintains military spending at the rate –level- of the Cold World. The United States, along, spend 400 billion dollars annually, almost as much as the military expenditure of the others countries of the world together. But 400 billion $ annually is more than the most advanced countries economically combined together. USA spends more than their enemy’s countries together. In 1997 along, half of USA aid was related to military aid and trade. (We are not talking of humanitarian aid.) American taxpayers pay about $7 Billion per year to subsidize actual arms sales (and most are not aware).
On June 13, 2002 the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty was terminated. This action permits research, development, testing, manufacturing, production and deployment of space-based weapons, and components of the National Missile Defense (NMD) system to go forward, instigating a destabilizing, costly and dangerous arms race in space. Some estimates are that the NMD system -- which is partly space-based may cost up to $238 billion, and that is just the beginning. Since President Ronald Reagan's "Star Wars" project, the United States has spent roughly $100 billion on ballistic missile defences, including more than $45 billion specifically for the development of a national missile defence (NMD) system.
While the Bush administration has not as yet revealed its plans for NMD, it is clear from statements by the president and administration officials that the Bush team plans to aggressively pursue a robust system with multiple ground sites and a considerable space-based component without mention the mini-nukes or new tactic nuclear weapon.
Q.- Looks like if the “war on terror” doctrine is a waste of time, energy and money`? Do you think the war on terror is destabilizing the world?
A.- The so called the “War on Terror” is nothing else that just a new Cold War in another dimenssion in which USA wanted to divide the world in the “Good Ones and the “Bad Ones” If before the “Bad” ones were the communist now the bad ones are the muslims. This “war on terror” is happen just to justify the existence of the militar lobby in which their demands and budget are very high…They are not declaring war against poverty or starvation, but they are spending much money in the war on terror.
The War on Terror, after Abhu Grabhi, Vagram, Guantanamo Bay and the 100,000 of Iraqis death, the foreign policy of the US is becoming not only very expensive but a kind of state terrorism doctrine. My question is for how long the Congress and the American public will accept this formula, especially when they see no concrete results in return? President George W. Bush said in a speech: "Whatever it takes, whatever it costs, this patient, this resolved nation will win the first war of the 21st century“. This is the most stupid thing I have ever listened from one Homo sapiens. This attitude will carve their own grave. This will accelerate the collapse
U.S. military spending is creeping toward $400 billion — and now exceeds the combined military spending of the 15 countries with the next biggest defence budgets. President Bush ask Congress for a $48 billion increase in defense spending to cover pay raises, buy new high-tech weapons and prosecute America's war on terrorism — the largest funding boost for the Department of Defence in 20 years.
Q.- And how high are the spending of the United States after the 9/11?
A.- Very high. In the post September 11, the U.S. has sold weapons or training to almost 90% of the countries it has identified as harbouring terrorists. George Bush has declare War on Terrorism to counter the September 11. Human Rights Watch has argued that in the pursuit of military policies which include selling arms or providing assistance to other countries, the U.S. has “expressed minimal concern about the potential side effects”. That is, the increase in militarism itself is risking both the restriction of people’s rights, and the entrenching of power of those who violate human rights.
The studies say the United States after 9/11 was more willing than ever to sell or give away weapons to countries that have pledged assistance in the global war on terror.” And in order to do this the United States has revised the list of countries that are ineligible to receive U.S. weapons so that “a significant number of countries are now receiving military aid that would have been denied before Sept. 11. The Defence Department is funding $390 million to reimburse nations providing support to U.S. operations in the war on terror and $120 million “for certain classified activities” — can now be delivered. This means no restrictions on this large sum of military aid.
With 9/11 the U.S. military has found a new excuse to extend its reach around the globe, arming regimes that had previously been blacklisted for human rights abuses, weapons proliferation, or brutal conflict. This is the business of fear.
Q. - Can we talk a little bit about the idea of “Defence” and “Security”. Can you described, please, and how important it is?
A.- By “defence” I understand the protection of yourself from any external aggression or invasion. But you cannot defend your territory thousands of kilometres away, especially if you are not sure. Attacking a potential enemy by the suspicion that is threatening your security is not defence. That is called aggressive interventionism by pre-emptive strike. So, “Security” is the logistic system (including military paraphernalia) to create an internal prevention, but security can be so tight that you cannot live in peace any longer, loosing your civil rights.
