Weapons

Follow the Weapon Trade

The U.S. provided nearly half of the conventional weapons sold to developing nations in 2005, according to the "Conventional Arms Transfers to Developing Nations" report that is prepared every eight years for Congress. The U.S. is the only country that has two distinct accounting systems for exporting weapons: government-to-government and commercial. There is no official data on commercial sales, and exporters are not required to report sales contract data to the U.S. Department of State. The following information concerns government-to-government sales:

  • $44.2 billion: The total value of all arms transfer agreements worldwide (to both developed and developing nations) in 2005
     
  • $30.2 billion: The value of all arms transfer agreements with developing nations in 2005, the highest annual total since 1998.
     
  • 35.5 percent: U.S. share of all developing world arms transfer agreements in 2004. It dropped to 20.5 percent in 2005 (possibly due to an increase in U.S. subcontracting of arms sales to private companies).
     
  • $5.2 billion: The value of Egypt's purchase agreements of U.S. arms from 2002 to 2005. In the same period, Saudi Arabia's purchase agreement totaled $4.2 billion and Israel's $2.5 billion.

Source: "Conventional Arms Transfers to Developing Nations, 1998-2005," by the Congressional Research Service.

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Sojourners Magazine March 2007
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News Bites

  • Irony Alert. U.K.-based arms manufacturer BAE Systems is going "green." BAE stopped using depleted uranium in its bombs and is closing its DU munitions plant; it's now making lead-free bullets. "Lead used in ammunition can harm the environment and pose a risk to people," noted BAE's corporate responsibility statement.
  • Life Choices. The National Council of Churches USA released a new policy statement on human biotechnologies, titled "Fearfully and Wonderfully Made." It affirms the sanctity of all life and denounces human reproductive cloning, but acknowledges differences among members on stem cell research.
  • Nordic Track. Norway made a unilateral move in October to cancel $80 million in illegitimate debt owed to it by five developing countries. Claiming "co-responsibility" for the development failures that created the debt, Norway's minister of international development hoped the cancellation would "give rise to an international debate on lender responsibility."
  • Jesus-Free. The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom wrote the U.S. Department of State in November with grave concerns about the status of Iraqi religious minorities forced to flee Iraq because of the war. Christians, who are 3 percent of Iraq's population, make up 40 percent of the refugees, according to the commission.
  • Women Priests. Using symbols of ashes and bread, Catholic women celebrated an "irregular" Mass outside the Baltimore Basilica to press the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, whose annual meeting was held nearby, to ordain women to the priesthood.
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    Sojourners Magazine February 2007
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    Let Them Eat Guns?

    The recently released 2005 yearbook from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute reviews armament, disarmament, and international security. At its release a spokesperson for the institute said, “Today’s world cannot be secure without security for all, yet the events of the past few years have done little to bring global solutions closer.”

    World military expenditure exceeded $1 trillion in 2004. The United States accounted for 47 percent of this spending.

  • $238 billion. Appropriations for the “war on terror” for 2003–05, which exceeded the combined military spending of the entire developing world in 2004 ($214 billion).

  • $236 billion. The combined arms sales of the top 100 companies in 2003. The top five companies accounted for 44 percent of this total.

  • $2.5 billion per year: The external funding required by 47 countries with the lowest primary school completion rates in order to achieve the Millennium Development Goal of universal primary education.

  • $2.4 billion per year: The cost to halve the number of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water.
  • Source: “SIPRI Pocket Yearbook 2005” (Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, 2005); “Achieving Education for All by 2015” (World Bank, 2002); “The Unbreakable Link” (Jubilee Research at the New Economics Foundation, 2002).

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    Sojourners Magazine January 2006
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    Weapons of Mass Deception

    The failure to discover weapons of mass destruction in Iraq has exposed the lie at the heart of the Bush administration's case for war. It is part of a much deeper web of deceit that underlies U.S. policy in Iraq.

    Prior to the war the president repeatedly claimed, as he said two days before the invasion, that "the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised." After months of searching hundreds of suspected sites, U.S. occupying forces have found no evidence that the alleged stockpiles actually exist, just as U.N. inspectors found no prohibited weapons in the months leading up to war.

    Iraq's rapid collapse in battle was enough to disprove the claim of military menace. Far from being a massively armed colossus bent on aggression, Iraq turned out to be an ill-equipped and impoverished country, lacking in advanced weaponry and unable to defend itself against U.S. and British assault.

    The administration systematically ignored evidence disproving its case for war. It refused to acknowledge the combined effects of the first Gulf war and 12 years of punishing sanctions, which severely limited Iraq's military capabilities. It denied the successful results of the first U.N. disarmament commission, from 1991 to 1998, and rebuffed the renewed monitoring effort that began in December 2002. And, as the administration finally admitted, it ignored its own intelligence agencies to trumpet forged "evidence" of alleged uranium imports from Africa.

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    Sojourners Magazine September-October 2003
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    Killing Our Own

    A 2001 U.S. Army Audit Agency report revealed that U.S. armed forces are unprepared for encountering chemical and biological weapons. In addition, a 2002 General Accounting Office assessment stated "serious problems still persist" with the Pentagon's efforts to protect soldiers from these weapons. As the U.S. military prepares for a second Gulf war, perhaps they should keep in mind the following statistics.

