War has become testing ground for new weapons
By Arindam Chaudhuri
02nd December 2012 12:00 AM
War has always—especially in recent history—been a tool to display a nation’s military might. It is a way of flaunting newly developed state-of-the-art weaponries and defence technologies. When the US invades a minnow like Afghanistan or Iraq, a majority never notice the underlying, real reason behind the invasion—to spur the global weapons trade market.
Arms trade is a huge business—with the leading player in this space being the US, with its massive infrastructure of weapons R&D, which invariably warrants rabid marketing and promotion for economic viability. And what can be a better opportunity to display the might of weapons to potential buyers than during a war? Capitulating to that, almost all media channels across the world, in their local languages, describe the destructive capacity of these weapons in their breaking news ‘war’ coverage. The result? Free global promotion, which otherwise would have cost millions.
The desperation of American arms manufacturers to test new weapons is evident from the fact that the US alone has more than 44 arms manufacturing companies with a combined sales of over $200 billion (as of 2007, per the SIPRI 2012 report)—more than the GDP of around 150 nations. Lockheed Martin, one of the largest manufacturers of missiles and space artillery, alone sold arms worth $35,000 million in 2007, seven times the GDP of the Gaza Strip and West Bank.
The same kind of weapon propaganda goes on unabated in the Gaza Strip, where Israel acts as a testing agent for US arms companies. And all these are not phenomena of the last two decades. Even during the 1960s, the experiments of the US war laboratory in Vietnam were compared to the ghastly war crimes committed by the Nazis.
A weapon in vogue now in Israel is a shell containing white phosphorous, which causes terrible burn injuries when in contact with the skin. Under international law, phosphorous is considered a chemical weapon when used against civilians, yet Israel is using it, despite having come under a barrage of criticism from international human rights groups. Israel maintains that its arsenal stocks are in compliance with international standards; but the phosphorous shells that it fires is an anomaly to these claims. It must be mentioned here that the arms Israel uses are either imported from the US or are developed by independent American arms manufacturers or built within Israel by a company, which invariably has stakes in/from a parent US weapon-maker. For instance, the often used DIME (Dense Inert Metal Explosive) by Israeli forces is one that was developed by the US. The weapon is in its developmental stage and is being used in Gaza as a testing ground.
In the same light, Uncle Sam’s adventure in Iraq was a foreign mission deliberately designed to set up a weapons laboratory. For example, US marines during the second Gulf War were endowed with a Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD) that was tested against the feeble resistance of Iraq. Apart from LRAD, also in the queue was the Active Denial System that was tested during the Iraq war. Some of the other lethal weapons tested on Baghdad civilians were e-bombs, sensor-fused weapons, agent defeat bombs and laser weapons. All these weapons were lethal and sometimes were even banned by international human rights groups (one example is the laser weapon, which was banned in 1995). Similarly, built by the General Atomic Aeronautical Systems in January 1994, the much-touted drones, which are being sold across the world now, were first tested in the Balkans. And by 1995, these intelligence gathering unmanned vehicles were doing surveillance work over the skies of Bosnia. They were also tested later in the skies of Kosovo; and by 2001, the Predator drones were equipped with Hellfire missiles and got deployed even in places like Yemen.
Whenever the US and other developed nations are ready with a fleet of weapons that needs to be tested, they create an Iraq, Afghanistan, or even a Gaza. War today has morphed into a testing ground for weapons, from where the great arms trade begins. It all started decades ago… and continues as Gaza burns.
Chaudhuri is a management guru and honorary director of IIPM think tank
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