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Clinton’s State Department Armed Saudi Arabia To The Teeth – OpEd

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By Medea Benjamin and Rebecca Green*

As Hillary Clinton emerges as the front-runner for the Democratic Party’s presidential candidate, she’s receiving increased scrutiny for her years as secretary of state — and in particular her hawkish foreign policy. Many critics are focusing especially on her long relationship with Saudi Arabia.

On Christmas Eve in 2011, Hillary Clinton and her closest aides celebrated a $29.4 billion sale of over 80 F-15 fighter jets, manufactured by U.S.-based Boeing Corporation, to Saudi Arabia. In a chain of enthusiastic emails, an aide exclaimed that it was “not a bad Christmas present.”

These are the very fighter jets the Saudis have been using to bomb Yemen since March 2015. A year later, at least 2,800 Yemeni civilians have been killed, mostly by airstrikes — and there’s no end in sight.

The indiscriminate Saudi strikes have killed journalists and ambulance drivers. They’ve hit the Chamber of Commerce, facilities supported by Médecins Sans Frontières (also known as Doctors Without Borders), a wedding hall, and a center for the blind. The attacks have also targeted ancient heritage sites in Yemen. International human rights organizations are saying that the Saudi-led strikes on Yemen may amount to war crimes.

During her tenure as secretary of state, Clinton made weapons transfers to the Saudi government a “top priority,” according to a new report published in The Intercept. And even while Clinton’s State Department was deeply invested in getting weapons to Saudi Arabia, the Clinton Foundation accepted millions of dollars in donations from both the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the weapons manufacturer Boeing. Christmas presents were being gifted all around.

Despite the brutal attacks on Yemen and its egregious domestic human rights violations, Saudi Arabia remains the number one U.S. ally in the Arab world. While the original U.S. interest was to secure Saudi’s vast oil reserves, today only 10 percent of oil used in the United States comes from the kingdom. Instead, U.S. dependence on Saudi oil has been superseded by U.S. dependence on weapons sales.

The most recent Saudi weapons deal was made in November 2015, a sale worth $1.29 billion that included 22,000 smart and general purpose bombs, and over 5,000 Joint Direct Attack Munitions kits to convert older bombs into precision-guided weapons using GPS signals. The Pentagon’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency justified the sales, saying they helped “sustain strong military-to-military relationships between the United States and Saudi Arabia.”

It’s hard to exaggerate the enormity and high-tech nature of Saudi weapons purchases. Indeed, the deals this decade constitute the most enormous military sales in history.

According to a White House press release in 2014, “The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is the largest U.S. Foreign Military Sales customer, with active and open cases valued at approximately $97 billion, as Saudi forces build capabilities across the full spectrum of regional challenges.” The weapons include F-15 bombers, Apache and Blackhawk helicopters, missile defense systems, missiles, bombs, armored vehicles, and related equipment and services. Weapons manufacturers such as Boeing, Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics, and McDonnell Douglas have been unapologetically pushing these sales to offset military spending cuts in the United States and Europe.

While the U.S. government continues to provide massive amounts of weapons to Saudi Arabia, on February 25 the European Union took the extraordinary step of voting for an EU-wide arms embargo to Saudi Arabia. While non-binding, it’s a powerful statement that will put pressure on all European governments.

Already, government committees in the United Kingdom have urged Prime Minister David Cameron to suspend arms sales to Saudi Arabia; Germany has pledged to review all future arms sales to the kingdom; and in Belgium the government has denied an export license to ship weapons to the country. Canadian activists are also pressuring their government in light of Canada’s $15 billion transaction with Riyadh for weaponized armored vehicles, the biggest manufacturing export deal ever struck in Canada.

U.S. activists must follow the example of our European allies and demand that our government stop supplying the Saudi rulers with weapons to bomb civilians in Yemen and repress its own citizens.

*About the authors:
Medea Benjamin is the co-founder of the peace group CODEPINK and the human rights organization Global Exchange. She is the author of eight books, including one about Saudi Arabia coming out in a few months.

Rebecca Green is the D.C. office coordinator at CODEPINK. She is a student at Northeastern University with a sociology degree and a minor in women’s gender and sexuality studies.

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Foreign Policy in Focus (FPIF) is a “Think Tank Without Walls” connecting the research and action of more than 600 scholars, advocates, and activists seeking to make the United States a more responsible global partner. It is a project of the Institute for Policy Studies.

5 thoughts on “Clinton’s State Department Armed Saudi Arabia To The Teeth – OpEd

  • Avatar
    March 9, 2016 at 9:26 am
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    Department of State doesn’t deal in weapons moron.

    Reply
  • Avatar
    March 9, 2016 at 10:16 am
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    Good article. You might also shine the same light on Anne-Marie Slaughter, Suzanne Nossel, Susan Rice, Victoria Nuland and Samantha Power in addition to Tom Donilon, Leon Panetta and Ashton Carter and of course their boss, Barack Obama. The women are as deep in it as the men. As for Congress, it is a bipartisan nightmare, except for a thoughtful few like Tulsi Gabbard.

    Reply
  • Avatar
    March 10, 2016 at 1:14 am
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    Years ago Indian cartoonist RK Laxman had written about the dominance of arms manufacturers in American. I hope the American people will truly prevail in this year’s presidential elections and in the actions of the Administration.

