What a radical concept: If we just stopped selling arms to repressive regimes, they wouldn’t be able to use them against their own people! I think I like this idea:
In 2009 alone, European governments – including Britain and France – sold Libya more than $470 million worth of weapons, including fighter jets, guns and bombs. And before it started calling for regime change, the Obama administration was working to provide the Libyan dictator another $77 million in weapons, on top of the $17 million it provided in 2009 and the $46 million the Bush administration provided in 2008.
Meanwhile, for dictatorial regimes in Yemen, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, US support continues to this day. On Saturday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton even gave the US stamp of approval to the brutal crackdown on protesters in Bahrain, saying the country’s authoritarian rulers “obviously” had the “sovereign right” to invite troops from Saudi Arabia to occupy their country and carry out human rights abuses, including attacks on injured protesters as they lay in their hospital beds.
In Yemen, which has received more than $300 million in military aid from the US over the last five years, the Obama administration continues to support corrupt thug and president-for-life Ali Abdullah Saleh, who recently ordered a massacre of more than 50 of his own citizens who dared protest his rule. And this support has allowed the US to carry out its own massacres under the auspices of the war on terror, with one American bombing raid last year taking out 41 Yemeni civilians, including 14 women and 21 children, according to Amnesty International.
Rather than engage in cruise-missile liberalism, Obama could save lives by immediately ending support for these brutal regimes. But for US administrations, both Democratic and Republican, arms sales appear to trump liberation. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute documented that Washington accounted for 54 percent of arms sales to Persian Gulf states between 2005 and 2009.
Last September, The Financial Times reported that the US had struck deals to provide Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Oman with $123 billion worth of arms. The repressive monarchy of Saudi Arabia accounts for over half that figure, with it set to receive $67 billion worth of weapons, including 84 F-15 jets, 70 Apache gunships, 72 Black Hawk helicopters, 36 light helicopters and thousands of laser-guided smart bombs – the largest weapons deal in US history.
Instead of forking over $150 million a day to the weapons industry to attack Libya or selling $67 billion in weapons to the Saudis so they can repress not just their own people, but those of Bahrain, we – the ones being asked to forgo Social Security to help pay for empire – should demand those who purport to represent us in Washington stop arming dictators in our name. That might drain some bucks from the merchants of death, but it would give nonviolent protesters throughout the Middle East a fighting chance to liberate themselves.
The US government need not drop a single bomb in the Middle East to help liberate oppressed people. All it need do is stop selling bombs to their oppressors.