|BAE's upside-down flag.|
It's a simple enough question, and one which is asked sufficiently frequently to have its own page on BAE Systems' frequently asked questions (FAQs) website section.
But, judging from the shocking ineptitude of their answer, I imagine people will be continuing to ask with frequency for years to come.
I remember, back when I used to leave the house sometimes, I'd see bad adverts – usually on billboards – and then write about them. One such advert I never got around to discussing was a BAE billboard that towered over the teeming masses at Waterloo Station in London town. It was a giant union flag (upside-down, mind you) with a short strapline about how great, and (I guess) British, BAE Systems is.
It was a bad advert – vague, pompous, loaded with all kinds of unnecessary baggage. Flags will do that to your adverts. Especially huge brazen ones the like of which are only normally seen accompanying royal celebrations or far-right rallies. (Or both.)
But what alternative is available to BAE? They can hardly depict children in far-off countries being blown to bits by the cluster bombs they once had no qualms manufacturing. It would be the equivalent of Ronald McDonald showing you a clogged artery or, I don't know, tobacco companies showing you a cancerous lung. (Oh, wait...)
But the economy is more important than anything else, and we know this because BAE isn't legally obliged to show shrapnel-ravaged corpses in its advertising properties. It is allowed to claim ownership of the national flag, however, because of its importance in its contribution to UK employment, trade and international diplomacy.
But, leaving all that aside, let's copy-edit that terrible FAQ answer into something actually resembling an answer to that damned pesky frequently asked question. And let's do so making the ridiculous assumption that the brief is to tell something close to the truth.
"Like all companies we have to prioritise where we do business."
[Nothing. That sentence is utterly meaningless and could happily be discarded.]
BAE says:"In setting these priorities we take into account a wide range of commercial, legal and reputational factors."
I say: We'd rather not tell you which countries we sell to.BAE says:
"BAE Systems will only pursue business opportunities when we are satisfied that our strict policies and governance systems can be complied with."
But we'll sell to pretty much anyone we're allowed to.
BAE says:"The sale of export equipment, whether it is the sale of weapon systems, platforms, equipment, and/or services is highly regulated."
I say: It's tough being an international arms-dealer these days.BAE says:
"BAE Systems works closely with and maintains a regular dialogue with governments in our home markets in relation to all our export sales."
Especially when Australia, India, Saudi Arabia, the UK and the US spend such little time invading people.
BAE says:"All export licence applications are considered by governments on a case-by-case basis and take into account the proposed customer country, the type of product or service to be exported, and its future use."
I say: The government frequently tries to piss on our chips.BAE says:
"Our applications comply with trade regulations and the requirements for end-user undertakings."
But even they cannot deny that murder is good for business.
BAE says:"Our Responsible Trading Principles help us make informed decisions about the business opportunities we pursue and help employees apply our values in their decision-making."
I say: We do what we want, as far as they'll let us.BAE says:
"See more on export controls." [Linked.]
Now piss off.
So, my rewritten FAQ answer in its entirety goes... (all together now)
WHICH COUNTRIES DO YOU SELL TO?
We'd rather not tell you which countries we sell to, but we'll sell to pretty much anyone we're allowed to.
It's tough being an international arms-dealer these days. Especially when Australia, India, Saudi Arabia, the UK and the US spend such little time invading people.
The government frequently tries to piss on our chips - but even they cannot deny that murder is good for business. We do what we want, as far as they'll let us.
Now piss off.
For anyone actually wanting to know which countries BAE sells to, reportedly: Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Zimbabwe, Indonesia, Tanzania. Anyone who'll buy, pretty much; countries with dubious regimes, often using BAE's products to persecute minority populations and... well, what do you expect people to use murder weapons for? Defence???
In future I suggest such answers are filed under an FEQs section – for frequently evaded questions. And one can file this blog under an FRLs section in tribute to everyone's favourite far-right Hungarian political party's "frequently refuted lies".
Now that's copywriting.