The US arms trade is booming — sales reached $32 billion last year — and more than half of the purchasers in the developing world are either undemocratic governments or regimes that engaged in human rights abuses, a private think tank reported.
Timed to the 60th anniversary of the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the report by the New America Foundation, a nonpartisan policy institute, named 13 of the top 25 arms purchasers in the developing world as either undemocratic or engaged in major human rights abuses.
The 13 listed in the report were Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Egypt, Colombia, Jordan, Bahrain, Oman, Morocco, Yemen and Tunisia.
Sales to these countries totalled more than $16.2 billion over 2006 and 2007.
The total “contrasts sharply with the Bush administration’s pro-democracy rhetoric”, the report said.
Also, the report said 20 of the 27 nations engaged in major armed conflicts were receiving weapons and training from the US.
“US arms transfers are undermining human rights, weakening democracy and fuelling conflict around the world,” the report said. At the State Department, a spokesman said US policy on sale or transfer of US munitions is well-established.
The decision to approve any sale or transfer is made only after a careful review within the government that takes into account a country’s need for an item, its human rights record and whether the arms transfer supports US foreign policy and national security goals, said Jason Greer, a spokesman for the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs.
He also said: “We consult closely with Congress on such matters.”
William D. Hartung, the lead author of the report, said: “The United States cannot demand respect for human rights and arm human rights abusers at the same time.”
US arms sales grew to $32 billion in 2007, more than three times the level when President George W. Bush took office in 2001, the report said.