|In the early hours of 17 January, while Israel was bombing Gaza and killing hundreds and hundreds of people, six Bristolians broke into and decommissioned the EDO MBM ITT arms manufacturing complex in Brighton, which supplies essential components to the Israeli Defence Force.
Causing over £300,000-worth of damage, the intent of the action was to prevent the further manufacture of weapons that could be used against the people of Gaza; to prevent further war crimes from being committed.
The six ‘decommissioners’, along with three Brighton residents who did not enter the factory, were subsequently arrested and now face charges of criminal damage and conspiracy to cause criminal damage. Two of those arrested remain on remand in prison, while the remaining seven have been released on bail.
Their trial, and the build up to it, will be an opportunity for the defendants to expose the involvement and complicity of the arms manufacturers and the British government in the murder of thousands of innocent people in Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan, to name just a few illegal and unjust wars where these weapons are currently used.
Speaking with Ornella Sabin, one of the six EDO decommissioners, she outlined why they chose EDO MBM ITT, what the overall aim of the action was and how the anti-war movement can support their campaign.
Why EDO MBM?
EDO Corporation, named after its founder Earl Dodge Osborn in 1925, is a US-based arms manufacturer. In 2007, EDO was acquired for $1.7bn by ITT Corporation, a conglomerate that has a sordid history connecting it both to the Nazis and to Franco’s fascists. ITT was also financially implicated in supporting the coup d’état in Chile in 1973, which murdered Salvador Allende and replaced his progressive government with Pinochet’s brutal dictatorship.
EDO MBM, based in Brighton, is the sole British subsidiary of the corporation. The company manufactures ‘defence products’ including Hellfire missiles and GBU-28 laser-guided missiles, which have been used extensively in Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine and Somalia.
One of the activists, Ornella, explained to Proletarian why EDO MBM was the target of their action.
“We knew that EDO made vital parts for F15s, F16s and for Paveway bombs that were supplied to Israel and were essential for its continued perpetration of war crimes.
“I have been an anti-war activist for 20 years and, when producing another leaflet during the massacres of Gazans in January, I felt that I needed to do something more to resist the war than just making a leaflet. By destroying the components at EDO MBM, we hoped to obstruct any further attacks on Gaza by Israel; to physically get in the way of the war machine.”
Effectiveness of action
The destruction of over £300,000-worth of machinery and weapons on the face of it may seem very effective. Even the local DCI of Sussex police, Graham Pratt, inadvertently indicated the success of the decommissioning in a statement following the defendants’ arrest:
“Windows had been smashed and offices turned over in what I would describe as wanton vandalism, but with machinery and equipment so targeted that it could have been done with a view of bringing business to a standstill. The damage is significant and the value substantial.” (‘UK arms plant attacked over Gaza war’, Press TV , 19 January 2009)
However, as Ornella pointed out:
“Although we managed to completely decommission the plant, for a corporation like EDO ITT, £300,000 is not much more than a dent in their multi-billion pound industry. I knew when smashing up the weapons that it was just the start and that the publicity that we would get after the action would do more to expose EDO and other such arms manufacturers on our doorstep to the British people.
“In terms of stopping the war machine, it was only a symbolic action; we obviously would have liked it to have been more, but, as only a few people, we were as effective as we could be.
“The real effectiveness of the action will be in getting the British public and the Stop the War movement to support our campaign so that justice can prevail.”
Accusers not the accused
The pre-trial hearing on 8 May this year will set the tone for the trial itself and should be actively supported by progressive people everywhere. This is especially important as changes to the Legal Aid system have reduced the funding allocated for the preparation of the campaigners’ defence to the measly sum of £5,000, which has to cover all nine defendants.
In court, the EDO decommissioners will be following the precedent set by the Raytheon 9, who were found not guilty at their trial in 2008 on three counts of criminal damage after they entered the Raytheon arms base in Derry, northern Ireland, in 2005 and caused £300,000-worth of damage.
Ornella, quoting the phrase coined by the Raytheon 9, outlined the decommissioners’ stand as follows:
“Just like the Raytheon 9, we are not going to court as the accused but as the accusers.
“We didn’t break the law by entering and decommissioning the factory. We entered the factory to prevent a greater crime from taking place; to prevent a war crime.
“These arms manufacturers are complicit in the killing of hundreds of people. They supply the means that enable Israel, the US and Britain to continue their wars of occupation and destruction.
“Our case will be to expose their actions; the death and damages that have been caused as a consequence of their continued manufacturing of weapons.
“When I was in the factory, I thought of how I could get my anger out and all I thought of was Tony Blair and the blood on his hands and then it was easy to smash everything up.”
No cooperation with war crimes
The EDO decommissioners have set an example for us all. When asked about resistance to war crimes, Ornella said that “these people are responsible for hundreds and thousands of deaths and disabilities.
“Everyone should look into their hearts and inform themselves on the arms trade in this country and make what statement they feel is right to bring these war criminals to trial. Our contribution is vital.
“After seven years of protesting against the wars in the Middle East, it seems that demonstrating has only had a limited effect. We need to do more to stop the war machine in its tracks.
“Writing leaflets and using alternative media is still important, as without education and understanding you cannot build support, but we also need to be effective in our actions.”
Anti-imperialists and anti-war campaigners must refuse to cooperate in any way with the war effort – must refuse to serve in the forces, make weapons, transport equipment or publish war propaganda.
British workers have a powerful weapon: the ability to withhold their labour. Individually, we may be powerless against the state, but collectively, the working class has the ultimate veto over the war; they cannot fight it without us!
Inspiration should be taken from the example of the 15 Aslef train drivers in Glasgow who refused to move arms to the Glen Douglas base in 2003, or that of the US International Longshore & Warehouse Union (ILWU), which shut down all 29 ports on the west coast of the US for eight hours on 1 May 2008, demanding “an immediate end to the war and occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan and the withdrawal of US troops from the Middle East” .
Support the EDO decommissioners
Resistance to war crimes is not a crime!
Write in solidarity to the two defendants on remand:
Robert Alford, VP7552 HMP Lewes, 1 Brighton Road, Lewes, Sussex, BN7 1EA
Elija Smith, VP7551 HMP Bristol, 19 Cambridge Road, Horfield, BS7 8PS
> The working class has the power to stop the war. Lets use it - Leaflet August 2008