Friday, November 09, 2007

the death factory

Weapons Industry


At this stage of history, the weapons industry has emerged to become the worst source of terrorism that ever existed over the past six thousand years of recorded history. The lethal weapons it has developed over the past fifty years alone, have killed more people than were ever massacred over the past 2,500 years, going back to the time of the Persian, Greek and Roman empires. What is amazing is not the fact that such an industry has become the greatest terrorist organization in the world, but that it succeeded to hypnotize intelligent people from every walk of life and profession into believing that its product contributes to the protection and security of our respective nations.

Weapons Industry: Source of Terrorism by Charles Mercieca, 03 July 2002.

Although arms sales to unscrupulous and undemocratic regimes have been going on since the beginning of arms manufactures, the information contained in this report truly ought to shock and offend anyone who is concerned with human life. Time and time again, history has proved that the unchecked arms trade, rather than making the world more secure, has led to millions of unnecessary deaths. In today's armed conflicts, 90 percent of casualties are civilians. When will we say that it is enough, and that producing more weapons only produces more death?

The loss of life is the most obvious of the pernicious effects of the arms trade. There are many others which also demand our attention. The manufacture and sale of ever more sophisticated weaponry promotes regional arms races that are costly, destabilizing, and entirely unnecessary. Arms which are sold to today's allies often boomerang back on the country who supplied them when that alliance no longer holds. American weapons have killed American soldiers in Panama, Somalia, and Iraq. Additionally, the sale of arms without regard to the record of human rights abuses by the buyers conveys a message of tacit endorsement of illegitimate regimes, as well as helping them to consolidate their power and extend their illegal rule. Such has been the case with dictator after dictator, supported with arms to defend against the "communist threat," when in reality what they were defending was only their own power to repress their people and murder with impunity.

The final consequence of arms trade out of control is perhaps the most invisible, and the most insidious. Spending on arms is the best way to perpetuate poverty. It is estimated that $780 billion was spent on military technology and training worldwide in 1999. Just 5 percent of that amount would be sufficient to guarantee basic education, health care and nutrition, potable water, and sanitation to all of the world's people. If the countries who endorse arms sales, either by their governments or by private merchants, were truly interested in defending and promoting democracy, they would make the much more sensible investment in eradicating the poverty which keeps half of the world's people in a de facto state of disenfranchisement. For it is grinding, absolute poverty that is the true enemy of both peace and democracy. Ask any child on the streets of India, Burundi, or Myanmar whether she would rather have bread to eat and a school to go to or a fighter jet to protect her, and you will have the obvious answer that national security means nothing in the absence of human security.

Arms Trade: US Outsells All Others Combined from the Center for International Policy (CIP).

US arms sales

In 1999 the United States outsold all other countries combined, selling $11.4 billion in military hardware to Third World countries, according to a recent government report. No continent was spared. During 1996-99 (the last period for which the report differentiates by region), the United States sold $13 billion to Asia, $27 billion to the Middle East, $1.5 billion to Latin America, and even found the time to do $114 million to the threadbare countries of Africa. Again looking at the new figures for 1999, we see the other exporters trying hard: Russia with $2 billion; France, $2.2 billion; Great Britain, $3.9 billion; China, $300 million; Germany, $600 million, the rest of Europe $1.8 billion; and all others, $500 million. But all of them together could not match the United States' $11.4 billion. […]
  • While the top destinations were the Middle East and Taiwan, in 1998 the United States also sold or trained in eight of the ten poorest countries in the world.
  • The United States sold to or trained in seventeen of the twenty-four countries involved in major conflicts, including Israel, Turkey, India, Pakistan, Indonesia, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Angola, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Guinea-Bissau, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Uganda, Colombia, and Peru.
  • The United States provided weapons or training to both sides of four different armed conflicts in 1998 involving ten countries.
  • Sixty-three percent of all U.S. arms sales in 1998 were directed at the Third World. Of these Third World recipients, 54 percent were undemocratic based on criteria in the State Department human-rights reports.

Arms Trade: US Outsells All Others Combined from the Center for International Policy (CIP).

Far from promoting democracy in eastern Europe, Washington is promoting a system of political and military control not unlike that once practised by the Soviet Union. Unlike that empire, which collapsed because the centre was weaker than the periphery, the new NATO is both a mechanism for extracting Danegeld from new member states for the benefit of the US arms industry, and also – ever since the promulgation of NATO's New Strategic Concept in April 1999 – an instrument for getting others to protect US interests around the world, including the supply of primary resources such as oil. It is, in short, a racket.

The Prague Racket by John Laughland, 22 November 2002.

