Thursday, August 27, 2015

Arms Are for Hugging

Arms are for hugging. At least, they should be. But Oscar Arias Sanchez, former President of Costa Rica and Nobel Peace Prize winner notes that arms are also killing us.Oscar Arias Sanchez
He just published this opinion piece to accompany the First Conference of States Parties to the Arms Trade Treaty (CancĂșn, Mexico,  August 24-27th, 2015).
Throughout modern history, we have, in effect, told the children of the world that while we will regulate the international trade in food and textiles and any other product under the sun, we are not interested in regulating the international trade in deadly weapons”.

We just recently passed the 70th anniversary of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings, Most of us with a pulse realize the world is poised to enter into a nuclear arms agreement with Iran, if the U.S. Congress doesn't subvert diplomacy. Yet there comes news this week also of yet other 'illegal' arms being used in Yemen. The U.S. supplied cluster bombs to Saudi Arabia, which is not a signatory to the Convention on Cluster Munitions. And of course, they are using them in opposition to the treaty.

In fact, as defense analyst William Hartung noted "the volume of major deals concluded by the Obama administration in its first five years exceeds the amount approved by the Bush administration in its full eight years in office by nearly $30 billion." This is the legacy of a Nobel Peace Prize winner? Hartung was reporting before the announcement earlier this month that the US was speeding up arm sales to the Gulf States. Hartung , in a piece published in Foreign Policy this year shared more insights into the growth in the arms trade, calling the Iran negotiations an "Arms Fair".

The latest data available from SIPRI - Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, five of the top six arms manufacturers are US based multinational corporations. Names familiar to most of us including Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon, Northop Grumman, and General Dynamics accounted for more than $120 billion in 2013, the last year for which data is available. The stakes are high and President Eisenhower warned us more than 50 years ago about the power of the "military industrial complex". No doubt, it is alive and well and driving foreign policy here and abroad. 

Oxfam reported recently, while calling for implementation of the International Arms Trade Treaty, that armed violence in Africa alone costs the continent $18 billion a year, the rough equivalent of the total amount of foreign aid they receive.

All this paints a backdrop for the debate over the Iran Nuclear Agreement reached with Britain, China, France, Germany Russia and the U.S. One side you have the Israeli government and its supporters declaring that to agree to this pact is the death to Israel. Of course, Netanyahu, the Israeli President has been making much the same claim for 20 years. Richard Falk, eminent international legal scholar exposes that narrative in a blogpost  last month. 

The fear mongering of those opposed to the agreement, and even some of the supporters, is wildly speculative. Iran is depicted as the axis of evil while Saudi Arabia gets a pass on their behavior towards both their citizens and neighbors, behavior that is arguably worse on both counts. And almost everyone agrees that the failure of this agreement would bring an escalation in violence, instability, and yes, of course arms sales!!!!

Which nations have nuclear weapons now and do they all allow 24x7 inspection of their nuclear facilities by the IAEA? I think we know the answer. Double standards based on raising fear levels escalates the manufacture, sale and use of arms. Let's not let diplomacy get in the way of that. president Eisenhower must be shaking his head and saying, "I told you so."

Let's move beyond the Iran nuclear agreement and get an arms reduction agreement for all arms and use our real arms for hugging and shaking hands.