Jobs Are No Excuse for Arming a Murderous Regime
October 18, 2018
Sen. Rand Paul / Fox News & William D. Hartung / AntiWar.com
Commentary: If the Saudi government is indeed behind the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi there should be consequences -- political, military, economic, and repetitional. It is no surprise that we help arm, train, equip and otherwise prop up the government of Saudi Arabia. The Saudis have long bought and paid for many politicians and for an image of moderate pro-Americanism as part of the face they show the world. But this face is not reality.
Sen. Rand Paul: It's Time to Rethink America's
Relationship with Saudi Arabia -- It Is Not our Friend
Sen. Rand Paul / Fox News & AC2 News
(October 15, 2018) -- It's time to rethink America's relationship with the Saudi Kingdom.
It is no surprise to most Americans that we help arm, train, equip and otherwise prop up the government of Saudi Arabia. The Saudis have long bought and paid for many politicians and for an image of moderate pro-Americanism as part of the face they show the world.
But the face presented simply is not reality. It is time to use our leverage to force change in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. We can start by cutting off our military aid and weapons sales to the kingdom.
The killing of Saudi dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi is many things, including brutal and terrifying to those who report on the Saudis. What it also should be, in light of what it exposes about the Saudi regime, is a turning point in our relationship, where we as Americans stop and ask ourselves what we have been propping up and supporting.
The fate of Khashoggi might come as a shock to many Americans, but it's nothing new. A UN report reveals that over "3,000 allegations of torture were formally recorded" against Saudi Arabia between 2009 to 2015, according to The Guardian, with the report also noting a lack of a single prosecution of an official for the conduct.
I have been attempting to expose this for many years. Others in the US government know it, but either won't admit it or attempt to brush it aside. It's a fact that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is the largest sponsor of radical Islam on the planet, and no other nation is even close.
Since the 1980s, over $100 billion has "been spent on exporting" Wahhabism (the brand of Islam that controls Saudi Arabia and is most prevalent in madrassas). According to Foreign Policy Magazine, an "estimated 10 to 15 percent of madrassas are affiliated with extremist religious or political groups," while the number of madrassas in places like Pakistan and India has increased exponentially -- from barely 200 to over 40,000 just in Pakistan.
Even the State Department noted during the Obama administration that Saudi Arabia was the "most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide," and said Qatar and Saudi Arabia were "providing clandestine financial and logistic support to ISIL and other radical Sunni groups."
Of course, this isn't new, as the previously classified 28 pages of the 9/11 Commission report can also tell you.
The Saudis have exported this radical ideology worldwide. They have also committed war crimes in their Yemen war -- a war for which American taxpayers are being used as unwitting accomplices.
The Yemen war, fought with American weapons and logistical support, has killed tens of thousands and, according to The Washington Post, left 8 million more "on the brink of famine," in what it calls "the world's worst humanitarian crisis."
The Saudi blockade of Yemen is a large contributor. Yemen now faces what the Post also notes is "the worst cholera epidemic in history, with more than 1 million people infected."
Additionally, a UN report released Thursday states that 20 percent of civilian deaths caused by the Saudi coalition in this war are children.
Saudi Arabia also has a long record of human rights abuses, and its mistreatment of women is a matter of clear public record. But much more continues than is commonly spoken about.
According to Human Rights Watch, of over 5,000 detainees reported in a Saudi government database, over 3,300 have been held for more than six months "without a conviction or their 'case file under judicial review,' including 2,949 for more than a year and 770 for over three years."
This is a regime that also rounded up and detained 500 people in a single weekend last November on allegations of "corruption."
There is ample evidence of mass incarceration, indefinite detention, torture, and a complete lack of the rule of law and due process within Saudi Arabia. As a matter of understatement, this is antithetical to American ideals.
So what now? What do we do with this politically important country that clearly is not acting in the best interest of the US or its own citizens?
Well, we can start by cutting the Saudis off. We should not send one more dime, one more soldier, one more adviser, or one more arms deal to the kingdom.
There are those who look at this option and say: "Well, what about our jobs, and won't someone else sell the Saudis weapons?"
First, let me start with saying that is not a good enough reason to prop up the outright evil being perpetrated by the Saudis. But even accepting that, it is laughable to think that the kingdom, which has long been reliant on and trained on American military equipment, can suddenly change course.
What we have here is leverage. The Saudis need our help and weapons. And we should make sure that this need causes a change in their behavior.
It isn't enough to talk tough and then give the Saudis what they want. We have to force their hand into real reforms, internally and abroad.
With the outrage caused by their recent actions, now is the time for bipartisan corrective action.
Republican Rand Paul represents Kentucky in the United States Senate.
Jobs Are No Excuse for Arming a Murderous Regime
William D. Hartung / AntiWar.com
(October 18, 2018) -- If the Saudi government is indeed behind the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi there should be consequences -- political, military, economic, and reputational.
