U.S. Promotes Violence around the World

By McGivern, Mary Ann | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), August 5, 1997 | Go to article overview

U.S. Promotes Violence around the World


McGivern, Mary Ann, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


The good news is that military spending is down. Ninety nations have reduced their forces since 1990. The bad news is that, despite procurement cuts and base closings, U.S. military spending, which accounts for a third of the world's outlays, stands at $496.6 billion - about 7 percent of the gross domestic product.

There is worse news. The U.S. arms industry is offsetting procurement cuts in the armed forces by aggressive marketing of high-tech weaponry to foreign customers. The Commerce, State and Defense departments spend about $2.6 billion a year subsidizing these foreign arms transfers - in addition to foreign military aid - by lending equipment and transporting it to arms bazaars, by staffing trade missions and through loan guarantees.

The military services themselves also compete vigorously in the weapons market, selling used and unneeded equipment, because income from these sales is off-budget and allows some non-congressionally-approved purchases.

Besides all this, the Pentagon receives a 3 percent cut on every foreign arms sale it negotiates on behalf of the manufacturers.

This military-industrial complex is now orchestrating huge lobbying efforts to market a new level of weapons technology throughout Latin America. Opponents object to these sales because of the human rights violations of some of the would-be purchasers and because introducing new military equipment will heighten regional arms races.

The arms dealers say that if we don't sell weapons, others will. They have distorted the export figures to South America, saying that they lost $4 billion in potential sales in this region to France. But the majority of the French sales were 15 years ago. According to the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency's "World Military Expenditures and Arms Transfers 1995," France actually sold only 30 combat aircraft to Latin America between 1983 and 1994 while the U.S. sold 196.

The above is all bad news, but the worst news is that U.S. military spending will probably increase significantly in the new millennium. Congress has made a commitment to spend nearly a trillion dollars building a new joint-force strike fighter because, as one Air Force officer said off the record to corporate procurement officers at a meeting in 1993, "It would be tragic for our children to defend this country in fighter planes designed in the `70s."

Edward Teller is leading the renewed call for a Star Wars system, this time to protect us from asteroids. Smarter landmines that can be seeded from the air and monitored by satellite are on the drawing boards.

The Defense Mapping Agency continues, even while layoffs are in progress, to translate the entire surface of the world into numbers at points probably 10 feet apart. This digitalization process means the agency is entering altitude, average daily temperatures, and numerical codes for buildings, trees, and water, as well as latitude and longitude, into a computer.

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