By Carey Wedler
In yet another example that the swamp is thriving under President Donald Trump, his administration just handed the military-industrial complex another massive win.
Reuters reported Thursday that the White House is moving to expedite arms sales and “increase the role of senior U.S. officials, including President Donald Trump, in closing foreign sales, while giving greater weight to business interests in sales decisions that have long prioritized human rights.”
The plans, which have been in the works for a year, will benefit behemoth corporate welfare beneficiaries that manufacture weapons of war, including Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, and General Dynamics. These companies have made billions of dollars off of government contracts over the course of decades and continue to invest heavily in lobbying lawmakers.
Bloomberg noted that “[t]he changes include allowing direct commercial sales that don’t have to go through the government by companies that obtain an export permit and eliminating special scrutiny of laser devices on drones that can be used for military targeting.”
According to Reuters:
Human rights will now carry equal weight alongside other considerations in planned arms sales including the needs of allied nations and the economic loss if the U.S. contractor does not win the sale when decisions are made on whether to approve an arms deal.
“This is a balanced policy,” said Ambassador Tina Kaidanow, an official with the State Department who oversees arms export agreements. “We absolutely look at human rights as one of a set of considerations that we look at.”
“The new policy retains the legally binding language that prohibits weapons transfers when there is actual knowledge that they will be used to commit war crimes,” said Brittany Benowitz, a former U.S. Senate staffer who also worked as a lawyer who human rights issues and arms transfers.
Despite these claims, however, there is no indication that sales to Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states (likely including Qatar and the United Arab Emirates) will be halted or limited. Each of these countries has abysmal and well-documented stances on human rights.
Saudi Arabia, in particular, has been widely criticized for its slaughter of civilians and civilian infrastructure in Yemen. The U.S. has provided weapons used to commit these alleged war crimes, and just last year, Donald Trump followed in former President Barack Obama’s footsteps by inking a multi-billion dollar arms deal with the Kingdom. The new policy reportedly goes even further than Obama’s 2014 relaxation on foreign arms exports.
Trump said the new approach aims to cut bureaucratic hindrances within the Pentagon and State Department. It will allow U.S. companies to more easily deal arms not only to Gulf powers but to other U.S. allies like Japan and South Korea. Japan has experienced an uptick in militarism in recent years after maintaining a pacifist policy after World War II.
Armed drones will become easier to sell, but the official policy on that specific weaponry “will remain classified along a list of potential buyers being given fast-track treatment is expanding to include more countries, a State Department official told Reuters this week.”
The policy is allegedly intended to “strengthen the manufacturing and defense industrial base” in a dynamic that continues to confirm President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s worst fears about the military-industrial complex.