Bush Administration Promotes Global Conflicts
by Rewarding Allies
June 3, 2005
By Gene C. Gerard
Since the Bush administration invaded Iraq, they have insisted
that in doing so, they are spreading democracy. The administration
has grandly pledged to "end tyranny in our world." And
President Bush advised the nation only a few months ago that "democracy
is on the march." But a report just released by the World Policy
Institute casts doubt on these assertions. And it calls into question
the favorite declaration by the Bush administration: namely, that
America is safer today than it was before the invasion of Iraq.
The World Policy Institute's report analyzed U.S. weapons sales
from September 11, 2001 through 2003, the last year in which full
information on weapons sales are available. The Bush administration
says that weapons exports are necessary in order to gain and maintain
access to military facilities around the world, and to reward coalition
forces who have participated in our military actions in Iraq and
But this new report indicates that weapons have been sold to countries
who are engaged in their own military conflicts, and who are flagrant
human rights abusers. As a consequence, weapons sales frequently
serve to bolster unstable, anti-democratic governments at the expense
of both American and international security.
In 2003, the Bush administration transferred weapons to 18 of
the 25 nations engaged in active conflicts. Thirteen of the 25 nations
who received weapons were classified by the U.S. State Department
as "undemocratic" governments. These 13 governments received over
$2.7 billion in U.S. weapons. And 20 of those 25 nations were defined
by the State Department as having poor human rights records or serious
patterns of abuse.
The U.S. Foreign Military Financing Program, the largest of the
government's military aid programs, increased by 68% between 2001
and 2003. It grew from $3.5 billion to approximately $6 billion.
This was largely due to the September 11 attacks and the invasion
of Afghanistan and Iraq. As a result, the largest increase in weapons
sales went to governments who were either actively or passively
assisting the American military.
The report concludes by noting that the gravest danger stemming
from U.S. weapons sales is the impact on the image, credibility
and security of America. Funneling arms to repressive and undemocratic
governments, while at the same time championing democracy, causes
the credulity of America to be questioned. Providing weapons to
nations with poor human rights records often helps to enhance their
power and causes further abuses. And as has occurred before, weapons
given to a "friendly" government can end up in the hands of future
enemies, as happened in Iraq and Panama in the 1980s, and is presently
the case with the remnants of the former Taliban in Afghanistan.
One of the chief beneficiaries of the Bush administration's expansion
of weapons sales has been the former Russian province of Uzbekistan.
Before 2001, this nation received almost no military aid. But as
a consequence of the invasion of Afghanistan, that quickly changed.
Uzbekistan offered the U.S. military the use of an airbase near
the Afghan border. Over 1,000 U.S. troops were transferred to the
airbase, and military assistance began to be directed to Uzbekistan.
In 2003, the Bush administration delivered $8.6 million in military
aid to Uzbekistan, which was more than had been given in the previous
six years combined. In 2005, $10.9 million in aid was granted, and
$4 million has been requested for 2006. And as for arms sales, between
2001 and 2003 the administration sold Uzbekistan $37 million in
weapons. However, the Bush administration knew full well that Uzbekistan
had a brutal record of oppression.
The U.S. State Department issued a report on Uzbekistan in 2003,
estimating that over 5,000 people were in "prison for political
or religious reasons" which included "human rights activists." The
report also noted, "The police and the National Security Service
committed numerous serious human rights abuses" and have "tortured,
beat, and harassed persons." The report concluded, "Members of the
security forces responsible for documented abuses were rarely punished."
Further evidence of brutal oppression occurred last month in the
Uzbekistan city of Andijon. On May 13, Uzbekistan military forces
reportedly killed 173 people, in what the Uzbek government characterized
as an attempted revolt by Muslim extremists. However, human rights
organizations, opposition parties, and survivors and relatives of
those killed reported that it was not a revolt, but a pro-democracy
rally, and that as many as 400 people may have been killed. Numerous
reports surfaced indicating that the Uzbekistan military fired machine
guns into crowds attending the rally. One can't help but wonder
if those guns were the very ones sold to them by the Bush administration.
An independent photojournalist working for The New York Times
also reported that an ambulance which attempted to provide aid following
the assault was fired upon by Uzbek troops, resulting in the deaths
of the driver, a physician, and a nurse. As a result of this violent
crackdown, Senators John McCain, Lindsey Graham, and John Sununu
traveled to Uzbekistan last month to meet with survivors, and have
called for an independent, international investigation. The senators
acknowledged that given Uzbekistan's history of repression and human
rights abuses, the assault was hardly surprising.
The Bush administration's goal of promoting global democracy is
admirable. As is their objective to end tyranny and terrorism. But
none of these goals can be accomplished by an expansion of weapons
sales. Democracy will never flourish from the barrel of a gun. As
is evident by recent events in Uzbekistan, supplying weapons to
countries known to be oppressive and abusive, regardless of the
extent to which they have helped the U.S. in the war on terrorism,
Gene C. Gerard taught history, religion, and ethics for 14 years
at a number of colleges and universities in the southwest. He is
a contributing author to the forthcoming book Americans at War,
to be published by Greenwood Press. His previous articles have appeared
in Political Affairs Magazine, The Free Press, Dissident Voice,
Intervention Magazine, Orb Standard, and Democratic Underground.