Even Evil Folks Need Arms

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The World Policy Institute has come out with a new study of United States weapons sales, in which we learn:

In 2003, more than half of the top 25 recipients of U.S. arms transfers in the developing world (13 of 25) were defined as undemocratic by the U.S. State Department's Human Rights Report: in the sense that "citizens do not have the right to change their own government." These 13 nations received over $2.7 billion in U.S. arms transfers in 2003, with the top recipients including Saudi Arabia ($1.1 billion), Egypt ($1.0 billion), Kuwait ($153 million), the United Arab Emirates ($110 million) and Uzbekistan ($33 million).

When countries designated by the State Department's Human Rights Report to have poor human rights records or serious patterns of abuse are factored in, 20 of the top 25 U.S. arms clients in the developing world in 2003—a full 80%—were either undemocratic regimes or governments with records of major human rights abuses.

Link via Sploid.

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  1. I want to know why our government is selling anything to anybody? Isn’t selling jet fighters the job of McDonald Douglas the same as selling cars is the job of Ford.

    People worry that if private sellers are able to sell the big guns, then they’ll sell them to anybody. Fine. How is that different than what the government is doing now?

  2. But you see, Omar, our government knows who our friends and enemies are. Colt, McDonald Douglas, etc don’t.

    Right?

  3. Why should this surprise me? Small or third-world dictatorships need our weapons to suppress democratic rebellions and scare the hell out of the populace in general. Who else would be our best customers?

    It was business, Mikey. Nothing personal.


  4. Small or third-world dictatorships need our weapons to suppress democratic rebellions and scare the hell out of the populace in general.

    So I guess the only hope of small/third world citizens for democracy is to launch terrorist attacks against the US citizenry so we can send our armies to liberate them from their governments – the same ones we sold weapons to.

    What a great positive feedback cycle to keep our government in business!

  5. You know, I firmly believe that military hardware is the one industry that SHOULD be subject to limits when it wants to sell overseas.

    Sadly, the government is doing a piss poor job of regulating one of the few markets that I think should be regulated.

    Makes me wonder.

  6. Sadly, the government is doing a piss poor job of regulating one of the few markets that I think should be regulated.

    But then we wouldn’t need to engage in drawn out military adventures against the dictators we used to support.

  7. Its amazing, the memes that won’t die know matter how many times you kick them to death.

    David, right now we are involved militarily against two (former) dictatorships.

    One, in Afghanistan, we never supported. Ever. Even against the Sovs. Back in the mujahadeen days, we backed what became the Northwest Alliance (I think I got the name right). The Taliban was basically nobody until the civil war that broke out after the Sovs left and we stopped caring about Afghanistan.

    As for Saddam, our support for him miniscule and incidental. It was never primary, or necessary, to his regime or plans. He always looked primarily to the French and the Russians.

  8. “As for Saddam, our support for him miniscule and incidental”

    Regardless of whether that is in any way factual, does it in any way detract from the fact that we supported him?

    Kinda like being pregnant – either you sold him weapons and supported his despotic regime, or you didn’t. The people he killed with your support certainly don’t care how much you supported him – just the fact that you did is enough.

    And your analysis of Afghanistan is more than a little misleading – who, exactly, trained the Taliban’s biggest cheerleader, OBL?

    It’s not nearly so easy to trace who belonged to what group over there.

  9. Back in the mujahadeen days, we backed what became the Northwest Alliance (I think I got the name right).

    Not really. To a large degree, the CIA was manipulated by the Saudis and the Pakistanis into providing support to the Islamist elements of the mujahidin, such as Hekmatyar, rather than the nationalists, such as Masoud. This is far from the only factor behind the rise of the Taliban, but it definitely didn’t help matters.

    As an aside, I suspect that Osama could cause a political uproar if he and his Al-Qaeda peers ever released a tape detailing their dealings with the CIA. But since that would ruin their absurd narrative of having always been a staunch enemy of the US, they won’t do it.

