Aerolink Wales 2009: Meet the arms dealers and…Ty Hafan?

With not long to go before Aerolink Wales 2009, due to take place on 7 April at the 4 star Vale Hotel and Spa, the organisers of this Welsh government-sponsored arms fair are getting excited. ‘We are looking forward to the 2009 event and providing our attendees with even more opportunities than ever before. With purchasing, research and technical, engineering and innovation representatives from some of the best known companies in Aerospace and Defence… 2009 is shaping up to be the biggest and best Aerolink Wales yet.’

Elizabeth Read had a successful career marketing financial services in the City of London before joining Ty Hafan

Elizabeth Read had a successful career marketing financial services in the City of London before joining Ty Hafan

And don’t the weapons manufacturers know it! Commenting on previous Aerolink events, the purchasing manager of General Electric engine services, part of the defence company which reported record earnings of $183 billion in 2008, is quoted as saying: ‘We all felt the day was fruitful with a number of potential opportunities.’ Opportunities (subsidised with our money, of course) to meet and do business with plenty of other weapons manufacturers and…Ty Hafan, the well-known Welsh charity which runs a hospice for dying children?!

We wondered if Ty Hafan’s presence as an exhibitor – for which it may have paid as much as £750 plus VAT – was a mistake. Not at all, according to Elizabeth Read, Ty Hafan’s fundraising and marketing director: ‘Representatives of our Corporate Partnership team are planning to attend the Aerolink Wales exhibition. We develop relationships with a number of companies in South Wales that are interesting (sic) in working with a charity. These relationships lead to various fundraising and volunteering opportunities for the staff, in particular’.

So just which of the very wealthy companies at Aerolink might Ty Hafan be developing ‘relationships’ with and, more importantly, why? Here are just a few of Ty Hafan’s fellow attendees:

White phosphorous attack on Beit Lahia school

White phosphorous attack on Beit Lahia school

Magellan Aerospace, with facilities in Wrexham, manufactures the CRV7 rocket weapon system (RWS) for the F-16 jet fighter and the AH-64 Apache attack helicopter. Both were used with devastating effect by the Israeli armed forces in Israel’s recent aggression against the people of Gaza which killed upwards of 1500 Palestinians, including hundreds of children. Ms Read and the members of the corporate partnership team may have seen photos of the carnage after a UN-run school at Beit Lahia was bombarded with burning white phosphorous. What Ms Read and her team may not know is that Magellan Aerospace also manufacture the M156 Smoke missile that goes with the CRV7 system. ‘Upon detonation’, Magellan’s story goes, ‘the high explosive ruptures the warhead and disperses the white phosphorous to generate a white smoke cloud.’

Beit Lahia - the aftermath

Beit Lahia - the aftermath

General Electric (GE) has been supplying the Israeli army since 1950 and, given its gargantuan profits, wars in the Middle East are good for business. One of GE’s success stories is the F110 jet engine, used to power the F-16.

Gardner Aerospace, part of the Carlyle Group, helps build war planes, including the C-130 Hercules, the military transport plane used by the Israeli airforce operating from its Nevatim Airbase.

Thales is a specialist manufacturer of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or drones, which are used extensively by the Israeli airforce to locate targets prior to bombardment. While the Hermes 450, made by Israeli company Elbit and tested at ParcAberporth in West Wales, remains Israel’s UAV of choice, Thales will, no doubt, be keeping an eye out for opportunities to do business with the pariah state.

Arms manufacturers 'making a difference' in Gaza

Arms manufacturers 'making a difference' in Gaza

We wish Elizabeth Read and her colleagues a fruitful day at Aerolink. Corporations that deal in death will be grateful for the opportunity to develop relationships with a charity which helps dying children. After all, any opportunity to ‘legitimise’ their activities is always welcome. As Bob Corcoran, Chairman of the General Electric Foundation writes: ‘we look forward to working closely with schools and organizations also committed to building strong communities. The impact of these investments underscores the company’s commitment to strategic philanthropy and corporate citizenship. By applying the very best of who we are – our talent, ideas, skills, and inspiration – we will do our best to make a difference in this world.’

We’re sure you will, Bob, just as long as you can find organisations willing to accept your blood money, that is…

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Cardiff students determined to continue occupation

On 24 February 2009, Cardiff became the first Welsh university – the 28th in the UK –  to be occupied by students, outraged that their university invests upwards of £200,000 in BAE Systems and General Electric, two of the world’s biggest arms manufacturers and major suppliers of weapons used to kill Palestinians in the recent Israeli invasion of Gaza.

cardiff-uni-occupation-001Following a well-attended ‘books not bombs’ demonstration, thirty students decided to occupy the Shandon lecture theatre opposite the students union where they are now coming to the end of their second day. Despite the annoying presence of university security guards, who are demanding ID from visitors and trying (but failing) to stop food and drink getting in to the lecture theatre, the students’ spirits are high and they’re adamant that the occupation will continue until their demands are met.

Representing a number of different political groupings, the students have been busy spreading the word, contacting and receiving messages of support from the likes of Naom Chomsky and at 2 pm today they were involved in a video link up with Palestinian students from the Jabaliya district of Gaza.

As usual, the Welsh mainstream media don’t seem to give a toss about covering this important action. And perhaps even more surprising is the lack of support from Cardiff university lecturers. Presumably they’ve been shackled by university bosses eager not to let more damaging information such as Cardiff’s £2.5 million military research programme leak out.

The occupation is more than just a stand off between angry students and a badly-behaved university. ‘Aside from the demands, if we’ve made people more aware, and there are lots of apathetic, disinterested students, then it’s worth it,’ said Becky. ‘This is a great transforming experience,’ added Andy. ‘Many of us never thought we could carry out an occupation. Now we’ve done it, we’re thinking what to do next.’

Cardiff university vice-chancellor, David Grant, has blood on his hands

Cardiff university vice-chancellor, David Grant, has blood on his hands

As negotiations proceed, we appeal to all those who are no longer prepared to see our public institutions hand over money to corporations that kill, to do everything they can to support the occupation. Get yourselves down to the Shandon lecture theatre armed with bags of food (veggie/vegan) and drink or send a message. The students need your support.   

For more information and the very latest on the occupation contact:

www.occupiedcardiff.blogspot.com

cardiffstudentsagainstwar@gmail.com