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The U.S. Industrial Military Complex and Growing Weapons Industry

By Jehron Muhammad | Last updated: Sep 25, 2018 - 12:34:22 PM

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A new report produced by the peace group Codepink covers how U.S. military weapons, contractors, arm repressive regimes indicts the Egyptian military for using American-made arms to overthrow a fledgling effort at democracy by the Egyptian people in 2011. The army massacred, one report suggests, as many as 2,600 Egyptians in Cairo’s Rabaa Square. This was called the deadliest massacre of peaceful protesters anywhere since China’s massacre in Tiananmen Square in 1989 and the White South African apartheid regime’s 1976 slaughter of as many as 700 Black Sowetan school children.  

The report is titled “War Profiteers: The U.S. War Machine and the Arming of Repressive Regimes.” It says the military-industrial complex fuels endless wars for corporate profits and includes five of the largest U.S. weapons manufacturers and their arms deals with Saudi Arabia, Israel, and Egypt. The military weapons manufacturers include Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon, Northrop Grumman and General Dynamics. 

U.S. Marines prepare for missions in northern Syria Mar. 24, 2017. Photo: MGN Online

According to Madea Benjamin, co-founder of Codepink, and the human rights organization Global Exchange, who co-authored the report, out of the three countries only Saudi Arabia actually purchases weapons from U.S. weapons contractors. Egypt and Israel’s weapons are paid for by “our tax dollars.” 

She told the Baltimore-based Real News Network, “It’s where our tax dollars are going to the weapons industries, then being funneled into those countries to be used for repressive attacks against either their own people or neighboring countries.” 

A case in point: On top of having extensive ties with Israel and being a major arms supplier to Saudi Arabia, Raytheon was awarded a $9.9 million contract via the U.S. Department of Defense to assist Egypt in researching and developing technology to “detect tunnels between Sinai and Gaza. Raytheon called this their ‘Seismic and Acoustic Vibration Imaging program,’ ” which used lasers to detect vibrations in the ground and reveal the location of tunnels.

This resulted in the Egyptian military between July 2013 and August 2015 carrying out mass home demolitions, razing hundreds of acres of farmland “and forcibly evicting 3,200 families from their homes in the Sinai Peninsula, on the pretext of eliminating tunnels between Sinai and Gaza. The Egyptian government did this giving no previous warnings to evictions and offering no temporary housing, providing wholly inadequate compensation, and offered no effective access to justice as it cleared this so-called buffer zone along its border with Gaza.”

Immediately following the coup of a democratically-elected government, the U.S. stopped military weapons deliveries to Egypt. But this was just temporary. Benjamin, who had lobbied to keep U.S. companies from selling weapons to coup regimes, which is supposed to be “prohibited,” said, “We were told … these are contracts that the U.S. government enters into with the companies. And so no matter what happens in a place like Egypt, they still have to honor those contracts. And so after a short halt in the weapons sales, the restrictions were lifted, and the companies began selling once again to the coup regime in Egypt.”


“So it’s important to understand that while we were selling to countries that violate international law, it is also a violation of our own domestic law, which says we can’t sell to countries where war crimes are being committed,” she added. 

The United States is the world’s largest exporter of military weapons, and its weapons industry represents the world’s largest weapons manufacturing industry. In 2015 U.S. global weapons signing deals were for $40 billion, far ahead of France, the world’s number two weapons dealer with $15 billion.

The U.S. is one of the only countries in the world with a military large enough to support a private weapons industry. This is because of its large budget, only second to Social Security. Estimated military spending is $892 billion a year. That’s from the spending bill signed by President Trump on Aug. 13, 2018. It covers the period Oct. 1, 2018 through Sept. 30, 2019. That is why war, or military action often wins out over negotiations. The State Department, the U.S. government’s chief negotiator, has a budget of a paltry $28.3 billion.   

According to the Congressional Research Service, last year Egypt received $1.4 billion in foreign assistance from the U.S., much paid in military weapons. This year the president is requesting the same amount in military and economic aid to Egypt.

 Benjamin told The Real News Network that during the Obama years, the administration became uneasy seeing American troops coming home in body bags. She continued, “As he had promised that he was going to wind down the wars, it moved into a different kind of war making. And it’s not only the use of drone warfare special operations, but it’s also using proxy wars,” or contracting out U.S. military operations. This removed the American public’s shared experience “in which citizens see the consequences of war illustrated by departing troops in uniforms and flag-draped coffins,” according to sociologist Katherine McCoy, writing in Contexts magazine.

The report suggests the difference in today’s U.S. arms exports and those of the 1990s is “the U.S. is not supplying these weapons to allies like Israel, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and other Arab monarchies for defensive purposes. Just as the U.S. has used its own war machine to commit aggression around the world since the 1980s, and more systematically since 2001, it now sells offensive weapons to its allies with the clear, if unspoken, understanding that they will use them to attack and threaten their neighbors, thereby expanding the U.S.’s aggressive war policy by proxy.”

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