Government spending billions on bombing while cutting social services

Emily Apple

The government pledged, over a week before the vote on whether to bomb Syria, an extra £12 billion on military spending. Imagine what that injection of cash could achieve in the NHS. Also, according to research from Sky News, each airstrike could cost at least £508,000. Just think about what that amount could do for schools and hospitals, or helping refugees, instead of benefitting arms dealers. Using average wages, each strike could pay for either 20 paramedics, 20 teachers, 19 nurses or 18 firefighters for a year.

Within hours of MPs voting in favour of bombing Syria, the first attacks have taken place, and the lies have begun. During the debate, much was made of the “unique contribution” that the UK could make in the fight against ISIS (Daesh) –  namely the Brimstone missile. However, the first bombs dropped were Paveway bombs, a bombing system which is used by 27 countries, including France and Saudi Arabia.

The Brimstone missile was the subject of massive hype last week, with a lot of the mainstream press seemingly swallowing large parts of the arms company’s marketing spiel and regurgitating it.

Contrary to what Conservative MP, Sir Gerald Howarth, would have us believe, the UK is not unique in owning these missiles. This point was raised by Brendon O’Hara, the defence spokesperson for the SNP, who questioned David Cameron over exactly how unique a contribution Brimstone missiles would be, given that Saudi Arabia also owns the weapon. Cameron declined to answer.

Brimstone is manufactured by MBDA, an international arms company which describes itself as the “first truly integrated defence company” with employees in France, Germany, UK, Italy and Germany. It has three major defence shareholders, one of which is BAE Systems, the third biggest arms company in the world. The contract to supply the missiles is not controlled by the UK, and as seen with the Saudi deal, MBDA is happy to sell Brimstone missiles to whoever will pay the price. They have also been trying to persuade the US to buy the system.

The price is astronomical, and in all likelihood, that’s why it has not been used by other countries. In 2013, the Royal Air Force signed a contract worth £14 million to supply Brimstones. Every time one is fired, it costs £100,000. 

Furthermore, whilst Brimstone missiles have been praised for their incredible accuracy, their accuracy can only be as good as the intelligence supplied, and there will always be mistakes, both human and technological, as the recent bombing of the MSF hospital in Kunduz so clearly demonstrated.

The mainstream media and politicians are trying to tell us we are the only country with the capacity to use these missiles, and that we can use them without civilian casualties. Both points are incorrect. The only thing unique about our weapons capabilities is our ability to spend money and enrich arms dealers. But, most importantly, we must always remember there is no such thing as a war without civilian deaths, and bombarding a population who have already seen so much suffering and death will help no one.


Featured image via Defence Images and SathNHS

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