As bombs somehow
continue to kill and maim ordinary Lebanese
and Israeli civilians,
article from Reuters has revealed the bottom line about what forces are
really at work behind America's laissez-faire attitude toward the Israeli war
"The Bush administration spelled out plans yesterday to sell $4.6bn
of arms to moderate Arab states, including battle tanks worth as much as $2.9bn
to protect critical Saudi infrastructure.
"The announcement came two weeks after the administration said it would
sell Israel its latest supply of JP-8 aviation fuel valued at up to $210m to
help Israeli warplanes 'keep peace and security in the region.'"
Indeed, there's nothing like "peace and security." After all, that's
what the whole ideological ferment now
brewing among neoconservatives is all about, right? To create nothing other
than a new and "democratic" Middle East through sustained warfare
by proxy – a plan now adopted by President
Bush and Tony Blair, his evil little helper elf from across the pond.
Fueling the Fire: Aid to Israel and the Arabs
Behind the democratic façade, of course,
is sheer and simple greed: the desire to maximize profit for the American weapons
industry, by fueling a regional arms race. America is now using the specter
of Israeli might to scare the hell out of its neighbors. Racketeering on an
epic scale, disguised by the occasional recourse to diplomacy, is the ugly reality
behind America's Middle East policy.
The full facts recounted in the above article point to a specific cause-and-effect
relationship. Coming after its decision to rush bunker-busting precision-guided
bombs to Israel, the U.S. announcement came as some mixture of a gesture of
friendship, a consolation prize, and a threat.
The upcoming sales are heavy on air power. According to Reuters, $808 million
of UH-60M Black Hawk helicopter gunships would go to the United Arab Emirates.
Another $400 million of AH-64 Apache helicopters are promised to the Saudis,
while Bahrain would get a $252 million consignment of Black Hawks.
Don't worry that Arab ground forces might feel left out. They will also have
something to cheer about, thanks to the U.S. beneficence. Steadfast ally Jordan,
for example, is in line for up to $156 million in upgrades for 1,000 of its
M113A1 APCs. Saudi Arabia is to get 58 "older-generation" M1A1 Abrams
tanks, which would then be modernized; plus, the 315 Abrams tanks the kingdom
already possesses "would be improved with such things as air-conditioning
and infrared sights for the commanders as well as the gunners." Finally,
little Oman is set to pick up $48 million of Javelin anti-tank missiles.
The tactic used with all these Arab lackey administrations is something like
this: go ahead, keep (some of) your oil billions, just keep buying your security
from us. Because we have Israel on a long, long leash indeed…
And don't the Arabs know it! A recent article from Foreign
Policy in Focus provides some statistics on U.S. military contributions
to Israel. In the decade between 1996-2005, Israel received $10.19 billion in
U.S. weaponry and military equipment, "including more than $8.58 billion
through the Foreign Military Sales program, and another $1.61 billion in Direct
Commercial Sales." Some $10.5 billion was received between 2001-2005 in
Foreign Military Financing, "the Pentagon's biggest military aid program."
FMF could also stand for "Fun Military Freebies," because it describes
a program devised to give outright grants of very expensive military hardware.
The article goes on to note that "the aid figure is larger than the arms
transfer figure because it includes financing for major arms agreements for
which the equipment has yet to be fully delivered. The most prominent of these
deals is a $4.5 billion sale of 102 Lockheed Martin F-16s to Israel." Now,
taking the new crisis into consideration, U.S. military aid for Israel from
2001-2007 is set to amount to over $19.5 billion. Yet there are concerns that
by using its American-made weaponry offensively, Israel is
in violation of the law governing military aid.
Confronted with such staggering
figures, Arab regimes can do nothing but try to rectify their security deficit
by placating Uncle Sam through suppliant foreign and domestic policies and hard-cash
purchases. As a
recent IPS report put it, "armed mostly with state-of-the-art U.S.-supplied
fighter planes and combat helicopters, the Israeli military is capable of matching
a combination of all or most of the armies in most Middle Eastern countries,
including Iran, Syria, Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia."
It goes without saying, therefore, that the interests
of politically connected American arms dealers would definitely not be met by
any resolution of the Middle East armed conflicts. Thus the marked lack of enthusiasm
of American leaders for the proposal
of UN chief Kofi Annan and much of the rest of the world – an immediate
cease-fire between Israel and Hezbollah.
