GDAMS day statement by ICAN – The Bill for the Bomb

According to SIPRI’s latest report, issued on Global day of Action on Military Spending, world military expenditure totaled $1.75 trillion in 2013, which amounted to 2.5% of world GDP. In 2011, it was estimated that $105.9 billion was spent on nuclear weapons, and a recent study from the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies shows that the US alone will spend over one trillion dollars over the next thirty years on maintaining, replacing, and upgrading existing nuclear weapons systems.

We are repeatedly assured by the nuclear-armed states that a gradual, step-by-step approach to disarmament is the only way forward, and any alternative initiatives are ‘distractions’ that threaten to derail the ‘progress’ made. However, nuclear-armed states continuously redefine any agreed disarmament objectives, throwing up smoke screens and pouring millions of taxpayer dollars into weapons that would cause an instant humanitarian catastrophe if ever detonated.

With the existence of nuclear weapons there is always the chance of an accident – Eric Schlosser’s recent book Command and Control makes it clear that the US grossly under-reported the number of serious accidents involving nuclear weapons. In many instances it was either extraordinary bravery or sheer luck that prevented the unthinkable from happening. Lest we think that the lessons have been learned, we need only refer to the seemingly endless list of scandals involving those tasked with the supervision of nuclear weapons. Meanwhile, policies of “nuclear deterrence” and military doctrines of nuclear-armed states make the use of nuclear weapons an ongoing potential threat.

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Tax Day Kansas – AFSC : Do You Know Where Your Federal Tax Dollars are Going?

Tax Day is here, and in the midst of the rush to meet Uncle Sam’s deadline, one group wants Missourians to take some time to think about exactly where their tax dollars are going.

Mary Zerkel, “Wage Peace Campaign” co-coordinator, American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), said many basic human needs are going unmet across the country due to what she called a “disproportionate” amount of military spending by the federal government.

“Let’s stop these budget gimmicks. Let’s stop all this wasted money. Let’s start moving that money from spending it on wars and huge expensive weapons systems, and instead use it to start funding things that we need for true security in our communities,” Zerkel urged.

In addition to being tax day, today is the Global Day of Action on Military Spending. Rallies will take place around the country and across the globe. In Kansas City, AFSC has organized a vigil calling for an increase in non-military investments. It is scheduled for 5 p.m. at 63rd St. and Ward Parkway. More information is available at http://demilitarize.org/.

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The Herald, Scotland –Agenda: It’s high time we took steps to cut hugely destructive world arms trade

For the last few years, peace groups in many countries have focused attention on worldwide military expenditure with a Global Day of Action, which took place this week.

Hundreds of civil society groups draw attention to the way the world’s $1.75 trillion military spending fuels and worsens conflict, and undermines social spending. The UK has the fourth highest military spending in the world, behind only the USA, China and Russia. It also counts among the world’s top seven arms exporters. This arms trade is seen by politicians as an essential part of both Britain’s industrial base and its place as a player on the world stage.

There is a government department, the Defence and Security Organisation [DSO], which gives expert advice on political and economic factors so that companies can target their products as effectively as possible. DSO employs 54% of all sector-specific staff in Britain’s export support department – UK Trade and Investment.

High-profile visits maintain links with potential buyers. David Cameron toured the Gulf States in November, and Prince Charles Saudi Arabia in February co-incident with BAE signing a new deal with the Saudis.

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South Africans should resist increased military spending

The Ceasefire Campaign once again joins hundreds of organizations representing literally millions world-wide commemorating the Global Day of Action on Military Spending.

South Africa’s allocations to defense spending appear low in comparison to amounts allocated to education, social services, health and other more pressing needs.  However, this does not take into account the ongoing costs of the arms procurement deal of 1999 for which we are still paying and which is currently the subject of a commission of inquiry. The debt is owed by the Department of Finance not Defense, and therefore the amounts are excluded from defense figures.

It is a critical time for South Africa’s new democracy as we face an election 20 years down the line. Constant dissatisfaction with the pace of delivery to the poor and continued inequality will be foremost in the minds of the electorate as they go to the polls.

We acknowledge that the democratic government when it came to power in 1994 was faced with a colossal challenge to right the wrongs brought about through the despicable and inequitable system of apartheid. Notwithstanding this, South Africa would have been in a more satisfactory situation today if government had steered clear of the ill-fated arms procurement deal in its early years.

According to National Treasury, in evidence given at the Commission of Inquiry into the deal, the debacle cost R46.666-billion, financed with loans from foreign banks, with loan costs totaling R51.3-billion. However, it is believed that this is understated and is probably more in the region of R70 billion or more but no-one really knows the real cost. Revealingly, the more than 500 pages of documents released by Treasury were called back a few days later on the spurious explanation that they were classified.

Now it seems that we have learnt nothing from that early experience. Cabinet has approved a defense review document compiled by people intent on increasing military spending and who use every opportunity in forums and the media to argue that the armed forces are in decline and South Africa needs to increase its defense spending.

The defense review, and argued strenuously by committee member and unabashed militarist Helmoed Heitman, proposes an increase in military spending that will ultimately reach 2.4% of GDP. Often touted by those who stand to gain financially by increased expenditure as an appropriate level approved by the World Bank and IMF, the 2% benchmark has never been advocated by these institutions. It is rather seen as a warning that the economic wheels are likely to fall off if a country exceeds 2% of GDP over an extended period.  We fear the Defense Review 2012 pushes the increase to double the opportunities to fleece the taxpayers and for corruption.  Apartheid South Africa bankrupted itself because of excessive military spending, hence the debt standstill in 1985. Post-apartheid South Africa continues to be overly committed to military spending in contradiction to the clear commitment to human security contained in section 198 (1) of the Constitution regarding the principles guiding national security.

As we know, the warplanes are in storage because SA hasn’t the pilots to fly them, the mechanics to maintain them and even the money to fuel them.  Pilots have abandoned the SAAF for higher pay with commercial airlines, plus they do not get enough flying time to maintain their proficiencies.  The frigates and submarines rarely leave Simonstown, and one of the subs has been on the hard since 2007 for “routine maintenance” since the wrong power supply was connected to the batteries and blew the entire electrical system.   Despite that reality, the defense review advocates buying more frigates.

Hopefully the public will become more aware of the downside of the recommendations of the latest defense review when it reaches Parliament and insist that further outlay on the military and arms will not be in their name.

Climate or military?

The publication of the latest volume from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) – which focuses on reducing carbon emissions – has coincidentally come as the annual figures on global military spending are released. Comparing these sources provides a revealing insight into the priorities of our political masters – and how they misuse science and technology.

Global military spending in 2013 stood at a whopping $1.75 trillion, according to new data from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). This is a small decrease in real terms from the post-Cold War peak in 2011. The USA continued to dominate, spending nearly 37% of the total – though its spending is finally falling following the huge rises during the ‘War on Terror’. Nevertheless it still spends as much as the next eight countries put together. Chinese and Russian spending continued to grow rapidly – driven by various territorial disputes, economic growth, and a desire to close some of the spending gap with the US. Spending in Western Europe was down, but the region still spent an enormous $312 billion – more than China and Russia combined – with France, the UK and Germany being responsible for the majority of this. Numerous other regions and countries saw increases due to local arms races or war, but less obvious drivers were high levels of oil and gas extraction or just economic growth.

Read here the complete blog entry by Dr Stuart Parkinson posted on global day of action on military spending, GDAMS 2014.