While the world seems at times to be embroiled in war, a new report reveals that the global trade in arms actually decreased in 1999. The International Institute for Security Studies (IISS) reports that while the world arms trade fell in 1999, the United States still far outweighed all other suppliers in terms of the value and quantity of arms sales. It plans to continue exporting huge quantities of weapons around the world.
IISS pegged global arms deliveries at $53.4 billion in 1999, down from $58 billion in 1998. The Middle East remained the number one destination for weapons. Saudi Arabia was the biggest recipient of weapons, receiving $6.1 billion in deliveries in 1999. However, Saudi imports were down as well from $10.8 billion in 1998. East Asia and Australasia were the second biggest region for arms deliveries in 1999, with Taiwan the leading importer with arms deliveries worth $2.6 billion.
The United States exported 49.1% of world market share in 1999, up from 47.6% in 1998. The UK ranked second with 18.7%, and France was third with 12.4%. Russia's value of arms transfers actually increased in 1999, up to 6.6% in 1999 from 4.6% in 1998. The report notes that, other than Western Europe, military budgets do not appear to be falling, indicating that the percentage of defense budgets spent on weapons is remaining constant. The experts do not see the decline as a trend.
Clinton Administration initiatives are streamlining the export licensing process and reduce the time necessary for industry to obtain permission to export U.S. weaponry abroad. The United States is in no danger of losing its tremendous lead as the world's largest exporter. Even in the face of war, it is continuing to arrange arms transfers. The United States has over $1 billion in sales of Apache and Blackhawk helicopters to Israel pending - paid for with U.S. funds - even though there is clear and convincing evidence that the Israeli Defense Forces are using similar helicopters to attack civilian Palestinians.by Rachel Stohl, of the Center for Defense Information.
The U.S. Army's School of the Americas (SOA) has trained over 60,000 Latin American military personnel. Hundreds of graduates have been among the worst human rights violators in our hemisphere, including those responsible for the execution of Jesuits in El Salvador, the rape and murder of four U.S. church women, the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero, and the massacre of over 900 civilians at El Mozote. Critics call it a "School of Assassins." In a public relations effort the Army closed the school on December 15th, but will be reopening a clone on January 17, 2001 that will be called The Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation. Over 10,000 people gathered at Ft. Benning, Georgia on 19 November to demand the closure of SOA.
More than 3,600 protesters risked arrest by crossing onto the base in a massive act of civil disobedience. Some 2,100 were arrested and processed. They included clergy, students, veterans and grandparents. The growing opposition to the SOA includes more than 150 US bishops, including 15 Archbishops and over 140 Latin American bishops who have called for its closure. Luis Eduardo Guerra, a Colombian peace activist whose community has repeatedly been targeted by paramilitaries and who was a featured speaker at the vigil stated, "We know the names of the generals and the high-ranking officers implicated in these killings, and nothing has been done. We know that the officers who trained the paramilitaries were trained at the School of the Americas."