    You’re right about US support to Saddam – American arms sales paled in comparison to what the French and Soviets provided. But there was little doubt during the course of the Iran-Iraq war that we were rooting for him to give Khomeinei a black eye. Given the embassy crisis and the nature of Khomeinei’s regime, I find that forgivable, but it’s not something we should be too proud of either.

  10. RC Dean,
    What are you talking about? Only months before 9/11 we sent the Taliban 45 million dollars. Back in the Sov days we supported many mujahadeen troops. Your thinking of the “Northern” Alliance which helped us kick out the Taliban in the last round of fighting. As for Saddam, we gave him a great amount of help during the Iran/Iraq war. There is some evidence that Reagan was the one who gave him chemical weapons.

  11. Side comment: hat tip to Sploid for being awesome.

  12. What are you talking about? Only months before 9/11 we sent the Taliban 45 million dollars.

    The aid consisted entirely of food and medicine. And it was in return for getting the Taliban to support opium eradication. I think the deal was wrong on multiple levels, but it’s not as if it made them our allies.

    There is some evidence that Reagan was the one who gave him chemical weapons.

    Some materials were sold to him that wound up being used in the production of chemical weapons. Companies belonging to many other nations were also guilty of doing this. The lack of oversight here was arguably criminal, but it’s not the same as shipping him anthrax and mustard gas.

  13. So, are we to infer that the State Department doesn’t consider Israel to have “poor human rights records or serious patterns of abuse”?

  14. Even against the Sovs.

    nice revisionism, mr dean. reagan never called them “the equivalent of our founding fathers”. the good ones are so easily separable from the bad ones. the ones who built the taliban are separable from those who didn’t. we weren’t indisciminately handing out billions in cash and arms to fund any mujahedeen who would help us. and we weren’t giving money to the tablian as recently as may 2001. james callahan never described the taliban’s coercion of poppy farmers as “consensus-building”. lol!!

    As for Saddam, our support for him miniscule and incidental.

    because donald rumsfeld never went there as special envoy of president reagan in 1983 to confirm american support for iraq and saddam. i refer you.

  15. Does ‘serious human rights abuses’ include imprisonment in extra-territorial cages, extraordinary rendition, search without warrant, or torture?

  16. At the defense-industry consulting firm where I used to work, I had to spend a lot of time editing reports about defense companies, weapons contracts, and sales to various slimeball regimes. This isn’t even the half of it. There are a few governments to whom American companies aren’t supposed to sell stuff, but even then the companies get around it by buying a block of interest in a foreign company whose government does NOT forbid such trade–that’s how companies like Halliburton were legally able to do business with Iran despite the American laws against it.

    One of my last jobs before leaving the firm and starting my current position was to edit something called a “Force Structure,” which is essentially a super-boring laundry list of every weapon and military vehicle a particular country is known to have, and also what’s known about the history of said weapons (who made them, who sold them, were they bought new or used, etc.). The assignment I did was the force structure of Iraq, and I’ll say this–if our support of them was as miniscule as RC says, that would be a huge surprise to US defense companies and weapons experts.

  17. Only Chewbacca and the other Wookiees shall decide who bears arms, evil or not. If they deem you unsuitable: brother, they’ll rip your arms clean off!

  18. The way I see it the Saudi’s and whatnot are going to get weapons anyways. We don’t sell them our first rate shit. If we don’t sell them weapons the French will.

    If a buck is to be made, I would rather it be made by us than the French.

  19. The obvious question is what percentage of all the countries in the developing world (and, BTW, Israel may simply not be considered in that group) fit into those categories. I’m sure the overall percentages don’t match the big arms customers, but it’s probably not that far off, especially if you took out the truly tiny countries that no one cares about (Vanuatu, St. Kitts and Nevis, etc.)

