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Arms Sales and Obfuscation: the Hypocrisy of France
Letter to France’s minister of Defense
Published 18 June 2020
Madame Florence Parly, Ministre des Armées
Saintes, 18 June 2020
Copies to the President, the PM, etc, and to the media
Madame la Ministre,
We thank you for surrounding yourself with such brilliant exponents of obfuscation.
M. Christophe Bouillon, MP for Seine Maritime, had asked you a question about arms sales to Saudi Arabia (Written Question N° 24666 published in the JO on 26 November 2019, page 10216). That question was well-argued, clear and precise and only 1212 characters long (including spaces). It called for a reply no less clear and precise.
It took your collaborators and yourself over 6 months and exactly 4280 characters (including spaces) to fail to reply, indeed to muddy the issue (Reply of 9 June 2020 in the JO, page 4028). Referring to the war in Yemen, M. Bouillon had requested “the suspension of arms transfers to the countries in the Saudi-led coalition” because this coalition was using the weapons “against civilian populations, the first victims of the conflict in Yemen since 2015, a conflict described by the UN as ‘the worst humanitarian crisis in the world’”. He asked also that the “government’s means of monitoring exercised by parliamentarians should be able to be applied on the basis of more transparent reports on arms contracts.”
So, in the matter of the war in Yemen, you succeeded in suggesting that when France granted export licenses to Saudi Arabia and the UAE (United Arab Emirates), involved in the conflict since 2015, this was to help them protect their populations from aggression which “could come from Yemen or elsewhere” – yet the only examples you quote are hostile acts against their material interests committed by Iran in 2019!
As for the fact that Saudi Arabia and its allies have used French weapons against the Yemeni population, you do not deny it, you don’t even mention it, but you pretend to exonerate France by assuring us of “particular vigilance”, of “particular attention” for “risks of exported arms being diverted to third parties, and risks linked to arms use against civilian populations or under conditions contrary to international humanitarian law.”
You mention in conclusion the “transparency” of the “annual report on arms exports” which is supposed to enable Parliament to monitor these activities a posteriori. But what Bouillon blamed the government for was precisely its lack of transparency, and the reply received, in which no word was said of past arms contracts with Saudi Arabia and the UAE, or of the use they made and continue to make of these arms in Yemen – is certainly not a reply that could convince us otherwise.
In return for this sinister silence, the UAE was accredited as a sponsor of the “Peace Games” at the 2nd Paris Peace Forum, on 12 November 2019. At this stage it is more than bad faith, is it cynical complicity in crimes against humanity!
You are mocking us all, Madame la ministre, just as you did when you praised (in a tweet on 24 March 2020) the “commitment” or an "A330 Phénix" of the air force in transporting coronavirus victims from the Mulhouse hospital to that of Brest, and then used the same plane on 31 March to simulate a nuclear strike in the skies of Brittany, along with other planes, one of which was armed with a 300 kiloton missile (20 times bigger than Hiroshima) !
How many million deaths abroad will France’s military gain authorisation for on the basis of the transport of a few patients during the pandemic? – and by retaliation in France in the “after-world”? For how long will France’s taxpayers have to keep on financing this criminal folly”!
Christophe Bouillon is not the only MP to raise these questions. In a 6-minute video which you should watch, Madame la ministre, Sébastien Nadot MP denounces “State Deception” in France’s arms sales. Deception that matches France’s nuclear strategy, a fabric of lies and myths which your predecessor M. Paul Quilès continues to denounce.
You are, Madame la ministre, a fine example of French double language, duplicity, hypocrisy and cynicism concerning respect for international humanitarian law, as also in disarmament matters, conventional or nuclear. There is nothing there to be proud of. As citizens we are ashamed of that France.
In the “after-world” we are entering, Madame, the government you belong to needs to urgently change its discourse and its posture, put France’s defense in line with her commitments, her Constitution, her republican values, and simply in line with reason.
"This is not a prayer, it is an order that must rise from the peoples to the governments, the order to choose between hell and reason” (Albert Camus, Combat, 8 August 1945)
M. Christophe Bouillon, MP, asks Mme Parly (France’s “ministre des armées”) about France selling arms to countries where they can be used against civilians. France has decided to halt arms exports to Turkey in view of the conflict in the north of Syria. Nevertheless, French arms sales continue to some countries with controversial practices, notably Saudi Arabia and the UAE (United Arab Emirates). Several elements seem to prompt a strong suspicion that French weapons are being used by the Saudi regime and its allies against civilian populations, the first victims of the fighting in Yemen, which began in 2015 and which the UN has described as “the worst humanitarian crisis in the world”. In October 2018, the conflict in Yemen led Germany to freeze arms exports to Saudi Arabia; in June 2019, the UK did the same. Bouillon therefore asks the minister to suspend arms transfers to the countries in the coalition led by Saudi Arabia. He asks also that parliamentarians should receive the ability to monitor the government’s decisions on the basis of more transparent reports about arms transfers.
Reply released on 9 June 2020
Concerning Turkey, when the Council met on 14 October 2019, the foreign ministers of EU member states debated the action led by Turkey in north-east Syria and reached several conclusions. One of these was a commitment by member states “in favour of strong national positions concerning policies for arms exports to Tukey, based on the common position statement 2008/944/PESC about the monitoring of arms exports, including strict application of the fourth crtierion, which concerns regional stability”. France for her part had decided, on October 12, to adopt restrictive measures about exports of arms that could be used by Turkey in its offensive, suspending nearly 500 valid licences, and also refusing future licensing.
View online : Petition to France’s President and Parliament: Let’s Disarm to Avoid the Apocalypse and Build a Better World
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