Monday, April 20, 2015

American Exceptionalism: Part II

The United Nations Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), regulating the international trade in conventional arms -- from small arms to battle tanks, combat aircraft and warships -- entered into force on Christmas Eve, December 24, 2014. It had been signed by 130 countries (including the U.S.) and ratified by 60, ten more than it needed to become effective. The United States was not, however, among the countries that ratified the ATT.

The treaty establishes standards for the global trade in conventional weapons, with the goal of preventing such weapons from being sold to those who would use them to commit genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. Congressional Republicans were strongly opposed to the global treaty. You might even say they were up in arms about it. In fact, 50 senators sent President Obama a letter expressing their opposition to the ATT, including every Republican except one, plus five Democrats worried about backlash from the NRA.

Some have called for the Obama Administration to "unsign" the treaty; something George W. Bush did in 2002 when he renounced U.S. obligations as a signatory to the 1998 Rome Statute that established the International Criminal Court (ICC). It was just as well that he did so, given the recently released Senate Report on the Bush Administration's execrable program of torture and extraordinary rendition during the Iraq War. Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Tenet in the dock at the ICC at The Hague might cast an unfavorable light on America's human rights record.

But I digress. This little essay is about how Congressional Republicans, concerned more about currying favor with arms dealers, legal and illegal, and the broader Military Industrial Complex, along with their NRA quislings, have, with malice aforethought, killed any attempt to reign in the international arms trade. Their intransigence has doomed untold millions of people from Syria to Nigeria and beyond to death and destruction. On the other hand, it has made millionaires and billionaires of people like Adan Khashoggi, and Pierre Konrad Dadak, who threatened to put anyone who crossed him, "in a jar."

Overseas weapons sales by the United States comprise more than three-quarters of the global arms market, valued at $85.3 billion in 2011. America is without peer when it comes to supplying the world, especially developing countries, with the means to murder, maim, and mutilate. And in this, we are speaking only of reported arms sales. Illegal trafficking of firearms -- the weapons that end up in the bloody hands of Boko Haram, Al-Shabaab, Al-Qa'ida, and the ever popular Islamic State -- very probably rivals that of the legal trade. The bottom line is the bottom line, i.e., we are dealing with a hugely profitable business.
Republicans have always been known as the party of big business. And the arms trade is just that. Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Boeing are far and away the top three arms-producing companies in the world. In fact, the United States has a larger share of the worldwide arms market than the rest of the world combined and double the market share of all of the Western Europe OECD combined. Indeed, in this respect, America is exceptional.

Republicans argue that America’s arms trade is part and parcel of the implementation of its foreign policy, and should not be subject to the whims of a U.N. secretariat consisting of a ‘bunch of foreigners.’ In this regard, the non-partisan Congressional Research Service has said,
"Whereas the principal motivation for arms sales by key foreign suppliers in earlier years might have been to support a foreign policy objective, today that motivation may be based as much, if not more, on economic considerations as those of foreign or national security policy."
Still, Republicans have other reasons besides money and money to rail against the treaty. Listen to their ‘speechifying’ on the Senate floor and you’ll hear them lament a further intrusion into the inalienable rights of “patriotic Americans” -- the Arms Trade Treaty violates our Second Amendment right to “keep and bear arms.” Top NRA lobbyist Chris Cox said the treaty represents, "blatant attacks on the constitutional rights and liberties of every law-abiding American." The thing is, that’s just not true. No international treaty overrides our Constitution. Period. So the Second Amendment argument is bogus and that brings us back to the real argument, MONEY. Republicans value money. Life? Not so much.
ISIS Mass Execution. Where do they get their weapons?

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