According to Reuters, the Arab aid deals are being masterminded by the Pentagon's
Defense Security Cooperation Agency, "which
administers U.S. government-to-government arms sales." And the project's
prime contractor would be the Land Systems business
unit of Sterling Heights, Mich.-based General
Dynamics, a mammoth defense contractor that in 2005 spent almost
$5 million on lobbying alone.
Since the "war on terror" began almost five years ago, firms such
as General Dynamics have enjoyed soaring profits and unprecedented opportunities
that "growth markets" such as Afghanistan, Iraq, and now Lebanon have
opened up for them. As the Arms
Trade Resource Center recounted in October 2004:
"[C]ontracts to the Pentagon's top ten contractors jumped from $46
billion in 2001 to $80 billion in 2003, an increase of nearly 75%. Halliburton's
contracts jumped more than nine times their 2001 levels by 2003, from $400 million
to $3.9 billion. Northrop Grumman's contracts doubled, from $5.2 billion to
$11.1 billion, over the same time frame; and the nation's largest weapons contractor,
Lockheed Martin, saw a 50% increase, from $14.7 billion to $21.9 billion."
Falling Into the Wrong Hands?
Putting aside for a moment the major moral objections
and economic ramifications of such "aid," there are two other concerns
regarding this deadly profligacy. First, since terrorist attacks and other militant
challenges have been witnessed in several of the countries on the U.S. recipient
list, one marvels at the wisdom of loading up unstable Arab states with high-tech
American weaponry – states which, at present, have no foreign power to fear
except, potentially, Israel.
Really, is anyone going to attack Oman? The government there probably won't
need anti-tank missiles. Yet these are just the kind of toys prized by
insurgents and terrorists, of which the neighborhood has many. What if corrupt
elements in the armed forces of these "moderate" Arab regimes decide
to go freelance, selling to the highest bidder?
Further, an even more unsettling thought would be the complete collapse of
any of these countries' governments under the weight of a popular revolt. "Moderate"
Arab leaders have made themselves increasingly despised among the masses for
allying with an America that is allowing Israel to kill fellow Muslims in Lebanon,
even as it abets internecine warfare and kills Muslims in Iraq. As one young
and generally pro-Western Arab put it, "so many of us are just waiting
for a new leader in Egypt, who will stand up to Israel and the Americans – Egypt
is the only country that can save us!" While Egypt has pledged to stay
on the sidelines and not get involved, how would the U.S. react if such a large
and vital country (which also receives plenty of U.S. military aid) were to
undergo a coup d'etat that brought militant anti-Israeli factions to power?
Such a hypothetical concern does not even need to be realized for the American
"military aid" to be dangerous enough already. As the
British also know, American experts concede that it is basically impossible
to guarantee the final
destination of not only the military hardware but also, and perhaps more
importantly, the knowledge needed to make it. The hemorrhaging of sensitive
weapons-design information often is due to espionage, aided by
corruption in high places and expedited by fraudulent
end-user licenses. Yet this is just one of the ways that foreign regimes
get their hands on cutting-edge American weapons technologies.
There are simpler, more direct methods too. The
same corporate greed that necessitates endless wars in the first place has also
willingly allowed these technologies to go "offshore." Industry giant
General Dynamics, for example, in the late 1980s sold Turkey 160 F-16 fighter
planes – and gladly accepted that
government's contractual stipulation that the planes be mostly assembled
in Turkey. Not only did the company save money by hiring cheap foreign labor,
it also gave the buyer know-how for developing their own independent and competing
arms industry in the future.
This pattern has been repeated in many countries since. A more recent example
is of another deal between Turkey and a different company – AM
General of Indiana, for decades lavished with untold millions to make the
celebrated Humvee; this of course is the iconic APC that has all too often proven
vulnerable to insurgent bombs in Iraq, with
lethal results for American soldiers.
Now AM's longtime foreign collaborator, Otokar, "the leading brand"
in Turkey's defense contracting industry and a subsidiary of the nation's biggest
Holdings), is making a fortune exporting their own homemade variety of the
Humvee, the Cobra, to neighboring Arab countries. Although the company does
not disclose exactly which ones, the visit last June of Bahrain's minister of
internal affairs to the Otokar plant, a month before the company announced its
order from abroad ($88.4 million for 600 vehicles) seems wonderfully coincidental.
(It is thus notable, perhaps, that Bahrain is going to be receiving air, not
ground, equipment according to the Pentagon's latest military aid announcement.)
