Can the “Shadow World” of Corrupt Weapons Deals be Held Accountable? (5/5)
JAISAL NOOR: And my next question, and we’ve gotten a few of these questions from our viewers, is, yes, you know, this is happening, but what can we do about it? Are there some success stories you can share with us of people being able to take on the defense industry and actually making a difference? And we were talking about Saudi Arabia and there have been a group of activists in the United States and across the world that have been highlighting US support for Saudi Arabia. And just yesterday the US halted some of the weapon sales to Saudi Arabia. Do you think public pressure, protests, investigations, do you think that can make an impact?
ANDREW FEINSTEIN: Absolutely. You know, I come from a very political background. I was involved in the struggle against Apartheid when I was just a teenager in South Africa and if somebody has asked me in 1984 — 10 years before democracy came to South Africa when Nelson Mandela was still in prison — if someone had said to me, “So do you think Apartheid will end and there’ll be a democracy in South Africa,” I would have suggested to them that they might have had mental health issues. And the reality is 10 years later, not only was Nelson Mandela out of jail, but the ANC was in government in South Africa, Mandela was the country’s President — and while South Africa has many challenges and issues, it is no longer a legally racist state, which it was for 350 years.
So I’m a great believer in the fact that struggle and activism do actually lead to change, but they have to be properly informed by the facts. Which is why the book of The Shadow World has almost 3,000 footnotes, because every time we make a claim such as I’ve been making here today, we back it up with documentary evidence which is then listed in the book.
But let me give you a couple of examples. In South Africa, we started investigating that huge arms deal that I mentioned 15 years ago. And that was the investigation, two years after the deal had actually been concluded. And today, 15 years later, it remains a huge political issue in South Africa. The President of the country, Jacob Zuma — who, as I mentioned, was facing 783 counts of corruption and other things — just recently, a court in South Africa ruled that the dropping of the charges against Mr. Zuma was actually irrational and illogical and that he should face trial for those charges. It remains a hot political issue in South Africa 15 years after the fact.
You mentioned Yemen. Late last year the EU, the European Parliament, took an unfortunately non-binding vote, but a very important vote, nevertheless, that called for the stopping of all arms sales to Saudi Arabia. On the 7th of February of next year, a great campaigning group in the United Kingdom called Campaign Against Arms Trade has won the right to take a legal review whether it violates British law for the British government to sell weapons to Saudi Arabia. The Dutch Government, a few months ago, effectively embargoed sales of arms to Saudi Arabia. And, as you say, just a few days ago, the United States Government decided not to give approval to what would have been a $350 million contract between Raytheon and the Saudis for weaponry that they could have used in Yemen, that could have been used in Syria and various other places.
Seventy-four members of Congress voted against a small arms sale to Saudi Arabia. Now that’s been unheard of since the 1980s. So we’re starting to see that people around the world are saying, “Enough is enough.” We’re seeing extraordinary work by groups like Code Pink in the United States, around the militarism in the US and around whether these are the rational choices in the interests of real national security and defense in the United States. In the interests of real prosperity for the middle and working classes in the US — whether this out of control militarism actually makes any sense at all.
So even in the 16 years that I’ve been working on these matters, I’ve seen a significant change in attitudes. I’ve seen a lot more people speaking about this. You know, we’ve been taking the film all over the world, including around the US, and we’ll continue to do so next year, and engaging with audiences all over the world, from townships in South Africa to very prominent festivals in New York City — we’re seeing people outraged by what they’re seeing in this film. We’re seeing people asking us, “Well, how can we engage? How can we get more involved?” And there are great organizations, I mentioned one of them, Code Pink in the United States — there are great organizations all over the world.
And I really do believe that we can put this issue back onto the political agenda so that the defense contractors stop getting what is effectively a free ride from the US government and from the US taxpayer. So that it becomes more difficult for the United States Government to spend the billions and billions of dollars that it does every year, not on the real defense of the American people, but on massive wastage, on inappropriate weaponry, on corruption. Because just two days ago there was another accusation, and this time South Korea, of Lockheed Martin involvement with a corrupt official in the office of the beleaguered President of South Korea. To actually clean up this industry, ensure we have a military and a defense capability that actually reflects what our defense and security needs are, that meets those needs appropriately, that is more accountable, that only spends money that money needs to be properly spent and doesn’t simply continue to put cash into the hands of politicians, intermediaries and the senior executives of defense companies. And ensures that the military are equipped in the way they deserve to be equipped but that sustainable security is a consequence of money being well spent by the United States Government, not only on the military, but also on issues like the environment, on the issues like poverty in the United States itself, inequality, etcetera.
JAISAL NOOR: All right, we want to thank you so much for joining us. Your film Shadow World, you can watch it online and it’s going to be coming to a city near you. Thanks so much.
ANDREW FEINSTEIN: Not at all. Thank you for your time.
JAISAL NOOR: And thank you to our viewers for joining us at the Real News Network. Thanks so much.