December 12th, 2002


Pot. Kettle. Black. Hypocrisy to arms!

Yemen wants its Scud missiles back. They bought 15 of them from North Korea... their only sin was in shipping them in a way where we hopefully wouldn't know about them.

"This just shows again that North Korea is one of the large proliferators of weapons in the world. They make a lot of money out of it." said Republican Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama, ranking Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Want to know who is the largest proliferator of weapons worldwide, though? We are. Here is pie chart showing who sells (or gives away) the most when it comes to arms in the world:

The U.S. sells more arms worldwide than all other nations combined. It kind of makes North Korea's exporting of 15 Scuds seem trivial, really.

The full details are in this report for congress... which makes Senator Shelby's statement either dishonest, hypocritical, or a sign of extreme ignorance.

When it comes to arm dealers, the US is the rootin', tootinest arms dealer the world has ever seen! In 1997, the US exported $21.3 billion worth of arms worldwide for that year, with $8.3 billion of it going to dictatorships and $15.6 billion to developing nations. In comparison, North Korea exports about $500 million dollars of weapons per year. That means that the US exports about 43 times the amount of arms per year, which, even adjusting for the population differences between the US and North Korea, is still around 350% more per person than North Korea.

Hey, we're giving these weapons away! More than half of U.S. weapons sales are now being financed by taxpayers instead of foreign arms purchasers. How much do we pay for these arms giveaways? Well, it was calculated that in 1997, the government paid more to subsidize weapons sales to other countries than it paid for elementary and secondary education programs combined.

What are these weapons used for? Well, in the case of our ally Turkey, for example, they have been used for killing of over 40,000 Kurdish people in the last decade. Forced crimes against Kurdish civilians, such as torture and rape, have been committed by Turkish soldiers and police armed with US-made weaponry. There are also numerous countries that can be mentioned where US soldiers had to go into battle against foriegn soldiers armed with our own weapons. This was the case in conflicts in Iraq, Panama, Grenada, Afghanistan, and Haiti.

In 1997, the Commission of Nobel Peace Laureates developed The International Code of Conduct on Arms Transfers, a document that outlines what standards countries should meet if they are to be sold arms. As a response, in 1998 the European Union agreed on their own Code of Conduct on Arms Exports which, although it contains some loopholes, is a binding agreement that has helped to curtail arms exports, such as those to nations with poor human rights standards. In effect, the EU agreed unilaterally to restrictions on arms exports because it was the right thing to do and because it could lead to the US adopting such standards themselves, which would lead inevitably to an international code of conduct.

The US failed in this, however, and under the Bush administration, seem willing to break numerous arms control treaties made in the past with Russia. These treaties form the backbone of the world's arm control efforts, and if they unravel, others will too. Most significantly, those nations that currently don't have weapons of mass destruction will have to reconsider whether they wish to abide by previous treaties; after all, aren't the US breaking their international commitments too... and won't the Russians follow in suit?!

It's not just the US though... our best ally, the British government, has been exploiting loopholes in both national and EU legislation in selling arms overseas. In July 2002, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw approved the sale of arms components to the USA, knowing that they would be used in fighter jets destined for Israel. Defending his government's action, British Prime Minister Tony Blair told a press conference that 100,000 jobs were linked to the defence industry, and that "if we don't sell arms, someone else will." This is a tired, amoral, cynical statement unworthy of a world leader, but it has been used by leading US politicians too.

As former Costa Rican president and Nobel laureate Oscar Arias once said, "What if Colombia refused to crack down on its drug traffickers, saying that if they did not meet America's demand for cocaine, Peruvian ones would?"

Clearly, the US wouldn't be amused. It would, in fact, be grounds for war. By these standards, how many nations have the US effectively given grounds for war by our amoral, callous behavior? If dealing in drugs is pushing death, then what do you call it when you deal in weapons?

Death, tyranny, repression... and half the time, we're just giving it away for free. Another government program that's a *LOT* larger than you might have thought... and paid for by taxpayers, of course.