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France, Proud Exporter of High-Tech Death

Posted: February 3rd, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Broadsheets | Comments Off on France, Proud Exporter of High-Tech Death

From Paris Sous Tension #8

As the carnage in Syria continues, deaths are now counted by the hundreds of thousands. The large popular uprising that began in 2011 to overthrow the Assad dictatorship has been drowned in blood for five years under the passive, stunned gaze of the entire world. A real slaughter, with whole villages razed to the ground and a war of extermination waged against a population already decimated by hunger and privation. The insurrection was skillfully transformed into a civil war by the various international factions of power who are fighting over the resources, reconstruction contracts, and domination of the populations. Blood is spilling in the Middle East and Africa. The state, commanders, and bosses, whether they be dressed in suits, uniforms, or religious clothes, are dividing the booty at the expense of millions of peoples lives. And Europe as well is beginning to smell  blood and gun powder, to once again get used terror and to khaki uniforms in the streets. Racism and nationalism are spreading, with millions of refugees are turned back at the borders, tens of thousands drown in the Mediteranean, die in trucks, or are expelled or locked up. War invades our lives ever further and constrains our present and our future.

In the midst of this, the French government and the heads of the arms industry announce glowing profits written with nine zeros, based on record sales in the past two years, and the possibilities are looking good for the years ahead. “Thanks to the Hollande-Le Drian duo [1], France has sold more weapons than it has in ages,” a boss in the sector announced in 2014. When introducing the impact of arms sales in the 2015 Parliamentary Report, minister Le Drian spoke of “performance beyond our expectations”, of “bolstering the industrial sector”, of the “historic” success that has made France the second largest weapons exporter in 2014, which “is part of finally committing to the logic of preserving French military and strategic capacity.”  These sales include: twenty-four  fourth generation Rafale fighter planes, built by Dassault, Safran, and EADS [2], to Qatar, where on May 4th president François Hollande was present for a ceremony marking the deal; an order for thirty-six of these devices from India in April 2015; and also Canberra’s decision at the end of April 2016 to purchase twelve Barracuda submarines from the DCNS [3] group…

With the generalized climate of war and terror, “Made in France” arms sales have really taken off: 6.8 billion euros in 2013, 8.2 billion in 2014, 16.9 billion in 2015, and an estimated 34 billion in 2016… [4]

The French republic and its businesses have a wide range of products available to entice armies around the world: airplanes, spy-satellites, armoured vehicles, warships, missiles… This gear can often be labeled “combat proven”, thanks to the French army’s involvement in many external missions: The Ivory Coast, Libya, Mali, Syria, Iraq…. This is undeniably a plus for the salespeople of French arms companies when they present their wares to interested countries. Each military intervention is an advertising campaign for these companies. This is definitely the case for the Rafale, which was the first coalition aircraft to enter Libyan airspace. Furthermore, the Middle East remains the largest market for France: it’s by means of those excellent “Made in France” fighter jets that Saudia Arabia is able to massacre the population of Yemen these past two years; it’s by means of the military helicopters built by French businesses Thales, SOFEMA, and SAFRAN  for Russian military supply companies like Rosoboronexport [5] that arms are transported into Syria…

This high-tech death industry involves many private as well as public sectors. Its interests reach not only into the foreign policy of the State, but also into urban renewal, education, industrial and technological production and computer technology. The Military-Industrial Complex (MIC) is in fact a coalition of capitalist interests ( business owners, shareholders…) with the military, universities, scientists, politicians, clergy, intellectuals, journalists and lawyers, in order to influence the political powers in charge of distributing financial, human, and technological resources on a national scale. Here, public and private interests converge.  The state is a shareholder of the principal arms consortiums and is in full control of NEXTER [6] and DCNS. Similarly, a large number of insurance companies, banks, pension funds, and mutual funds provide these groups with their capital. These are low-risk investments, since this strategic sector will always be propped up by the state in case of bankruptcy. Further, what better guarantee for investors than plunging us into a permanent state of war?

Military and civilian production are inextricably linked. Scientific research has a foundational role in this, by feeding the military sector  new technologies. Most of the techniques and technologies used in the most recent military programs are direct products of public, civilian labs engaged in fundamental research. Their works finds application in civilian industries while also contributing to military progress, and vice versa. This is the world of “dual” businesses, like Thales, ECA group, Thyssenkroup (in Germany) or Chapuis (which owns Manhurin), where a portion of their production is for the civil sector while another is for the military. Their “dual” nature is heavily funded by a state program called Rapid [7]. Thus, in the name of innovation, of smart technology, of research, of development, of competitiveness, they produce ever more lethal and sophisticated weapons: killer robots, like the drones that have claimed thousands of victims in Iraq and Pakistan; bio- and nanotechnologies for ballistic or nuclear weapons; chemical and bacterial weapons; cybernetic insect spies (miniaturised robotics); information and communication technologies that allow digital information from any source to be made available to a network; from surveillance satellites to RFID chips…. All this to facilitate the combined action of the armed forces, both human and machine. Science, in the service of capitalism and its wars, is in the process of pushing the power of control and extermination far beyond what we could imagine…

The gears of this death machine are all around us: in factories, in offices, in banks, universities, in research facilities, in trade shows and expositions… Some of them are global titans like Nexter, DCNS, Airbus, Dassault, Thales, SAFRAN, MBDA, Renault Trucks Defense, AREVA, ZodiacAerospace, but also hundreds of sub-conctractors like Aeracces, Drone Volt, Infotron, RB3D, Bodycote, Goodrich Actuation System, DGA Propulseurs, Howmet, ALkan, AlcoaFastening System, Mach Aero Bretigny, Panhard, REOSC, Air Precision, Air Commande, 3D Plus… to name just those present in Ile-de-France around Paris. Some of them are also research institutions like CNRS and CEA (Commission for Atomic Energy and Alternative Energy) that receive lots of funding from the General Delegation for Armaments (DGA) by way of the National Research Agency (ANR) [8], the labs of Systematic Paris-Region and of Polytéchnique in Palaiseau [9], the École Normale Supérieure in Sarclay [10], Université Paris 6 Pierre et Marie Curie, The National Institute of Digital Research (INRIA), the Institute of Development and Research (IRD), the Institute of International and Strategic Relations (IRIS), ENAM Arts et Métiers ParisTech [11], TGCC (the Very Large Calculating Centre)[11]… This is not, of course, an exhaustive list, but it gives us a sense of how the war industry represents a massive business involving a huge number of public and private actors. The gears vital to this chain are spread across the territory.

Nothing is more hypocritical than a pacifism that, in the name of “non-violence”, justifies its inaction in the face of the horrors of war. Let’s stop seeing those responsible for the modern slaughter as unattainable monsters, crazed dictators, or blood-thirsty terrorists. Remember that these days if “monsters” exist and have always existed, it’s because they have profitable businesses, banks, and shareholders backing them up, along with tie-wearing businessmen who live off war, and thousands of engineers and scientists who produce their weapons and technologies. For those who refuse to be relegated to powerlessness and despair,  you don’t have to wait to oppose war. Let’s give ourselves the means to attack this society of death, by sabotaging its structures and blocking its gears. Let’s undermine national and bellicose rhetoric and refuse to fall into line. It’s the only way to take back control of our lives and prevent militarization from becoming our only possible future.

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