Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Guns Not Roses

One year ago Mark Benjamin highlighted the escalating arms transfers to Iraq by the United States. In testimony before the Senate Armed Service Committee General David Petraeus noted that "Iraq is becoming one of the United States' larger foreign military sales customers."

The transfer and sales of arm to Iraq and around the world have only escalated. US government-brokered arms sales are now expected to reach $34 billion for the fiscal year. It is a 45% increase from the year before. The NYT reported Sunday that “about 60 countries get combined annual military aid from the United States totaling $4.5 billion a year to buy American weapons. Israel and Egypt receive more than 80 percent of that aid.”

The United States is the largest supplier of weapons and weapons systems in the world. Arms sales have always been a key instrument of U.S. foreign policy. They are central to the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, and a price of alligence for other countries around the world. They also create hugh profits for the arms merchants Lockheed Martin Corp, Boeing Co, Northrop Grumman Corp, General Dynamics Corp and Raytheon Co.

"This is not about being gunrunners," said Bruce Lemkin, the Air Force deputy undersecretary who is helping to coordinate many of the biggest sales. "This is about building a more secure world."

As part of our campaign to heal the wounds of war, and promote alternatives to war funding we promote four Peacebuilding measures.

Stop funding the U.S. military presence in Iraq
Negotiate a timetable for a complete withdrawal of U.S. forces
Withhold funding allocated for arming Iraq’s sectarian militias and armed forces
Suspend plans to implement a $60 billion U.S. arms package to the region

Mark Malan, writing for Refugees International spells out the dangers of the dominant role the military is playing in shaping US foreign policy.

“Foreign assistance represents less than one percent of the federal budget, while defense spending is 20%. The U.S. military has over 1.5 million uniformed active duty employees and over 10,100 civilian employees, while the Department of State has some 6,500 permanent employees. Although several high-level task forces and commissions have emphasized the urgent need to modernize our aid infrastructure and increase sustainable development activities, such assistance is increasingly being overseen by military institutions whose policies are driven by the Global War on Terror, not by the war against poverty. Between 1998 and 2005, the percentage of Official Development Assistance the Pentagon controlled exploded from 3.5% to nearly 22%, while the percentage controlled by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) shrunk from 65% to 40%.”

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Number of Iraqis Resettled

Last Friday the State Department held a press conference to announce meeting the goal of resettling 12,000 Iraqis. It was a dramatic increase over the 1,600 admitted the year before. Ambassador James B. Foley, the secretary of state's special coordinator for refugees confirmed ‘he expected to exceed that total in the coming year.’ The US government numbers are based on the fiscal year that runs from October through September. The goal for the coming year is 17,000.

The office of United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has a list of 90,000 Iraqis in the region seeking resettlement. In June, while visiting Jordan, I met one of those families. To learn more, read Su’ad’s Story.

To find out how you can help Iraqi families arriving in the United States visit this page. You will find background information on the needs facing Iraqis as well as the agencies around the country that are helping Iraqi families begin a new life in the United States.