02 Jan 14. I suspect that I am hardly alone today in being somewhat appalled when listening to a very one sided report or should I better say, diatribe on the ‘Today Programme’ which played so well into the hands of the ‘Campaign Against Arms Trade’. What a pity it has come to this! This particular package was biased and unrepresentative in the extreme as with underhand contempt it attempted to lambast British government policy allowing ‘arms’ sales to countries that, I assume because they have a different political system to our own, chose to completely ignore the work that they do to secure peace and stability in the Middle East region. This is why we consider them to be our constant allies and it is why we consider that they have the right to defend themselves against the threat of aggression.
It is to me extremely regrettable that the stance which the BBC allowed its musician ‘guest editor’ to pursue failed to contain anyone defending the accusations and argument. Yes, there was an insignificant half-hearted twenty second comment from a spokesman at the trade association ADS included in the package – who with seemingly less conviction than a flea did little more than confirm the official number of UK defence industry jobs and the follow on benefit to the economy. There was in this package piece no mention at all about the real and underlying benefits to the UK economy, jobs and the Exchequer and there was absolutely nothing about the defence diplomacy argument. Yes, there was confirmation about the total amount of UK defence goods exported during 2012 but there was absolutely no mention that in doing so Britain operates what many consider to be the most responsible and stringent policy in the world ensuring that the products it sells are used for defensive purposes only. Neither was there any mention that United Nations Charter 51 states very clearly that:
Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security. Measures taken by Members in the exercise of this right of self-defence shall be immediately reported to the Security Council and shall not in any way affect the authority and responsibility of the Security Council under the present Charter to take at any time such action as it deems necessary in order to maintain or restore international peace and security.
As a responsible mature nation state what right do we have to say we should deprive those who are unable to manufacture defence equipment themselves from securing what they need to adequately defend themselves? Yes, we do have to act responsibly in terms of defence sales and I am in no doubt that with the heavy restrictions that are now in place that we are the most compliant nation in the world when it comes to responsible defence exports.
I am all for the BBC having ‘guest editors’ on the ‘Today Programme’ particularly over the Christmas and New Year holiday period. But had I been given such an opportunity I would at the very least have gone out of my way to ensure that whoever was chosen to undertake to produce a package on defence exports (and the later one that sought to lambast the good work of the UN Security Council) would have been told that attempting to win the argument without allowing those you are pointing the finger at to defend themselves is unacceptable on the BBC. In saying this I am fully aware that Sarah Montague informed listeners at the end of the broadcast package that the Department of Business had declined to put anyone forward for live interview. Maybe so, but this still begs the question why was such a despicable package interview allowed to go out without there being a balanced argument within it?
Howard Wheeldon, FRAeS,
Wheeldon Strategic Advisory Ltd.