  20. Jennifer, how dare you inject first-hand experience and facts into our discussion!

  21. If a buck is to be made, I would rather it be made by us than the French.

    Does this mean I can go back to selling nuclear secrets?

  22. So I guess the only hope of small/third world citizens for democracy is to launch terrorist attacks against the US citizenry so we can send our armies to liberate them from their governments

    This reminds me of a joke. Two Yemenis are sitting around chewing Qat, when one says, “Our government is oppresive, our economy sucks and we have all of our welath taxed away.”
    The other one says, “Let us attack the US. Then they will attack our nation, overthrow the government and rebuild our buildings.”
    The first Yemeni says, “What a great idea, but there is only one problem.”
    “What’s that?” says the second one.
    “What if we win?”

    Gee, between this and Laura Bush praising the “democratic reforms” in Egypt, its a wonder why other nations question our sincerity.

    kwais,
    You bring up a good point. We shoulda been selling Saddam weapons the whole time we were bombing Iraq. Maybe he would’ve allowed us to use his country as a staging point. What we should do is insert deactivation chips in weapons we sell abroad so that we can prevent our weapons from being used against us.

  23. Mo,

    Probably showing my age but there is an old Peter Sellers movie called “The Mouse That Roared.” Same idea, small country decides to attack the U.S. intending to be defeated and rebuilt like Japan and Germany. The plan fails and they win. Hmmm… wonder if its been dubbed into Arabic?

  24. Nice to see Steve and Gaius Marius vectoring a vicious smear that’s so easily debunked that one wonders why they’d bother:

    U.S. gives $43 million to Afghanistan (May 17, 2001)

    The package includes $28 million worth of wheat from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, $5 million in food commodities and $10 million in “livelihood and food security” programs, both from the U.S. Agency for International Development.

    Wheat, food, and farming programs. Yeah, that Taliban sure cashed in there.

    The U.N. Security Council imposed sanctions against the Taliban in an effort to pressure the militia to hand over Saudi exile Osama bin Laden, who is accused of bombing two U.S. embassies in Africa. Humanitarian aid is allowed.

    Powell said the U.S. aid is administered by the United Nations and non-governmental organizations, and bypasses the Taliban, “who have done little to alleviate the suffering of the Afghan people, and indeed have done much to exacerbate it.”

    Why do USAID and the United Nations hate America?

    But go ahead, gentlemen. Believe the lies, since they fit so easily into your pre-determined narratives.

  25. As Omar said in the first post:
    No tickee, no laundry.

    Translated:
    Whatever you want: arms, legs, guns, laundry:
    You got money, you get.
    Who care?

    The relevant question is why buy arms?
    Who, or which country or ethnic group are you premeditating murder against?

  26. “If a buck is to be made, I would rather it be made by us than the French.”

    Good point, but wouldn’t it be better then some third world scumbag’s rifle jams because a French quality inspector was on a mandated vacation?

  27. Wheat, food, and farming programs. Yeah, that Taliban sure cashed in there.

    the laughable part, mr phil, is that you probably sincerely believe that money goes to farming. or that its the sum of what we directed to afghanistan.

    but suppose it was, for fun. is it not material support of a regime we saw fit to destroy months later? not directly.

    when the united states issues “humanitarian” aid, what is it doing? satisfying an urge for altruism? it’s buying political support and bolstering allies in foreign nations, in order to gather leverage against our emenies in their internal affairs as a means to achieve american foreign policy objectives. even the aei’s historians call that “empire”.

    however, it must be said that such relief materially sates and improves the condition of the people whose agitation would ultimately lead to regime change. in this indirect way, it is a manner of support for the status quo.

    i would concur that the united states hardly administered that aid in support of the taliban. it was intended to coerce the taliban by empowering the taliban’s enemies and thereby extract a more favorable interaction from them. but the fact that we seek that improved interaction shows realism on the part of american policymakers — the taliban was there, and we dealt with them.

    but all that’s a long, long way from what transpired in arms sales to foreign governments, of course.

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