According to Otokar, the Cobra was "a joint development with AM General
of USA [which] utilizes many common parts with HMMWV [the Humvee]." In
other words, American technology was shared with the foreign company, leading
to domestic production in Turkey, and finally the establishment of a competitive
Turkish defense industry. In May, the Otokar general manager was happy to announce
that "in 2005, we increased our export by 230 percent and accomplished
an 85 percent growth in defense industry vehicles."
As with the fighter plane deal and countless others, more jobs in America were
lost. So much for
that great argument of those who defend the weapons industry's culture of death
by arguing that at least it helps save American industry.
Case Studies: the Eastern Mediterranean and the Caucasus
There are other aspects of the U.S. defense industry
in general and the U.S.-Israeli relationship in particular, exacerbated by the
present conflict, that have contributed to making the world a more dangerous
place. U.S. oversight legislation (ignored, in Israel's case) has it that nations
violating human rights and going on offensives should not receive American weapons;
Israel, being entitled to everything, has thus become a conduit for interested
third parties. As former CIA officer Philip Giraldi stated about the Israeli-Turkish
alliance in a
recent Balkanalysis.com interview, "the so-called 'friendly' relationship
between the two countries is very narrowly focused. It is largely the Turkish
Army's General Staff that keeps the relationship going, because it provides
access to U.S. military assistance and weapons that would otherwise be embargoed."
Yet the Muslim Turkish population is naturally opposed to Israeli suppression
of their fellow Muslims in Palestine and Lebanon. The outcry against the current
war being felt in Turkey (among many other places) can only feed into the inherent
tensions between a secular military and an Islamic-leaning government and population.
Usually, whenever such challenges to the secular order arise, the
result is vividly manifested in military crackdowns against the Kurds and
military provocations against Greece. The former option has the possibility
to directly affect U.S. interests in northern Iraq, while the latter could have
fateful repercussions for Turkey's EU bid and the always dangerous discord
over Cyprus (which, by the way, has suffered from the war already due to
very costly refugee influx).
Nevertheless, the U.S. will no doubt continue arming both sides in the Greek-Turkish
conflict, as it always
has, resulting in ever greater profits for the Washington lobbyists representing
the two countries' interests and the defense contractors who stock their arsenals.
The same danger of a regional arms race is being witnessed in a nearby region,
the Caucasus. Azerbaijan, itself a strong American and Turkish ally and pivotal
export hub for Caspian Sea oil and gas, has also seen the light and publicly
voiced its desire to deepen ties with Israel. Funny that Azerbaijan, boosted
by oil riches but still not
entirely immune to human
rights violations itself, is at the same time involved in an unprecedented
military buildup for possible offensive action against Armenia, to recover
the disputed province of Nagorno-Karabakh that lies between the two Caucasus
Nearby, in Georgia, nationalist President Mikhail Saakashvili is again moving
toward war to recover his own breakaway provinces, Abkhazia and South Ossetia,
both of which have sought support from Russia. As an
American client state receiving millions in military
aid and advice,
Georgia is regarded as the front line in containing Russia in the Caucasus,
and also an energy corridor for the $3-billion Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan
oil pipeline that commences in Azerbaijan and concludes in Turkey. Like
Saudi Arabia, whose new military aid from the U.S. is earmarked for protecting
"critical infrastructure' (i.e., Western oil interests), U.S. military
aid in the Caucasus will no doubt go toward protecting the pipeline.
The same dynamic is in place all around the world,
everywhere that money can be made on exporting the instruments of death. All
things considered, it would seem obvious that journalists might ask government
officials just why their stated devotion to peace and stability has to go hand
in hand with ever greater arms buildups. Yet all too often, they don't.
President Bush and his officials talk about building a sustainable, lasting
peace in a new and reshaped Middle East. They talk optimistically about a "final
status" for Kosovo that will respect and guarantee the rights of embattled
minorities. They talk about resolving the Caucasus frozen conflicts to everyone's
benefit. They plead for peace and stability between the Greeks and Turks, between
Indians and Pakistanis, even as they keep loading up their arsenals with increasingly
deadly weapons. And so it goes, all around the world.
Despite the rhetoric, there is one thing every U.S. administration has never
tried to do in any of these conflicts. It is something that leaders have never
been able to do, for reasons of their own political survival: to make peace
through peaceful means, without even a word being spoken about arms sales. Is
this really too much to ask?