The military activity of the G8 is closely connected to their other activities – for example their role in maintaining a global economic hegemony, their need to maintain oil supplies and their promotion of corporate interests in all corners of the world. These activities can be studied in the other sections of the IndyMedia G8 2005 section. For now, though, the following quote is apposite:
"For globalisation to work, America can't be afraid to act like the Almighty Superpower that it is. The hidden hand of the market will never work without a hidden fist. McDonalds cannot flourish without McDonnell-Douglas, the designer of the F-15, and the hidden fist that keeps the world safe for Silicon Valley's technology is called the United States Army, Air force, Navy and Marine Corps." - Thomas Friedman, Star Columnist for the New York Times, 1999
[Anti-military groups at G8 2005:Trident ploughshares | CND UK | Scottish CND | Voices in the Wilderness UK | Campaign against the Arms Trade | Peace News | Faslane Peace Camp | Friends of the Earth | Justice not Vengeance | People and planet | Stop the War Coalition]
Some further background on G8 military activity…
The role of G8 countries in wars around the world is well-known and continuing. Consider Tony Blair’s record: Apart from the 2002 invasion of Iraq, a catastrophe initiated primarily by the US and UK, he has initiated military operations on four other occasions (possibly five, if one includes East Timor) – in Kosovo, Sierra Leone, Afghanistan and in Iraq again through Operation Desert Fox in 1998.
These operations form part of a pattern of aggressive military action undertaken by the G8 nations since World War Two. The Iraq conflict, in particular, has been extensively analysed as a war initiated by the most economically and militarily powerful nations, and waged with a view to maintaining this supremacy, whatever the human cost.
A January 2005 Guardian article (based on a recent report of Scientists for Global Responsibility) asserted that global military spending in 2003 stood at $956bn, of which the US spent 40%. Britain is the world's third-largest military spender; the UK defence procurement agency alone spends about £6 billion a year on military equipment.
And it’s getting worse: 2003 saw world military spending increase by 11%; George Bush in particular has massively increased military spending during his time as President.
Let two quotes put this into context:
"High-income countries account for about 75 per cent of world military spending but only 16 per cent of world population. The combined military spending of these countries was slightly higher than the aggregate foreign debt of all low-income countries and 10 times higher than their combined levels of official development assistance in 2001.(source)
"The United Nations and all its agencies and funds spend about $10 billion each year, or about $1.70 for each of the world's inhabitants. This is a very small sum compared to most government budgets and it is just a tiny fraction of the world's military spending. Yet for over a decade, the UN has faced a debilitating financial crisis and it has been forced to cut back on important programs in all areas. Many member states have not paid their full dues and have cut their donations to the UN's voluntary funds. At the end of December 2003, members owed the UN $1,602 billion, of which the United States alone owed $762 million (48% in total and 73% of the regular budget)."(source)
Of particular interest to peace activists at the G8 are the Trident nuclear submarines which have been based at Faslane, near Glasgow since the 90’s. Each Trident submarine carries 48 nuclear warheads, each of which has an explosive power of up to 100 kilotons, the equivalent of 100,000 tons of conventional high explosive and 8 times the power of the atomic bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima in 1945, killing an estimated 140,000 people. There is a long tradition of protest at Faslane and this will be continued on Monday 4 July 2005. The protests are particularly urgent given reports that the government is planning to replace the trident nuclear submarines with a new generation of nuclear deterrent.
Funding Other Countries
The G8 countries have provided military funding for many smaller nations. The most famous, and one of the most horrific in its implications, is the US funding of Israel. Direct aid from the US to Israel has averaged around $3 billion a year for many years, with around $2 billion of this generally being military aid.
US aid to Colombia is another contentious issue. After Israel and Egypt, Colombia receives the amount of military aid from the US. This aid is part of Plan Colombia, a scheme to regenerate Colombia’s economy that received support first from President Clinton and now from George Bush. Like Israel, Colombia’s human rights record is appalling and yet this does not seem to deter the US from providing military aid. In fact one can go further: Noam Chomsky comments that there is a "correlation between [US] aid and egregious violation of human rights"(source).
The examples given above are of US military aid but other G8 nations also provide military aid to oppressive regimes: Both France and the UK have provided aid to Colombia, while the UK provides aid to Nepal despite protests from aid groups.
Arms Companies and the Arms Trade
Ahead of the 2003 G8 conference in Evian, Amnesty International revealed "that despite assurances to the contrary, their governments are arming and supplying some of the world's worst abusers of human rights." The report goes on to say that "at least two thirds of all global arms transfers between 1997 and 2001 came from five members of the G8 -- the US, Russia, France, the UK and Germany."
These countries, as well as the other arms-exporting members of the G8 -- Italy and Canada -- all have varying laws requiring that military exports be licensed. In theory this ensures that the G8 countries abide by their collective decision to refrain from selling arms to human rights abusers. However "sometimes the odd tank/ machine gun/ helicopter gunship sneeks through."
For a good summary of the current state of the arms trade and its implications visit this site.
For a G8-specific briefing, courtesy the good folk at Campaign Against the Arms Trade here.