    Reply
  • Avatar
    March 10, 2016 at 8:57 am
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    Informative article. However, it fails to ask why the US is so intent to keep sales to Saudi Arabia up. In order to understand what is behind, you have to take a look at the US economic system, based on fractional reserve banking: in essence, this is a system in which money is created only when debt is incurred. Hence, the more debt, the larger the economy. In the US the national debt of $19trillion amounts to around 110% of GDP. In any nation, such vast debt would result in devaluation of currency and credit rating. Not so in the USA. The US sells its debt as Treasuries – i.e. government bonds. Saudi Arabia is the biggest holder of US treasuries. With China increasingly intent on paying Saudi Arabia in Yuan for its large oil consumption – China is now the biggest oil client of Saudi Arabia – Saudi Arabia will no longer invest in treasures, but instead in some comparable Chinese instruments. If Saudi Arabia were to throw its treasuries on the market this would cause the US currency to collapse. Selling US weapons to Saudi Arabia to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars is a way to transform Saudi held treasuries into US profit – i.e. “bring the dollars and the profit home”. That is a counter measure to the ongoing reduction globally of the US dollar reserve currency holdings. These holdings underpin the US debt. Unless the US can turn debt into profit – and therefore taxes – the US would be unable to redeem the Saudi held treasuries – that would mean US bankruptcy.

    Saudi Arabia clearly has no genuine need or use for the weapons it purchases. It is a frantic effort on the part of Saudi Arabia to continue to tether the US to Saudi Arabia as was the case with oil sales. As Saudi petrodollars underpin the US currency, so the US guarantees Saudi stability with purchases and sales.

    As to the ethicalness of this cow deal? Well, it is politics. And in politics usefulness comes before moral ethics.

    Which means, nobody can in principle pin Hillary down based on her push to sell the maximum of US weapons to Saudi Arabia. She did in fact act in the interest of the US with those sales. A better way would of course have been for the US to start paying back its enormous debt. That would however shrink the US economy, since debt paid back is money taken off the books – i.e. money no longer in circulation. The giant US pressure on other countries, including with armed aggression for regime change, is in an effort to force the entire world to use fractional reserve banking, so all states would be dependent on the US.

    Things don’t exist in isolation. China, Russia, Iran, Syria and Libya in addition to the BRICS have different banking systems and therefore not interdependent with US banks. Hence Russia and China as the new threats, Iran a longterm continuing threat and Assad – as Qaddafi before him – has to go.

    Because this system keeps the US dependent on the military industrial sector, war had to be made permanent. Which is the function of al Qaida and ISIS and related groups. They were all created by the CIA for regime change and to destabilize emerging countries to prevent them from developing their economy independent of the US economy. This system is now put in question by two of the presidential contenders. Hence the negative propaganda against Trump and Sanders and the heavy push for Hillary to become president.

    Vote for Bernie or Trump, both of whom want to end permanent war and instead rebuild the US economy from within. If that works, it would likely result in at least some reduction of the national debt to alleviate the government’s debt service costs, which are becoming a drag on the economy. These debt service costs are at the root of US austerity of the last at least 16 years and the increasing strangulation of a meaningful social security net.

    Reply
  • Avatar
    March 10, 2016 at 3:27 pm
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    Great comment by Regula, but also missed is the deal negotiated by Henry Kissinger with Saudi Arabia in 1973, and then cemented in 1985 by British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher with the GBP 43 billion Al Yamamah arms deal and subsequent 2007 Al Salam deal by Tony Blair. These arrangements are routed through Britain, and so covered by the British Official Secrets Act to avoid congressional and other scrutiny in the US. Saudi Arabia consigns shipments of oil to the Bank of England, which distributes it to Shell and BP. A massive fund administered by the Bank of England has accumulated over the years. The purpose is threefold:
    a) To guarantee US and British support for the Saudi royal family against domestic insurrection, b) To price OPEC oil in US dollars so that the world is forced onto a US dollar/Saudi oil standard and c) To fund covert US and British destabilisation of resource-rich countries in Asia and Africa under the guise of waging “the war on terror” (and recently exposed in Syria by the NYT as Timber Sycamore). Thus, should Saddam Hussein or Muammar Gaddafi decide they should only sell their oil in Euros or gold instead of US dollars, the next step is “regime change.” This has become the crux of the “Five Eyes Alliance” of the US, Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand and their notion of English-speaking hegemony in the cause of world peace. Israel and Saudi Arabia are their proxies in the Middle East to do the dirty work, hence also the massive transfers of weapons to both. As Regula notes however, the deal is fast coming unstuck now that China is the largest importer of Saudi oil, and pays in yuan. Compounding this is the destruction of the century-old myth that oil is a scarce and diminishing resource essential to US and British national security, and hence their right to intervene in the Middle East, Venezuela and elsewhere. The price manipulation to US$140+ per barrel is now followed by glut and collapse to US$30-US$40, and prospect of much lower. If new solar energy technology materialises in 2016, as seems likely, it will mean bye-bye Saudi Arabian royal family and Zionist Israel, but also the end of the US military-induced foreign wars, refugees and other blow-back consequences. The EU Parliament recently voted to request their governments to stop supplying Saudi Arabia. Within hours, British Prime Minister David Cameron shamelessly boasted how proud he is of peddling British weapons to Saudi Arabia!

    Reply

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