Arming the Other Seven

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In 2007 there were estimated to be 875 million firearms in circulation around the world. That’s one firearm per eight people. After our recent display of aggression towards Syria, top US executives seem to be asking one question: “How do we arm the other seven?”

To understand why we’re arming the world, we need to take a step back. Sometimes it’s hard to see just how the heck we got where we are today — just how far down the rabbit hole we really are. So let’s visit 1953. Before us, we see a United States that came out of the Second World War less than a decade ago; a United States that just elected Dwight D. Eisenhower; a United States that just spent $306,000,000,000 (~$4 trillion in 2013 US dollars) on weaponry.

If you were to walk into Ike’s oval office you might hear a lot. He might be talking about initiating the U-2 spy plane program, or he might be laughing about Truman’s toppling of Syria’s democratically elected Shukri al-Quwatli, who disagreed to a number of national decisions that may have harmed US interests in Syria (we’ll come back to this point). If you do hear these things, you’ll be in elite company, because normal US citizens didn’t get to know what their country was doing behind their, and the world’s, back.

Over the next 8 years, good ole’ Ike would proceed to set up the largest legal corruption syndicate anywhere in the world: the US Military-Industrial Complex. The Complex has, since World War 2, toppled more than 20 countries governments, attempted to topple several more, and armed tens of millions covertly (meaning without “we, the people’s” knowledge). We aren’t sure how much has been spent, because it’s “classified.” We do, however, know that in 2013 $52.8 billion dollars of covert, classified operations were conducted and left out of the general budget. We don’t know this out of the benevolent will of our Big Brother Uncle Sam, though. We only heard of it at all thanks to public enemy number one – you guessed it – Edward “aidin’ the enemy” Snowden.

But the Military-Industrial Complex wasn’t a secret. Ike, the good guy he was, even told us about it! In his farewell address he said,

“This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence – economic, political, even spiritual – is felt in every city, every Statehouse, every office of the Federal government… In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.”

Oh Ike, it’s almost like you personally signed the bill creating the thing. Oh, yeah, I almost forgot.

Eisenhower’s policies of covert operations against the USSR, its allies, and those who opposed US interests – read: oil, fruit, rubber, etc. – initiated a spending spree that, in truth, hasn’t stopped. The CIA, FBI, and a whole host of different acronyms that represented the US government benefitted hugely from a series of coup d’états and political ménage à trois. Gun manufacturers, too, scored enormously from these covert going-on’s. These manufacturers worked together with the US government encouraging subterfuge and deceit in order to incite violence across the globe, from Cuba to Somalia to the Philippines. They work together today too, in legal coalitions known as “iron triangles,” in which congressional committees work together with special interests and bureaucratic agencies to pass legislation that benefits them all – read: makes the interest group money, which the “statesmen” get a slice of.

Most of the time we, the people, don’t know about these behinds-the-scenes assassinations, bribes, or political favors. They’re kept classified because they don’t look good. They don’t look good because the only ones they benefit are the cons that approve the operations, and the cons only approve the operations because they make money off them. But I digress. There are instances wherein we learn of these operations: the Iran-Contra scandal, the Bay of Pigs invasion, Operation Cyclone. Needless to say the CIA isn’t the stealthiest organization to grace the Earth. But what does this have to do with us? What’s past is past. Why can’t we just let the US government do what they want to do and be blissfully unaware? Why, exactly, is what they’re doing a bad thing? So what if a little of our budget is taken to do some things we don’t know about? $55 billion is just a drop in the bucket.

Slow down there, buster, let’s take this one step at a time. We can jump forward a few decades from the reign of Ike the tyke, though. Let’s join Ronald Reagan, rex stultum, in 1981. Operation Cyclone has just begun in Uncle Stan’s favorite summer getaway: Afghanistan. The poor country it was, Afghanistan had fallen under the sway of the single most evil force on Earth. That’s right; we’re talking about the USSR. That’s how the US government would have told the story, at least. The Communist government in Afghanistan was attempting to combat a religiously motivated rebellion and having a hard time, which isn’t surprising, considering these radical Muslims were being funded by the richest country in the world: the United States of America. That’s right; the same country that spent trillions thirty years later combatting these Muslim “terrorists” 30 years later funded their ascent to power. “Why did we fund them?” you might ask. The answer is a simple one. We gave money to anyone who would buy our guns and shoot them at The Reds’ heads.

