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Friday, 29 April 2016 04:56

US Leads the World in Arms Sales, Profiting Off Death and Destruction

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2016 april29stoparmsfairStop the arms fairs and the hundreds of billions of dollars in weaponry sales and help put a stop to war. (Photo: StoptheArmsFair)

On Waging Nonviolence, Javier Gárate wrote of his acquittal -- and those of his fellow activists -- for attempting to symbolically blockade the London Arms Fair in September 2015:

After a week-long trial that ended on April 15, a judge from the Stratford Magistrate Court in London found me and seven co-defendants not guilty for our actions last September to shut down the Defence Security and Equipment International arms fair, or DSEI, on the basis that we were preventing a greater crime. This is a huge victory in the long struggle to shut down … the largest arms fair in the world, which takes place in east London every other year.

The last fair was in September 2015, and it saw more than 1,500 exhibitors from around the world displaying the latest technology of the war industry. DSEI is an invitation-only event, where invites go to governments, industry representatives and specialized press. Delegations from repressive regimes and countries violating human rights — such as Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Israel — walk through its corridors every other year browsing the latest weaponry [and most significantly signing contracts for billions of dollars]. 

The focus of Gárate and his fellow opponents of the global weaponry industry was the 2015 Defence Security and Equipment International (DSEI) exhibition held in London. RT took a look at some of the biggest corporate beneficiaries of worldwide weapons sales and found these two companies among those leading the pack:

Lockheed Martin

With net sales for 2014 totaling $45.6 billion, US-based Lockheed Martin is the largest arms company in the world. Lockheed received $22 billion in contracts from the US Department of Defense alone in 2014, roughly 9 percent of all contracts awarded by the Pentagon.

Lockheed has weathered several high profile scandals since its founding in 1912. The company was caught bribing Japanese Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka in 1976, a revelation which forced his resignation. Last month the company paid $4.7 million to the Justice Department to settle charges it won a lucrative contract by paying a former US Representative-turned-lobbyist with taxpayer funds.

BAE Systems

The third largest arms producer in the world, BAE Systems is a FTSE 100 company which posted a £16.6 billion (US$25.6 billion) turnover in 2014 and a £0.75 billion profit. The UK-based firm has military customers in over 100 countries.

We've noted before that the US, despite so much jingoistic braggadocio, has been falling behind in many leading national indicators each year, except for its continual increases in sales of advanced weaponry, which fuels conflicts and deaths across the globe.  A 2015 Fast Company article confirmed this dubious distinction:

One of the features of the 21st century, particularly since the 2008 financial crisis, has been the increasing number of rankings in which the United States is no longer number one. Title of top arms exporter, however, is not one of them—at least not yet—with the U.S. maintaining its number one spot almost every year since the Cold War ended.

At last month’s International Defense Exhibition in Abu Dhabi, around 1,200 companies from 56 countries showcased their hardware, trying to sell their high-resolution surveillance satellites, Reaper drones and Kalashnikov rifles to the government officials and military brass in attendance. Plenty of American arms makers were on hand in hopes of maintaining their global dominance.

Think about an entire industry whose goal is to design the most effective killing machines. Think about the international army of procurers who sign contacts for weapons systems in the billions of dollars. Think about how arms sales are often a sizeable component of foreign relations and economic relationships.

Indeed, take one timely indicator of how the US sells arms to nations that have allegedly helped to do it harm: The US is transferring the latest weaponry to Saudi Arabia despite indications that the government helped fund Osama bin Laden and is continuing to arm extremist anti-US rebels in Syria. The Guardian US reported on April 22 that "Obama may be preaching 'tough love' to Saudi – but arms sales tell another story":

Despite Saudi anger and US public perception, Obama has not fundamentally altered the “special relationship” between the kingdom and the United States. As Obama has preached a kind of tough love – telling the Saudis that he won’t commit US military resources to reflexively support them against Iran – his administration has dramatically ramped up arms sales to the kingdom and other Gulf allies. Since 2010, the Obama administration authorized a record $60bn in US military sales to Saudi Arabia. Since then, the administration concluded deals for nearly $48bn in weapons sales – triple the $16bn in sales under the George W Bush administration.

This is despite a Saudi Arabian threat to pull $750 billion out of the US economy if Congress passes a bill allowing survivors of 9/11 to sue the nation for alleged culpability. Former Florida Sen. Bob Graham -- and co-chair of the 2002 joint congressional inquiry into the 9/11 attacks -- recently wrote in the Tallahassee Democrat:

The Saudis blatant attempts to avoid liability as co-conspirators in the crime of 9/11, and the U.S. government's acquiescence by refusing to release information (and opposition to reforming laws that would hold collaborators in murder to account) has been a clear signal to the Kingdom that it is immune from U.S. sanctions. With that impunity, it continues to finance terrorists and fund mosques and schools used to indoctrinate the next generation of terrorists in intolerance and jihad.

On the other hand, there is the US military financial and weaponry "beneficence" to allies who use the arms to decimate, occupy and subjugate dispossessed populations. Take Israel, for instance, which has treated Palestinians in the West Bank -- and particulary Gaza -- with a grisly and gruesome military onslaught, much of the armament provided or sold by the US. In 2014, Haaretz reported that "Since it began in 1962, American military aid to Israel has amounted to nearly $100 billion. For the past decades the United States has been regularly transferring aid of about $3 billion annually." In addition, supplementary military grants and equipment are provided from time to time by the US. 

Arms sales take place as a result of bellicose narratives of blame that lead populations to frenzies of war and "retribution." They are a multi-billion dollar business. That business can only prosper and make immense profits if weapons are expended in wars and require replacements, along with the development of increasingly higher-tech and more deadly weapons. Often these involve little risk to armies on the offensive, but high casualties to people being targeted – think of drones, high-flying bombers and remote-control artillery.

War and conflicts are frequently fought over natural resources, extractive industries, precious metals and hegemony. Individual wars often conclude with treaties, but new conflicts take their place. War isn't a strategy that leads to a better world. It just spins around like a snake eating its tail, exhausting endless and profitable weaponry, like the most advanced machines of death on sale at the London Arms Fair.

Not to be posted without permission of Truthout.