In Yemen and beyond, U.S. arms manufacturers are abetting crimes against humanity


The ruins of a school in Taiz, Yemen. PHOTO/Shutterstock

Our leading weapons dealers have developed a business model that feeds on war, terrorism, chaos, political instability, and human rights violations.

The Saudi bombing of a school bus in Yemen on August 9, 2018 killed 44 children and wounded many more. The attack struck a nerve in the U.S., confronting the American public with the wanton brutality of the Saudi-led war on Yemen. When CNN revealed that the bomb used in the airstrike was made by U.S. weapons manufacturer Lockheed Martin, the horror of the atrocity hit even closer to home for many Americans.

But the killing and maiming of civilians with U.S.-made weapons in war zones around the world is an all too regular occurrence. U.S. forces are directly responsible for largely uncounted civilian casualties in all America’s wars, and the United States is also the world’s leading arms exporter.

Pope Francis has publicly blamed the “industry of death” for fueling a “piecemeal World War III.” The U.S. military-industrial complex wields precisely the “unwarranted influence” over U.S. foreign policy that President Eisenhower warned Americans against in his farewell address in 1961.

The U.S. wars on Afghanistan and Iraq and the “global war on terror” served as cover for a huge increase in U.S. military spending. Between 1998 and 2010, the U.S. spent $1.3 trillion on its wars, but even more, $1.8 trillion, to buy new warplanes, warships, and weapons, most of which were unrelated to the wars it was fighting.

Five U.S. companies — Raytheon, Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin, Boeing, and General Dynamics — dominate the global arms business, raking in $140 billion in weapons sales in 2017, and export sales make up a growing share of their business, about $35 billion in 2017.

In a new report for Code Pink and the Divest from the War Machine campaign, we have documented how Saudi Arabia, Israel, and Egypt have systematically used weapons produced by these five U.S. companies to massacre civilians, destroy civilian infrastructure, and commit other war crimes. The bombing of the school bus was only the latest in a consistent pattern of Saudi massacres and air strikes on civilian targets, from hospitals to marketplaces, and U.S. arms sales to Israel and Egypt follow a similar pattern.

U.S. laws require the suspension of arms sales to countries that use them in such illegal ways, but the U.S. State Department has an appalling record on enforcing these laws. Under the influence of Acting Assistant Secretary of State Charles Faulkner, a former lobbyist for Raytheon, Secretary Pompeo falsely certified to Congress that Saudi Arabia and the UAE are complying with U.S. law in their use of American weapons.

The U.S. sells weapons to Saudi Arabia and other allies to project U.S. military power by proxy without the U.S. military casualties, domestic political backlash, and international resistance that result from direct uses of U.S. military force, while U.S. military-industrial interests are well-served by ever-growing arms sales to allied governments.

These policies are driven by the very combination of military-industrial interests that Eisenhower warned Americans against, now represented by Secretary Pompeo, Acting Assistant Secretary Faulkner, and a cabal of hawkish Democrats who consistently vote with Republicans on war and peace issues. They ensure that the “war party” always wins its battles in Congress no matter how catastrophically its policies fail in the real world.

Republicans derided President Obama’s doctrine of covert and proxy war as “leading from behind.” But the Trump administration has doubled down on Obama’s failed strategy, surrendering even more power over U.S. policy to foreign clients like Saudi Arabia, Israel, and Egypt, and to the “unwarranted influence” of the U.S. military-industrial complex.

Lockheed Martin is earning $29.1 billion in sales from the $110 billion Saudi arms package announced in May 2017, a deal struck as the war on Yemen was already killing thousands of civilians. Yet no conflict of interest is too glaring for Lockheed executives like Ronald Perrilloux Jr., who has taken part in public events to promote the war and defend Saudi Arabia and its allies, arguing that the U.S. should “help them finish the job” in Yemen.

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