But the story does not end there. In fact, it gets much better. While we’re doling out millions to put murderers in Afghanistan, – who we would later call “threats to democracy” – we were actively funding Iran, too. This, would you guess it, was not only against international protocol, but blatantly illegal by federal law, too. The CIA funneled arms into Iran, another country we would go to war against for housing “threats to democracy,” in the hopes that the weapons would find their way to Nicaraguan Contras, which we were also explicitly funding. These contras, or death bands, would walk through Nicaraguan streets murdering innocents by the thousands during a US funded anti-Sandinista revolution. The laundry list of crimes these contras committed is disgusting. Following are a select few from that list:

·         Targeting health care clinics and health care workers for assassination

·         Torturing and executing civilians, including children, who were captured in combat

·         Raping women

·         Indiscriminately attacking civilians

·         Burning civilian houses

“But there must have been a good reason we allowed this! Why would we support these contras, and who were they?” a sane human being might ask. The answer is even more absurd than the amount of funding – millions of US dollars – they received. The Sandinista government in Nicaragua, who they were rebelling against, supported nationalization of Nicaraguan assets, meaning Nicaraguans would own Nicaragua, and this would cost US companies some of their profits. Nicaragua, you see, was a “banana republic,” a country owned by super-rich US multinational corporations that extracted everything of value, which, to be fair, wasn’t much, to turn a profit. These profits were worth, apparently, hundreds of thousands of US governmental money – read: taxpayer dollars – and just as many Nicaraguan lives. The question of who these contras actually were, though, is more interesting. The contras were made up of émigrés – businessmen and professionals by US claim, mercenaries by the claim of anyone with some sense – who fought for US interests and many of whom found themselves in positions of military power after the revolution forced premature “elections.” Who would allow this corrupt, illegal, and immoral weapons trade? One need only look to Ronaldus Maximus and his cabinet, who authorized payment of $120,000, for example, for the assassination of Archbishop Romero of El Salvador, and the transfer of thousands of assault rifles through Israel to Iran. It’s so ironic; it almost like someone wrote a bad military drama. You couldn’t make this stuff up.

But we’re getting off track here, so, if you don’t mind, lets quickly rewind to the Truman Era. Our destination: Syria. Husni al-Zaim, the Syrian head of military, has met 6 times with the CIA, explicitly stating his desire to seize power from the civilian government that has recently declared Syria’s independence and democratically elected a president. The CIA give him the go-ahead, and the promise of diplomatic support, kicking off the bloodless 1949 Syrian coup d’état. Already hardly stable, Syria becomes a battleground, coup after coup, government fall after government fall. The country is destabilized after a remarkably democratic, albeit short-lived, independence thanks to US influence. This destabilization still exists, and one can see it in the recent Syrian affair. Syria, a war zone for a substantial part of the past half-century, has made billions for US gun companies, which have supplied a large portion of the arms utilized to overthrow these governments. And if you thought one revolution was violent, just wait until your country goes through four in less than twenty years. It’s a military contractor’s dream.

The destabilized country finds tentative peace between 1970 and 2011, but like many things in the middle east, it is brought down in the Arab Spring. This takes us to 2013. We find that revolution is again overtaking Syria; the rebels armed and funded by – you guessed it – the United States. This revolution doesn’t benefit the citizens of Syria, it doesn’t benefit the government of Syria, and it sure doesn’t benefit the stability of the Middle East, so who, exactly, benefits from it? The US military-industrial complex does, of course. Oh, and the militant Islamic radicals – who were our enemy, literally, months ago – that we’re arming. The US is still fighting the good fight, working its hardest to arm the other seven.

Aleppo, 2013, during the US-backed Syrian Revolution

And though it may seem impossible, we, the people, can work to stop it. However much the US government may try to deny the fact (see: Barack Obama’s quote, “I was elected to end wars, not start them, but…”) that the constituents dictate policy, it doesn’t change the fact that we elect them. Stopping the global gun trade is a long, hard battle, but you can lend a hand in it. You won’t even get shot at! Phone your local legislators. Representative, senators, the president, it doesn’t matter. Tell somebody in office to stop arming people just to arm them. Every senator and representative has someone reading through every email, listening to every voicemail, and opening every letter they get, so make your voice heard. Every civilian shot with a US gun sold illegally or immorally is blood on our hands. It’s time we stop enabling murderers around the globe. It’s time the US stops being the world’s dealer. Get the word out. Don’t arm the other seven.

For more information about the arms trade, visit Amnesty International’s Arms Trade Page or watch Democracy Now’s film “Harvest of Empire.”

by Benjamin Fechter

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