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Coping with a globe awash with arms

Worldview by Lynn OckerszShades of Vietnam - This is the troubling poser raised by the rising, anti-US insurgent violence in Iraq. Even US President George Bush has compared Iraq to Vietnam.

October has proved the most cruel month for the US forces in Iraq. Eleven US soldiers killed on a single day recently, brings to 69 the total number of US servicemen killed in Iraq in October. In all at least 2778 US servicemen have been killed in Iraq since the US invasion of Iraq in March 2003.

Bush administration spokesman have trained to put what may be considered the best constructs on the President’s reference to Vietnam, but there is no denying that the US is up against a Vietnam-type military quagmire, if not a disaster, in Iraq. For the US the human costs of the Iraqi invasion are sleeply rising and for the Iraqi people, what seemed to be an overt military confrontation between an invading army and an overrun people, is now taking on ominous and dangerous sectarian dimensions with the Sunnis and Shiites locked in a battle for political and military supremacy. This conflict too is resulting in a rising tide of deaths and a growing polarity between Iraq’s major religious communities.

The challenge facing Iraqi Premier Nuri a Maliki is to not only operate a truly power sharing administration in Iraq among its warring communities, but to also contain what seems to be a surging inflow of arms and ammunition to these antagonists.
Containing the spread of arms and ammunition among warring groups in intra-state conflicts, continues to be a poser for the world community. The world is so awash wish arms and ammunition that it is believed in some quarters that it is possible to shoot and slay the world’s population at least twice. Therefore, containing the manufacture and sale of illegal arm and ammunition emerges as a number one challenge for the international community. Warring groups the world over are certain to consider political solutions to their conflicts more strongly if they have less access to arms and ammunition. The easy availability of the means to kill however, compels conflicting parties to seek solutions in “Killing Fields”.


US troops seen policing the streets in Baghdad

Ironically, the West which claims to be keen on seeing political solutions being worked out in the world’s trouble spots, has some leading arms makers in its fold. Western arms manufacturers keep the flames of war burning through their unrelenting sale of arms and unless and until Western governments turn the screws on the manufacture and sale of arms and ammunition in their own front yards, armed conflicts around the world are unlikely to show signs of winding down.

Accordingly, there needs to be less double-talk and prevarication on the making and trafficking of arms on the part of the world community. Once standards and norms have been identified and established towards containing the illegal arms trade, these have to be single-mindedly pursued by the international community.

The UN is reportedly working towards a new treaty on containing the global arms trade and this is, no doubt, good news for a troubled world. However, the restrictive provisions in this treaty need to be firmly implemented, without lapsing into double standards and the opening of loopholes. If repressive states, for example, age banned by the UN from procuring arms, such provisions need to be rigorously implemented. It should be ensured that arms do not end up in the possession of these states, through the covert functioning of illegal and informal arms markets.

Given their spread and proliferation, conventional arms should receive the same attention of the big power as nuclear arms. The gaining of a nuclear arms capability by North Korea is today a prime worry of the Western powers. South Korea, Japan and China, but the fact that the world is awash with conventional arms needs to be an equal source of concern. The conflicts in the world’s “Killing Fields”, such as Iraq could be brought within containable limits, if access by groups and states to such arms is restricted.

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