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Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Tomgram: Frida Berrigan on the Weapons Trade as Entertainment

Recently, we had a small, curious reminder of the fact that the United States government regularly ships weaponry all over the world. Two US-chartered A310 Airbuses, evidently carrying a shipment of 600-pound bunker-busting, laser-guided bombs the Bush administration was rushing to Israel for its air campaign in Lebanon, were denied refueling stop-over rights at the Shannon airport by the Irish government. Instead, they landed at Prestwick airport in Scotland, without, it seems, proper notification to the British government. This set off a small uproar of criticism in Britain, resulting in Prime Minister Tony Blair requesting an "apology" while in Washington last week.

On Friday, according to Alan Cowell of the New York Times ("After Rift, Britain Allows Cargo Flights for Israel"), "a British government spokesman said President Bush had apologized ‘for the fact that proper procedures were not followed.'" But wait! This is the Bush administration which never apologizes -- certainly not to Tony Blair. A "senior Bush administration official" put matters in the correct light: "The president acknowledged that while the shipment was proper, there could have been better notification and coordination." And with that non-apology apology, all's well that ends well and the weapons flights to Israel will now continue to land at British airports.

As Frida Berrigan, Senior Research Associate at the World Policy Institute's Arms Trade Resource Center, would certainly point out, such flights are but a drop in the Pentagon's arms aid-and-trade bucket -- a subject about which Americans are generally blissfully ignorant. So take a moment and consider the export for which we are at least second-best known all around the world. Tom

Seeing (Pentagon) Stars

By Frida Berrigan

Oh, the stars! We're riveted by their clothes, their suntans, what they do (and don't) eat for breakfast. We're titillated when they appear too fat, disheveled, or lumpy. We're envious when they're expectably sleek, well muscled, and well coiffed. Christie Brinkley's heartbreak is front page news. Britney's baby gaffes are carefully dissected. The trials and tribulations of Jessica and Nick and Jennifer and Brad provided the tabloids and entertainment mags with months of fodder.

America exported $10.48 billion worth of film and television in 2004. The world's favorite TV show is the soap opera The Bold and the Beautiful. Every day, in almost every corner of the globe, people stream to movies made in the United States. They watch Halle Berry conjure up a storm with her eyes, Johnny Depp swashbuckle his way through the Caribbean, and Keanu Reeves swoon and mope in the company of Sandra Bullock. (Sorry about that last one, world!). But, in Uzbekistan, those same movie fans are denied the rights of free speech and assembly, while President Islam Karimov tightens his grip on power with an array of arms made in the USA. In the Philippines, they watch the country's debt skyrocket as President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo gobbles up American weaponry at startling prices and an alarming rate.

Like American entertainment, American arms are a multibillion-dollar industry that leans heavily on foreign sales. In fact, the United States exported $18.55 billion in fighter planes, attack helicopters, tanks, battleships, and other weaponry in 2005. All signs point to 2006 being another banner export year. Just as in the movie, TV, and music businesses, we dwarf the competition. Russia is the next largest arms exporter with a measly $4 billion in yearly sales. In fact, U.S. arms exports accounted for more than half of total global arms deliveries -- $34.8 billion -- in 2004, and we export more of them ourselves than the next six largest exporters combined.

Click here to read more of this dispatch.

2 comment(s):

Hi Annamarie.

I am enjoying your site.

I have been campaigning againstb the torture flights using my local airport Prestwick.

More recently against the munitions flights.

It seems that we have managed to get them to stop using civilian airports but they will now land on military airports so I expect our oposition to continue.

A small victory but a start.

Lots of us doing lts of small things snowball. I am looking forward to the avalanche.
All the very best.

Denise of Dens Den

By Blogger Denise, at 6:23 PM  

Denise, keep up the good fight! I've read about your campaign in an email I received from Peace-1.

Glad to hear you enjoy my site. You take care too, and all the best.
~annamarie

By Blogger Annamarie, at 7:57 PM  

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