They are billion of dollar spending on security and defence but I wonder for what and against what. There is actually more weapons than enemies. So, Security and defence have a funny connotation. In the name of “National Security and Defence” they are intervening, invading, occupying, etc. without predicting the collateral effects of massive killing of civilians, destruction of infrastructures, civil wars, human chaos, etc.
Q.- Who set up this actual military rule of game? And how necessarily it is?
A. - Well, this game is ruled out by the most powerful people of the most powerful nations of the world (of course the West). The notion is related to the protection of their interest abroad and to protect this old order as it is. The most industrialized countries of the First World are setting the global move in their own western conception. They dictate the rules of game (with drafts, paragraphs, resolutions and constitutions) and putted into effect. In the United Nations World Summits or in the Summits of the G8 or Group of Eight, for example, they decide and set the agenda of the rest of the world’s future. They use the executive bodies to give a touch of legitimacy.
The western right to intervene military anywhere anytime is simplesly unjustified. When this rich nations wanted to disarm any country morally and physically to protect their interest (or to control the natural resources), then they set up a whole machine of arguments with tricky declarations – as was the case of Iraq before the intervention. Iraq was totally disarmed, by the time USA assault on Saddam Hussein who had no Weapons of Mass Destruction at all; So the USA could strike and invade Iraq easily as to eat a cake. First they disarmed and then they intervene.
Q. - So you mean first they armed Iraq and after they disarmed?
A. - Yeah, exactly. The grotesque thing in this game was that the USA was the providers of armaments to these regimes, as they have provide the Contras in Nicaragua, the Paramilitary in Colombia, to Pinochet in Chile, etc, etc.
I don’t believe in the idea that western democracy or western market economy, or ideology, has to be imposed by military force, by pre-emptive strike, by changing regimes, or by intimidation or by having the exclusive right to use first a nuclear strike as an option of last dish. This is a crazy aggressive politics that can be understood as a flagrant global military dictatorship in the globalization.
I don’t trust the situation that the global law and order is coming from old ex-empires or actual empires, imposing a western dominant ideology that occupies the whole planet. This is not any longer democracy or freedom, but a machinery of death and destruction. And the funny thing is that the United Nation are not setting resolutions or rules to disarm their own members of the Security Council or members of the nuclear club.
The Group of Eight are not disarming themselves under the non proliferation pact, especially now, with the “war on terror”; on the contrary, the military budget is getting bigger. The inspectors of weapons of mass destruction are not inspecting the arsenals of the most militarized countries of the world. This is the ultimate hypocrisy.
They decide military interventions here and there according to their western criteria of interest. So, as I said in the beginning, to talk about solution we must talk first about the problem. I am totally convinced that peace and freedom cannot be attained by military force.
Q.- What about the Europe? How do you see the new European defence policy?
A.- Well, this military issue has been incorporated in the virtual EU constitution through the creation of the European Defence Agency, something that many people in the EU even didn’t notice or have an idea. For this European defence policy the representatives of the army and the industry were invited for consultations in the High Commission in Brussels to give their view, but didn’t invite any representatives of any civil body or civil society organization.
As is supposed to be, in this military matters should be involve more civil groups to make it more transparent the European decision-making-process to watch and control the overwhelming corporate powers.
The military lobbying power is threaten the 1998 Code of Conduct on arms export that should forbid arms sales to human rights abusers or conflict zones.
Now that the East-West divide has gone, some countries of the European Union are having a new military initiative as the rapid reaction force to put peacekeeping force or the Euro corps. The EU wants to be able to deploy 60,000 troops within 60 days to trouble spots around the world. The aim is to give the EU some kind of military capability as its common foreign policy.
The last major Balkan conflict - in Kosovo in 1999 - provided the spur for the EU's current defence initiative. Kosovo was a European problem, but the military response was mostly American. It forced Europeans to face facts. They were ill-prepared to carry out operations in their own backyard, and they knew they could not rely on automatic American help forever. So, there is considerable political pressure to raise its international military profile and get rid of NATO.
Q.- Vicente, Thank you very much to be here in the Parliament of Dreamers in Radio X.
A.- Thank you also Andy, for the invitation.