As Used On the Famous Nelson Mandela: Underground Adventures in the Arms and Torture Trade

By Mark Thomas

Rating: 4 stars

This book details Mark Thomas’s adventures as an anti-arms and torture campaigner, showing us how shamefully easy it is to buy, sell and broker arms anywhere in the world, including to countries on the EU and UN banned lists. Thomas is somewhat aware that he can be a bit pompous at times and writes in a self-deprecating manner that is humorous and easy to read, but with his righteous indignation never far from the surface. He grudgingly acknowledges that Britain probably does have one of the toughest arms trading regimes in the world, and to show just how tough that is, he gets a group of schoolkids to set up a front company and broker arms and various torture devices all over the world, including to Zimbabwe.

Some of the stories are wonderful, my favourite possibly being the free bus that he charters to take delegates to an arms fair and then makes them donate to anti-war causes in the countries most ravaged by arms before he lets them off. Either that, or the Irish nun he gets to help him set up another front company to prove just how inadequate the British and Irish laws are.

He shows a special contempt for BAE Systems (formerly British Aerospace), citing many situations showing just how much they have the ear of ministers right up to Number 10 and how Government will bend over backwards to help them out and to ensure that they get the contracts. And after reading it, the reader can’t help but join him in that contempt, and save some of it for the politicians who are their accomplices.

He also tackles the oft-used argument that the defence industry provides jobs and wealth to the country, by producing figures that suggest that far from this being the case, each job in the defence industry is subsidised by about £13,000, a shocking figure that deserves to be more widely acknowledged.

But despite all his pessimism, he still manages to end on a somewhat positive, or at least hopeful note, after providing evidence to a Parliamentary Committee to strengthen Britain’s arms trading rules and a possible international arms trading treaty.

I’m glad that we have Mark Thomas and people like him fighting for these sort of very important issues and although I’m not likely to get directly involved myself I’m very glad that we have people willing to expose the dodgy dealings of the defence industry and their cosiness to the highest levels of government.

Book details

ISBN: 9780091909222
Publisher: Ebury Press
Year of publication: 2006

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