PRESIDENT-ELECT DONALD TRUMP: As far as drones are concerned, yes, to take out terrorists—the only thing is, I want them to get it right. But to take out terrorists, yes, I would—I would think that that is something I would continue to do. As far as beyond that, I don’t want to talk about it, because I do want to be unpredictable, in a sense. I don’t want the enemy to know exactly where I’m coming from. -- Democracy Now!, Dec. 27, 2016
Even as Global Trade Dropped, US Arms Sales Boomed in 2015
Even as other nations tighten budgets for weapons amid domestic financial concerns, US manages to sell $40 billion in one year
At $40 billion, the U.S. signed more than half of all arms agreements last year, and more than double the next-highest seller, which was France at $15 billion. American weapons sales included bombs, missiles, armored tanks, Apache attack helicopters, F-15 fighter jets, and other items.
The report (pdf) was published by the Congressional Research Service, which conducts national policy analysis for Congress. It looked at conventional arms transfers to developing nations from 2008 to 2015.
Russia sold $11.1 billion, a slight drop from its 2014 count at $11.2 billion. China sold $6 billion, doubling its output from last year.
The leading buyers, meanwhile, were Qatar, which signed deals to purchase more than $17 billion; Egypt, which signed on for $12 billion; and Saudi Arabia, which purchased more than $8 billion.
Many of those weapons have gone to aid the Saudi-led, U.S.-supported coalition fighting rebels in Yemen at a high civilian price. As anti-war activist and Common Dreams contributor Medea Benjamin wrote in August, "American weapons are drenched in Yemeni blood."
2015 also marks the eighth year in a row that the U.S. has led the world in global arms deliveries, even as many other countries cut back on their arms spending over "domestic budget" concerns, as study author Catherine A. Theohary put it.
The Guardian noted on Tuesday that the findings comport with another recent study that found the Obama administration had approved more than $278 billion in eight years, more than double that of the Bush administration, which sold $128.6 billion.
U.S. Weapons Sales Are Drenched in Yemeni Blood
Saudi Arabia is using billions in U.S. aid to fund their onslaught of innocent civilians in Yemen, but it's not too late for Congress to stop this madness.
When Pope Francis visited the U.S. Congress in September 2015, he boldly posed a moral challenge to his American hosts, asking: “Why are deadly weapons being sold to those who plan to inflict untold suffering on individuals and society?”
“Sadly, the answer, as we all know, is simply for money,” he solemnly concluded. “Money that is drenched in blood.”
In this case, it’s innocent Yemeni blood.
During his almost eight years in office, President Obama has approved a jaw-dropping, record-breaking $110 billion in weapons sales to the repressive Saudi regime, all with Congressional backing.
“In the face of this shameful and culpable silence, it is our duty to confront the problem and stop the arms trade,” Pope Francis said. Our lawmakers have failed miserably at heeding the Pope’s call.
Manufacturers such as Boeing, Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics, and McDonnell Douglas have been pushing these sales to offset military spending cuts in the United States and Europe. These weapons manufacturers spend millions on lobbying, filling the campaign coffers of both Republicans and Democrats.
In addition to that lobbying power, U.S. officials were pressured to placate Saudi Arabia after the Obama administration made a deal with its adversary, Iran. That appeasement came in the form of a level and quality of arms exports that should’ve never been approved for a repressive regime with an atrocious human rights record.
Saudi Arabia is the number one exporter of radical Islamic extremism on the planet. Fifteen of the 19 Sep. 11 hijackers were radicalized Saudi citizens. The regime oppresses religious minorities, women, LGBT people, and dissidents, while dozens of non-violent participants in their own Arab Spring protests face execution, usually by beheading.
The Pentagon says that providing the Saudis with F-15s bombers, Apache helicopters, armored vehicles, missiles, and bombs supports Saudi Arabian defense missions and helps promote stability in the region. But since March 2015, the Saudis have being using these weapons offensively to intervene in neighboring Yemen.
Their relentless onslaught has killed thousands of innocent civilians, decimated Yemen’s infrastructure, and left more than 21 million people—that’s 4 out of 5 Yemenis—desperately in need of humanitarian assistance. The United Nations has said that Saudi air strikes on civilian targets likely constitute war crimes and calls the situation in Yemen a “catastrophe.”
Despite this carnage, the Obama administration just announced an additional $1.15 billion in Saudi weapons sales.
