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DSEi-ing with death

ImageThis is the first of a series of drawings from DSEi 2011.

As the world’s largest arms fair, DSEi is part of a wider shift in the commercialisation of war. Although arms companies have always profited from conflict, military production was previously linked to the perceived needs of the state.

In the 1990s this changed. Arms companies responded to the reduction of military budgets at the end of the Cold War by expanding beyond state boundaries, merging into multinationals and selling to almost any country willing to buy. Caught between the national and multinational, promising defence while selling war, the international arms trade is riddled with contradictions.

Arms companies sell military equipment to opposing sides of border disputes, to developing countries at inflated prices, and to repressive regimes for ‘crowd control’. Many of these deals take place at DSEi.

When weapons are produced for profit they are treated like commodities, glamourised and sexualised as objects of exchange. At DSEi missiles, guns, drones, tanks and tear gas are promoted with the glitz of advertising. Saleswomen in low-cut tops hand out sweets, toy grenades and key rings. A stall selling gas masks gives away complimentary condoms with the slogan “the ultimate protection”. Videos flash with explosions, a string quintet plays Vivaldi on the back of a military truck, and between the racks of missiles tables are laid with champagne and canapés.


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Topics: Reportage | Arms trade