MICHELLE FAHY. Invictus Games, glossing over inconvenient truths-the arms trade and the British royals

Oct 24, 2018

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have arrived and the media frenzy has erupted, fuelled by news of the royal pregnancy. As media coverage goes, the Invictus Games team couldn’t have managed it any better. Yet, when it comes to the actions of the royal family, all that glisters is not gold.

Prince Harry’s Invictus Games for wounded, injured and ill servicemen and women start in Sydney on Saturday. Invictus (Latin for ‘unconquered’) is the title of a poem by British poet William Ernest Henley, the final lines of which are the resounding, “I am the master of my fate. I am the captain of my soul.” In an advertisement featuring Australia’s Invictus athletes reciting the poem, the last line is delivered by Prince Harry himself. He is the captain of his soul.

There is no doubt that sport is a powerful facilitator of recovery from illness and injury and I am as inspired and moved as anyone by the stories of the recovering athletes. At the same time I create a space for the ex service people who remain damaged by their military experience and wonder how they are feeling about this event and all that comes with it. Not everyone involved in warfare emerges unconquered.

Last year, at least 84 veterans killed themselves; that’s twelve more than the number of athletes in Australia’s Invictus squad. In 2002–2014, the rate of suicide was 13 per cent higher among ex-serving men compared with all Australian men. For ex-serving men in the 18-24 year range, the rate was almost twice as high as the national male average in that age range.

A 2018 report by the Centre for Social Impact at the University of Western Australia found that veterans are also over-represented amongst the homeless. During the study period more than 1 in 20 of the homeless people interviewed were found to be veterans. The veterans were more likely to be sleeping rough and 43 per cent of them had suffered a serious brain injury or head trauma. Unlike the US where veteran homelessness has received wide attention and a strong policy response, there has been very limited research in this area in Australia.

These statistics provide a small balancing insight into some of the tragic consequences of warfare for many returned service people. (And let’s not overlook the impact of warfare on civilians worldwide. Tens of millions of people have been killed, injured, traumatised, and had their property and livelihoods destroyed. They are not Invictus either.)

Given the focus on the ‘wounded warriors’ and their struggle to recover it is surprising to see that the list of corporate sponsors of the Games includes five of the world’s largest weapons manufacturers. The opportunity to sponsor a high profile event of this nature makes business sense for the corporations concerned (Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon, Leidos, and Saab) and clearly they have no qualms about using it to create the impression of being good corporate citizens. But let’s get real, they’re in the business of profiting from death and destruction, despite the worthy-sounding euphemisms they and others employ to obscure that fact. It amazes me that Prince Harry, the captain of his soul, supported by the leadership of his Foundation, finds it possible to accept the involvement of such sponsors in these Games.

Pope Francis has stated his view in no uncertain terms, labelling these vast weapons corporations “merchants of death” and calling for an end to the arms trade. Meanwhile Prince Harry and his relations continue developing their relationships with dubious regimes and corporations of no conscience, and facilitate arms deals between them.

A few examples.

In 2010, Prince Andrew criticised the UK’s Serious Fraud Office for its attempts to investigate BAE for secret alleged payments to clinch arms deals (ie. bribes). Andrew Feinstein, respected anti-corruption campaigner and former South African MP who resigned in protest over BAE bribery allegations, has noted: “The royal family has actively supported Britain’s arms sales, even when corruption and malfeasance has been suspected.”

Prince Charles has visited Saudi Arabia many times. A 2014 visit was immediately followed by an announcement of a multi-billion-pound Typhoon jet deal with the Saudis. Such was the outcry that Prince Charles reportedly said he “no longer wants to promote British arms sales in the Middle East.”

Along with the Saudis, the Queen has developed close ties with the Bahraini royal family despite its known abuses of the Bahraini people. The King of Bahrain sat beside the Queen at the gala event celebrating her 90th birthday. Britain also sells arms to Bahrain.

In March this year, despite growing condemnation of Saudi Arabia’s role in the war in Yemen, the UK rolled out the reddest of red carpets for Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. During his visit he lunched with the Queen, dined with Prince Charles and Prince William, and was entertained by PM Theresa May at her country estate. If this is not a ringing endorsement from the highest level of British society, what is?

Meanwhile, back in Australia, will any journalist raise with Prince Harry the apparent hypocrisy of hosting an event celebrating the resilience of the human spirit while concurrently accepting sponsorships for that event from companies supplying weapons of war to a regime that is helping create the world’s worst humanitarian disaster? These firms aren’t trying to hide it. Lockheed Martin, Boeing and Raytheon are currently seeking new weapons contracts with Saudi Arabia. Would His Royal Highness care to comment?

