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May 1, 2019

Setting yet another dangerous precedent


May 1, 2019

Since taking oath as the president of the United States in January 2017, the incumbent of the Oval Office – Donald Trump – has taken a number of reckless decisions that have shaken the world, triggering a myriad of controversies. He vowed to construct a costly wall along the US-Mexican border, separate the children of immigrants, pull out of the Paris Climate Agreement, reject the Iran nuclear deal, deliver a death blow to the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and declare the illegal occupation of the Golan Heights by the Zionist state as legal by endorsing the capture of the territory.

As if these provocative moves were not enough to stun the world, the potentate of the second largest democracy recently came up with another dangerous announcement saying his country would withdraw from the international Arms Trade Treaty. Brokered by the UN and signed by the Obama administration in 2013, the treaty seeks to discourage the sale of conventional weapons to countries that do not protect human rights. Trump's announcement was made amidst thunderous applause by the National Rifles Association’s war-mongers at an event held recently. The NRA is accused of creating a strange fascination for arms, posing a threat to the very idea of gun control inside the US, while exploiting a certain article of the country’s constitution that allows individuals to bear arms. Many wonder that if the association does not want this control inside the country, absence of which causes the decimation of over 19000 Americans every year in gun violence, then why would it at all want such control for other countries?

Although the arms accord was never ratified by the US Senate – and even if it is ratified, it would not require the US to alter any existing domestic laws or procedures governing how it sells conventional weapons overseas – it could still be used to pile moral pressure on the belligerent American administration, aimed at dissuading it from making any arms sale to countries with the worst human rights record. Such sale is playing havoc with the lives of millions of people across the world but it seems unscrupulous arms traders have little concern about such petty issues. Their voracious greed for profit can see no moral principle. Every year they launch a rambunctious campaign to convince Americans that their prosperity and the world’s peace lie in backing these merchants of death whose rising power had sent shivers down the spine of former president Dwight D Eisenhower during his time in office.

On January 17, 1961 while making his farewell speech, Eisenhower warned that the US “must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence…by the military-industrial complex”. Critics believe this includes members of the Congress from districts dependent on military industries, the department of defense along with military services and privately-owned military contractors. Eisenhower believed that the military-industrial complex tended to promote policies that might not be in the country’s best interest, fearing that if left unchecked its growing influence could undermine American democracy.

The history of American military interventions and armament seems to have vindicated him. The US has been engaged in a myriad of wars since the end of World War Two. Despite losing over 53,000 American soldiers during the invasion of Vietnam and several thousands in other conflicts, the US continues to wage war across the globe. It is believed to have more than 800 military bases in over 150 countries. It is the largest arms manufacturer of the world besides being the biggest defence spender, pumping more than $700 billion into it; it is also planning to invest in space force and the upgradation of lethal weapons.

Trump’s decision indicates that he is no exception. Every incumbent American president has done the bidding of the military industrial complex. The US president acts like a CEO of arms companies, showering weapons contracts on despotic monarchs, military dictators, autocratic populists and xenophobic far-right hate-mongers. All such rulers tend to believe in trampling the human rights of their people and playing havoc with the lives of millions elsewhere. One does not need to go far and just see what is happening in Yemen where arms supply by Western powers – mainly America and the UK – has encouraged a humanitarian crisis. More than 10,000 have already perished in this senseless war.

Despite calls from rights groups to halt arms supply to belligerent states, the Trump administration has remained adamant, putting the profit of arms-manufacturing entities above each and everything. It is clear that world leaders have become blind to the looming humanitarian catastrophe in Yemen. One of the ways to put an end to this barbarity is to stop the arms supply to all warring groups but it seems Trump is in no mood to make such a move.

The US has already been supplying arms to the countries with the worst human rights record. The Trump administration showered arms deals on many Arab monarchies. In the absence of moral pressure, the US would have unbridled freedom to carry out arms transactions. It will not only supply arms to autocratic states but so-called democracies like India and Israel that have been accused of treating their minorities like second-class citizens. The decision will also encourage the Trump administration to sow the seeds of chaos in countries like Venezuela and Iran where the war-mongers, sitting in the power corridors of Washington, want to see a political turmoil that could be exploited to carry out interventions in those states.

The decision should prompt American pacifists and peace-loving people in the world to launch a vigorous campaign against this reckless policy of the Trump administration. But no struggle against the immoral conventional arms trade would be successful unless the global community of citizens decides to wage a relentless war against arms trade of all types. There is no moral justification for spending more than $1.6 trillion on defence and arms when over two billion people are living on less than two dollars, more than 150 million are homeless, 1.6 billion lack adequate shelter, 775 million are illiterate, 2.3 billion do not have basic sanitation services and 2.1 billion lack safe drinking water (leading to the deaths of 361000 children under the age of five because of diarrhea every year). In addition to that measles, malaria, TB and other diseases are resurfacing across the globe.

It is a proven fact that wars and conflicts destroy infrastructure besides slaughtering innocent people and contributing to a number of epidemics. Trump's decision indicates that the situation in conflict areas will become even worse. He is setting another dangerous precedent by pulling the US out of this international Arms Trade Treaty. His action might prompt other arms manufacturing countries to either follow suit or at least turn a blind eye to moral principles while making arms deals. Therefore, it is important that the global community wages a relentless struggle to force the Oval Office to reconsider its decision. Countries like Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Japan should come forward to evolve a strategy that should not only prevent Washington from selling arms to countries with the worst human rights record but it should also dissuade Moscow, Beijing, London and Paris to do the same thing.

At least 2.5 million perished in Iraq; over 500,000 were slaughtered in Syria; and the killing fields in Libya and Afghanistan are spilling human blood daily. These conflicts have partly been fueled by the supply of conventional arms. Adherence to moral principles regulating the supply and sale of these arms could go some way in countering the dangerous trends being set by Trump.

The writer is a freelance journalist.

Email: [email protected]

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