“As used on the famous Nelson Mandela” is available in most airport bookshops and should be compulsory for those interested in matters military. The central premise of the book by British comedian and political activist Mark Thomas is that all arms companies as prone to bribe, all defence deals are corrupt, all participants in the industry are immoral and that nearly every cent spent on defence is literally theft from the poor. Thomas has a strong message to the defence and security industry: he plans to put you out of business: prescription followed by proscription.
The book is fun to read and four South African companies make it into the book (pages 251, 278, 288 and 293) after being hoodwinked by Mr Thomas. Two are caught in flagrante delicto advertising equipment that can be used as instruments of torture at a British defence exhibition in 2004. Another s caught advertising cluster bombs at the same event and a lady at the fourth tells Mr Thomas her company cannot export shotguns to Israel – the SA government would never let them – but then says she can seek to arrange this through an office in Switzerland.
The torture equipment is significant. This last decade has seen the rise of an al-Qaeda-style, media-savvy network of networks that is determined to shut the arms industry down. Thomas is a member of this alliance that links grassroots groups, social movements, disarmament lobbyists, human rights activists and those who author Graham Hancock called the “Lords of Poverty” – the international aid industry – into a loose coalition.
“As used on the famous Nelson Mandela” gives frightful insight into how they intend doing it and how the defence industry is helping them. The title, incidentally, refers to a British maker of leg irons who as recently as 1999 advertised on the Internet theirs were “as used on the famous Mr Mandela”. (!) Thomas repeatedly finds entrepreneurs who are prepared to bypass or break laws to export items to the skunks of the world – Zimbabwe and Sudan being frequent examples. When the industry opens its mouth, it seems, it is simply to change feet.
They believe they have the high ground, and how can they not when one dealer wants to sell stun pens to Irish nuns for use on school children, another sells stun batons to school children and others say if they don`t “others will”, an argument that causes a trade unionist to say “if the arms dealers keep going on about how if they didn`t do it, someone else would, then let`s clobber the other f#[email protected]%r as well.”
And they are. In 1997 anti-arms activists secured a Nobel peace prize