A new study from the Arms Trade Resource Center of New School University's World Policy Institute raises a question about the Bush administration and our current "war on terror": Is it about freedom and democracy, or is it about global arms sales?
U.S. programs are supplying arms to 18 of 25 countries embroiled in ''active conflicts,'' or warfare against domestic or foreign foes, the study says. These include Angola, Chad, Colombia, Ethiopia, Israel, Pakistan, and the Philippines.
Additionally, U.S. arms transfers to Uzbekistan--where at least 169 anti-government demonstrators were killed last week--''exemplify the negative consequences of arming repressive regimes,'' it says.
In my very first posting ever on this blog, I pointed out research I had done which showed that in the year 2000, war took the lives of 168,000 Africans, 65,000 Asians, 39,000 "middle-easterners," 37,000 Europeans, and 2,000 Central and South Americans. I also showed that at the same time, American arms manufacturers profit from this death and destruction. Forty of the top one hundred arms-producing companies in the world are American companies with profits totaling $664 billion dollars in 1999. Over $93 billion of that profit comes from the manufacture and sale of weapons, more than the profit of the other 60 companies combined (US$64 billion).
The United States transfers more weapons and military services than any other country in the world, according to the report. Between 1992 and 2003, the last year for which complete data are available, it sold $177.5 billion in arms to foreign nations.
''In 2003 alone, the Pentagon and State Department delivered or licensed the delivery of $5.7 billion in weaponry to countries which can ill afford advanced weaponry--nations in the developing world saddled with debt and struggling with poverty,'' the study says.
And here's the meat of the scam: the US takes taxpayer dollars which we think is going to "foreign aid," and those dollars are given as a grant to countries on the condition that they use the money to buy weapons from US arms manufacturers.
The largest U.S. military aid program--known as Foreign Military Financing (FMF)--grew by 68 percent from 2001 to 2003, the latest full year for which data are available, rising from $3.5 billion to nearly $6.0 billion.
Under FMF, recipients get outright U.S. grants on condition they use the money to buy U.S. weapons systems. The foreign countries get nearly-free weapons (they incur the operating costs and additional expenses for parts and in some cases, training) and the money is churned back into the U.S. defense industry.
We are, essentially, using our tax dollars to buy weapons for developing nations who get them for free. Isn't there some more productive use our money could go to in helping developing nations?
The biggest FMF increases have gone to countries engaged as U.S. allies in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. They have included Jordan ($525 million increase from 2001 to 2003), Afghanistan ($191 million), Pakistan ($224 million), and Bahrain ($90 million).
Afghanistan, Algeria, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, and Uruguay are among two dozen countries that either became first-time FMF recipients or were allowed back into the program after long absences. In all, the number of countries receiving FMF aid increased from 48 to 71 over the past four years, the study says.
We can do better. But not with this current plutocracy.