Theater of Cruelty

Into the lion's den

The weapons industry is worse today than ever, but there is hope, says Andrew Feinstein, author of the book behind the movie Shadow World.


Mr. Feinstein?

There he sits, in the foyer of the Cinema Galleries theater. Without bodyguard. His film should be shown here immediately, with subsequent debate. The more than 700 pages long book behind the film is a meticulous study of the shadow networks that distribute weapons across the globe. Like vultures, they find nourishment where there is death and destruction.

Are you worried about your own safety?

"No. I think it's most dangerous in the research phase, because when the books and movies are out, you would just create more PR for my work if you were to kill me. The ones who are really in danger are my sources. Alarms. My job is to make sure we protect them fully, ”Feinstein replies.

Global scope. Feinstein's own investigations have aroused the interest of prosecutors in the United States and the United Kingdom. However, he found that in many cases where the evidence was strong enough that they would have held in a regular criminal case, the prosecution said the company was too strong or had too close ties to the government, and dropped the case. The ultimate defeat was when the United States and the United Kingdom made a deal with the world's third largest defense company BAE in 2010, where the company easily escaped with worldwide corruption. Among the countries involved were Saudi Arabia, Tanzania, South Africa, Romania and the Czech Republic. BAE and Rolls Royce are the most corrupt companies the world has seen in the last two decades, in his view.

It is this symbiotic relationship between industry, governments, the military and political parties that Feinstein wants to live and has dedicated the last 17 years of his life to combat.

Have any of the gun dealers been cursed for something you've written?

"Yes, but not as many as one would think. It was a Zimbabwean that I wrote about in both books that got very angry and sent me handwritten letters that I never had to write about him again, ”Feinstein says effortlessly while an expectant amount of moviegoers buzz in the background.

Feinstein only manages to watch his movie once a month. This time he will sit in the hallway and wait.

War profiteers. A brief summary of Shadow World (2016): Great attention is paid to a corrupt agreement BAE entered into with Saudi Arabia on the sale of fighter jets, worth 43 billion pounds. Saudi Prince Bandar got a passenger plane lubricated. The invasion of Iraq is another motive, as an example of a lie used to justify war, and how the war-torn gas profiteers in Halliburton benefited. In dreamlike historical clips, the theme of war profiteers is evoked, from the First World War to the Obama Peace Prize speech. Many well-known anti-war thinkers are involved in outlining an outline of a problem that is so difficult to get through in our war-torn era; that a small group benefits from the wars regardless of the outcome. "It does not matter if we lose the war in Afghanistan. Halliburton makes money anyway, "noted journalist Chris Hedges in one scene.

The military-industrial media entertainment complex: the power to create enemy images and thus shape the population's fears.

The debate in a packed cinema hall confirms that the topic is fiery. Among the issues being addressed is the EU's new investment in weapons technology over three years, with a price tag of 80 million euros. The European Network Against Arms Trade is campaigning against this plan, which will involve 25 million euros already from this year. This is the first time the EU, which started as a peace project, is spending money on subsidizing the arms industry.

Pill rotten. After the film screening, the audience clusters together in groups and exchanges contact information. We grab hold of the filmmaker again. His interest in the arms lobby began when he was elected to the South African parliament for Nelson Mandela's ANC party in 1997, and began to wonder who all the men in suits were, as always, whirling around in the lobby. With an economist's interest in details, he discovered that the $ 4,8 billion arms deal his country was about to make with Britain was pill rotten. This led him on a collision course with the party, and in 2001 he broke with the ANC. He set out to write the first documentary on international arms trade since 1979.

"I would rather have written a novel on the subject, but I realized that if I had done that, I would have been admitted to a mental hospital. That's why I started with the documentary version, with all the footnotes. "

What is your method?

«People contact me after reading my books – FBI people, whistleblowers, people in companies, in the mili-
sapped. We started building a human network, but we needed to go further. So we started looking for people. Some would not talk to us, but others would. "

This is the first time the EU peace project has subsidized the arms industry.

Allies. In recent years, the arms industry has taken on a new and even uglier expression, we understand. James Der Derian, a professor at the University of Sydney, calls it "the military-industrial media entertainment complex": the power to create images of enemies and thus shape the population's fears. Why do we hear almost nothing about the war in Yemen while we hear a lot about the war in Syria?

The consequences are comparable, but in Yemen one of our allies is responsible for the brutality, while in Syria there is a regime that we define as evil. The weapons used in Yemen have been sold by British companies, and the British are helping the Saudis find targets to bomb. The UN has found that a third of the bomb targets are deliberately civilian targets, says Feinstein. The organization Campaign Against Arms Trade has brought the British government to court. But the fact that the British, who were the driving force behind the UN's new arms trade agreement (ATT), can break the agreement in this blatant way, shows that it does not work. In some cases, the situation has worsened because some countries have lowered their standards down to ATT's level, as far as Feinstein can judge.

Feinstein vs. NATO. Another of the tacit truths swirling around us in the news is that all NATO member states must now spend at least two percent of their gross domestic product on defense. It is a result of pressure from industry, he believes, and sees it as a paradox that while NATO claims to promote transparency and fight corruption, they also demand increased military budgets and thus promote international arms trade, which is inherently pro-corruption. In Brussels, there are 25 lobbyists; perhaps half of them are involved in the arms industry.

"Next time, I would like to show my film at NATO Headquarters. I wish I could find a way to do that. "

Are you optimistic?

"Yes. If not, I would probably have taken my own life. I think the situation is worse today than ever. But at the same time, more has been written and researched on the arms trade in the last five or six years than before, and that gives me hope. I want the problem to be put back on the agenda as it was after the First World War and a short period in the 60s. "

Skre is a freelance journalist.

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