Thursday, 18 July 2013


In late spring 2013, there were US accusations that the Syrian government used chemical weapons against the rebels. “Our intelligence community does asses with varying degrees of confidence that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons on a small scale in Syria, specifically the chemical agent Sarin,” insisted the administration that has argued the use of such weapons would constitute grounds for more direct role by the US and its allies in the conflict that has Russia (China and Iran also involved to a degree) on Assad's side, and the US-NATO partners on the other.

As expected, the Assad government accused the rebels of using such weapons. While the US and Syria were trying to convince world public opinion about which side used chemical weapons, the death toll was been rising astronomically and the displaced persons are becoming a major problem for the neighboring countries and for humanitarian organizations trying to handle this crisis.

When investigations were carried out by independent entities, it was discovered that rebels more likely used chemical weapons. The interesting thing is that while Assad has been receiving Russian (Iran, through Hezbollah as well) assistance, rebels have been receiving arms and money from the US, EU, Israel, Saudi Arabia among some of their staunchest supporters. It now seems just about certain the US-EU-Israel-Saudi-backed rebels have indeed used weapons of mass destruction. Who sold them such weapons? What if Western corporations have been selling weapons in a typical profiteering fashion, as is normal for weapons companies in time of conflict, knowing they are violating international law and killing people en masse; and all because it is simply good business to kill people for profit when there is government cover behind you.
Countries led by power-hungry individual immersed in illusions of grandeur and achievement of immortality by amassing wealth and power at any cost including mass killings, have had no qualms in centuries past going to war. From ancient times to the 19th century wars were carried out to secure trade routes, and any possession from metals to land and humans reduced to slavery. With the advent of modern industrial society and open society institutions, there are more subtle ways to profiteer, but the result remains the same, namely people die for profit. Indirectly putting countless people to death so that a few may profit in the process is partly at the core of why wars are fought. Even today, may believe that one quick way to achieve economic recovery is to have wars, no matter what that entails for the victims of conflict. This is a reflection of the moral compass of those who have no problem selling weapons, especially chemical weapons, if it means amassing wealth.

Although this brief article deals with chemical weapons sales by developed countries to non-Western nations where people are dying so that Western corporations can amass greater wealth, there are many ways that corporations and governments are killing people for profit. HMO's denying care to their clients is one way that they are killing people. Drug and food corporations knowingly risking people's health and lives by including ingredients that could place health and safety at risk is another way people are killed for profit, as much as an automaker neglecting to fix a problem with its vehicles that could place at risk people's lives. The  soybean industry is intentionally fattening people and livestock so that three multinational corporations can amass greater profits. This industry is slowly killing people because fast food products, everything from burger places to frozen foods - depend on it.

There are the blatant industrial accidents that have killed people throughout the course of modern capitalism. Commonplace in the 19th and early 20th century in industrial societies, they have now become more common in India, Bangladesh and non-Western countries.The garment factory making products for Western corporations suffered an accident that killed several hundred workers in May 2013. The only industrial disaster worse than the one in Bangladesh was the Bhopal gas tragedy in December 1984. That accident exposed half-a-million people to methyl isocyanate gas in a Union Carbide plant, killing between 2,259 (officially) and 16,000 (unofficially), while causing 38,478 injuries.

One could argue that it is not corporate capitalism that kills people, but that there is something innately destructive in human nature, considering that we had mass killings in ancient times under the master-slave mode of production, and then again under the feudal-manorial system in the Middle Ages. It is indeed true that human beings have been destructive for centuries under different systems of government, but all of them were based on an elitist social and institutional structure, no different than the current political economy that promotes inequality institutionally, despite claims to the contrary.

Besides these obvious ways that corporations, enjoying the backing of governments, are killing people for profit, the most blatant way is the manufacture and export sales of chemical weapons. While the US claims that it is driven by "a moral responsibility and humanitarian" considerations, this is purely an issue of who determines the regional balance of power, and to what degree is the US willing to risk rupture of good relations with Moscow to satisfy the defense lobby, right-wing ideologues, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Israel. That the US and the West have zero moral authority is a matter of record because Western companies have supplied the rebels with chemical weapons. The alleged use of chemical weapons and possession of the material (uranium) to make weapons of mass destruction by Iraqi president Saddam Hussein is the reason the US gave to invade. In July 2013, we have clear evidence that the West has been supplying chemical weapons to rebels who used them in the Syrian civil war. Leaving aside the violation of international law pertaining to this issue, what about the humanitarian and moral one that the US raised?

In a recent press publication, it has been revealed that the UK is a major exporter of chemicals that can be used to make weapons, with Israel is its number one buyer, absorbing more than half of the entire purchases. However, the UK has also issued licenses to export chemicals and weapons to Muslim countries, as Prime Minister David Cameron has been advocating a major push for weapons exports, presumably to stimulate the recessionary economy and keep job growth at reasonable levels.  Besides trying to export any sort of defense-related products to Israel and Arab countries, led by Saudi Arabia, the UK has also approached India. It is the official policy of the UK not sell weapons to governments that have a poor human rights record. However, that is only for public relations purposes. Moreover, neither Israel nor Egypt, both countries to which the UK has sold chemical weapons, have signed the convention signed by 188 states to ban such weapons.

While experts believe that the US and Russia have the largest stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons, both in violation of the convention, the illegal sale of such weapons by other countries is popular because they are easy and cheap to make and they bring in a great deal of money. Behind the Syrian civil war are Russia on Assad's side and the US on the side of the Islamist rebels. While it is true that Syria has stockpiles of chemical weapons, it is also likely that the rebels are the ones who used them, not just according to Russia, but UN human rights investigators.

On 16 July 2013, the British government announced that it will provide Syrian rebels with gas hoods and gas tablets at a cost of 650,000 pounds sterling. This is an extraordinary sum and an indication that either the Foreign Office has intelligence to indicate that Assad's military will be using chemical weapons, or that the rebels themselves would be using them and they need to be protected. In December 2012, the Syrian rebels admitted that they had chemical weapons, but they claimed they acquired them from Libyan elements, not the UK or any of the other rebel sponsors.

There have been unconfirmed reports that the rebels have enormous chemical weapons stockpiles, and that the US-Western team providing advice to them from inside Turkey is waiting for orders from the US to determine when such weapons could be used.  If the civil war goes out of control and the rebels become increasingly desperate, what would prevent them from using the chemical weapons they now possess? Considering that the UK will be providing them with gas tablets and hoods, this is an indication that the West is now preparing the rebels for the possibility of chemical warfare. Of course, we cannot rule out the possibility that Assad may stop listening to his Russian sponsor if he becomes desperate and decides to use chemical weapons against the rebels. In the absence of a political solution, which so far the US flatly refuses to agree, the situation in Syria is very dangerous and it could explode if chemical weapons are used.

Judging from the horrible mess that the US created in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the meddling of the US and NATO in Arab Spring countries now suffering low-level civil strife, Syria is in the same category, except for the element of chemical weapons. Clearly, the defense contractors in the West that export anything related to chemical warfare are elated with the situation, but it is important to remember the devastation of such weapons on human beings. Killing people for profit must have its limits, even in hard economic times when many cry out for more wars to stimulate the economy.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Is it possible that CW are banned because they are less expensive than conventional weapons are so make less money for the arms industry?