In the week following that announcement, the Saudis bombed a Yemeni potato chip factory, a school, a residential neighborhood, and a Doctors Without Borders-run hospital. Most of the dead and wounded were women and children.
But it’s not too late for Congress to stop this madness.
By law, they have 30 days after arms sales are announced to stop or modify the deals. And despite the overall apathetic response to the crisis in Yemen, not all members of Congress are turning a blind eye to the violence.
California Democratic Congressman Ted Leiu, for example, is ready to take a stand. “When Saudi Arabia continues to kill civilians, and in this case children, enough is enough,” he said.
Senators Chris Murphy and Rand Paul have also come out against the sale. But for the sake of thousands of innocent civilians who could be slaughtered with these weapons, many more members must act quickly.
It’s high time for Congress to answer the Pope’s challenge to stop the arms trade and help prevent more Yemeni bloodshed.
Summing Up Russia’s Real Nuclear Fears
Exclusive: The mainstream U.S. media’s relentless Russia-bashing has obscured Moscow’s legitimate fears about Washington’s provocative nuclear-missile strategies, which could lead to Armageddon, explains Jonathan Marshall.
By Jonathan Marshall
The conflicts between Washington and Moscow keep on growing: Ukraine and Syria, rival war games, “hybrid” wars and “cyber-wars.” Talk of a new Cold War doesn’t do justice to the stakes.
“My bottom line is that the likelihood of a nuclear catastrophe today is greater than it was during the Cold War,” declares former U.S. Secretary of Defense William Perry.
If a new Trump administration wants to peacefully reset relations with Russia, there’s no better way to start than by canceling the deployment of costly new ballistic missile defense systems in Eastern Europe. One such system went live in Romania this May; another is slated to go live in Poland in 2018. Few U.S. actions have riled President Putin as much as this threat to erode Russia’s nuclear deterrent.
Only last month, at a meeting in Sochi with Russian military leaders to discuss advanced new weapons technology, Putin vowed, “We will continue to do all we need to ensure the strategic balance of forces. We view any attempts to change or dismantle it, as extremely dangerous. Our task is to effectively neutralize any military threats to Russia’s security, including those posed by the newly-deployed strategic missile defense systems.”
Putin accused unnamed countries — obviously led by the United States — of “nullifying” international agreements on missile defense “in an effort to gain unilateral advantages.”
Moscow has reacted to this perceived threat with more than mere words. It is developing new and deadlier nuclear missiles, including the SS-30, to counter U.S. defenses. It has rebuffed new arms control negotiations. And it has provocatively stationed nuclear-capable Iskander missiles in the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad to “target . . . the facilities that . . . start posing a threat to us,” as Putin put it last month.
If a new arms race is underway, it’s not for lack of warning. The Russians have voiced their concerns about missile defenses for years and years, without any serious acknowledgment from Washington. From their vantage point, the apparent bad faith of successive U.S. administrations, Democratic as well as Republican, is a flashing red light to which they had to respond.
From the earliest days of President Reagan’s Strategic Defense (“Star Wars”) Initiative to make ballistic missiles “impotent and obsolete,” an alarmed Moscow has viewed U.S. efforts to build a missile shield as a long-term threat to their nuclear deterrent.
In 2002, President Bush one-upped Reagan and unilaterally canceled the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty of 1972. He did so after Russia’s foreign minister, Igor Ivanov, publicly pleaded with Washington not to terminate this landmark arms control agreement.
Writing in Foreign Affairs magazine, Ivanov warned that such a move would set back recent progress in Russian-U.S. relations and destroy “30 years of efforts by the world community” to reduce the danger of nuclear war. Russia would be forced, against its desire for international cooperation, to build up its own forces in response. The arms race would be back in full force — leaving the United States less secure, not more.
But with Russia still reeling from the neoliberal “shock therapy” that it suffered through during the 1990s, the neoconservatives (then in charge of U.S foreign policy) were confident of winning such an arms race. In 2002, President Bush adopted a National Security Strategy that explicitly called for U.S military superiority over every other power. To that end, he called on the Pentagon to develop a ground-based missile defense system within two years.
Since then, that program has lined the pockets of major U.S. military contractors without achieving any notable successes. Critics – including the U.S. General Accountability Office, National Academy of Sciences and Union of Concerned Scientists – have blasted the program for failing more than half of its operational tests. Today, after the expenditure of more than $40 billion, it enjoys bipartisan support mainly as a jobs program.
