For many years, I regarded “think tanks” as a godsend. As a news reporter chasing deadlines, I’d regularly call their “experts” for quotes. Usually, they could give me a few succinct lines that appeared to lend a story some intellectual heft.
Then I started asking: who do these “experts” really represent? Can outfits financed by major corporations be independent?
Security and Defence Agenda (SDA) describes itself as a “neutral platform” for discussing military matters. Analysts with the Brussels-based think tank appear happy nonetheless to sound a bellicose note that chimes with the interest of those weapons manufacturers funding their activities.
Shada Islam, SDA’s “strategic advisor”, appeared on Euronews recently, where she argued that “several surgical strikes” should be undertaken against Syria (the interview was conducted before the US-Russia deal on removing Syria’s chemical weapons). Referring to Bashar Assad, the Syrian president, Islam said: “We have an international treaty which bans the use of chemical weapons. If this man has really used them, we have a moral treaty obligation to act. If the West, if the international community, does not act, turns a blind eye to the use of poison gas, what message are we sending to other despots and dictators?”
Islam failed to spell out that some members of SDA would benefit directly from the attack that she advocated. Lockheed Martin, for example, produces cruise missiles that would almost certainly be used if America decided to bomb Damascus. When an attack looked imminent, the value of Lockheed’s sharesbegan to climb steadily.
Last week I contacted Islam asking her to explain why she did not alert viewers to her Lockheed connections. I also asked her Euronews interviewer, Rudolf Herbert, if he was aware that Islam is, to all intents and purposes, a lobbyist for the arms industry. Neither replied.
SDA’s abhorrence of non-conventional weapons may be selective. A report that it has published on “cyber-security” relied considerably on the “wisdom” dispensed by Yitzhak Ben-Israel, a former head of research with the Israeli military. The report did not mention that Ben-Israel has indicated that he provided advice on how that military could use a hideous weapon called DIME (Dense Inert Metal Explosive).
DIME was originally tested by a US Air Force Base in Florida, where the possibility of adding tungsten or other metal particles to an explosive chemical mixture was studied. Desmond Travers, an Irish colonel, has stated that there was much anecdotal evidence that Israel used DIME during its three-week assault on Gaza in late 2008 and early 2009.
He has expressed particular concern about DIME containing powdered metal, which cannot be removed from any human body that it enters. Travers was part of the UN team headed by Richard Goldstone, a retired South African judge, which investigated the conduct of that offensive.
Why is SDA so perturbed by Syria possessing ghastly weapons, but not Israel? This may have something to do with how Lockheed Martin is the biggest beneficiary of US military aid to Israel. The $3 billion that America gives to Israel each year is conditional on it buying weapons from Lockheed and a few other US firms.
Fair use excerpt. Read the whole article here.
Flickr/Charles Atkeison µg