Saturday, October 24, 2009

Death Merchants

I got quite a jolt during my weekly visit to Watching America. The featured article is from Norway's Dagsavisen, from which I learned that the United States has become the leading exporter of military weapons, passing Russia for that dubious honor. If you think that's bad, wait until you see to whom we are providing that weaponry:

The U.S. provides more than 70 percent of weapons exports to developing nations. Because America is so dependent on the weapons industry, it makes it difficult for Obama to change course, says political scientist William Hartung.

While the world’s weapons exports dropped last year, the United States increased its exports to developing nations by almost 50 percent compared to 2007. The U.S. is selling far more weapons than all other countries combined. New numbers from the Congressional Research Service show that America is surging past Russia, who used to be the number one weapons exporter to developing nations. On top of the list of recipients are the Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Morocco. ...

Ensuring stability and security for America’s allies is an important part of Washington's foreign policy. But according to a report from the World Policy Institute, the United States is selling weapons or providing military training to almost 90 percent of the countries that, according to the U.S. itself, are harboring terrorists. ...

William Hartung admits that there are advantages for America, but he thinks the world is paying too high a price for American military hegemony. According to a report from the New America Foundation, the U.S. is selling weapons to 18 of the 25 countries at war, and often to both or all of the sides fighting. And Hartung says that with countries like Saudi Arabia on top of the list, America is undermining human rights.
[Emphasis added]

This "dependency on the weapons industry" provides a certain cognitive dissonance to a liberal like me. I, too, have watched in dismay as our manufacturing base has been transferred overseas so that the megacorporations can avoid taxes, hire cheap labor, and ignore environmental concerns. That said, I am appalled that we are considered the best supplier of death on the planet. Yes, I know that guns don't kill people, people kill people, but why do we have to be the ones to provide the means for the murder, especially on such a grand scale? And why do we have to do so in such a blatantly amoral (if not immoral) fashion?

As the article notes, President Obama has taken a few tentative steps towards ratcheting down the flow.

Hartung still thinks that Nobel Peace Prize winner President Barack Obama has shown signs of improvement. The fact that Obama has scrapped the plans for a missile shield and has called for a world free of nuclear weapons has gained a lot of attention. But he also stopped funding for the development of new warheads and has scrapped some new weapons systems, and those are changes Hartung cannot recall any other president has made.

These are modest steps indeed, but at least they are going in the right direction. Defunding a few more projects which will ultimately be shifted overseas to such regimes as Saudi Arabia should be next on the agenda.

"We're Number One!"




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