Russia fears, however, that it’s only a matter of time before the U.S. perfects its missile shield technology enough to erode the deterrent capabilities of Moscow’s nuclear arsenal.
Promoting U.S. Nuclear Primacy
That specter was highlighted in 2006 when two U.S. strategic arms experts declared in the pages of the establishment-oriented Foreign Affairs that the age of nuclear deterrence “is nearing an end. Today, for the first time in almost 50 years, the United States stands on the verge of attaining nuclear primacy. It will probably soon be possible for the United States to destroy the long-range nuclear arsenals of Russia or China with a first strike. . . . Unless they reverse course rapidly, Russia’s vulnerability will only increase over time.”
The authors, Keir A. Lieber and Daryl G. Press, added, “Washington’s pursuit of nuclear primacy helps explain its missile defense strategy.” Missile defense, they pointed out, is not the same as population defense. No conceivable defense could truly protect American cities against an all-out attack by Russia, or even China. Rather, a leaky shield “would be valuable primarily in an offensive context, not a defensive one — as an adjunct to a U.S. first-strike capability, not as a standalone shield.”
“If the United States launched a nuclear attack against Russia (or China),” they explained, “the targeted country would be left with a tiny surviving arsenal — if any at all. At that point, even a relatively modest or inefficient missile-defense system might well be enough to protect against any retaliatory strikes, because the devastated enemy would have so few warheads and decoys left.”
As if to make that scenario a reality, the Bush administration soon announced plans to install an anti-missile base in Poland and a radar control center in the Czech Republic — ostensibly to counter a nuclear threat from Iran. No matter that Iran had neither nuclear weapons nor long-range ballistic missiles — or that Washington had rebuffed Russia’s offer to cooperate on building missile defenses closer to Iran. No, Moscow was supposed to believe President Bush’s assurance that “Russia is not the enemy.”
Republican hawks in Congress didn’t get the message. Said Rep. Trent Franks of Arizona, “This is not just about missile defense; this is about demonstrating to Russia that America is still a nation of resolve . . . and we’re not going to let Russian expansionism intimidate everyone.”
Yet when Russian officials reacted with alarm, and warned of the potential for a “new Cold War,” American news accounts accused them of being “bellicose.”
Obama Blows Up the Reset Button
Taking office in 2009, President Obama promised a new era of nuclear sanity. Again, the Russians pleaded for an end to the missile defense program in Eastern Europe. Privately, they expressed a new and genuine concern — that a future U.S. administration could secretly fit interceptor rockets with nuclear warheads and use them to “decapitate” Russia’s top leadership with “virtually no warning time.” Russia’s response: retaliate at the first sign of an incoming strike, without hesitating to check if it’s a false alarm.
E. Rice listens at left. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Obama and his team didn’t heed the warnings. Instead, they snubbed Putin — and the entire Russian leadership — by marching ahead with the missile shield deployment in Eastern Europe, still insulting Moscow’s intelligence with the pretense that it was a defense against Iran.
Obama’s “reset button” was the first casualty of his nuclear policy. In 2011, a despairing President Dmitry Medvedev warned that Russia would have no choice but to respond exactly as Putin has done, by upgrading the offensive capabilities of Russian nuclear missiles and deploying Iskander missiles in Kaliningrad. Still to come may be a Russian withdrawal from the New START treaty, which Secretary of State Hillary Clinton claimed as her greatest accomplishment in the field of arms control.
President Obama never intended to expand his limited missile defense program into an existential threat to Russia’s nuclear deterrent, but he opened that door. Exactly as Moscow has long feared, hawks in Congress now are chomping at the bit to spend what it takes to build an all-out missile defense system, which former Defense Secretary Robert Gates warned would be “enormously destabilizing not to mention unbelievably expensive.”
One 2003 study pegged the possible cost of a full defensive shield covering the United States at more than $1 trillion. But that’s a small price compared to what could happen if a jittery Russian military command, armed to the teeth with nuclear missiles set on hair-trigger alert to counter a successful U.S. first strike, receives a false warning of just such an attack. Such a scenario has happened more than once.
One of these days such a mistake may prompt an all-out Russian nuclear launch — and then, not even a full missile defense will spare the United States, and much of the world, from devastation.