    436,000 U.S. troops in the 1991 Gulf war were exposed to areas contaminated by more than 315 tons of depleted uranium radioactive toxic waste.

    250,000 troops received the drug pyridostigmine bromide, which a Pentagon-funded Rand Corporation study "cannot rule out" as linked to Gulf war illnesses.

    140,000 U.S. soldiers were exposed to low levels of the nerve agent sarin because they were downwind when U.S. troops blew up Iraqi rockets.

    90 percent of the Army's chemical arms monitoring equipment may not be fully operational.

    62 percent of the U.S. Army's gas masks may be defective.

    Source: U.S. Army Audit Agency, Department of Defense, and the Veterans Administration.

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    Sojourners Magazine January-February 2003
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    Arms Are For Hugging

    Weapons sales to developing countries last year reached their lowest level in eight years, according to a new report by the Congressional Research Service. In 2001, the United States was the biggest international arms dealer, followed by Russia. Among "developing" countries, according to the report, Israel, China, and Egypt were the biggest buyers. Persian Gulf states were among the biggest purchasers of weapons worldwide. The numbers show, however, that the total arms trade has fallen from a high in 2000 of more than $40 billion worldwide to $26.4 billion in 2001.

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    Sojourners Magazine November-December 2002
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    Small Arms x 500 Million

    While the U.S. government condemns the weapons programs of impoverished nations such as Iraq and North Korea, it remains a world leader in the production and sale of small arms and light weapons-and a rogue state in its opposition to measures limiting their proliferation. Of the 49 conflicts during the 1990s, 46 were fought primarily with small arms, resulting in four million deaths-90 percent of which were civilians; and of those, 80 percent were women and children. The light weight and easy availability of small arms also facilitates the use of child soldiers.

    This magnitude of suffering has led U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan to dub the 500 million small arms circulating globally "weapons of mass destruction." At the recent U.N. conference on small arms, the World Council of Churches' Salpy Eskidjian pressed for "programs to reverse cultures of violence and to create cultures of peace." Outside the conference, protesters challenged U.S. obstructionism on the issue. "Unless the U.S. changes its position on the production and sale of firearms," said activist Lora Lumpe, "there will be no progress locally and globally."

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    Sojourners Magazine November-December 2001
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    A Move to Ban Cluster Bombs

    The movement against land mines has achieved moderate success since the mine ban treaty became international law in March 1999. Though some signatories continue to use mines and an estimated 250 million remain stockpiled, trade in the weapon has nearly ceased and some 22 million have been destroyed.

    Now movements are forming against another indiscriminate killer: cluster bombs. Dropped from planes, these weapons release many smaller "bomblets" over a large area. These bomblets are brightly colored, and often attractive to unsuspecting children who comprise a large number of the 151 civilians killed by them in Kosovo in the last year. By NATO's estimates, 10 percent of the 290,000 bomblets dropped on Kosovo remain unexploded.

    Mennonite Central Committee decried the weapons, saying, "Cluster munitions are so abhorrent, so inherently indiscriminate, and so likely to cause unnecessary suffering that they should be banned." The Red Cross has also called for a moratorium on cluster bombs.

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    Sojourners Magazine November-December 2000
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    Clean Cruelty

    "I agree with you that we should not house juveniles with adults in prison," said the caller to a radio talk show on which I had been explaining Amnesty International's recent report on juvenile justice in the United States. "You're right that they're likely to be raped in there and in my opinion rape is too good for them. Instead we should chop off two fingers at their first offense, chop off a hand at the second, and chop off their heads at a third."

    I have learned to expect anything on talk radio, but what was remarkable about this caller's comment was not just its bloodthirstiness. What was unusual was that the sentiment had been stated so forthrightly. For while the United States does indeed remain an extraordinarily violent society, we expend a great deal of energy attempting to cloak that violence in the raiment of respectability—the mythos of Americans as civilized, God-fearing people, slow to anger, reluctant to commit aggression. And nowhere is that self-image more pervasive than in the U.S. criminal justice system itself.

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    Sojourners Magazine March-April 1999
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    U.S. Subject of Canadian Weapons Search

    During the stand-off between the United States and Iraq over that country’s suspected possession of chemical and biological weapons, a Canadian delegation entered Washington state to conduct their own search for "weapons of mass destruction" held by the United States.

    On February 26, Libby Davies, a member of the Canadian Parliament from Vancouver, led a "Citizens’ Weapons Inspection Team" made up of community and church leaders to search for U.S. weapons of mass destruction suspected to be deployed in Washington at the Bangor submarine base. The Puget Sound base is the home port of nuke-carrying Trident submarines.

    "Canada should play the role of peacemaker by working to ensure that all weapons of mass destruction are banned," said Davies. "Our team will begin by inspecting the country which possesses thousands of the most deadly weapons ever created—nuclear weapons." The Canadians were also making a statement against their own country’s support of the U.S. threat to bomb Iraq.

    Though the team was granted access to the site by the base commander, the invitation was overturned by a superior officer. Analysts suspect that 1,600 active nuclear weapons are based in Washington—more than in Britain, China, France (and Iraq) combined.

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    Sojourners Magazine May-June 1998
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