SUZANNE HARRINGTON: Business as usual for dealers in death

DOING anything this coming week? At a loose end at all? You could always pop over to London to the enormous ExCel events centre, which is hosting an arms fair, writes Suzanne Harrington

Ooooh, exciting, right? Oh, hang on — you’ve just looked on the ExCel listings and there’s no mention of any arms fair? Just stuff like wedding exhibitions, the Cake and Bake Show, and India Fashion Week?

That’s odd, because it’s definitely happening, between September 15 and 18.

Maybe the venue was feeling a bit shy about putting the arms fair on their website. People might get the wrong idea. Guns, bombs, weapons — it’s not quite kittens and embroidery, is it? But if you did want to go along, it does sound terribly action packed.

It’s called the Defence and Security Equipment International, and has its own website — www.dsei.co.uk — which says that it will be hosting “the entire defence and security industry to source the latest equipment and systems, develop international relationships, and generate new business opportunities”. And wait, there’s more. There will be “1,500 international exhibitors – an unrivalled range of suppliers from 121 countries” (Ireland is not on the list ) with “unbeatable networking — featuring the entire defence and security supply chain in one place”.

Generate new business opportunities? Yes, it probably will. In March this year, a report from the UK government pointed out that the UK government had supplied £5.2bn worth of weapons — that’s €7.1 bn — to countries politely termed having “human rights concerns.” Amongst them, Russia and Syria. Although having looked through the list of countries involved, neither Russia or Syria are on the list. Funny that.

The website is actually deadly dull, apart from one advert (“Interception Is Coming – Protect Your Secrets” and then directions to a stall number. What might they be selling – diaries with padlocks?). The interesting stuff is probably off limits – the event itself promises air, land and waterborne demonstrations. which I misread as waterboarding, but it’s just probably boring old weapons.

I wonder if the demonstrations will show the guns, bombs and weapons in action. Not using actual humans and their homes, obviously, that would be in terribly bad taste, but maybe some simulation. Latex limbs scattered about doused in tomato ketchup, that kind of thing. Teddy bears and school books scattered in faux rubble. It would add a certain piquancy, no? As would a mood board showing the link of weapons sold and the washing up of dead toddlers on EU beaches. Just a suggestion, guys.

Obviously I’m not going. You have to be invited. I’ll just have to imagine what it must be like, to be dressed in an immaculate suit, with my name badge and photo ID, shaking hands with other suits, being perfectly courteous and well mannered. Making contacts, doing deals. Then going home to the family, the children, the secure comfortable home. And sleeping like a dead baby.


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