WHEN CONGRESS RETURNS from its month-long vacation in September, President Bush will ask members to agree to a package of more than $63 billion in military aid and weapons to our "allies" in the Middle East. Why such generosity? Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice explains that the money will "bolster forces of moderation and support a broader strategy to counter the negative influences of al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, Syria and Iran."
Anthony DiMaggio, professor of Middle East politics at Illinois State University, finds this a spurious argument. He writes that although "the aid initiative has been billed in the media as a major effort to stem terrorism, promote stability, and further cement American power in the region, ... there is no available evidence suggesting that states like Iran or Syria have plans to attack any American allies in the region" (Counterpunch, August 5).
It is wrong to claim that Israel, Egypt and Saudi Arabia face an immediate threat from Iran; they do not, except in the minds of the people who brought us the Iraq war. Nor could Hamas and Hezbollah be described as regional threats. Their quarrels with Israel are as political factions fighting for their share of political power.
Through this aid package the U.S. seeks to extend hegemony over the oil-rich region and benefit loyal U.S. allies. Boston Globe columnist Derrick Jackson (August 1) reports that in addition to the $30 billion scheduled for Israel over the next decade, the Bush administration wants to give $20 billion to Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, as well as $13 billion to Egypt. None of these Arab states are paragons of democratic virtue.
The cash flow to U.S. supporters in the region indicates "a bipartisan craziness that never ended despite the end of the Cold War," says Jackson. In fact, he adds, both the first President Bush and Bill Clinton aggressively promoted U.S. arms sales and raised these sales to more than twice the level of the last years of the cold war.
Why should Congress supply arms to oil-rich Saudi Arabia when the country already has more munitions than it can handle? Israeli historian and political activist Uri Avnery answers this question in his blog post "White elephants" (see www.avnery-news.co.il):
The Saudis are selling oil to the Americans for dollars.
A lot of oil, a lot of dollars. The United States,
with a huge gap in its balance of trade, cannot afford
to lose these billions. …