I walked into the kitchen the other day and our illustrious defence industries minister Chris Pyne was on the radio answering a question relating to the recent horrific suicide bombing in Kabul which left 100 dead and 250 wounded. Aussies making more weapons seemed to be the answer!
“No, this was not a sophisticated military exercise”, he explained, “But all Australians can see why we need to be there, still.”
Ah, usual dribble coming from a minister of war-making, I thought. After all, last time I looked, most Australians were very dubious about our role in Afghanistan, including veterans of that war who are suiciding at terrible rates. Way back in 2003 polls showed over 60% of Aussies did not support the pending invasion of Iraq. Howard’s (and Pyne’s) government took us there anyway, and Howard effectively doused most opposition with the line: “We may not all agree, but now we should all get behind our troops”.
As Pyne talked on, I discovered he was not talking about the problems of the Afghan people, but using their pain to help justify our Government’s latest goal of massively expanding our country’s international arms trading. He wants to loan nearly $4 billion to any entrepreneurs with a similar goal. Pyne and Turnbull are hoping to make us one of the most successful merchants of death in the world. (Now we are a pathetic 20th in International arms sales. Shame!)
Now, I believe a sociopath is someone with no conscience, and certainly no interest in the truth; someone who will use even the most horrific acts to advance their own selfish goals. Yes, this seemed to be what I was hearing on the radio.
I may not be thinking straight here, not being an expert in “defence” industries like Mr Pyne, but it struck me that the international arms industry may not be the solution to the problem. The strange thought even occurred to me that the arms merchants may even be the cause of some of this murder and mayhem engulfing Afghanistan.
Let’s have quick look at all those attempting to “defend” Afghanistan for the last 40 years and those supplying weapons for this important and difficult task. After the Russians invaded in 1979, the US and Saudi Arabia supplied most of the weapons used by the Afghan warlords and others to fight the Russians (who of course claimed they were the ones “defending” the Afghans). Surely Pyne and Turnbull would have been happy to supply the Mujahedeen freedom fighters, if we only had a bigger “defence” industry at the time. I am old enough to clearly remember Ronald Regan referring to the Mujahedeen as “freedom fighters” at the time. This is why he authorised the CIA to help fund the Pakistan madrassas that established the Taliban and other terrorists (er., sorry, “freedom fighters”). One of those freedom fighters was Osama Bin Laden, of course.
When the dust settled and a million Afghans had died fighting the Russians, the warlords turned their weapons (er., I mean defence exports from the US, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan) on one another to see who would seize power. Kabul was decimated by a continuous new civil war. Enter the Taliban! They defeated all the warlords and “liberated” Kabul. Sadly, the Taliban proved to be just as brutal as the warlords. But the West never cared until 9/11 happened and the Taliban happened to be harbouring Osama Bin Laden.
This meant the monster(s) we had helped create had gone feral and needed to be eliminated – “with extreme prejudice”. Unlike in Apocalypse Now, however, it was not just a matter of killing one man but destroying two countries, Iraq and Afghanistan. This Australia has helped do with great success.
Now back to the topic of real success, making money from the Arms Industry. (Time to really rub our hands together now, Malcolm and Chris!) Billions of dollars (probably more than a trillion) has been made by mostly US (British, French and others got some too, of course) weapons manufacturers in the so called “war on terror”.
Just one little snippet about my favourite, the Raytheon corporation: Within a week of 9/11 Raytheon shares rose a staggering 40%. Of course, the average sociopath knew it was time to buy up big! You see Raytheon made the infamous Cruise missile at around $600,000 each (as well as smaller things like cluster bombs). Hundreds of Cruise missiles were dropped on Afghanistan and Iraq at the start of their respective wars, and hundreds more have been dropped since, as we continue to “defend” those poor people.
Seriously though, how 17 years of war proves we need to manufacture more weapons to make the world a better place I am not sure. Perhaps only a sociopath could work that one out.
The very day before I heard the above radio news item, I had finished reading the fascinating book, “Merchants of Menace” by Peter Butt, about the Nugan Hand Bank. It too has to do with arms dealers (also drug dealers and money launderers). In the 1970’s Michael Hand, a much-decorated US Vietnam/CIA veteran, teamed up with Aussie Frank Nugan to form the Nugan Hand Bank. They hoped to become as rich as possible, by any means necessary. The bank they started illegally laundered money for drug dealers, arms dealers, rogue states, and the CIA.
During the short life of the bank, before Frank Nugan shot himself (or was murdered), Hand went off to South Africa, Rhodesia and elsewhere to sell arms personally, as well as helping the CIA supply them to rogue states. In 1980 after his partner (and best friend for many years) Frank Nugan was found dead, Hand’s immediate comment to another business partner was: “Now the prick has left us to deal with this shit all by ourselves”. A sociopath, no doubt! Now, Mr Pyne thinks we can deal with the shit we helped create in Afghanistan by making more weapons, and no doubt selling them to the present “good guys” over there.
After much work, in 2015 Peter Butts finally tracked Michael Hand to a small town in the US where he had started a new life with a new name, despite numerous Australian appeals to the FBI to help bring Hand to justice. Butts found Hand running a company to supply tactical weapons for US Special Forces, Special Ops, and hunters.
Now I am sure Mr Pyne or Mr Turnbull could benefit from a visit to Mr Hand to find the secrets of his successful career. After all Hand’s crimes of retail murder, drug dealing etc, are minor compared to the ones they will be complicit in when we become one of the world biggest arms dealers. And, hey, maybe the ice trade could do with a few new faces as well………..
Oh yes, one more thing, if you think I am being too harsh on Turnbull and Pyne, just watch Mr Turnbull gleefully tell us the only thing the arms industry is about here.
Jim Dowling has been part of the Brisbane Catholic Worker Movement and an anti-war activist for over 30 years.