A Plea to Limit Arms Transfers

Article excerpt

The traditional season of "Peace on Earth" has officially begun. But events in Somalia, Bosnia, Haiti and, yes, even here at home give us reason for pause. Daily newspapers bombard us with images of young men toting machine guns, ruins of demolished homes, maimed children, thin mothers holding starving infants and rows of half-naked corpses. Violence is plaguing us - our nation and our world.

With the end of the Cold War, we all hoped for cessation of conflict among nations. Instead, approximately two dozen wars have been in progress at any given time in the post-Cold War era. Is this our concern, here in Missouri?

The United States is still the world's No. 1 merchant of conventional arms, with 56.8 percent of all the world's arms deals in 1992. We're first in total sales! And we have averaged $15.6 billion a year in agreements to sell conventional weapons to developing countries - more than all other countries combined. These huge sales were not to our allies. They went to countries with an undemocratic form of government - governments that may appear friendly one instant, and turn into an enemy the next. The horrific lesson we learned in Panama, the Persian Gulf and Somalia is that in this era of uncontrolled arms sales, our very own U.S. soldiers may find themselves in a foreign country facing "Made in the U.S.A." weapons provided or financed by their own government.

Two years ago a report from the congressional Office of Technology Assessment warned that the United States was losing control of the weapons it sold, pointing out, "There can be no assurance that the weapons we and our allies make available to our friends today will not be used against us tomorrow." The tragic deaths of American soldiers in Somalia bring this home. It is not unlikely that they were the victims of American arms and ammunition provided by the U.S. government to the repressive regime of Siad Barre during the 1980s.

Can anyone deny that the international conventional-weapons trade increases the risk of additional violence in an already overmilitarized world? …


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