If we’re serious about our commitment peace, we shouldn’t be hosting a ‘forum’ sponsored by a giant arms manufacturer, and we shouldn’t have troops involved in illegal wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, argues Green MP Golriz Ghahraman
Last week, as harrowing details emerged of the targeted murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Donald Trump provided the one sober statement of fact about that tragedy. He said the United States would not be holding Saudi Arabia to account, because that would require cancelling US $110 billion weapons sale. We are now openly putting a price on human life, though of course anyone familiar with the horrors of war personally or from the perpetual cycle of it on our evening news, must already suspect that war is a lucrative industry.
That callous, American style, approach to “national security”, the war industry is coming to Palmerston North today. Appropriately timed for Halloween. It comes in the form of a massive, eerily secretive, Defence “Forum”, in part sponsored by one of the world’s largest and most powerful weapons manufacturers, Lockheed Martin.
Both Auckland and Wellington no longer host the event, due to public outrage and local government refusal to make spaces available to something so antithetical to our values and wellbeing.
The secrecy surrounding the forum means in previous years we have only known war weaponry was actually on display, in surreal trade fair style stalls, through leaked photographs. We do know that the Defence Industry Association will likely host around 500 people including representatives from 150 manufacturers and companies selling, examining and purchasing the latest weapons and components. Represented will be Lockheed Martin, who sell the latest in war tech, like self-steering bullets, Israel Aerospace Industries, making tiny killer drones, and some mega American and British weapons manufacturers.
At this moment in global history can we really afford to stand with the nations who easily put an industry price on human misery? Because there is no longer any doubt that war is an industry. The defenders of this Forum will openly argue that what small revenue there is for NZ justifies our promotion of this industry, reeking the very worst havoc all over the world.
I’ve seen what that looks like on the ground. It looks like a sea of amputees that poured into Iranian cities from the frontlines during the 1980s. It looks like child soldiers conscripted as they kicked a football on the street. It is the face of the most repressive regimes, perpetually in power, replaced only with war mongers equalling in zeal. It means that half the world feel like second class citizens, as we did in Iran, given our lives and our misery are not as important as the profit being made from war. Can New Zealand really take part in any of that?
Instead, we should stand as an independent voice, as other like-minded nations have done recently. We must divest from war profit. Refuse to hold war industry forums. Our millions of dollars are better spent on humanitarian and development aid that actually provide pathways to peace, away from what we know has only wrought more violence.
Finally, as a mark of our commitment to peace, I’m calling on the minister for defence to withdraw our troops from the illegal wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Only then will our voice have the weight of impartiality, so we might help mediate and broker peace on the diplomatic stage.
Golriz Ghahraman is the Green Party’s defence spokesperson