Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Toward an Arms Trade Treaty

Nobel Peace Prize laureate Desmond Tutu compares the international arms trade--the legal kind conducted under governmental auspices rather than the arms trafficking depicted in the Nicolas Cage film Lord of War--to the slave trade in an editorial in today's Independent. Here's a bit of what Archbishop Tutu has to say on the subject:

There have been international treaties to control the spread of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons for decades. Yet, despite the mounting death toll, there is still no treaty governing sales of all conventional weapons from handguns to attack helicopters. As a result, weapons fall into the wrong hands all too easily, fuelling human rights abuses, prolonging wars and digging countries deeper into poverty.

This is allowed to continue because of the complicity of governments, especially rich countries' governments, which turn a blind eye to the appalling human suffering associated with the proliferation of weapons.

Every year, small arms alone kill more people than the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki put together. Many more people are injured, terrorised or driven from their homes by armed violence.

The United Nations General Assembly will soon consider a resolution designed to lay the groundwork for an Arms Trade Treaty. In its present form, the proposed Arms Trade Treaty would make it illegal to sell weapons in cases where doing so would facilitate violations of international law. Notwithstanding its simple and relatively benign provisions, the United States will almost certainly oppose the treaty when and if it comes into existence. Why? Ask the NRA.