Last week we saw the return of the DSEi arms fair, and the usual protest against its presence. Defence Secretary Liam Fox went to bow down before these peddlers of death tools, whilst Caroline Lucas helped uncover illegal cluster bomb sales. Inside, machines of murder were bought and sold, outside, protesters exchanged slogans and leaflets. Much of the Arab Spring was crushed by weapons bought and sold by these companies, their weapons lubricate violence around the world. Yet little has changed. They still come unashamedly to our capital city and buy and sell their wares.

It is easy to imagine that it was every thus: that we have always had an arms industry selling weapons to those who will use them to oppress. So I always find it useful to remember how recent this invention is. Because whilst some of the earliest factories we know of made flint axe heads for export, it was only in 1961 that Dwight Eisenhower used his final speech as president to warn of the rise of the new arms industry – the “total influence – economic, political, even spiritual” of the newly invented “Military Industrial Complex” which had only come into existance in recent years.

Today, one only needs to walk through Westminster tube station – past the billboards all lobbyists want to buy – to see the permenant presence of posters advertising to passing MPs and researchers the ‘contribution’ this complex has made to the UK: posters which wouldn’t have to be bought if this industry was peddling something less precious than life and death. “We may trade in murder” the posters say, “but now you have built this industry, you cannot afford to dismantle us”.

So, as a reminder of Eisenhower’s unheaded warning, here it is:

Adam Ramsay

About Adam Ramsay

Adam is Co-Editor of Open Democracy UK and a green activist based in Edinburgh. He co-founded Bright Green in 2010.