The United States has accelerated arms sales to
some of the world's most repressive and undemocratic regimes since the Sept.
11, 2001, terrorist attacks on U.S. soil, according to a new report from leading
arms trade researchers.
from the Arms Trade Resource
Center at New York-based New School University's World Policy Institute,
says the increase in sales and military grants is a payoff to countries that
have either joined what the White House calls its "war on terror"
or have backed the United States in its military occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan.
A majority of U.S. arms sales to the developing world also go to regimes "defined
as undemocratic by our own State Department" or foreign ministry, says the
According to the report, U.S.-supplied arms are involved in a majority of the
world's active conflicts, including Angola, Chad, Ethiopia, Colombia, Pakistan,
Israel, and the Philippines.
The study cites the recent decision by the administration of President George
W. Bush to provide new F-16 fighter planes to Pakistan while pledging comparable
high-tech military hardware to India thereby providing U.S. arms to both
sides in a long brewing conflict among two nuclear-armed rivals.
And the tens of millions of dollars in U.S. arms transfers to Uzbekistan
where more than 160 anti-government demonstrators were killed last week "exemplify
the negative consequences of arming repressive regimes," it says.
According to the study, countries defined as "undemocratic" in the State
Department's annual human rights report also are major recipients of U.S. military
aid or U.S. weapons systems.
These include: Saudi Arabia ($1.1 billion in 2003), Egypt ($1.0 billion), Kuwait
($153 million), United Arab Emirates ($110 million), and Uzbekistan ($33 million).
"Arming repressive regimes while simultaneously proclaiming a campaign
against tyranny undermines the credibility of the United States and makes it
harder to hold other nations to high standards of conduct on human rights and
other key issues," said Frida Berrigan, co-author of the study, "U.S.
Weapons at War 2005: Promoting Freedom or Fueling Conflict?"
The largest U.S. military aid program labeled Foreign Military Financing
(FMF) increased by as much as 68 percent from 2001 to 2003, rising from
3.5 billion dollars to nearly 6.0 billion dollars.
Under FMF, recipient nations get outright U.S. grants on condition these funds
are used only for the purchase of U.S. weapons systems, thereby plowing back
the money to the multi-billion-dollar U.S. defense industry.
The only two countries that are exceptions to the rule are Israel and Egypt,
close U.S. allies who are permitted to use FMF funds to buy weapons from their
domestic armaments industries, according to the U.S. Defense Department.
The biggest FMF increases went to countries engaged as U.S. allies in the wars
in Iraq and Afghanistan. These included Jordan (525 million dollar increase
from 2001 to 2003), Afghanistan (191 million dollar increase), Pakistan (224
million dollar increase), and Bahrain (90 million dollar increase).
All of the increases, both in arms sales and FMF, were in the aftermath of
the 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States.
Two dozen nations including Afghanistan, Algeria, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, and
Uruguay either became first-time recipients of FMF during this period or were
restored to the program after long absences.
As a result, the number of countries receiving FMF assistance increased from
48 to 71 between 2001 and 2005 a 47.9 percent increase.
Natalie J. Goldring, executive director of the security studies program at
the School of Foreign Service at Washington-based Georgetown University, said
the Bush administration has failed to demonstrate any link between open-ended
weapons transfers and success in fighting terrorists.
"This report indicates that the opposite may well be the case. By lifting
controls over weapons transfers, we are more likely to increase the risks of
these weapons falling into our adversaries' hands," Goldring told IPS.
She said that U.S. law prohibits weapons transfers to countries that systematically
abuse the rights of their citizens. Enforcing these laws would produce dramatic
improvements in U.S. arms transfer policy. But the Bush administration has failed
to do so, she added.
Berrigan of the World Policy Institute said that no single policy is more at
odds with Bush's pledge to "end tyranny in our world" than the U.S. role as
the world's leading arms exporting nation.
"Although arms sales are often justified on the basis of their purported benefits
from securing access to overseas military facilities to rewarding coalition
partners, these alleged benefits come at a high price," she added.
The study says that in times of crisis, like the tsunami that killed more than
300,000 people, the U.S. public has been very generous.
"And they assume their government is as well. While the United States
doles out billions of dollars in foreign aid every year, Washington tends to
favor military aid and weapons sales over other forms of aid, de-prioritizing
humanitarian, health, and development aid, even though these types of foreign
aid have long-term constructive impact," it adds.
The Bush administration's arms trade policies mirror the approach of 30 years
ago, when then-Secretary of State Henry Kissinger traveled the world, "treating
arms transfers as if they were party favors," Goldring said.
"These policies are shortsighted and may well create the very threats
they are intended to combat," she added.
Weapons manufacturers are profiting from an upsurge in contracts to produce
U.S.-supplied weapons, Goldring said, "but these transfers place current and
future U.S. military personnel at risk of attacks from American weapons that
have fallen into the wrong hands. Once transferred, we have little control over
(Inter Press Service)