Small arms

With the end of the cold war, increased attention is being paid today to the devastation wrought by armed conflict around the world. Previously referred to by official Washington as "low intensity conflicts," these wars have resulted in the death of well over one million people this decade. The vast majority of these casualties – as many as 90 percent – are civilian victims of indiscriminate warfare.

The International Committee of the Red Cross has determined that small arms are the principal cause of death in conflicts. In fact, these arms are thought to be responsible for 90 percent of recent war casualties. Small/light arms are cheap and portable, and are used by all combatants – state militaries, militias, and insurgents. It is the prevalence – that is, the widespread proliferation – of these arms, combined with their indiscriminate use, that renders them responsible for so much of the killing.

In addition, small and light arms are used in crime and terrorist acts around the world.

The Global Threat of Small Arms and Light Weapons from ASMP (Arms Sales Monitoring Project), 2000.

In a report released last year, the Eminent Persons Group, said the majority of small arms producers are located in the First World while the majority of victims of small arms are in the Third World. […] The Group pointed out that the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, namely the United States, Britain, France, China and Russia, account for around 85 percent of the global arms trade.

Global Campaign Launched To Battle Illicit Small Arms Trade by Thalif Deen, 09 January 2001.

The arms lobby

With so many former defense executives and government officials swapping roles, campaign contributions seem almost unnecessary. But ever since the Republicans took control of Congress in January 1995, major weapons contractors have favored them over Democratic candidates by a 2 to 1 margin, and this year is no exception. The Center for Responsive Politics lists the nation's top three weapons contractors among the top 50 overall donors in this election cycle. Lockheed Martin is at #35 with $1.35 million, Northrop Grumman is at #38, donating $1.26 million, and Boeing comes in at #42 with $1.2 million in campaign contributions.

The Ties that Bind: Arms Industry Influence in the Bush Administration and Beyond by William D. Hartung and Michelle Ciarrocca, October 2004.

Main Players

Lockheed Martin: The company has a greater stake in nuclear weapons and missile defense work than any other U.S. arms maker. It is also one of the "big four" missile defense contractors, along with Raytheon, Boeing, and TRW. In all, eight current policymakers had direct or indirect ties to the firm before joining the administration. Officials with indirect connections to the company include Vice President Dick Cheney, whose wife Lynne Cheney served on the Lockheed Martin board from 1994 through January 2001, accumulating more than $500,000 in deferred director's fees in the process; and Deputy National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley, who worked at Shea and Gardner, the powerhouse DC law firm that represents Lockheed Martin. [See Corporate State/Revolving Door/Lockheed Martin.]

Northrop Grumman: the nation's third largest defense contractor as the result of its acquisitions of Newport News Shipbuilding and Litton defense, follows closely behind Lockheed Martin with seven former officials, consultants, or shareholders in the Bush administration. The company's influence within the Air Force is reinforced by the presence of [now ex-] Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Installations, Environment, and Logistics Nelson F. Gibbs, who served as Corporate Comptroller at Northrop Grumman from 1991 to 1999. Other key company connections include [now ex-] Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, [now ex-] Pentagon Comptroller Dov Zakheim, and [now ex-] Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith, all of whom had consulting contracts or served on paid advisory boards for Northrop Grumman prior to joining the administration. Last but not least, I. Lewis Libby, [now ex-] Vice President Cheney's Chief of Staff, and Sean O'Keefe, the [now ex-] director of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, served as a paid consultant and a paid advisory board member, respectively, to Northrop Grumman.

General Dynamics: is a defense conglomerate formed by mergers and divestitures, and as of 2005 it is the sixth largest defense contractor in the world. Gordon England, the Bush administration's Secretary of the Navy, was a General Dynamics Vice President prior to taking his current post. Other administration officials with ties to the company include [now ex-] Secretary of State Colin Powell, who owned more than $1 million in General Dynamics stock before joining the administration, and Undersecretary of Defense [now Air Force Secretary] Michael Wynne, who was a Senior Vice President for International Planning and Development at General Dynamics before joining the administration.

Source: The Role of the Arms Lobby In the Bush Administration's Radical Reversal of Two Decades of U.S. Nuclear Policy by William D. Hartung, with Jonathan Reingold, May 2002. With some additional material from Wikipedia.

Further Reading

Promoting peace is for wimps - real governments sell weapons by George Monbiot, 24 August 2006. “Labour seems to see the escalating dangers in the Middle East as little more than an opportunity for business.”
Arms, Africa, and America's Inmate Industry by Ezrah Aharone, 13 January 2007.

The Arms Trade. A special report from the Guardian.
Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) ”is a broad coalition of groups and individuals in the UK working to end the international arms trade. This Trade has a negative effect on human rights and security as well as on global, regional and local economic development.”

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