Publication: The Star Issued: Date: 2004-07-26 Reporter: Editor

Should We Stay at Arm's Length?



The Star

Date 2004-07-26



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There is indeed irony in the news that a US arms embargo imposed on certain South African companies has been lifted.

It lies in the fact that the Americans have over the years not hesitated to pump military hardware into such diverse locations as Afghanistan, Iraq and the Middle East. They even encouraged the apartheid regime to head off to Angola.

But fickle as ever, Washington then supported a UN military embargo against SA.

The US ban - now ended - stemmed from a 1991 indictment accusing the parastatals Armscor and Denel and the private electronics firm Fuchs Electronics of using front companies to purchase weapons in the United States from 1978 to 1989 in violation of a UN resolution.

We are not suggesting that there shouldn't be control on the weapons sold to rogue and other dubious states. But it is astounding how Washington can decide to be on both sides of the fence - sometimes almost simultaneously. It backed the Taliban against the Russians and Saddam Hussein's Ba'athists against Iran. But that was then and look at the situation now.

Yes, we say thank you for the fact that our fibre optics industry will probably flourish. And that, in the words of US ambassador Cameron Hume, we have witnessed the dissipation of a dark cloud that has been hovering over industrial co-operation between the United States and South Africa.

But we frankly are not very excited about the fact that Hume says companies in this country "now have an open field in the American defence industry". It is an industry that has no scruples and knows no morality. It is an industry that indiscriminately maims and kills all over the world. It is an industry that keeps dictators in power (as long as they have been approved by Washington). It is an industry that will ensure there can never be peace on Earth.

The guys and girls at Armscor and Denel may be cheering, but the chorus will remain largely muted.

With acknowledgement to The Star.