It is difficult to see how these Invictus Games sponsorships are anything other than ‘business as usual’ in a long history of similar deals of varying scale in which the UK royal family uses its influence and prestige to facilitate arms deals for the benefit of a privileged few, at the expense of the human rights of the many.

Michelle Fahy is a writer and researcher, currently on staff with the Medical Association for Prevention of War.

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18 thoughts on “MICHELLE FAHY. Invictus Games, glossing over inconvenient truths-the arms trade and the British royals

  1. While I don’t want to take away from the great work that Prince Harry is doing helping veterans recover from their experiences, I do wonder about the role of the Royal Family in this. It is unlikely to be a coincidence that whenever there is a large defence contract in the offing with a large UK bidder, one or other (or more than one) of the Royal Family visits Australia. Not just royals, other nations send their senior heads of states to lobby too. How can it be that the ‘best value for money’ and ‘best for our troops’ option can somehow be affected by such visits, but the massive advertising that going on by the big defence firms would seem to confirm that it does make a difference. Lots of discussion about a long shared heritage, building on our common experiences, etc., really comes down to ‘buy our ship (or tank, or …)’.

  2. I wonder if the lying rodent John Howard is attending this event?
    He is of course primarily responsible for ALL of the Australian casualties of the wars and world-wide terror caused by the coalition of the killing.

  3. I agree with what your readers have said. This is a timely reminder that if you follow the money you can see who is pulling the strings. Despite the magnitude of the earth’s population it shows those at the high table of influence are very few indeed. Thank you too to P and W for your fine contribution to a broad view of current affairs every week.

  4. Oh My! This has opened my eyes and confirmed my suspicions! Thank you so much. May God save us from hypocrisy.

  5. There is a point constantly missed on this issue.
    Because of the recruiting selection, veterans would, but for war trauma, have a lower suicide rate than any age range in the general population.
    This makes the article’s statistics too optimistic.

    1. That’s a good point Graham. In support of your point, the AIHW study I referenced above found the rate of suicide was 53% lower for men serving in the ADF full time as compared with all Australian men (and 46% lower for men in the reserves) which makes the subsequent higher rate of suicide amongst veterans all the more significant.

  6. “The Invictus Games” largely ignores those with the disabilities that cannot be seen. While not wishing to denigrate those whose wounds are very visible. It is miracle that some have lived rather than succumb to their wounds. I put four blokes on helicopters who didn’t make it back to Australia. I saw wounds that I wish I had never seen.

    It seems as though mental health wounds are not recognised nor do they appear to be important to those who wish to use remembrance for their own purposes. These games could be shaming veterans, who were not invited and they are being shamed for failing to measure up to the jock straps standards. This brings us into the suicide problems which I believe are under reported.

    While Prince Harry is trying to do something positive and he should be applauded for that effort. However, he is not using his own money.

    “Royal Family” is used by our current “western” politicians to wars which are killing women and children in the middle East/Afghanistan just to make profits for these merchants of death.

    It is a disgrace to our so-called Christian concepts. It is no wonder that our centres of learning are so frightened of having to teach courses on “western civilisation!”

  7. The close links between Royals and arms manufacturers and unsavoury regimes is an unpleasant truth.
    Thanks Michelle, and Nick Deane in an earlier post, for exposing this particular current effrontery – the very same arms manufacturers probably responsible for much of the maiming experienced by the invictus warriors, sponsoring the sporting fixture.
    But let’s go further than wringing our hands over this disgusting cynicism – let’s say loudly and clearly that no more women and men will be sent to kill or be killed, or maimed, or psychologically damaged by fighting in wars, let’s end the slavish following of the U.S. into battles which do no one any good. War is obsolete, disgusting and so very wasteful.

  8. Hey folks – take to twitter and social media.
    We are collaborating to jam the twitter sphere over the next week.
    Use #ig2018 to link into invictus business
    @kensingtonpalace to Harry’s PR
    #princeharry and #princessdiana
    #warprofiteers links us all together and allows for easy retweeting.
    #disrupt2018 to link to other action against the corporate elite
    Links to this article and another an new matilda.
    There are a number of infographics you’ll find already used at the #warprofiteers hashtag. Download them and reuse them in your own tweets.
    Hop to. follow us on @wagepeaceau

  9. More and more the masses are fooled by the emotionalism, the media and palace fuelled, so called, mystique of the “the Royals”. What IS it about this family? No wonder they didn’t like Diana! The “peoples princess”? Heavens, that would never do! It will be interesting to see how Duchess Megs fares. We ordinary people really have little idea of just how powerful this family is but, Michelle has finally, begun to address the elephant in the room.
    So, what a great article by Michelle Faye! I am becoming a fan of this website … it reminds me of “The Nation Review”. Keep up the great contributions . . .

