Massive US Weapons Deals and Obama’s Middle East ‘Reset Button’
A couple weeks ago I’d read a piece at Al Jazeera about the President being dismayed that India had rejected the fighter jet deal he had pushed on his recent visit to India. Apparently India decided that Boeing’s F/A-18 Super Hornet and Lockheed Martin’s F-16 failed to meet technical criteria.
The Nation reported that the NYT had this to say:
“In a report from New Delhi, The New York Times described India’s decision as “a blow for President (Barack) Obama, who had pushed hard for this and other defence deals during his visit to India in November as part of his agenda to deepen and broaden the United States’ relationship with India.”
“While political and economic relations between India and the United States have been warming for years, American arms makers have struggled to win big contracts” in New Delhi, it said.
“After decades of frosty relations during the cold war, which pushed India to rely extensively on the Soviet Union for military hardware, many in the Indian defence establishment are still wary of American intentions and United States military aid to Pakistan, India’s main adversary,” the Times said.”
Now I don’t know about you, but when I read some of the Wilileaked cables that spoke about US Ambassadors pushing deals for arms and weapons systems at cocktail parties, it disturbed me; I was stuck in the past as to the meaning of diplomacy and diplomat; you remember, the old-school talking to each other to solve problems. Since then, I’d been considering writing a play about the subject except for the fact that a) I don’t know how to write a play and b) I don’t know enough about either the military hardware of the international players to write it as believable satire.
And some might argue that it’s really not very funny any more. And this week, I’d almost be forced to agree after a new package of information was published at TomDispatch.
Nick Turse recently did an in-depth analysis of the Pentagon documents and found some pretty startling and damning numbers concerning the volume and dollar amounts of arms sales around the globe, and especially to the most oppressive nations of the Middle East. A lot of deals are in the works, and it’s hard to see how any of them will be reneged upon.
Turse points out that given Obama’s rhetoric about cutting the Pentagon budget by $400 billion of the projected $10 trillion over the next twelve years, the Pentagon has been muscling up its arms-sales wing to protect and strengthen the defense industry:
“Last October, the Pentagon started secretly lobbying financial analysts and large institutional investors on behalf of weapons makers and other military contractors. The idea was to bolster their long-term financial viability in the face of a possible future slowdown in Defense Department spending.
Since then, Deputy Secretary of Defense William Lynn and other Pentagon powerbrokers have made regular trips to New York City to shore up Wall Street’s support for weapons manufacturers. “We are in this for the long term. We need industrial partners and financial backers who think and act likewise,” Lynn told investors at a recent defense and aerospace conference in that city.
Along with Ashton Carter, the Pentagon’s undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology, and logistics, and Brett Lambert, the deputy assistant secretary for industrial policy, Lynn is creating a comprehensive plan to sustain and enrich weapons makers and other military contractors in the coming years. “We’re going sector by sector, tier by tier, and our goal is to develop a long-term policy to protect that base as we slow defense spending,” Lynn said. America’s Middle Eastern allies are seen as a significant partner in this effort.
Some will argue that this is part of Obama’s jobs bill; I won’t. If the US ever begins unwinding Empire and backs away from arming the globe, care will need to be taken to offset the job losses. We do know how quickly factories can be turned to peaceful, sustainable production for energy products and other healthy uses given the will. The Military Industrial Congressional Complex is killing us, and is killing much of the rest of the world.
Of course the US has been arming despots for decades, and especially our allies in the Middle East, but some of these nations are the same ones who are now crushing the rebellions that Obama says he wants to support. Please allow me to pick and choose from Turse’s list. He says that Congress has thirty days to review weapons sales before contracts are completed; these are some of the notifications he sent to them:
“In July 2009, the sale to Kuwait of Browning machine guns, advanced targeting systems for armored vehicles, KC-130 aircraft, and technical support for F/A-18 attack aircraft.
The White House announced plans to outfit both Bahrain’s and Jordan’s militaries with advanced air-to-air missiles to the tune of $74 million and $131 million, respectively, to equip the United Arab Emirates with $526 million worth of Hellfire missiles and other materiel, to send more than $2 billion worth of advanced surveillance and navigation equipment to aid Saudi Arabia’s air force, and to see to it that Egypt’s military received a shipment of new Chinook troop transport helicopters and other high-tech equipment valued at $308 million.
A proposed sale of advanced fighter aircraft, parts, weapons, and equipment to Egypt worth as much as $3.2 billion, and another to equip Kuwait’s military with $410 million in Patriot missile technology.
Last year, notifications also went out concerning the sale of F-16 fighters, armored personnel carriers, tank ammunition, and advanced computer systems to Iraq, C-17 military transport aircraft for Kuwait, mobile missile systems for Bahrain, and Apache attack helicopters and tactical missile systems for the United Arab Emirates. Saudi Arabia, however, was the big winner by far with a blockbuster $60 billion agreement for helicopters, fighter jets, radar equipment, and advanced smart bombs that will represent, if all purchases are made, the largest foreign arms deal in American history.”
Another source also quotes Gates saying he’ll pitch “a more sophisticated U.S. defence system called the Theater High-Altitude Area Defence system, which is designed to shoot down ballistic missiles of longer range. The United Arab Emirates already has agreed to purchase that system, the official said. It is part of a broader U.S. plan to improve Gulf Arab states’ defences against Iranian missile threats.”
You will no doubt remember that Gates met with Abdullah of Saudi Arabia and Al Kahlifah of Bahrain and clearly gave them his approval for sending Saudi tanks and 1000 troops to Bahrain to quell the ‘dissident movement’ there. The UAE sent help, too, in solidarity; any enemies of Iran are friends.
And you’ll remember the protestors in Yemen looking to the sky and seeing US-made Huey helicopters firing on them and killing hundreds; but you may not know how American-made weapons have been used to subdue protests in Iraq, given that al Maliki has been systematically been shutting down independent media with the Pentagon’s help and planning as his forces kill hundreds, beat more, imprison ever more in an attempt to consolidate his power while US forces turn their heads. “Success in Iraq”; boy, howdy.
So we are busy arming the Gulf Cooperation Council nations and a few other ME nations to the tune of $70 billion just this year, with more deals in the works. Only slightly off-topic is news I ran into about the militarization of West African oil by way of the Pentagon and the US Africa Command; watch out West Africa: We’re there to help.
Will the President’s Cairo 2 speech cause him to rethink the massive arming of the Middle East (52% of all arms deals), and especially the nations whose dictators mean to kill of any hope of democracy or self-determination? Can he stand up to the Pentagon and quit shilling for the Defense Industry? Will Congress ever balk at it?
Oh, you Masters of War; is your money that good?
(cross-posted at dagblog.com)