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Opinion: U.S. should scale back production of weapons

O.K. Here is a short inventory — my t-shirt was made in El Salvador, my turtleneck — Cambodia, my pants — Vietnam, my shoes — Germany, my boots — China, my flannel shirt — Bangladesh, my bombs —
Wait. Stop. They aren’tmybombs. Maybe it’s guilt by association. Which country is the world’s top supplier of weapons? Our U.S. Which country is the top exporter of arms in the world? Our U.S. “Six of the nine most powerful weapons companies are located in the U.S.” (Stockholm International Peace Research Institute).
Here is some good news. Textron, a company based in Rhode Island, has stopped making cluster bombs for the U.S. to sell, since “the Obama administration just halted a shipment of about 400 of their cluster weapons, called CBU-105s, to Saudi Arabia.” (Thomas Gibbons-Neff, “Why company making cluster bombs won’t produce them anymore,”The Washington Post, 9/2/16).
These bombs are not regular, old bombs — drop them and have them explode and kill and destroy. Cluster bombs are made up of bomblets that can be scattered over an area. They are very effective when wanting to destroy concentrations of people or infrastructure. Why have 119 countries signed onto a ban on cluster munitions? Often the bomblets fail to explode until some civilian comes by them. “The bomblets become highly volatile pieces of unexploded ordnance that kill and maim the civilians who encounter them.” (ibid.) Has the U.S. or Saudi Arabia signed onto the ban on cluster bombs? No.
Here is some bad news. “Saudi Arabia bought more than 1500 CBU-105s between 2010 and 2011.” Textron is still filling orders for CBU-105s. The company would not disclose who the buyers are. (ibid.)
Our U.S. likes cluster bombs so much, we even have a stockpile of “about 136,00 tons of cluster munitions.” (ibid.) This stockpile is supposed to be destroyed. I wonder how long that will take.
How about white phosphorous manufactured in our U.S. by Monsanto and General Dynamics? If the U.S. follows the law, white phosphorous is only supposed to be used for signaling to other troops and creating smoke screens. “When used against soldiers or civilians, it can maim and kill by burning to the bone.” (Thomas Gibbons-Neff, “Saudi Arabia appears to be using U.S.-supplied white phosphorus in its war in Yemen,” The Washington Post, 9/19/16).
Human rights groups are concerned, since “images and videos posted to social media” imply that white phosphorus is being used. Now we only have to determine if it is being used against civilians. Documenting what happens during war is a very dangerous job for journalists.
“”U.S. officials confirmed that the U.S. government has supplied the Saudis white phosphorous in the past but declined to say how much had been transferred or when.” “Since coming to office in 2009, the Obama administration has facilitated more than $115 billion in 42 different arms sales to Saudi Arabia.” (ibid.)
And you might ask, “What is the U.S. doing, helping Saudi Arabia with its war against the Huthis in Yemen?” The “U.S. is providing logistical and intelligence support to the Saudi-led coalition.” The pentagon also provides midair refueling for Saudi aircraft. (Gareth Porter, “The U.S. could end Saudi war crimes in Yemen.—It just doesn’t want to,”Truthout/News Analysis 10/15/15). “Unlawful strikes and large-scale civilian casualties are certain to foster further instability and extremism in Yemen,” (Sarah Leah Whitson, “The U.S. is quietly helping Saudi Arabia wage a devastating aerial campaign in Yemen,” L.A. Times, 3/30/16). On April 1, 2016, Sarah Leah Whitson, executive director of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East and North Africa Division spoke on Democracy Now! She said, “Yemenis are asking me, ‘Why is there no global outrage when our schools, our universities, our hospitals, our clinics, when football fields, when playgrounds are bombed with U.S. bombs?’” The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights states, more than 3,700 civilians have been killed and 2.8 million have been displaced during the now nearly two-year-old war in Yemen.
Has the U.S. been caught in the act of doing something immoral and illegal? Do we even have moral lenses through which we see our world? Perhaps we have lost that vision. Or do these actions fall under the umbrella of the “War On Terror”? Tawakkul Karman from Yemen shared the Nobel Peace Prize with two other women in 2011. She was recognized for her work in the nonviolent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace building work in Yemen (nobelprize.org). On Oct. 8, 2011, Tawakkul Karman was interviewed on Democracy Now! “We do not accept that innocent civilians are killed and targeted under the cover of The War on Terror.” “The U.S. has not taken any concrete steps to support organizations, political parties and journalists, members of the civil society to own their own media outlet. Only this way will the real victim, the Yemeni citizen, the simple Yemeni citizen, be able to spread — to learn about and spread this culture of tolerance, of dialogue, and of living together.”
On Sept. 14, 2001, Congress passed A.U.M.F. (Authorization for Use of Military Force), which sanctions our behavior. The U.S. can now go to war without declaring war. Is that legal? President George W. Bush and his partner, Vice President Cheney lied to the American people regarding weapons of mass destruction and we went to war in Iraq. Was that legal?
Will President Obama ever listen to and act on his statement, when receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009. “Now is the time for all of us to take our share of responsibility for a global response to global challenges,” (nobelprize.org). Do we even have the ability to respond in a humane way?
What are we doing? Is this a solution? Yasser, a Syrian refugee who now lives with his wife and daughter in Berlin, explains some of the situation in Syria: “Russian Air Force strikes aroundnoon, the Coalition [U.S. and allies] strikes in the night.” (Robert Kunzig, “The New Europeans,”National Geographic, October 2016, p. 89).
Antoine de Saint -Exupery keeps it real by writing about his observation, after a bomb was dropped, during the civil war in Spain in 1936. “All the force of this thunder-clap had to burst on the Grand Via in order to uproot a human life. A Single life. Passers-by had brushed rubbish off their clothes; others had scattered on the run; and when the light smoke had risen and cleared away, the betrothed, escaped by miracle without a scratch, found at his feet his nova, whose golden arm a moment before had been in his, changed into a blood-filled sponge, changed into a limp packet of flesh and rags.” (Wind Sand and Stars,p. 195).
What does it take to change this story?
Patricia Heather-Lea
Bristol

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