Banking on War
By William Rivers Pitt
t r u t h o u t | Perspective
Wednesday 02 August 2006
Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.
- Dwight D. Eisenhower
Only the dead, said Plato, have seen the end of war. As true as this may be, it does beg the question: why? Why is there so much conflict in the world? Why are there so many wars? Ethnic and religious tensions have been casis belli since time out of mind, to be sure. The collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War ruptured a framework that held for almost fifty years, bringing about a series of conflicts that are understandable in hindsight.
There is a simpler answer, however, one that lands right in our back yard here in America. George W. Bush and his people can hold forth about the wonders of democracy and peace, and can condemn worldwide violence in solemn tones. Until the United States stops being the world's largest arms dealer, these words from our government absolutely reek of hypocrisy.
Mr. Bush and his people did not invent this phenomenon, of course. The United States has been selling hundreds of billions of dollars worth of weapons to the world for decades. In the aftermath of September 11, however, American arms dealing kicked into an even higher gear.
One example is , a nation with an astonishingly deplorable record of human rights violations. Thousands of people have been imprisoned and tortured for purely political reasons, and hundreds more have been killed. Still, that nation received
The Associated Press reported last week that business for the arms industry is, to make a bad pun, booming. "Northrop Grumman, the world's largest shipbuilder and America's third-largest military contractor," reported the AP, "said , as operating profit at its systems and information technology units overcame a decline at the company's ships division. Raytheon Co., the fifth-largest defense contractor, reported , buoyed by strong military equipment sales."
Beyond the missiles and the tanks and the warplanes, there is the . This is, comprehensively, far more deadly than the large-arms sales being made. A report by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences describes the deadly situation:
Since the end of the cold war, from the Balkans to East Timor and throughout Africa, the world has witnessed an outbreak of ethnic, religious and sectarian conflict characterized by routine massacre of civilians. More than 100 conflicts have erupted since 1990, about twice the number for previous decades. These wars have killed more than five million people, devastated entire geographic regions, and left tens of millions of refugees and orphans. Little of the destruction was inflicted by the tanks, artillery or aircraft usually associated with modern warfare; rather However beneficial the end of the cold war has been in other respects, it has let loose a global deluge of surplus weapons into a setting in which the risk of local conflict appears to have grown markedly.
The Federation of American Scientists prepared a report some years ago detailing the . "In addition to sales of newly-manufactured weapons," read the report,
In the past few years (1995 - early 1998), over 300,000 rifles, pistols, machine guns and grenade launchers have been offered up, including: 158,000 M16A1 assault rifles (principally to ); 124,815 M14 rifles (principally to the ); 26,780 pistols (principally to ; 1,740 machine guns (principally to ); and 10,570 grenade launchers (principally to )."
We hear so often that this is a dangerous world. It is arguable that the world might be significantly less dangerous if the United States chose to stop lathering the planet with weapons. Much has been made, especially recently, about the billions of dollars in weapons sales offered to Israel by America. This is but the tip of the iceberg.
In the end, it is worthwhile to remember that . We can pursue cease-fire agreements, we can topple violent regimes, but until we stop loading up the planet with the means to kill, only the dead will see the end of war.
William Rivers Pitt is a New York Times and internationally bestselling author of two books: War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know and The Greatest Sedition Is Silence.