  10. Our grateful thanks, Michelle, for sharing this research. My own efforts have identified the Australian subsidiaries of those same international weapons manufacturers you have named among the sponsors, able to contribute from the profits made from the sales of deadly instruments of war.
    The direct involvement of the Australian Government, through the Departments of Defence and Veterans Affairs is also identified on the website for the Games. But we know from the complicity of the Australian War Memorial in accepting financial support from comparable companies that there is no sense of propriety in accepting funds from these “merchants of death.”
    While many Australians will support and encourage wounded war veterans in their courageous efforts to exceed in the sporting arena, in the face of severe physical and mental difficulties, they would be surprised that international companies producing weapons and military software are contributing some of the profits from their sales in support of the games. It is one way of salving their consciences for the human suffering that their products have caused.

  11. I am very interested to see how the ABC, the official broadcaster, who prides itself on investigative journalism, addresses this elephant in the room.

  12. I am ambivalent and somewhat uneasy about these games

    yes they are great for the people they are great for

    but for the vast majority of wounded and injured veterans they do very little

    They may even shame them that they cannot achieve as much as others.

    I will not be watching the games as sports bores me to tears,

    I have not run jumped or swam for my recovery

    What i have done is spent my time and effort trying to get a better deal for ALL veterans

  13. Shocking but not surprising statistics Michelle regarding the effects on military personnel engaged in fighting wars of domination with nothing to do with the defence of Australia.
    Thanks to you and Nick Deane for shining a light on the unconscionable role of arms manufacturers and the support for them from our political establishment.
    Annette Brownlie
    Independent and Peaceful Australia Network http://www.ipan.org.au

  14. Thank you Michelle Fahy, once again I am enlightened by a Pearls and Irritation’s contributor. I had no idea of this incredible hypocrisy and the Invictus Games’ closeness with the likes of Lockheed Martin, Boeing and Raytheon.
    It is no surprise and plainly hopeless to expect any moral undertaking from the ‘royals’ as they sponge on society.
    As to the head organiser; if you can judge a book by its cover, I’m fairly certain there is not a lot of reasoned thoughtful processes going on inside of Harry Windsor’s mind (is that his proper name?).

  15. This is a first-class post, thanks Michelle. Prince Harry is most likely aware of the central irony of his life. He now works for the Establishment that bumped off his mother because she was the public face of an international campaign against land mines that was gaining so much traction she was seen as a threat to the arms trade in general with its corrupt links between the City of London and Westminster.

    This is not to question the sincerity of Harry’s devotion to his wounded comrades. His rapport with the military is evident in the obvious enjoyment Peter Cosgrove takes in his company on the current tour. There’s a long history here. Kings raised taxes to fight wars. Harry’s great, great grandfather, George V, was a key figure in the First World War. Australian John Monash was one of George’s favourite generals.

    The warm welcome from young Australians to Harry and his elegant bride, parading her stylish dresses with such poise, is an interesting social phenomenon that we can’t entirely blame on the dumbing-down of the population by Channel 7.

    England can trace the history of its hereditary monarchy accurately back to the Norman invasion of 1066 and even to earlier times. That does not mean all of today’s Britishers are happy about the continuation of a monarchy but that is their problem. That is my main point. It is not our problem.

    We need to quietly bow out of State-sponsored tours by British royalty. They degrade our nation and the childish coverage of today’s Channel 7 makes yesterday’s Women’s Weekly look sophisticated.

  16. President Eisenhower warned about the military-industrial complex. Arms manufacturers donate to the Australian War Memorial (see http://honesthistory.net.au/wp/1271473-76-is-the-amount-the-australian-war-memorial-admits-receiving-over-three-years-in-donations-from-military-and-defence-firms/ and http://honesthistory.net.au/wp/stephens-david-the-australian-war-memorial-is-still-doing-well-out-of-arms-manufacturers-how-well-we-dont-quite-know/ Michelle Fahy shows that arms companies donate to Invictus. Mainstream media lets it all go without much comment. Do we now have the military-industrial-commemorative-sport-media complex?

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