The US as a merchant of death

The US government has just agreed to a massive $38 billion dollar aid package to Israel, the largest in history even as the Netanyahu government pursues its apartheid policies against the Palestinians with increasing vigor, as it often does during US election season when all the media attention is focused on the foolishness of the campaign.

This money will include Israeli purchase of American missile defense systems—a shield against attack. But this is not what defines the deal. The money will mainly go to Israel’s offensive military capacity that includes weapon systems used against Palestinians—particularly in the frequent attacks by Israel on Gaza. The ‘aid’ package is not only for Israel—which benefits greatly from this largess—but it will be a massive boondoggle for US arms manufacturers. The United States taxpayer will pay Israel $38 billion so that Israel has to turn around and buy weapons systems from the US weapons monopoly firms. This is a cozy agreement, which benefits Israel and the weapons dealers but not the US taxpayer and not the Palestinians. They are the ones who lose.

For the record, each US taxpayer will be paying over $300 per head to the Israelis and the arms industry. Scare resources in this country will go, essentially, towards the illegal Occupation of the Palestinians.

The US government has also agreed to a massive arms deal with Saudi Arabia.

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.

In the September 2016 issue of Harper’s magazine (subscription required), Andrew Cockburn writes about how the US is adding and abetting the slaughter taking place in Yemen by Saudi Arabia since March 2015, courtesy of weapons provided largely by the US, that “has destroyed warehouses, factories, power plants, ports, hospitals, water tanks, gas stations, and bridges, along with miscellaneous targets ranging from donkey carts to wedding parties to archaeological monuments.” It should be noted that Yemen was one of the poorest countries in the world even before this onslaught began.

Thousands of civilians— no one knows how many— have been killed or wounded. Along
with the bombing, the Saudis have enforced a blockade, cutting off supplies of food, fuel, and medicine. A year and a half into the war, the health system has largely broken down, and much of the country is on the brink of starvation.

This rain of destruction was made possible by the material and moral support of the United States, which supplied most of the bombers, bombs, and missiles required for the aerial onslaught. (Admittedly, the United Kingdom, France, and other NATO arms exporters eagerly did their bit.) U.S. Navy ships aided the blockade. But no one that I talked to in Washington suggested that the war was in any way necessary to our national security. The best answer I got came from Ted Lieu, a Democratic congressman from California who has been one of the few public officials to speak out about the devastation we were enabling far away. “Honestly,” he told me, “I think it’s because Saudi Arabia asked.”

So while president Obama garners praise for his faint acknowledgment of the massive and cruel US bombing of another wretchedly poor country (Laos) over a half-century ago, there is silence over his current collusion with Saudi Arabia in their treatment of Yemen and the appalling Israeli treatment of Palestinians. Such is the selective compassion of our Nobel Peace Prize winning president.

There have been some congressional efforts to stop the military to Saudi Arabia but of course nothing similar about the Israeli arms deal, though both are terrible.


  1. aashiq says

    Perpetual war benefits the arms industry. The difference between Israel and Saudi Arabia is that you can criticize Saudi Arabia openly, but not Israel, which is considered some kind of sacred object. Glenn Greenwald has numerous articles on this, here is the latest:

    A way to look at this is to think of Israel as a colonial power which has effectively colonized the US foreign policy establishment. There is a history of small countries colonizing big countries, for example England and India. It is in the colonizers interest to minimize overhead and focus on what they really need.

    In Israel’s case, they need money, weapons, and Americans to launch wars in the Mideast to pacify their neighborhood (paid for by the US, in blood and treasure). Seems to be working so far!

  2. says

    The aid packages are tricky; it may bear researching. Basically, they are a hand-out to defense contractors. Usually they are tied to expenditures in the US -- so, it’s billions of dollars but they must be spent with General Dynamics or Northrup or whoever. It’s a way of moving pork from one pocket to the other.

    But no matter how you slice it, it’s a great big gift of the taxpayers’ money. Cha-CHING!!!!!

    It’s almost trumpian. Except Trump would make it go into his pocket.

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