Unfortunately, President Trump begs to differ. His reaction to questions about whether the United States would cut off arms sales to Saudi Arabia if Riyadh is proven to be behind the killing of Khashoggi has been to say that he does not want to jeopardize the alleged $110 billion in arms deals his administration has struck with the Saudi regime, and the US jobs that come with them.
In his recent interview with CBS 60 Minutes, Trump specifically cites the needs of US weapons manufacturers as reasons to keep US arms flowing to the Saudi regime, even if it ends up being responsible for the murder of Khashoggi:
They are ordering military equipment. Everybody in the world wanted that order. Russia wanted it, China wanted it, we wanted it . . . I tell you what I don't wanna do. Boeing, Lockheed, Raytheon, all these [companies] . . . I don't wanna hurt jobs. I don't wanna lose an order like that.
Trump tells CBS's Leslie Stahl that "there are other ways of punishing" Saudi Arabia without cutting of US arms sales, but he fails to specify what those might be.
Regardless of what ultimately happened to Khashoggi, continuing US arms sales and military support to Saudi Arabia under current circumstances is immoral. Jobs should not be an excuse to arm a murderous regime that not only may be behind the assassination of a US resident and respected commentator but is responsible for thousands of civilian casualties in its three-and-one-half-year military intervention in Yemen -- the majority killed with US-supplied bombs and combat aircraft and US refueling and targeting assistance.
The Khashoggi case merely underscores the approach of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the power behind the throne in Riyadh who is the most ruthless and reckless leader in Saudi history. Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA), one of a growing list of congressional critics of the regime, has asserted that the actions of the Saudi/UAE coalition in Yemen "look like war crimes."
And the impacts go well beyond the indiscriminate air strikes that have targeted hospitals, civilian market places, funerals, a wedding, and most recently a school bus carrying 40 children.
Saudi Arabia and the UAE are also spearheading a partial blockade that has made it extremely difficult to get urgently need humanitarian assistance to Yemenis who desperately need it, putting millions of people on the brink of starvation. And their bombings of water treatment plants and other civilian infrastructure are responsible for the most serious outbreak of cholera in recent memory, a totally preventable consequence of the war.
Even if it were acceptable to favor jobs over human rights in this case, the economic benefits are in fact marginal. Trump strongly implies that if the United States were to cut off arms sales to Saudi Arabia, the $110 billion arms "deal" he has made with Riyadh would be in jeopardy.
But as the fact checker for The Washington Post has pointed out, the idea that there ever was a $110 billion arms deal is "fake news." It is a public relations figure cooked up by the Trump administration that combines offers made under the Obama administration, a few new deals, and a long wish list of sales that may never materialize.
In reality, since Trump took office, Saudi Arabia has signed commitments for about $14.5 billion in US weaponry, only slightly more than 10% of the $110 billion figure Trump boasts about at every opportunity.
To cite one pertinent example, the precision-guided bomb sale to Saudi Arabia that the Trump administration green-lighted last year will support at most a few thousand jobs in an economy that employs over 125 million people.
Military procurement generates fewer jobs than virtually any other form of economic activity, and many of the jobs associated with US arms sales are created overseas in the purchasing nation as a condition of the sale.
For example, as part of Mohammed bin Salman's much-touted economic plan, the goal is to have a full 50% of the work generated by Saudi arms imports done in the kingdom by 2030. US firms are already jumping to comply with this mandate by setting up subsidiaries in Saudi Arabia and signing off on the assembly of US-supplied weapons there.
Trump's claim that Russia or China will quickly swoop in to grab any arms deal the United States declines to conclude with the Saudi regime is also suspect. The Saudi arsenal is heavily dependent on US and UK-supplied weaponry.
It would take many years and tens of billions of dollars to change course in any meaningful way -- money that Riyadh can ill afford as it hemorrhages money for its brutal war in Yemen and tries to cope with unstable oil prices.
It's always possible that the Saudi military would make a token purchase from Russia or China to send a signal, but the idea that the United States would lose out on a huge volume of arms sales as a result is unlikely in the extreme.
There are other ways to promote jobs in the United States that do not involve accepting blood money from the Saudi regime. Congress should not be dissuaded from doing the right thing due to false claims about the economic benefits of the US-Saudi arms trade.
The ball is now in the congressional court, where bipartisan opposition to the Trump administration's cozy relationship with Saudi Arabia is growing. Most recently the House is seeking to end US support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen under the War Powers Resolution, an effort led by Mark Pocan (D-WI), Ro Khanna (D-CA), and Adam Smith (D-WA) and co-sponsored by a bipartisan group of dozens of their colleagues.
There will also be strong opposition to a long-discussed sale of precision-guided US bombs to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates once it comes up for formal consideration.
The case of Jamal Khashoggi is just one of many reasons for the United States to distance itself from the Saudi regime. The time to act is now.
William D. Hartung is the director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy and the author of Prophets of War: Lockheed Martin and the Making of the Military-Industrial Complex. Originally published in Lobelog. Reprinted with permission from Foreign Policy in Focus.
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