Weapons manufacturers are making a killing in our name


Weapons corporations are literally making a killing by exporting terror around the world. Ahead of one of Australia’s biggest military weapons expos next month, Co-Organiser of its counter-protest Zelda Grimshaw explains the sheer breadth of destruction the industry creates and how Australia is complicit in the bloodshed.

By Zelda Grimshaw

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve seen the devastating footage coming out of Palestine. You’ve seen it coming out of Myanmar, too. And West Papua. And Colombia. And Yemen. And countless other parts of the world.

They’re not far-off, distant ‘conflicts’ that have little to do with Australia. They’re happening in part because of Australia.

Weapons corporations are making a killing by exporting terror around the world. But we’re absolutely complicit in that bloodshed: Scott Morrison’s government has committed $270 billion in additional funding for ‘defence’, as part of his bid to place Australia among the top ten weapons exporting nations.

And the Queensland Government has enthusiastically embraced new weapons factories, and has spent large sums of public money propping up private companies in the killing business.

In the current climate emergency, such misuse of our money cannot stand.

And yet in June Meanjin/Brisbane is hosting Land Forces, self-described as “the region’s premier international land defence exposition”. It plans to enable defence and industry to engage face-to-face on the planned billions in government investment in Australia’s defence capability.

We say no. Here’s why:

Weapons companies are making a killing

Weapons sales directly cause immense human suffering. Occupying armies and police forces kill, rape and mutilate human beings in every part of the world. The arms industry is profiting from the misery of others in the most direct way possible. Weapons companies are literally making a killing.

Weapons cause climate chaos

The climate breakdown and emissions caused by weapons are appalling; the US military is the highest carbon emitter in the world. Weapons have a massive carbon footprint, both in the manufacturing phase and in their deployment. Weapons are burning our planet, both with actual ‘firepower’ and with greenhouse gases. 

Weapons devastate wildlife and ecosystems

Tanks, missiles, jets, bombs, grenades and chemical agents rip out forests, destroy ecosystems, pollute waterways and maim wildlife. The toxic waste warfare leaves behind can contaminate soil and water for decades. 

Weapons cause famine

Weapons cause starvation and famine. Armies intentionally destroy crops and supply systems, starving cities. Occupying armies make it unsafe to farm, alienating farmers from arable land. Forests and waterways become unsafe, so that wild food is no longer available. Long after hostilities have ceased, contaminated soil and water impact food production. Wherever you see famine, there you will find weapons of war.

Weapons are a waste product

There are no ‘eco-friendly’ weapons. The arms industry creates 100% waste products – products designed to destroy and to be destroyed. Warfare is the opposite of sustainable. Weapons are there to lay waste and to be waste.

Weapons enforce resource extraction

Weapons in the hands of public and private security agencies enforce resource extraction, providing corporations with the coercive force they need in order to log rainforests, dig coal, frack farmland and burn the earth for palm oil. 

Weapons cause dispossession

Armed soldiers and police ensure that private corporations can ‘invest’ and extract against the will and without the consent of sovereign peoples. People who resist extractive projects are frequently murdered or arrested by security forces. Sovereign people lose access to the material and cultural means of survival and become outcast, alienated, dispossessed and impoverished.

Weapons create refugees

War and militarism are what cause people to flee from their homes and seek refuge in other safer countries. Warfare and persecution by armed forces cause millions of people every year to leave their homes and begin a risky journey into the unknown. After suffering through war, persecution, torture, famine, rape and terror, refugees finally reach ‘safe’ countries like ours, only to find themselves vilified and locked up. Most weapons in the world are exported from ‘safe’ countries like ours. Let’s stop weapons exports where they start – right here where we live.

Weapons turn public wealth into private profit

The weapons sold at Land Forces end up in the hands of state security institutions – armies, navies, police forces etc – and as such are paid for with public money. At Land Forces hundreds of billions of dollars will be siphoned from working people, via taxes, into the bank accounts of weapons corporations. Climate breakdown, ecosystem degradation, forcible extraction, land alienation, famine and war itself form a vicious cycle that harms everybody – except the profit-seeking corporations – and we pay for it.

War = peak toxic masculinity

Feminists have proactively resisted conscription, militarisation and the arms trade since Australian women successfully opposed the draft in World War One. Toxic masculinity, sexual assault, misogyny and racist objectification are core values in our military institutions, and they reach their peak in war. All humans will be better off when we can separate masculinity and manhood from weapons and violence.

End the war on women!

Women and children are the most heavily impacted by war and its toxic aftermath. Today, wars are raging against indigenous peoples in West Papua, the Amazon, the Philippines, Myanmar, Kurdistan, Palestine and Sudan. Rich men get richer through the arms trade, while the poor, the indigenous, women and our children are impoverished, dispossessed and harmed in multiple ways. Let’s end the war on women. Let’s ‘take the toys from the boys’.

Their weapons are meant for us

Whether we live in a ‘safe’ country or in a war zone, the weapons sold at Land Forces will ultimately point at us. Police forces around the world are increasingly militarised, meaning that they use military grade weapons, uniforms, vehicles and surveillance technology. Weapons are used to suppress civil society movements with disturbing regularity, from tear gas and water cannons through to machine guns and sniper rifles. 

Recently we have seen the military in Myanmar brutally suppressing resistance to the coup, while the ESMAD riot police in Colombia have murdered over 100 civilian protesters. In 2019 police in Chile aimed rubber bullets at people’s eyes, blinding many. At least 25 West Papuan civilians were killed by the army and police in 2020, on suspicion of being ‘separatists’; two of those killed were 12 years old. The Amazon is a particularly dangerous place to be an environmental activist, as is the Philippines; while Australia and the US are dangerous places to be black. 

There is no safety where there are heavily armed soldiers and police. Whoever and wherever we are, those weapons are meant for us.

Fighting back

This June, a huge weapons fair called Land Forces is on at Brisbane Convention Centre. An even bigger peace and climate justice movement is mobilising to protest the militarism, dispossession and ecocide inherent in the arms trade.

A broad coalition of feminist, First Nations, climate, refugee and peace groups has formed to put on a week of creative nonviolent events and actions, based at Jagera Hall in Musgrave Park and at the Land Forces venue itself.

The coalition includes campaigners and advocates from Wage Peace, Make West Papua Safe, Latin American Solidarity Network, Refugee Solidarity Meanjin, Extinction Rebellion, Friends of the Earth, Warriors of Aboriginal Resistance, the Quakers, the Peace Pilgrims, Whistleblowers and Citizens Alliance, along with Palestinian, Filipino, Syrian, Pasifika and Tamil solidarity groups. The core organisers are Queensland Greens members who are long-term activists for earth and human rights. Here is their invitation to you!

The Disrupt Land Forces Festival of Resistance is on from May 28 to June 3 in Meanjin. Stand, dance and make art with us at Brisbane Convention Centre to get in the way of arms dealers like Boeing, Thales, Rheinmetall, EOS and Elbit.

First Nations peoples are resisting militarism and extractivism to protect Country and culture the world over. This is our chance to stand with them – to stand up for peace and climate justice, to stop war crimes where they start: in the corporate boardrooms of Land Forces.

Sign up and find out more about the Disrupt Land Forces Festival of Resistance at their website here, and follow them on all the usual social media platforms at @disruptlandforces.

Zelda Grimshaw is a Queensland Greens member and co-organiser of Disrupt Land Forces.

Hero image: Anti-police violence rally in Colombia, supplied by the author.

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